Yankees looking to define utility roles

    Friday, May 28, 2010, 11:58 AM [General]

    MUCH ADO ABOUT SOMETHING: THE CULT OF THE VETERAN
    Here’s a trivia question for you: Who was the Yankees’ opening day designated hitter in 1977? Here are some hints: It wasn’t Reggie Jackson; he played right field. It wasn’t Roy White; he played left. It wasn’t Lou Piniella; he didn’t play. Ready? It was Jimmy Wynn -- the Toy Cannon. He went 2-for-3 with a home run, too, the only run the Yankees would need in a 3-0 win over the Brewers.

    Jimmy Wynn was 35 then. He was a heck of a player, though it’s sometimes hard to see that because he played in the 1960s and 70s, a time when offense was at a low ebb. In 1969, he hit .269/.436/.507 with 33 home runs and 148 walks. That’s roughly equivalent to hitting .305 with 40 home runs last year. He was a monster player in his prime. But, by 1977, he was done. That Opening Day home run would be the only one he would hit as a Yankee. It came close to being his only hit as a Yankee, period. After 30 games and 92 plate appearances, Wynn had hit .143/.283/.234. The Yankees released him despite his great career numbers, because when you can’t do it anymore, you can’t do it.

    In 1989, the Yankees’ Opening Day starter was Tommy John. He won, too, outdueling Frank Viola. It was the 287th career win for the three-time 20-game winning left-hander, who was by this time 46 years old. It was also the second-to-last win of his career. By the end of May, he was 2-7 with a 5.80 ERA. Dallas Green, the Yankees manager at the time, observed that John was physically still capable of pitching but no longer capable of retiring batters and released him. John may someday get into the Hall of Fame, but the Yankees released him because, well, they had to.

    I could go on. There is no shortage of stories like this, both with the Yankees and with every other team in baseball, every year that baseball has been played. It might also be useful to throw out Bernie Williams, who didn’t get a contract after the 2006 season because although he could still hit a little, he could no longer play the outfield and couldn’t hit enough to be a first baseman. Heck, we could talk about the Yankees cheerfully waving, “Buh-bye” to Babe Ruth after the 1934 season.

    In baseball, teams make these cold, hard decisions every day. That being the case, if even great players can be released when they no longer have a role, why is Randy Winn so special? Rosters are small these days. Winn hasn’t hit since 2008, making his only reasonable role that of defensive replacement. Assuming continued health on the part of Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner, that’s not so necessary to have on the roster just now, and in any case is a very limited use of a roster space. What’s more, Greg Golson, another guy who can catch but can’t hit, is still in the organization, so if the Yankees need to dip back in the glove-only department, they’re covered.

    Where they are clearly not covered is in the key area of “right-handed reserve outfielder who can hit,” at least not while Marcus Thames is platooning at DH, and even if he wasn’t, then you’d actually need two players, a platoon DH and a defensive replacement, so Thames is exactly where he should be. I don’t know if Kevin Russo is ultimately the best choice for the job, but he could be, because (A) most right-handed hitters can hit left-handers, and (B) any right-handed hitter can hit left-handers better than Granderson can. At Scranton, 25-year-old Chad Huffman, who the Yankees plucked out of the Padres system, is hitting .293/.361/.450 overall and .351/.385/.541 against lefties. Dave Winfree is hitting .283/.314/.455 overall, .325/.370/.650 against lefties. As I’ve observed before, neither of these guys is a coming star (or asteroid, or rusting old television satellite), but if all you’re asking them to do is play left field and hit a little against left-handers, there is no reason to think they aren’t up to the task.

    Those choices and others exist if Russo doesn’t work out, but as I discussed yesterday, his infield-outfield versatility makes him a very good choice to keep on the roster. There just aren’t any similar justifications for Winn except that the Yankees spent the money—and keep him or release him, the money is gone.

    CAVEAT
    It goes without saying that the above is premised on the notion that the Yankees accept the idea that Granderson needs to be platooned, which they probably don’t. I’m not sure why they wouldn’t. If you count this year, Granderson’s production has declined in three consecutive seasons, and overexposure to southpaws is a big part of that. I know they had grand ideas about helping Granderson solve this problem, but to the point that he got hurt there was no evidence that he had made any progress whatsoever. There’s no shame in this, and Granderson is still a very fine player who should be quite valuable for the Yankees. He just needs a little help sometimes, just like 95 percent of the players in the game.

    IT BEGINS…
    The The Hughes Rules are about to be imposed. The article suggests the Yankees will try to handle things with a bit more delicacy than last year, when they more or less bludgeoned Chamberlain with restrictions and seem to have more or less ended his career as a starter. Good luck surviving this challenge, Mr. Hughes.

    1.9 (1 Ratings)

    The Red Sox are coming

    Thursday, May 27, 2010, 4:57 PM [General]

    WHAT PAUL REVERE SAID, SORT OF: THE RED SOX ARE COMING

    On April 19, the Red Sox having lost their fifth straight game, had a record of 4-9. Since then, they’ve gone 23-12 (.657). In that time, they’ve hit and scored 5.8 runs a game, while allowing 4.8 runs a game. Let’s not let those numbers alone, but place them in the context of the AL East (see table at bottom):

    we’re seeing the AL East turn into what we thought it would be all winter long -- a fight between three terrific teams (parenthetically, David Ortiz in May: .368/.421/.809, nine home runs. Holy Turnaround, Batman!), with the added, unexpected twist that the Blue Jays have also played terrifically well. This is in large part due to unexpectedly good offensive performances from players like John Buck, Jose Bautista (leading the league in home runs? Really?), Fred Lewis and Vernon Wells. Wouldn’t it be interesting if the Yankees actually played the Blue Jays this year, being division rivals and all? It’s finally going to happen when the Yankees head over the border from June 4 to June 6.

    The takeaway isn’t anything deep, but simply that the division/Wild Card race -- the latter of which is also inhabited by the Tigers (about the only place on Earth still inhabited by Tigers, from what I hear) -- isn’t going to be like last year, when the Yankees had to lick the one opponent in front of them. I know I say this every year, and I say it because I believe it: passivity kills pennants. Fortunately for the Yankees, Curtis Granderson is about 24 hours from coming back, and that should help with the left field problem -- which Kevin Russo could almost make you forget about the last few days. That should solve at least one of two or three problems.

    Would that the Yankees would feel comfortable eating the rest of Randy Winn’s $1.1 million and saying, “Y’know, we’re comfortable going with the kid from now on.” Russo doesn’t look anything like a polished outfielder, but to paraphrase what I wrote when the Yankees brought him up for the second time this year, he’s unlikely to do the spectacular thing, but he’s more likely to do, well, anything, than Winn is. The risk of an occasional missed fly ball seems preferable to the guarantee to a whole lot of outs. The bigger issue is that, even though the Yankees instead return Brett Gardner to left field, Granderson still requires a platoon partner, and Russo might be able to fill that role adequately while Marcus Thames salts his glove and takes his swing as the DH against lefties. In addition, as Russo is an infielder by trade, he would become a better alternative to Ramiro Pena on those days that Coffee Joe wants to give Alex Rodriguez a break (apparently once every 7-10 games). I realize I’m getting jazzed about all of 18 plate appearances, but Russo’s minor league record is clear enough that a .275 average and a .350 on-base percentage isn’t out of the question -- more than the Yankees will get out of Granderson against lefties. There are other alternatives, of course, as long as Granderson is protected from lefties and the team is protected from him against lefties. If Girardi has to sell it “for his health” as Granderson continues his recovery, so be it.

    The larger problem is the bullpen, which might finally be coming into focus with a seven-game scoreless streak for David Robertson (though he has still passed five in 8.1 innings, too many). Deposing Boone Logan for Chad Gaudin is one attempt at solving things, and though Voltaire said we must cultivate our Gaudin, we must see if Gaudin can solve the homeritis that got him chased from Billy Beane’s bay. One suspects further moves, and there are interesting candidates at Scranton should Brian Cashman choose to embrace them. As for extra-organizational arms, they’re not going to come into focus for a while, but when you look at the relievers both having good seasons and pitching for non-contenders, it’s not clear that the likely possibilities offer any kind of guarantee over just giving a kid or organizational soldier a chance.

    TOTALLY RANDOM THING I HAPPEN TO BE THINKING ABOUT

    How is it the Beatles covered the Cookies “Chains,” on their first album but never got around to  “Don’t Say Nothin’ Bad (About My Baby)?” And is the original “I’m Into Something Good,” by a former member of that group better than the better-known cover by Herman’s Hermits?

    MORE FROM ME

     • New DPOTD over at BP, Pinky Higgins, most evil of the Red Sox.
     • Wholesome Reading has been updated, with more to come shortly.

    TEAM

    W-L

    PCT

    RS/G

    RA/G

      Red Sox

    23-12

    .657

    5.8

    4.8

      Rays

    23-12

    .657

    5.2

    3.2

      Yankees

    20-15

    .571

    5.3

    4.0

      Blue Jays

    19-16

    .543

    5.4

    4.6

      Orioles

    14-21

    .400

    3.8

    4.8















































    TEAM



    W-L



    PCT



    RS/G



    RA/G



      Red Sox



    23-12



    .657



    5.8



    4.8



      Rays



    23-12



    .657



    5.2



    3.2



      Yankees



    20-15



    .571



    5.3



    4.0



      Blue Jays



    19-16



    .543



    5.4



    4.6



      Orioles



    14-21



    .400



    3.8



    4.8




    1.9 (1 Ratings)

    Jeter just slumping

    Tuesday, May 25, 2010, 5:53 PM [General]

    LONG TALL SALLY HAS LOST HER SPEED
    It seems like the off-day brought a great many “Has Derek Jeter lost his groove to age?” articles -- we’ve got to fill column inches, or gigabytes, or whatever it is we online cats do. While worries about Jeter’s age are realistic and highly relevant given his contract situation, it’s a bit premature to write him off given that just over a quarter of the season is in the books. We can also accept the evidence of our eyes, bolstered by statistics; it doesn’t look like Jeter is slowing down, it looks like he’s confused. In recent weeks, the boundaries of his strike zone have expanded. He has hit more balls on the ground -- his groundball/flyball ratio is at a career high -- which is a hard way to hit safely, as even Brett Gardner is finding out lately with his seemingly endless series of 5-3 groundouts; Jeter’s batting average on balls in play is at a career-low .302. The number of pitches he’s seen per plate appearance this season is nearing his career low of 2004.

    This may all be due to aging, somehow, but it’s not obvious. It seems more symptomatic of a batter who is uncharacteristically lost, and what is lost can also be found. Certainly, Jeter’s .330/.354/.521 April should count for as much as his .224/.290/.276 May. Putting aside for the moment the possibility that he’s concealing an injury, it seems unlikely that he aged dramatically between the last day of April and the first day of this month. Again, he’s putting a lot of balls on the ground right now, and when you do that, a great many things don’t happen: you don’t hit for a high average, because most grounders are outs, you don’t hit for extra-bases and you don’t hit home runs, because it takes a nigh-miraculous set of circumstances for a groundball to go for four bases.

    Unless there’s some aspect of being 36 that prevents Jeter from rediscovering his patience and getting some lift back in his swing -- and we would call that an injury, which brings us into the realm of conspiracy theory -- there’s every reason to think that he can come back. How far he comes back, how he finishes this season, that’s a different question. Two years ago, Jeter had one of the worst offensive seasons of his career. Last year, he had one of the best seasons ever by a 35-year-old shortstop. Some regression was a near certainty. Unless Jeter possesses, in addition to his myriad other skills, the secret formula for age retardation, his skills are going to erode at some point. Based on the evidence, it doesn’t seem as if that moment is now, and what ails Jeter is just your garden-variety slump, but time will tell.

    FIRST GUESS FOR TONIGHT
    Why does Joe Girardi keep DHing his Gold Glove first baseman?

    1.9 (1 Ratings)

    The transformation of King Midas

    Monday, May 24, 2010, 2:09 PM [General]

    Instead of fretting too much about what was a very bad weekend, let’s look on the bright side for a change. Francisco Cervelli has an amazing, nigh-unprecedented ability: everything his bat touches turns into a hit. His nickname shouldn’t be Frankie, it should be “King Midas.” King Midas Cervelli is batting .354 overall and .403 on balls in play. This is clearly the supernatural at work.

    I’ve observed before that Cervelli’s Minor League track record was both limited and not terribly impressive. The native of Venezuela hit just .273/.367/.380 in 221 games, his training period having been attenuated by injuries and call-ups. The on-base percentage suggested he knew a little something about the strike zone, but not in the Ted Williams sense of knowing something about the strike zone—if his Minor League walk rate had followed him to the Majors without any reduction, he would have been due for about 50 walks in a 500 plate-appearance season. That’s something like average selectivity.

    For hitters without power who don’t happen to have an incredible batting eye, their Minor League walks don’t come with them. Major League pitchers are quite good at the whole location thing and are quite happy to challenge batters who aren’t likely to hit the ball out of the park. Last year, Cervelli’s 101 plate appearances seemed to suggest that his patience was not going to survive his inability to put the ball over the fences, no matter that he made good contact and had good luck on balls in play. He saw ball four just twice all season, and averaged 3.3 pitches per plate appearance. He was eager and pitchers went right after him.

    Cervelli’s approach has changed this season. He’s been more selected, increasing his pitches per plate appearance to 3.5. That may seem like a minute improvement, but selectivity is measured in tiny bits, in an extra pitch taken here and there. Last year, Jayson Werth topped regulars at 4.5 pitchers per PA, while Bengie Molina trailed the universe at 3.2. That’s the difference between Werth’s .373 OBP and Molina’s .285: looking at one pitch—just one!—per trip to the plate. Cervelli’s fraction of an extra pitch means that he’s walking nine percent of the time, close to his 11 percent rate in the Minors. He’s also having good luck, as his .403 BABIP testifies. However, it is also possible that not only is he blooping his way to a good average, as I suggested here last week, but that as a result of being just a little bit more selective he’s also choosing better pitches at which to take his hacks. The combination of patience and good luck is pretty hard to beat. As the old saying goes, it’s better to be lucky than good, but if you can be lucky AND good, you’ll have the world on a string.

    Even when Jorge Posada comes back, the Yankees may have to play this guy. A player can have good luck over a full season. While the average player will hit about .300 when he makes contact, last season 32 players with 200 or more plate appearances batted over .350 on balls in play, the King Midas crown going to David Wright, who hit .394. In 2008, 22 players were over .350 when they put the ball between the lines, led by Milton Bradley at .388. In 2007, Matt Kemp led with .411, albeit in only 311 PA; B.J. Upton led full-timers at .393. Most of those players had line drive rates far in excess of Cervelli’s, which suggests that his lucky bloop factor is high.

    Still, you can’t know how long his luck will last, and should it persist through the time of Posada’s return, the Yankees should probably keep on riding it. After all, Cervelli is a better defensive catcher than Posada. This would have been something of a moot point had Cervelli hit down to expectations, but as long as he remains hot and the Yankees are in need of a DH, well, welcome to the best of all worlds. Posada can still have a job when he returns, one that will carry him into the last year of his contract and the possible emergence of Austin Romine and Jesus Montero next year; Cervelli would continue to catch; Juan Miranda can watch from the bench.

    Consider what the Rays have done with their ostensible reserve catcher, John Jaso. Jaso batted third on Sunday. After a 2-for-4 with a triple and a home run off of various Astros humpty dumpties, Jaso is hitting .349/.475/.540 in 80 plate appearances. Jaso didn’t even make the roster out of spring training, having been third on the organization’s depth chart behind Dioner Navarro and Kelly Shoppach. Navarro has opened this season with a sequel to his acclaimed 2009 drama, “Frailty, Failure, and Futility (A Musical)” hitting .188/.270/.238 to date. Between the two seasons he’s hit .213/.263/.307 in his last 501 plate appearances. Shoppach underwent knee surgery in mid-April and will be out until sometime in June. Jaso, recalled in desperation, has taken control of the job, grabbing the long half of a platoon with Navarro.

    As with Cervelli, Jaso has no record of being this good, though he’s probably a better hitter than Navarro on any day of the week. A .291/.379/.438 hitter in 623 Minor League games, Jaso is already 26, so he likely is what he is. Fortunately, what he is includes a good sense of the strike zone, so even when he cools he should still reach base reasonably often. It’s somewhat less likely that he retains his power, though he won’t be as light a hitter as his Yankees counterpart. Still, he’s hitting, the Rays have a need, and Hi-Yo, Silver.

    Just as Jaso can’t be expected to hit this way for much longer, Cervelli will likely cool. Even with his newfound patience, a Cervelli who hits like a slow Brett Gardner is only going to make moderate contributions to the offense and might not survive a challenge from Romine in the long term (Montero’s future remains difficult to project). At that point (assuming it is at some point after Posada returns—this being a well-ordered universe we are imagining, where things happen in neat and convenient sequence), the Yankees can reevaluate the catching situation. Until then, lead on, King Midas.

    MY WEEKEND FROM (DRAG ME TO) HELL
    As part of a recurring feature in my life, Steve’s Insomniac Theater, I watched a pathetic four movies this weekend. You can do that, get in all of your work, hang out with your kids, get stuff done around the house, take your folks out to dinner, and watch three Yankees games, if you simply give up sleeping. Three of my four choices were random, chosen because they were what was on cable at the time. The fourth was a DVD I picked up used and had been meaning to watch for awhile based on what I dimly recalled to be a positive critical reception. I went 1-for-4 in my selections, or maybe 1-for-3 with a HBP. Of the four, I thought one was just an unredeemable failure, though memorable; another was amusing, but like an empty-calorie dessert which feels good going down, but after the fact you wonder why you enjoyed something so useless; another wasn’t as compelling as I’d heard, though I liked the lead actor; another was actually kind of nicely constructed and really well-acted. I’m going to tell you the titles, but I’m not going to say which was which. The four: “Observe and Report”; “Drag Me to Hell”; “The Hangover”; “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead”. …And I still haven’t seen “Avatar.”

    MORE FROM ME
    • I continue to update Wholesome Reading for your entertainment, edification, and occasional annoyance. Warning: politics, things befouled by oil.

    • There’s a new Dead Player of the Day up at Baseball Prospectus.

    • BP started a new podcast series on Friday and I dropped in on the first episode to talk about managers.

    1.9 (1 Ratings)

    The most recent unreal pennant race

    Friday, May 21, 2010, 11:17 AM [General]

    After dropping three straight at home, the Yankees are now five games behind the Rays. In my glorious youth, this would be a cause for worry, but given the existence of the Wild Card there’s no reason to get too exercised about this latest setback. Sure, the Tigers, Twins, and Blue Jays are just one game behind, but Juan Miranda is here now.

    Miranda is slugging .700 in his 20 at-bats, so he doesn’t deserve ridicule. In fact, insofar as last night’s game goes, perhaps no one does. Andy Pettitte had an off night, and that’s going to happen sometimes. Heck, in 1930, Lefty Grove went 28-5 with a ERA of 2.54 in an American League in which the average pitcher had an ERA of 4.65. He was a god among men. Yet, in his second start of the season, against the Yankees, he gave up a home run to Lou Gehrig and hits or walks to everyone else, and was chased from the mound after just 2.1 innings, having allowed six runs. He was outpitched that day by a 23-year-old hurler named Roy Sherid, who is about as deservedly obscure as Yankees pitchers get. If, on any given day, Robert Moses Grove was vulnerable to being tagged by a strong opponent, then it only seems fair that Andrew Eugene Pettitte give up too many runs every now and again.

    By using the Robert Moses Grove Method, you can rationalize pretty much anything. Fortunately, you don’t need the RMGM for David Robertson, who pitched the way you’d expect him to do for the first time all season. If there was one silver lining to the loss, it was that, because the bullpen still needs an overhaul. Boone Logan brings inspiring height to the role of trash-time left-hander (on the mound, he looks as if he may sprout leaves), but that’s all, and it’s not especially clear what he’s offering the team at this point. He can’t be used as a spot lefty because he walks too many batters, and those lefties that he has faced have gone 5-for-14, which as ever grade-schooler knows, is a .357 batting average. Chan Ho Park is demonstrating that even Brian Cashman is not immune from the great bane of general managers, getting suckered by a fluke relief performance. For the last few years, the average pitcher has allowed a home run on somewhere between seven and eight percent of his fly balls. Park’s career rate is a worse-than-average 8.4 percent. Last year, even though his fly ball rate was high as it ever has been in his career, his home run per fly ball rate was 4.2 percent. Which was more likely, that he was going to put up another four percent rate, or regress to eight? Actually, it’s a trick question: his current rate is 23 percent. If you got it right, go to head of the class!

    You would think that that supposedly imminent return of Alfredo Aceves would help mitigate this problem, but Joe Girardi tends to use Aceves as a pitcher of last resort. That may have to change. Meanwhile, Mark Melancon, who has proved himself at the minor-league level, keeps getting blasted in the Majors and being sent back, when what he really needs is some patience and a chance to put his twitchy poor outings behind him. You figure that these things would occur to Girardi given that in each of his two seasons at the helm he has performed emergency transfusions on the bullpen. There’s another coming, and it’s just a question of when the club recognizes the inevitable and gets on with things.

    The Mets should offer a good opportunity for a rebound. With only a visit to the Twins high on difficulty, the next seven days, which also feature a home series against the Indians and a very needed day off, should represent a bit of a breather.  

    AND THEN THERE’S GETTING ON WITH THINGS NOW
    Good call by the Yankees in promoting the flexing Kevin Russo instead of the futile Greg Golson. Russo hadn’t been hitting much lately, batting only .268/.362/.341 in his last ten minor league games (a span broken up by his previous promotion) but (A) let’s not get carried away by 10 games, and (B) realize that .362 is better by far than anything Golson has ever done. Russo is unlikely to do anything spectacular, like hit the big home run (not that he’s completely without power) or make the dramatic defensive play in the outfield, being that he’s really a second baseman in disguise, but he’s far, far more likely to do the basic thing, which is actually reach base, than any Tom, Greg, or Ramiro Pena the Yankees have employed this year. That’s a useful player in the same way that, say, Craig Counsell has been a valuable player for 15 seasons and is still providing value at 39; .258/.344/.351, Counsell’s career rates, is not going to do a team much good when its penciled into a regular lineup spot, but when you can take those rates and spot them at shortstop or third base or left field as necessary, you’ve got something valuable. Chances are, as you went about trying to replace those players, you would have been forced to use someone worse than that. Counsell types, and I suspect Russo will be a career Counselor, arrest your fall towards the replacement level when you have an injury. As a bonus, they free up roster space.

    As for Chad Moeller, congratulations to him for getting at least a taste of an 11th big-league season at 35. He actually wasn’t half bad with the Orioles last year, hitting .258/.313/.438. On the other hand, he threw out just two of 27 baserunners.  His positives are the same as his negatives—no surprises. Trenton’s Austin Romine picked up three hits last night to raise his rates to .316/.385/.496 with 12 doubles and three home runs. The thing to keep in mind with Romine is that he’s doing even better than you think he is. He plays in one of baseball’s toughest hitting environments at Trenton. In his home park on the cool, cool Delaware, he’s hitting just .255/.359/.382; on the road, he’s hitting .371/.409/.597 with all three homers. In my comment on Romine in this year’s Baseball Prospectus book, I wrote, “if the cold Delaware River breezes can teach him to hold back on close pitches instead of swinging at them, he'll have accomplished something more valuable than just hitting home runs.” To his credit, he’s doing exactly that, taking his walks at home and doing his swinging on the road.

    Now, if you were the Yankees and in need of some catching help, you might think of at least moving this fellow up to Triple-A given his performance in neutral parks, but Jesus Montero is a great big roadblock. Promoting him to the Majors seems rather pointless given that he would have sat around for Francisco Cervelli. Given that job description, might as well use Moeller…

    THE TWILIGHT ZONE
    Sometimes I see the name “M. Cabrera” in a box score, then experience a powerful feeling of shock as I read the slash stats: .340/.428/.603. I remember that I’m looking at the Tigers  game and it’s Miguel Cabrera, not Melky. Reassured as to the predictable working of the universe, I move on to the next box score…

    RANDOM QUESTION ASSOCIATED WITH
    WATCHING MOVIE TRAILERS INSTEAD OF WORKING

    Why did they have to take a nice, simple concept like “Jonah Hex” and turn it into “The Wild Wild West?”

    1.9 (1 Ratings)

    Roster composition

    Wednesday, May 19, 2010, 3:14 PM [General]

    THAMES GIVETH, THAMES TAKETH AWAY, THAMES SENDS FLOWERS
    I know I’ve been kvetching about the composition of the Yankees’ roster for awhile now, but it remains an important issue, something that Tuesday night’s game amply demonstrated. With 13 pitchers and two injured regulars on the bench, Joe Girardi had absolutely no flexibility in the crucial ninth inning. Could he put in a defensive substitute for Marcus Thames in the top of the inning? Pinch-hit for Francisco Cervelli, Thames, Juan Miranda, or Randy Winn in the bottom of the inning? The answer to all of the above was no. What he could do, and did, was pinch-run with Ramiro Pena and enjoy the company of Mark Melancon, who wasn’t used, and Boone Logan, who is left-handed and therefore gets to stay on the club without anything like a defined role. Herbert Hoover was left-handed as well, but you wouldn’t have him cluttering up your 25-man roster.

    Whatever the transient problems of Jorge Posada and Nick Swisher, the present roster composition, which is going to have to endure for, at the very least, for the next two weeks while Curtis Granderson continues to heal his groin, is not sufficient for the team’s needs. A baker’s dozen is a good thing if you’re picking up cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery, bad if you’re dealing with pitchers. As with any other congeries of randomly assembled parts, chances are you’ve thrown some items into the box that you can’t actually use and left out some that you can. Greg Golson is not a Major-League hitter and there is a 90 percent probability that he never will be, but if you’re in the position of utilizing Thames as an outfielder, you probably need someone like him on the roster.

    Conversely, as we’ve discussed before, Pena may be a Major League fielder, but if your utility infielder is going to play regularly because your infielders are going to get frequent turns as the DH, his lack of bat becomes a handicap. If you’ve decided that you have to give Randy Winn playing time due to injury (“decided” because no one really HAS to give Randy Winn playing time; it’s just something you start doing, like smoking), having some kind of pinch-hitter around has to be part of the plan, because this year’s Winn looks like last year’s Winn, and last year’s Winn couldn’t hit enough to play for the Giants. Have you seen some of the hitters the Giants are willing to play? They make Enrique Wilson look like Honus Wagner.

    Parenthetically, if the Marlins are willing to trade Hanley Ramirez due to the little spat he and Fredi Gonzalez have been having, I would like to be the first to officially extend an invitation to New York—and not the Mets. And perhaps, Marlins, you fellows would be willing to throw in a reliever or two, maybe Leo Nunez (nothing happening here that didn’t happen 30 years ago with Reggie Jackson). Anything to help you solve your personality problems and our age/brittleness/fickle reliever problems. One hand washes the other…

    Yes, it’s a pleasant dream, but no more than that. Thus, the Yankees will still be aged and brittle as they take on the universe-leading Rays, who lead the stripped Pinstripers by three games. The fascinating aspect to the Rays’ season is that they’re something of an offensive disaster area, but are winning better than 70 percent of their games anyway because their pitching staff seems to think that they are actually the 1906 Chicago Cubs. I have it on good authority that when Matt Garza passes James Shields in the clubhouse, he says, “Hi, Orval!” and Shields answers, “Hi, Mordecai Peter Centennial ‘Three Finger’ or ‘Miner’ Brown!” It’s like a case of possession—Tuesday night, Jeff Niemann was seen at a Pennsylvania polling station trying to cast a vote for William Howard Taft. In this series, the Yankees will see Shields and Wade Davis, the Rays starters with the highest ERAs at 3.00 and 3.38, respectively.

    The offense is also channeling 1906, but only in the sense that the Rays have hit like they’re playing in the Deadball era. Evan Longoria is playing up to the MVP-award level that many predicted this season, Carl Crawford is doing what it takes to keep Brian Cashman’s saliva level up, Reid Brignac is showing that he could be a nice, punchy add-on in the middle infield, and John Jaso has demonstrated that there is more electric current in his bat than animates Dioner Navarro’s whole body. The rest of the lineup… How do I put this? What is the English word for “thhhhpphhhht?” Ben Zobrist, who had a fair claim on the AL MVP award last year, has yet to hit a home run. B.J. Upton looks ready for retirement at 25. This is a team that brought up Hank Blalock because he seemed more likely to produce than anyone they currently have on hand. This is a guy whose 2009 on-base percentage was .277, even lower than Randy Winn’s.

    This brings us back to the Yankees’ roster. Playing the best team in baseball requires more tactical flexibility, not less. Tuesday’s ninth inning was a disaster because Girardi had few options. He had to ask Thames, a strikeout artist, to deliver a sacrifice fly. He had to ask Miranda to do the same. He had to ask Winn to hit. Prior to that, he had to ask Thames to make a moderately difficult catch in the outfield. Not all of these problems are easily solvable due to injuries right now, but they could be somewhat mitigated with a cannier arrangement—one fewer pitcher for starters, and then some of the more potent reserves from Scranton, more potent than Pena and Golson, at any rate. No reason to give the best pitching staff in baseball, perhaps in years, so many soft at-bats if you can do anything to avoid it, and the Yankees can.

    Last note: no need to give them extra help in the late innings either. Given the way the Yankees bullpen has performed of late, it’s time (as long as he’s here) to start taking Melancon seriously.

    1.9 (1 Ratings)

    Thames!

    Tuesday, May 18, 2010, 9:35 AM [General]

    I am a connoisseur of irony, so I can appreciate it when, the same day that I wrote that Marcus Thames was overmatched as a regular, that he hit a ball to the moon to give the Yankees a walk-off win over their arch-rivals. When I opine for a living, you’re going to get hoisted by your own petard every now and again. Last night it was my turn, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

    Having said that, I stand by my original point. I’m a Marcus Thames booster from way back, having been writing about what was at the time a dark-horse campaign for a Major League career when the former 30th-round pick out of Mississippi hit a completely unexpected .321/.410/.598 season as a Double-A repeater back in 2001. Despite a dramatic fall back to earth in 2002, I campaigned in this space for the Yankees to give him a chance when of Opening Day outfielders Rondell White, Bernie Williams, Shane Spencer and John Vander Wal proved to be depressingly inadequate (Bernie Baseball excepted).

    When the Yankees sent Thames to Texas for Ruben Sierra in 2003, I was outraged, though I admit it was not because I thought Marcus was a great prospect—26-year-olds coming off of .207/.297/.378 seasons at Triple-A are by definition not “great prospects”— but rather due to the reacquisition of Sierra, one of the most clueless and complacent players I have had the misfortune to see in pinstripes. How many times can I guy standing four feet off the plate go fishing for pitches in the opposite batter’s box before he realizes he can’t reach it? In Ruben’s case, the answer was 383 games of never.

    It took Thames a few years and a trip to Toledo to figure out what he was good at. As my Baseball Prospectus colleague Kevin Goldstein wrote in our 2009 book, “There's value there when used in the right spot—which for Thames is against fastball-reliant lefties—as pure 80 power on the 20-80 scouting scale is hard to find and almost always worth making room for.” The question is, how much room do you want to make for it? You can get an idea of Thames’ strengths and weaknesses just by looking at the back of his baseball card and combining his part-time work into full-time seasons. From 2008-2009, he had 636 plate appearances, tantamount to one season as a regular starter. He hit .246/.307/.488 with 38 doubles, 53 walks, and 167 strikeouts. In 2007-2008 he had 626 plate appearances and hit .241/.286/.508 with 27 doubles, 43 homers, 37 walks, and 167 strikeouts. From 2006-2007, he had 687 PAs, hit .250/.310/.527 with 35 doubles, 44 home runs, 50 walks, and 164 strikeouts.

    I don’t know if Thames would say it this way, but chances are he knows exactly what he can and can’t do, and so every at-bat he’s up there swinging with abandon, knowing that if he guesses right on a fastball he can hit it out of the park. He gets one often enough against left-handers for the whole thing to pay off. Against right-handers, he’s still able to tag the ball (hence his .469 slugging percentage against them), but doesn’t make contact often enough to reach base even 30 percent of the time. In a pinch, and, oh my, are the Yankees in a pinch now, if you have to play a guy with weaknesses, it might as well be the guy with the home run stroke, hence Goldstein’s comment.

    That certainly paid off for the Yankees Monday night against a clearly enervated Jon Papelbon, who seemed to prove Jim Kaat’s point that it’s not how many pitches you throw in an appearance (he threw 26 his last time out, not insanely high by his standards) but the length of time you’re on the mound (he pitched 2.1 innings). Not every pitcher is going to give the Thames that kind of opportunity, nor is every manager going to stay nailed to the bench the way Terry Francona did, and watch his closer take on water, roll over, and sink with all hands still on board. So, let us not get carried away and keep in mind that the Yankees still require a more functional cast of reserves than they presently carry, and take Thames’ Monday night triumph as evidence of the exact kind of excitement that a quality cast of alternates can bring to the club.

    Follow Steven Goldman on Twitter @PB_Steve.

    2.3 (3 Ratings)

    The many deaths of Nick Johnson

    Monday, May 17, 2010, 6:40 PM [General]

    The Yankees' lineup is getting to a depressing place. Derek Jeter is hitting .182 this month, Robinson Cano .214. In the last week, Brett Gardner has suddenly gone to hacking. Marcus Thames, getting more playing time than is ideal, is batting .226, and slugging .226, and for all I know, tipping .226. Ramiro Pena is suddenly an everyday player, or nearly so, which is akin to  just cancelling a lineup spot like an unwanted magazine subscription. Francisco Cervelli can’t bloop his way to .390 forever, and even if he does, you’d like the occasional home run from your catcher.

    With Nick Johnson to undergo surgery and be gone, conservatively, until the far side of the All-Star break, Joe Girardi intends to use a never-ending series of rotating designated hitters, which is fine until the point that you use that as a way to make an easy out a regular. If DHing A-Rod or Jeter means more Pena, if giving Nick Swisher a day in the dugout means Greg Golson and his complete ignorance of the strike zone, then you’re playing an eight-man lineup. As good as the Yankees have been, they’re not so good that they can get away with that forever. Heck, the Rays recognize that on their own part, which is why they’re in the process of releasing Pat Burrell.

    Alternatively, if not DHing one of the lineup regulars means more Juan Miranda, well, it’s a better use of the spot than essentially giving those at-bats to Pena, but it’s not good either; Miranda’s .285/.375/.472 rates at Triple-A don’t suggest more than mere adequacy, if that. His weighted-mean PECOTA for this season is .252/.329/.433, which isn’t good, and if he slips to the low side of that projection you get something like .240/.320/.400, which could actually cause you to stay in bed for a week with the curtains drawn, refusing all nourishment until your family stages an intervention.

    What the confirmed long-term loss of Nick the Greenstick means is that the Yankees have to reassess the state of their roster. I’ve already seen some sports radio-style “Call Jermaine Dye!” wailing, but that’s not what I mean. Rather, what Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi have to ask themselves is, “If our utility infielder is now going to be a semi-regular, can we afford to carry  Ramiro Pena, especially in light of the fact that Kevin Russo and Eduardo Nunez have shown a lot more life with the bat? If Nick Swisher is going to be in and out (mostly out) of the lineup for awhile, don’t we need an extra outfielder who can hit even a little?”

    These are serious and important questions, and it’s a bit puzzling that the Yankees are not pursuing the answers more aggressively. With one-fifth of the rotation questionable due to Javier Vazquez’s problems, with the bullpen problematically constructed, depleted and dangerous, with Swisher out and Granderson, er, further out, Thames miscast as a regular, the middle infielders cold, and Randy Winn (.267/.389/.433 this month) suddenly one of your more competent hitters, this team can’t anything for granted. That is especially true in a division in which the Rays are on a pace for 113 wins, the Blue Jays are on a pace for 96 wins, and the .500 Red Sox remain a very dangerous team. It’s already obvious the title defense isn’t going to be a walk, so why treat it that way?

    Let’s put it another way: as Brian Cashman said over the weekend, he knew what he was getting into when he signed Nick Johnson. If that’s the case, then how can you defend THIS as your plan B? If you knew what you were getting into, surely there must be something more. Those that fail to compensate for the many deaths of Nick Johnson are doomed to suffer for them.

    MORE FROM ME
    • The latest DPOTD features a hypothetical in which the Yankees acceded to Thurman Munson’s request to be traded to the Indians following the 1977 season.

    • There’s a new song up at the Casual Observer Songblog, a very pretty piano instrumental we like to call “Deep Brown Studying.”

    Wholesome Reading has been updated with more commentary on the events of the day to come.

    2.3 (3 Ratings)

    Helicopter the Bactrians

    Friday, May 14, 2010, 5:23 PM [General]

    You knew the Yankees had 40-man roster flexibility because of the corpus of Christian Garcia—you could pass a camel through that wasted spot given that Garcia isn’t going to pitch this year and after so many injuries one would have to question if he’s going to be healthy enough to pitch ever. Today, the Yankees finally pulled the trigger on an obvious move and released him. They replaced him with righty Shane Lindsay, a reliever the Rockies had put on waivers. Signed out of Australia, the 25-year-old Lindsay has been in the minors since 2004, in part because of a multitude of injuries, in part because he doesn’t have much of an idea of where the ball is going. He’s kind of the new Brian Bruney. He throws hard, touching 98 mph, but his pitches have a ticket to ride. In 269.1 pro innings he’s walked 183, or 6.1 per nine innings, and the problem doesn’t seem to be getting a whole lot better. As a starter back in low-A in 2005 he was pretty amazing, with a 1.89 ERA and 107 strikeouts with just 37 hits in 66.2 innings. His work since a torn labrum in 2007 has been much less interesting, hence the Rockies taking him off the roster. Last year he moved to the bullpen and threw 33.1 innings between the Sally and Texas Leagues and had a 2.43 ERA, allowing just 12 hits  in 27.2 innings, striking out 36. However, he also walked 19. This year he walked 17 in 13.2 innings at Triple-A before getting canned.

    If Yankees pitching coaches can get Lindsay pointed towards the plate, but it seems like a long shot… meaning that the Garcia Memorial Hospital Wing on the 40-man should soon again be available, perhaps to receive a player whose potential to contribute to the big-league club is more obvious.

    1.4 (2 Ratings)

    Trying to find options in the interim

    Thursday, May 13, 2010, 6:30 PM [General]

    WHADDYA EXPECT?
    Sure, Justin Verlander is an excellent pitcher, but as CC Sabathia showed today, excellent pitchers can be beaten. It helps if you face that pitcher with a real lineup, but the Yankees were about a third short of one today with Juan Miranda, Randy Winn, and Greg Golson at the bottom of the order. This trio of light hitters stranded nine baserunners today, contributing to a 1-3 finish for the Yankees in their long series at Detroit.

    At the risk of repeating yesterday’s entry, it’s quite confusing as to why the Yankees are prepared to tolerate their current roster when they have alternatives beyond Golson, a pinch-runner/defensive substitute, Winn, a player who needs to hit .300 to be productive and won’t, and the ageless Miranda, who just might -- maybe -- hit well enough to be an acceptable platoon DH but is supremely unlikely to do much more than act as a placeholder.

    Injuries happen, and very few teams have the kind of depth that allows them to survive more than one or two significant losses at a time without seeing a decline in some area of performance. I’m not trying to hold the Yankees to an unrealistic standard here. You lose a Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, or Nick Johnson -- and doing without Johnson, and his 4.4 pitches seen per plate appearance is a more significant loss than his weak hitting would otherwise suggest -- and unless you have Joe DiMaggio waiting at Triple-A, it’s a blow. Alas, the Jolter is nowhere in the Yankees’ farm system just now.

    That does not, however, mean that Golson or Miranda or even Winn has to play anymore than is strictly advantageous. Kevin Russo, Chad Huffman, and Dave Winfree are not future All-Stars or even players you might remember three years from now, but they have their uses amidst their limitations. The same is not necessarily true of the other guys, with the possible exception of Miranda, who might pinch-hit against the odd right-hander -- if the Yankees had a 30-man roster. Failing that, and Bud Selig is unlikely to issue that 30-man waiver anytime soon -- it helps if your bench players have more versatility and athleticism, not to mention a future. The aforementioned trio of Grade-C prospects might have a place on a Major League roster this year or next or never, but you won’t find out the answer until you play them over guys like Miranda, Winn, and Golson, who are 98 percent certain to be in some other line of work in the near future.

    Finally, there is the completely unexplored option, the one that you might have thought of when I referenced Joe DiMaggio. There is nothing stopping the Yankees from promoting Jesus Montero to DH. This is not necessarily the best idea, and I am not advocating it, but on some levels it is a more palatable choice than going forward with failure. Sure, Montero hasn’t hit as of yet (.233/.295/.359 at Scranton), but unless last fall’s hand injury is lingering, it is reasonable to assume that he will hit. Could he/would he do so in the Majors? I don’t know, but again, it might be a more profitable exercise than what the Yankees have been doing lately.

    1.4 (2 Ratings)

    Depth providing management headaches

    Thursday, May 13, 2010, 10:00 AM [General]

    MORE PRETENDING
    One of the frustrations of watching baseball is when a team takes a player of limited skills and pretends him into being someone who can actually play. Ramiro Pena is a case in point. During the second game on Wednesday, Michael Kay remarked that Pena looked frustrated. Of course he’s frustrated—he can’t hit. Whatever the benefits his glove confers, Joe Girardi should know that intentionally inflicting Pena on the starting lineup in both ends of a doubleheader is just giving away offense. This is especially true when Kevin Russo, who has shown that he can hit a bit, is still on the roster. Russo isn’t a shortstop, but third base shouldn’t have been out of the question.

    Before I get e-mail reminding me that Pena hit .287 last year, first, remember that the batting average was his sole contribution as he doesn’t walk or hit for power, and that batting average is the aspect of offense most influenced by luck: you have a few extra singles drop in, you have a good average. You have a few plays made on you by a top shortstop, you have a bad average. The difference between Pena’s .287 of last year and .243 is five hits. As Pena hit .340 on balls in play last year, there’s plenty of evidence that Pena benefitted from non-repeatable (or at least unlikely to repeat) good luck. Keep in mind as well that Pena never hit anything like .287 in the Minor Leagues.

    Of course, the roster as a whole is very confused right now, and it’s really not clear why the Yankees have the reserves that they do except for the fact that the 40-man is clogged up with the body of Christian Garcia. Going into tonight’s games, Brett Gardner is hitting .343 (12-for-35) against left-handers. Perhaps Marcus Thames is still someone’s platoon partner when Curtis Granderson comes back, but he shouldn’t be Gardner’s. He should be Granderson’s, or more appropriately, the part-time DH until that magical, far-off day on which Nick Johnson returns, or even after. That means that someone else, perhaps even someone who can field, can take up the left field station on the days that Granderson sits.

    That person is not Greg Golson, back in the Majors despite hitting .242/.280/.389 at Scranton. It might be Dave Winfree, now up to .301/.339/.496 (seven of 12 hits against LHP for extra-bases), or even Chad Huffman, whose recent hot streak has gotten him to .253/.320/.429. All the player in question really needs to be is right-handed and more capable of running down a ball in left than Thames. Now is the time to be looking for him, but instead, it’s Golson and Russo and starts to Pena.

    That’s bad roster management by the GM and bad lineup management by the manager. There’s nothing wrong with giving Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez a keep-‘em-fresh turn at DH, but if that means using Pena instead you’re just punting on a lineup spot. Pena is effectively the DH in that situation, a choice no rational manager would make.

    If Nick Swisher and his sore biceps are out for more than a day or two, this really becomes an acute problem. An outfield of Randy Winn, Gardner, and Thames isn’t exactly comparable to Keller, DiMaggio, and Henrich.

    DEREK JETER IS 36 YEARS OLD ...
    ... And in a major slump, something that has not received much comment in the media. After going 0-for-8 in Wednesday’s doubleheader, he is hitting .270/.311/.411. He finished April hitting .330/.354/.521, but since then he seems to have switched places with Mark Teixeira, going 7-for-47 (.149) with two doubles. It might help if he saw some runners on base, but when you put Pena just in front of him for two-thirds of a doubleheader, you’re not going to get too much of that.

    STRANGE DAYS INDEED
    I’m not making any kind of direct comparison here, but Phil Hughes’ great start to the season got me thinking back to other Yankees pitchers of my lifetime that had had similar launches. That brought to mind Charles Hudson, a 28-year-old vet who came over to the Yankees in exchange for Mike Easler and Tom Barrett (brother of Boston’s Marty) in the winter of 1986. After seven starts, Hudson was 6-0 with a 2.02 ERA. Four starts later, the Yankees had dropped him from the rotation. Shortly after that, he was sent to the Minors with a record of 7-3. There must have been something going on, some breach of discipline, that didn’t become public knowledge, because the speed of Hudson’s fall doesn’t make much sense on its own. The Yankees used Hudson as a swing man in 1988, a role he pitched in without distinction, then traded him to the Tigers for Tom Brookens…

    DEFINITIONS CHANGE, I GUESS
    I don’t know whether to put this here or at Wholesome Reading, but researching Jim Spencer for Dead Player of the Day I came across this wonderful quote from George Steinbrenner in a 1978 New York Times article by Tony Kornheiser:

    I’ll tell you when I really bristle. I’ll be sitting at some board meeting and I’ll hear some big shot say, “Look at those people,” and you’ll know exactly which people he’s talking about. “All they want is their unemployment checks.” Well, let me tell you something. I’ve been to the South Bronx; how many of these big shots have been to the South Bronx? You gonna tell me that’s all that guy wants in life? No way… If he had the opportunity that I had, God knows he might be a better man than all of us.

    "Now look, I’m no crusader, I don’t want it to sound like that. I’m no Robin Hood. I just like to help people, that’s my bag. They call me a flaming liberal; I guess I am.
    "

    The Boss was a big fundraiser for the Democrats in his pre-Yankees years, so this isn’t totally surprising. Still, you just don’t think of Steinbrenner describing himself this way.

    MORE FROM ME
    • By coincidence the last two Dead Players of the Day have been Yankees, Earle Combs and Jim Spencer.

    Wholesome Reading continues to be updated. Warning: politics, damaged bats!

    • For those that have inquired, my father is scheduled to be released from rehab on Thursday. He’s not yet 100 percent and I’m not sure when he will be, but we’re all very grateful that he’s going to come home, as I am grateful for your support.

    • Haven’t updated the old contact info in awhile, so here goes:

    E-mail: oldprofessor@wholesomereading.com.
    Twitter: PB_Steve
    Facebook: Steven Goldman
    Baseball history: You Could Look It Up.
    Politics: Wholesome Reading.
    Original Music: The Casual Observer Songblog.

    0 (0 Ratings)

    Letting Damon go the right move

    Tuesday, May 11, 2010, 3:33 PM [General]

    STOP PRETENDING
    Judging from the coverage, you’d think that the only thing that happened in Monday’s game was Johnny Damon’s home run. There is this weird element of “Ha! You see? This very flawed Yankees team that is on a pace to win only 110 games has been hoist with their own petard!” This is a fact-free storyline, but it’s fun, so what the hey, let’s go with it.

    As we’ve discussed in this space previously with regards to Hideki Matsui, retaining Damon was not just a question of respecting his abilities or not. On a purely philosophical level, there can be little doubt that the Yankees appreciated what Damon had done for them in the past and might do for them again in the future. The issue was one of money and the way the player perceived the organization’s intentions. As with Matsui, Damon had an old-economy contract, worth $13 million a year. Part-time left fielder/designated hitters who can’t throw just aren’t getting those kinds of salaries anymore, and they’re not getting multi-year contracts at 36 either. It is very awkward to ask a player to take a 40 percent pay-cut (Damon took $8 million from Detroit) on a one-year deal and remain in your organization. From the Tigers, it was what the market would support. From the Yankees, it would have been an insult.

    If the Yankees could not have retained Damon on a one-year contract at a Great Recession discount, then what he does for the Tigers this year is irrelevant. It’s what he does next year and the year after, if he’s around that long, that should concern us, because those are the years the Yankees would have had to cover to retain his services and good will.

    From a pure baseball point of view, it would have been difficult to defend retaining Damon at a price that would have attracted him given that left field and designated hitter are usually not difficult positions to fill. Paying a premium price for a player whose production, however solid, would have fallen far below the MVP level, is not justified. Indeed, Curtis Granderson and Nick Johnson together will make $11.25 million this year, just $3.25 million more than Damon will be paid by the Tigers. As popular as Damon was, as good as he is, letting him go once he rejected the Yankees terms was a solid baseball move.

    It always hurts when a popular player leaves town while still having a little something left. George Steinbrenner used to say that his biggest baseball mistake was letting Reggie Jackson leave after 1981, but the Boss was only second-guessing himself because he had the benefit of hindsight. Reggie was a 36-year-old DH coming off a bad (strike-shortened) season. He had one more Reggie! year left in 1982 and a solid season in 1985, but be also hit .210/.296/.377 from 1983-1984. The Yankees would have had to pay for five years to get two good ones, and Steinbrenner’s first guess was the right one.

    Unlike Reggie, perhaps Damon will have a softer landing to his career. Personally, I’d like to see it happen. He’s a likeable guy and with a strong 2010 he will finish the season with nearly 2600 hits, within striking distance of 3000 if he cares about that. With over 1500 runs scored, it’s not unlikely that he could break into the top 20 in that category. A solid finish would transform him from the aforementioned likeable guy to a likeable Hall of Famer.

    Even if that happens, though, the Yankees would still have made the right decision in letting him go. A team’s priority isn’t to wring the last drops of talent from a player at all costs, it is to judge the player’s skills and place on the aging curve against the supply and demand at his position. They haven’t replaced Damon perfectly — that platoon bat for Granderson is still on the planning board, if the Yankees have actually accepted the need for it — but that doesn’t invalidate the decision to do so.

    3.7 (1 Ratings)

    Page 5 of 13  •  Prev 1 ... 3 4 5 6 7 ... 13 Next