At the LoHud Yankees Blog last night, Peter Abraham wrote about Yankees minor leaguer Jose Tabata, Baseball America’s 37th ranked prospect, who left AA Trenton without permission during a game last weekend and was subsequently suspended for three games.
Tabata is hitting .186 with no home runs and 12 RBI over 26 games for Trenton.
“The expectations of who I am supposed to be and what I am supposed to do finally got to me,” Tabata told The Trenton Times through a translator. “I made an irrational decision. Maybe it was immaturity, inexperience or just that I didn’t know how to handle what was happening. I just kept thinking I am not producing the way I should be and maybe I didn’t belong here.”
Most of the comments on the post were cautiously supportive of Tabata, bearing in mind the very pertinent fact that he is still just 19 years old and the important thing in a situation such as this is the aftermath. A few mentioned Mickey Mantle, who considered quitting when he was a youngster in the Yankees system before being talked out of it by his father.
As soon as I read the post, it made me think of a story from Buck O’Neil’s “I Was Right On Time,” from his days as a scout with the Chicago Cubs. Buck got a call one day from the team’s general manager telling him that Billy Williams, a top prospect playing in the Texas League, had jumped ship and gone home to Alabama. Buck went down there and basically waited out Williams, bringing him to ball games and reminding him how great it was to be a ballplayer until he decided to go back to San Antonio. On the way back, Williams mentioned that one of the reasons he had left the team was – surprise – a crisis of confidence.
Today, Mantle and Williams are both in the Hall of Fame.
That’s not to say that Tabata is headed for Cooperstown when his playing days are over – he’s only 19, has never played above AA, and Abraham notes that he shouldn’t expect to be playing in Yankee Stadium any time soon – but it should be reassuring for Yankees fans to know that even the greats of the game have experienced similar setbacks. Tabata is not the first, and he won’t be the last.