Tagged: Jorge Posada

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.

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Bunts and Boots: Yankee Embarrasment, Awful Ollie, and Domino’s Pizza

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It wasn’t that long ago that the Yankees played some of the
smartest baseball in the major leagues. Now it seems that their Baseball IQ has
fallen off a cliff, even among veteran players who should know better. How else
to explain Andy Pettitte allowing a second baserunner to steal home plate
against him over the last three years? Jacoby Ellsbury’s two-out steal of home
on Sunday night provided the Yankees with their signature embarrassment in a
weekend filled with lowlights. Jorge Posada, who had just reminded Pettitte about
the possibility of a steal, didn’t help matters by reacting slowly to
Ellsbury’s charge, while also failing to block home plate. Just flat out
embarrassing…

 

Brian Cashman’s inability to build a bench has also cost the
Yankees, who are enduring a third straight spring filled with injuries. How is
it possible for a team with the resources of the Yankees to go into a season
with a journeyman like Cody Ransom and a past-his prime Angel Berroa as the
primary backup options at third base? The Yankees are struggling to score runs
right now, in part because Alex Rodriguez remains sidelined but also because of
the anemic production of the backup third basemen and starting center fielder
Brett Gardner. How much longer before the Yankees give Jim Edmonds a call?

 

The Cubs can sympathize with the Yankees. Milton Bradley
remains out of the starting lineup, joined now by Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez,
who are also hurt. With a deeper bench than the Yankees, the Cubs are better
equipped to handle the crush, but losing three regulars (including their top
two players) from the starting eight ranks as nearly an impossible predicament.
Lou Piniella has also made another lineup change, moving Alfonso Soriano back
to the leadoff slot in spite of his lack of patience…

 

How much longer will the Mets wait on Oliver Perez, who was
assaulted by the Nationals in his start on Sunday? The Mets will likely give
Perez at least one more start; if he pitches poorly, he’ll either be dispatched
to the bullpen or head back to the minor leagues for a mid-season adjustment.
Perez would have to approve any demotion to Triple-A, however, which becomes
unlikely when one remembers that his agent is Scott Boras. I just don’t see Boras advising Perez to
accept such a move, even if it is for his own good…

 

I’m sure that this has been pointed out by other writers,
but that awful Citi Field patch worn by the Mets looks exactly like the
Domino’s Pizza logo. (I have nothing against their product; I just don’t think
a ballteam should have a patch that looks like it belongs on a box of pizza.) While
on the subject of the Mets and their colors, I wish they would go back to
wearing their traditional pinstriped uniform for all home games. The Mets, who
wore the stripes in the finale of the Washington
series, appear much more dignified wearing their traditional look, which also
serves as a reminder of the glory days of Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, and Tug
McGraw. And don’t get me started on the Mets’ black uniforms, which make little
sense for a team whose colors are blue and orange.

The Sunday Scuttlebutt

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And now, it’s time for something entirely new. Here is the first edition of the “Sunday Scuttlebutt.”…


The Red Sox are playing very well right now, with six
straight victories heading into Patriot’s Day, but are also facing the very real
possibility that Jed Lowrie will miss the rest of the season with a serious
wrist injury. If that happens, GM Theo Epstein will have to make a trade for a
more seasoned shortstop. Journeyman Nick Green, currently filling in, is not a
long-term answer, nor is the declining Julio Lugo, who remains on the disabled
list. Do not be surprised to hear rumors of the Red Sox dealing for someone
like Oakland’s Bobby Crosby or Pittsburgh’s Jack Wilson…

 

The Yankees’ Chien-Ming Wang will receive at least one more
start before being demoted to the bullpen–or to Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre.
If Wang endures another beating in his next start, which is currently scheduled
for next weekend in Boston,
the Yankees will replace him in the rotation with Phil Hughes and move the
sinkerballing right-hander to the bullpen. There is an outside possibility that
the Yankees could send him back to the minor leagues, but as a vested veteran,
Wang would have to grant his permission to such a move…

 

Jorge Posada isn’t exactly thrilled with Joe Girardi’s plan
to remove him from the latter stages of games in which the Yankees are nursing thin
leads. On Friday, Girardi pulled Posada before the top of the ninth, replacing
him with defensive specialist Jose Molina. Posada then left the Yankee
clubhouse before reporters arrived, fueling speculation that he was upset by
being yanked from the game. From where I stand, Girardi’s plan is a smart one.
Posada, returning from major shoulder surgery, has thrown out only two of eight
basestealers this year. Even when fully healthy, Posada is vastly inferior to
Molina in terms of arm strength and general catching skills. Right about now,
Molina might just be the major leagues’ best throwing catcher…

 

The Johan Santana trade is looking better and better for the
Mets. Earlier this week, the Twins designated right-hander Philip Humber, a
major piece in the package the Mets surrendered for the great Santana. The
Twins will now have to trade Humber at a
bargain basement price or hope that he clears waivers and accepts an assignment
to Triple-A Rochester. Humber has been a huge
disappointment in the Twin Cities, unable to crack a young rotation that lost
both Santana and Matt Garza over the past two years…

 

Notwithstanding Luis Castillo’s game-winning infield single
on Friday and his current flirtation with a .400 batting average, the Mets
still have major worries over the future production they can expect from the
aging middle infielder. The Mets are already considering a contingency plan
that involves a platoon of Alex Cora and Fernando Tatis. Here’s the problem:
Tatis has almost no experience playing second base, having started his career as
a third baseman before learning to play the outfield corners. But Mets GM Omar
Minaya believes in Tatis, largely because of his athleticism and the way that
he has taken to playing the outfield…

 

Citi Field, the Mets’ new home, has received criticism for
detailing too much baseball history that has no direct connection to the Mets
and for failing to acknowledge the team’s own rich history, which dates back to
1962. The latter criticism is legitimate–the Mets should have a Hall of Fame,
or at least a Wall of Fame somewhere within the large confines of Citi
Field–but the former criticism is bogus, to say the least. Why shouldn’t
the Mets honor the legacy of
someone like Jackie Robinson, who not only changed the course of the Brooklyn
Dodgers’ franchise, but laid the groundwork for alterations to all of
baseball’s rosters? The Mets, like all other 29 franchises, have had important
African-American players along with dark skinned Latinos, many of whom would
have seen their major league debuts delayed if Robinson had failed. The Jackie
Robinson Rotunda is a fitting tribute to someone who remains pertinent to the
game today, even 62 years after he first took the field at Ebbets Field…

 

How much did Harry Kalas mean to the Phillies’ organization
and their nation of fans? On Saturday, Kalas lay in state at Philadelphia’s
Citizens Bank Park,
making him the first baseball man since Babe Ruth to have his casket displayed
at his team’s home ballpark. Thousands of fans poured through Citizens Bank
Park to pay tribute to
the man who had become almost as synonymous to the franchise as Mike Schmidt.
Kalas, who died on Monday at the age of 73, was still regarded as one of the
game’s best play-by-play men and was likely years away from retirement. He will
be missed enormously.

 

A Smattering of Intelligence–Abreu, The Donkey, and Posada

What a bargain! That was my initial (and subsequent) reaction to hearing that the Angels had signed Bobby Abreu to a one-year contract worth $5 million–quite a paycut from the $16 million that the Yankees paid him last season. Now Abreu does have his faults; he’ll never again hit with the power that he did during his Phillies prime and he’s become a horrendous defensive right fielder whose problems go well beyond his notorious fear of outfield walls. Still, at $5 million he’s a steal, a durable and consistent performer who will reach base 40 per cent of the time and hit the century marks in both runs and runs scored. Even at 35, he’ll be a good fit in the Angels’ lineup, hitting in front of Vlad Guerrero and behind Chone Figgins. One suggestion for the Angels: give Abreu a first baseman’s glove this spring and make him take hundreds of grounders as a hedge against Kendry Morales completely flopping at first base…

 

The Nationals paid more than the Angels did in signing Adam Dunn to a two-year deal worth $20 million, but it still ranks as another winter bargain on the freefalling free agent market. The “Big Donkey” has become a remarkably consistent player. He’s a lead pipe cinch to hit 40 home runs (he’s hit that exact mark four years running), drive in 100 runs, and walk 110 times. Dunn will also help balance a Washington lineup that leans precariously to the right, with nary a left-handed power bat to be found. I just hope that the Nats have the good sense to put Dunn at first base, where Nick “The Stick” Johnson has become unreliable because of a long injury history. The Nationals already have six major league outfielders–Elijah Dukes, starting center fielder Lastings Milledge, Austin Kearns, Josh Willingham, Wily Mo Pena, and Willie Harris–with at least four capable of playing every day. Given his immobility, Dunn will cause less damage defensively at first base, while allowing Manny Acta to better sort out the playing time in the outfield corners…

 

The Yankees open up spring training on Friday, which will result in Tampa turning into the Alex Rodriguez Question Show for the weekend. The mainstream media might be obsessed with the story regarding A-Rod’s failed steroids test and his pseudo-admission of guilt, but this issue will likely blow over by May. A far bigger question affecting the Yankees’ playoff chances will involve one of the catchers arriving in Tampa on Friday. That would be Jorge Posada, whose return from shoulder surgery ranks as New York’s No. 1 concern. The number of games that Posada can catch in 2009 will serve as a gauge to the Yankees’ success this season. If he can play 110 games behind the plate, the Yankees could be a 100-win team. If he can play only 90 to 100, the number of wins could fall off by two or three. If he plays fewer than 90, that could mean third place in a stacked division–and no postseason for the second straight summer.