Tagged: Carlos Delgado

The Sunday Scuttlebutt

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With Carlos Delgado out of commission for at least two
months and possibly longer, the Mets need to face facts and acquire a first
baseman who can hit with some power. Even with Delgado for most of this season,
the Mets have hit the third fewest home runs among the 30 major league teams;
only the Giants and A’s from the power-starved Bay Area have lower totals. Of
the available first basemen, Nick “The Stick” Johnson appears to be the best
player. According to the estimable Peter Gammons, the Nationals have asked for
right-hander Bobby Parnell in return. As much as Johnson could help, I don’t
see the Mets making that deal. Parnell, who was just clocked at 100 miles per
hour at a weekend game in Fenway
Park, has a full arsenal
of four pitches and could contribute long-term as a No. 3 starter. Given
Johnson’s injury history, the Mets would be wise to hold onto Parnell and
substitute another pitcher or two (Brian Stokes? Sean Green?) in his place…

 

The Mets have also expressed interest in Mark DeRosa, the super-utilityman
who could become the first victim of Cleveland’s
dreadful start. DeRosa’s versatility would be wasted as a first baseman, but he
could always move to left field or second base once Delgado returns in July.
The Mets have received virtually no home run production from their second
basemen or corner outfielders, which points out the lack of depth within their
top-heavy lineup…

 

Is it just me or is anyone else getting sick of Jake Peavy’s
pickiness when it comes to finding a new place to pitch? First, Peavy didn’t
want to go to Atlanta,
and now he’s given the heave-ho to the White Sox, who had agreed to send two
prospects to the Padres. Peavy wants a contract extension to accompany any
trade, and has also indicated that he prefers to play in the National League,
and not the American League. Does Peavy have such little confidence in his
ability that he feels he can’t be successful in the tougher league? If that’s
the case, I’d be awfully hesitant to trade a large package for Peavy,
ostensibly one of the top five or ten starting pitchers in the game. Peavy’s
reticence, along with his inability to get into the seventh or eighth innings,
should serve as red flags to opposing general managers…

 

While the Padres failed in their latest attempt to trade
Peavy, they did execute a minor deal on Friday, sending Jody Gerut to the
Brewers for Tony Gwynn, Jr. Let’s chalk this one up as strictly a public
relations move, as the Padres acquired the son of their first full-fledged Hall
of Famer. At best, the younger Gwynn looks like fourth outfielder material,
hardly a fair return for Gerut, who has some power and can handle all three
outfield positions. If Gerut can stay healthy, he’ll help the surprising
Brewers in the jumbled NL Central…

 

How much longer do the Orioles wait before summoning No. 1
prospect Matt Wieters from Triple-A? The O’s, who are going nowhere in a
stacked AL East, have been playing an aging Gregg Zaun as their first-string
catcher when he’s clearly a backup at this stage of his career. Orioles fan need
some reasons to hope; let that hope begin with the promotion of Wieters…

 

Is it any wonder that the A’s aren’t scoring runs? Not only
have they suffered a huge power outage at McAfee Coliseum, but now they’re
batting Orlando Cabera in the leadoff spot. I actually like Cabrera as a
player, but if he’s a leadoff man, then Perez Hilton is a great journalist…

 

Rangers general manager Jon Daniels might be an early
favorite for American League executive of the year honors. Daniels took a great
deal of heat for some of his offseason moves, like moving Michael Young to
third base, but most of Daniels’ plans seem to be working. The Rangers are much
better defensively with Young at third base and rookie Elvis Andrus at
shortstop, allowing Hank Blalock to concentrate on his hitting skills as a DH.
The signing and revival of Andruw Jones has also paid dividends, giving the
Rangers depth in the outfield and a potential trade chip should they fall out
of contention…

 

The Hall of Fame staged a nice event on Saturday, when it
debuted its new exhibit, “Viva Baseball,” which chronicles the history of Latin
American participation in the sport. Hall of Famers Orlando Cepeda and Juan
Marichal attended the opening, with both speaking eloquently about their pride
in the achievements of such fellow Latino standouts as Felipe Alou, Roberto
Clemente, and Minnie Minoso. A full house of media, including a number of
prominent Latino broadcasters and writers, made for standing room only in the
VIP seating area bordering the exhibit. With its array of vivid colors, selection
of multi-media interviews with Latino Hall of Famers, the impressive
large-screen video board, and the bilingual approach to storytelling, the
exhibit is brilliantly presented…

 

Speaking of the Hall of Fame, two new names have been added
to the roster for the first ever Hall of Fame Classic, scheduled for June 21 in
Cooperstown. Jeff Kent and Mike Timlin, both
retired after finishing their careers in 2008, have committed to play in the
old-timers game scheduled for Doubleday Field. (I could see Kent hitting three or four home
runs while taking shots at the short left-field porch at Doubleday.) Aside from
Hall of Famers Bob Feller, Ferguson Jenkins, Paul Molitor, Phil Niekro, and
Brooks Robinson, the Hall can now boast the following headliners for the game: Kent,
Bobby Grich, George Foster, Jim Kaat and Lee Smith. Of those latter five, I’d
vote Kent and Grich for Hall of Fame induction, with tough “no” votes for Kaat
and Smith. And here’s perhaps the best news about the Hall of Fame Classic.
Tickets are only $12.50, a far cry from the small fortune being asked by the
Yankees to attend games at their new stadium.

The Sunday Scuttlebutt

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The Mets finally did the sensible thing in placing Carlos Delgado
on the disabled with a potentially career-threatening hip injury, but now they
face a bit of a quandary in trying to replace him. Do they continue to play
Gary Sheffield in left field every day, thereby freeing up Fernando Tatis and
Daniel Murphy to play first base? And why are they playing Jeremy Reed, a
mediocre hitter with limited experience on the infield, as part of a
three-headed monster at first base? I don’t know that Sheffield
will hold up, considering his age and the fragile state of his shoulder. A
better plan might be to play Murphy every day at first base, while switching
between Tatis and Sheffield in left field.
Tatis or Reed could then serve as defensive caddies for Sheffield,
replacing him in the late innings of games in which the Mets hold the lead…

 

Jerry Manuel’s Sunday night lineup against the Giants left
me scratching my head. Manuel put Reed at first base and kept Murphy in left
field, even though Reed hasn’t played the position fulltime since college and
Murphy is still a brutal defensive outfielder. Wouldn’t it have made more sense
to put Reed in left, where he is very good, and switch Murphy to first base,
where he has been working out in recent days? That way, the Mets would have had
only one player out of position, instead of two…

 

I’m simply amazed at the ferocity with which Raul Ibanez
continues to hit for the Phillies. So much for the theory that hitters need a
few months to acclimate themselves to a different set of pitchers in a new
league. Ibanez has obviously kept some good notes from his experience in interleague
play, because he is off to a career-best start in 2009, even though he’s 36 and
supposedly on the downhill climb. (He’s also enjoying the benefits of playing
his games in a hitter-friendly home part, in contrast to the pitchers’ parks of
Seattle (Safeco Field) and Kansas City (Kauffman Stadium). With 13 home
runs and a Babe Ruthian slugging percentage of .714 through the first six
weeks, Ibanez has been the Phillies’ clear-cut MVP, an impressive achievement
considering the presence of teammates Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy
Rollins. Now the Phillies just need to straighten out their starting pitching,
where everyone is underachieving, and their closer situation, where Brad Lidge
has reverted to the struggles of his latter days with the Astros…

 

As I watched the Giants’ Pablo Sandoval for the first time
this weekend, I immediately thought that Gates Brown had come out of retirement
to play third base for San Francisco.
(Brown, the old Tiger left fielder and DH, had the ultimate bad body, but was
one of the most dangerous pinch-hitters and part-time players of the sixties
and seventies.) Nicknamed “The Panda” by his teammates, the hefty Sandoval
carries the oddest physique (5’11” and 245 pounds) I’ve ever seen at third
base, a position that requires a degree of nimble dexterity. Sandoval is more
agile than his body would indicate, but it’s on offense where the switch-hitter
stands out. He can flat-out hit, and with his sizeable power to all fields,
he’s the Giants’ cleanup-hitter-in-waiting. He also brings the bonus of
versatility; Sandoval can catch, which gives the Giants some depth behind the
underrated Bengie Molina…

 

The Red Sox can still win the AL East without a vintage David
Ortiz, but his inability to hit with any semblance of power will make the chore
that much more challenging. With Ortiz at or near his peak, the Red Sox had
three hitters that struck fear into opposing pitchers. Now they’re down to two,
Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis, both right-handed hitters. The Red Sox say
that Ortiz will return to the lineup on Tuesday after being benched for three
games over the weekend, but they may need to make contingency plans if Ortiz
cannot regain his lost bat speed. The Red Sox could eventually turn to prospect Jeff
Bailey or veteran Rocco Baldelli to take up the slack at DH, but the lack of a
left-handed hitting platoon partner for either player remains a concern…

 

With three consecutive walkoff wins against the Twins, the
Yankees achieved something they had not done since August of 1972. That was the
last time that the Yankees posted three consecutive wins with game-ending
at-bats. Johnny Callison accounted for two of those victories with game-winning
singles, while old favorite Horace Clarke won the other game with a sacrifice
fly. Callison and Clarke now have company, as Melky Cabrera, Alex Rodriguez,
and Johnny Damon provided the more recent heroics with a single, a home run,
and another home run, respectively…

 

The Yankees are hoping to receive a triple-boost of talent
sometime this week. It’s possible that Brian Bruney, Chien-Ming Wang, and Jorge
Posada could all return from the disabled list within the next seven days.
Although he is the lesser name among the three players, Bruney’s return could
loom the most important. The Yankees have struggled to find pitchers who can
handle roles in the seventh and eighth innings; Jose Veras and Edwar Ramirez
have both flopped badly, while lefty Phil Coke has brought forth mixed results.
Without Bruney, the Yankees don’t have a single favorable eighth-inning option
among their current pitching contenders. With Bruney, the Yankees can continue
to resist the talk show calls for Joba Chamberlain to return to the bullpen.

Sheffield to Shea–Make That Citi Field

Like most of the baseball world, I was surprised to hear
that Gary Sheffield had landed with the Mets–and not the rumored destinations
in Philadelphia, Cincinnati,
or Tampa Bay. On the one hand, Sheffield
potentially addresses a Mets need (right-handed power) that has existed ever
since Moises Alou was placed on the disabled list early in 2008. But is Sheffield at the age of 40 the right answer to the problem? That is the issue that remains highly
debatable on the eve of Opening Day 2009.

 

Sheffield’s bat speed has slowed
considerably over the last two seasons. His chronic shoulder problem–he
allegedly can’t lift his right arm fully over his head–has only exacerbated his
decline, while rendering him mostly a designated hitter in Detroit. The Tigers didn’t think that Sheffield could play the outfield anymore; the Mets
obviously disagree since they have no DH slot and no vacancy at first base,
where Carlos Delgado is entrenched for at least one more season.

 

What role do the Mets have planned for Sheffield?
To be honest, I’m not sure. The Mets have already made a rightful commitment to
hitting stuff Daniel Murphy in left field, which leaves only right field as a
current option. Sheffield wants to play every
day, but the Mets already have Ryan Church, a far superior defensive player,
available to play against right-handers. Will Sheffield
be satisfied with a platoon arrangement? And if he is, will his achy shoulder
allow him to play right field even two or three times a week?  

 

Signing Sheffield also
creates roster problems. The Mets will now have to cut one additional outfielder to make room for the ex-Tiger, Yankee, and Dodger. The odd man out could be
off-season pickup Jeremy Reed. The ex-Mariner is nothing special as a fifth
outfielder, but he represents the only true backup to Carlos Beltran in center
field. If something happens to Beltran, the Mets will have to turn to Church, a
fine fielding right fielder who is stretched as a center fielder.

 

On the surface, the signing of Sheffield
creates more problems than it fixes. So why did the Mets take the plunge on
Sheffield after passing on all other right-handed hitting options this winter?
Well, there is a theory making the rounds. The Mets signed Sheffield
not because they really wanted him, but because they wanted to keep him away
from the rival Phillies, who need a righty bat as badly as the Mets. The more I
think about it, the more I’m beginning to believe that is the real reason why Sheffield
will be part of the inaugural season at CitiField.

Monday’s Bunts and Boots–Delgado, Yankee Indignity, and Don Gutteridge

I can’t recall a player seemingly resurrecting his career in mid-season the way that Carlos Delgado has for the Mets in 2008. By the middle of June, I had joined the chorus of doomsayers who had declared Delgado finished, the victim of a slowing bat and fading reflexes. Some extreme pessimists had actually recommended the Mets deal Delgado to the cross-town Yankees for the equally slumping Jason Giambi. Three months later, Delgado has emerged as a National League MVP candidate, albeit a darkhorse after the likes of Albert Pujols, Ryan Braun, Chase Utley, and Mets teammate David Wright. Delgado has been on a tear since late June, averaging an RBI a game over his last 65 games while lifting his slugging percentage to a season-high .504. Delgado’s two home runs on Sunday gave Johan Santana all the cushion he required, helping the Mets to a much-needed series-salvaging win against the Phillies. There are plenty of theories that attempt to explain Delgado’s rise from oblivion; some say that Delgado has benefited from the managerial change that saw Willie Randolph give way to Jerry Manuel, while others credit a shortened swing. I tend to favor the latter explanation, but the reasons don’t really matter to the Mets, who are benefiting from the slugger’s remarkable turnaround, or to Delgado, who is earning himself a nice contract for 2009. Amazing…

In a season filled with disappointing mediocrity, the Yankees may have suffered their largest embarrassment over the weekend, when they lost two out of three to the sinking ship known as the Mariners. The losses were bad enough, but the way they lost the games brought the Yankees an extra level of humiliation. In the first game, the Yankees barely avoided a no-hitter against Brandon Morrow, who was making his first major league start after a mid-season conversion from the bullpen. In the third game of the set, the highly paid Yankees fell victim to the pitching of the unpronounceable Ryan Feierabend, who had compiled a lifetime ERA of over 7.00 before improving his statistical lines against New York’s anemic offense. Including the debacle against Feierabend, the Yankees have now lost three of their last four games, further cementing their non-playoff fates in 2008…

One of the few bright spots for the Yankees in recent days has been the pitching of Alfredo Aceves, who will make his first major league start on Tuesday and figures to play some kind of role on New York’s 2009 pitching staff. Aceves represents one of the Yankees’ few ventures into the Mexican League since the days of the good-field, no-hit Celerino Sanchez. A veteran of six Mexican League seasons, Aceves has moved quickly through the Yankees’ farm system this summer and figures to have more long-term impact than Sanchez, who played parts of the 1972 and ’73 seasons before fading from the major league scene. At six-three, 220 pounds, Aceves throws four pitches, including a live fastball that ventures into the mid-1990s and a hard-breaking curveball that bends the knees of opposing hitters. Here’s one possible scenario for Aceves: he starts 2009 in the rotation and then moves back to the bullpen in June, reversing roles with the equally versatile Joba Chamberlain…

Finally, a link to one of baseball’s most colorful teammates passed away on Sunday. Former major league infielder and manager Don Gutteridge, the last surviving member of the Cardinals’ “Gas House Gang” of the 1930s, died at the age of 96. A versatile infielder, Gutteridge played for the Cardinals from 1936 to 1940 before playing for the American League champion St. Louis Browns in 1944. Gutteridge also managed for two seasons before becoming a scout, his career in baseball spanning more than 60 seasons.