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yankees countdown

Yankees Countdown: No. 18, Randy Winn

The start of the baseball season is less than a month away. Every weekday until opening day, we'll be counting down, from No. 20 to No. 1, the most important Yankees players for the upcoming 2010 slate. Today, No. 18, outfielder Randy Winn.

Randy Winn is an accomplished athlete. In 1993, he was a teammate of Steve Nash on the No. 15 seed Santa Clara team that upset Arizona in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. And in 2002, he was picked at random to take a half-court shot at a Clippers game — he hit the shot and won a car (he gave it to his mom). Neither of these things explains why the Yankees signed him to compete with Brett Gardner for the left-field job this season, but, you know, they're both pretty cool.

With regards to his baseball skills, the switch-hitting Winn is a good defensive outfielder who can't hit lefties. But since lefty Brett Gardner, with whom he'll compete for the starting job, does hit them (or at least, hits them better than Winn does), a platoon doesn't quite make sense. (If Marcus Thames makes the team, he's a more logical complement to Gardner as a right-handed power-hitter.) Winn's versatile enough to play any outfield position, so we suppose he'll take over for Nick Swisher in right should a developing perfect game necessitate the use of a defensive replacement.

One gets the impression that the Yankees took the $2 million they were offering to Johnny Damon, realized that Damon or any comparable player wouldn't sign for that little, and settled on the best free agent that $2 million could buy. Which is fine, because that's what virtually every other team in baseball has to do to fill out their rosters every year, but it doesn't make the Yankees a whole lot better for 2010. (Currently, Winn might be best known as the major-leaguer who's played the most games — 1,601 — without making the playoffs.) We do, however, look forward to John Sterling using commenter dboonoggle's inspired suggestion of "Gone with the Winn!" for any potential Winn home runs. That line's so perfect for Sterling it's scary.

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Photo: Nick Laham/Getty Images