Tagged: Mark DeRosa

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.


A Smattering of Intelligence: Hinch, Freel, and The Little Professor




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Less than six weeks into the season, the Diamondbacks have
decided that a major change is in order for their underachieving team. By
sacking Bob Melvin and hiring front office farm director A.J. Hinch to manage
the team, the D-Backs have signaled a radical change in the direction of their
on-field leadership. Hinch has no prior managing or coaching experience at any
level, not even in rookie ball. What he does have is an eye for young talent,
an ability that the D-Backs hope will translate into an ability to develop that talent. The latter area is
where Melvin fell short; too many of Arizona’s talented young players (like Mark
Reynolds and Chris Young) have failed to become significantly better than they were in
2007, when the Baby Backs came within two games of the World Series.


Did Melvin deserve to get fired? Perhaps, but not at this
early stage of the season. I tend to think that managers–like young unproven
players–deserve at least two full months of the season before we make
wide-sweeping judgments about their ability. I would have given Melvin until
the end of May; if the D-backs had shown no signs of a turnaround, a move would
have been mandatory. And what about Hinch? I know he’s a bright guy who has
drawn good reviews for his work as an Arizona’s
front office whiz kid, but his lack of any kind of on-field coaching or
managing experience is alarming. Contrary to what most Sabermetric general
managers like Josh Byrnes (and Billy Beane) seem to think, you cannot put just anyone into the managerial chair. It’s
not an interchangeable position. Rather, it’s a highly demanding and important
job that requires the right kind of temperament, personality, and experience.
Who knows how Hinch will do…


The Cubs made an interesting, if not major, transaction on
Friday, acquiring utilityman Ryan Freel from the Orioles for spare outfielder
Joey Gathright. Is this Chicago’s
way of trying to right the wrong that was done when GM Jim Hendry dealt Mark
DeRosa to the Indians for three middle-road prospects? Or is Hendry simply
trying to fortify his bench while ridding himself of a player (Gathright) who
had become so extraneous that he was sent to the minors earlier this week?


Freel isn’t the player that DeRosa is, either in terms of
power or versatility, but he does provide some flexibility. Freel can play
second base, third base, and all three outfield spots, while giving Lou
Piniella a decent pinch-running option in the late innings. Gathright is
certainly the more dangerous baserunner, but he’s strictly an outfielder, a
position that has become especially deep for Chicago given the resurgence of Kosuke
Fukudome and the presence of supersub Reed Johnson. This is really a no-brainer
move for the Cubs, who will benefit from Baltimore’s
inability to find a role for Freel…


In the late 1990s, Ted Williams championed Dom DiMaggio for
the Hall of Fame while serving as a member of the Veterans’ Committee. Even
with credit for the three seasons he lost to World War II, I felt that DiMaggio
fell short of the Hall of Fame standard. He was a very good player, but a bit
short of Cooperstown greatness.


That’s a trivial point, however. In many ways, Dom DiMaggio
represented everything that is good about baseball. DiMaggio, who died early
Friday morning at the age of 92, was a five-foot, nine-inch outfielder who wore
glasses; “The Little Professor” looked about as imposing on the ballfield as Chicken Little. But as
an overachiever performing in a sport where size plays little importance, he made
himself into a fine player who hit for average, drew walks, and played a dandy
center field–a very substantial player on some fine and underrated Red Sox
teams of the late 1940s. He was also, by all accounts, a true gentleman who was
highly regarded for his character by teammates and opponents alike. And that
matters a lot more than any argument about whether DiMaggio belongs in the Hall
of Fame.

WBC: World Baseball Collapse

Those who read this blog faithfully have probably noticed that I have written virtually nothing about the World Baseball Classic this spring. That’s because I refuse to take this event seriously–at least until Team USA takes it seriously.

Oh, I’ve enjoyed watching the coverage, both on the new MLB Network and ESPN. I’ve watched with interest games played by Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and, of course, the United States. I’ve found it interesting to observe the different styles of play, along with the mix of established major leaguers and virtual no-names. I’ve also watched with frustration as Team USA has approached this tournament as nothing more than a glorified exhibition, while all of the other teams have played it with the idea of actually winning it. The biggest USA culprits have been the pitchers, who have worked these games while trying to build up arm strength–ala the usual exhibition season mentality. Then there have been the managerial decisions and the construction of the roster, with both elements leaving something to be desired.

Let’s take a look at the problems one by one:

1) Jake Peavy and Roy Oswalt, ostensibly two of the best pitchers on the planet, each turned in awful performances in this year’s WBC, with Oswalt’s fourth inning meltdown essentially eliminating the USA on Sunday night. Both men had ready-made excuses prepared by the media. They were both building up their pitch counts and working out the kinks, as is usually the case during the middle of spring training. Unfortunately, that doesn’t cut it for games carrying higher ticket prices and the prestige of world competition. All of the USA pitchers need to push up their training regimens and start throwing in January or February, so that they are ready to handle the requisite pitch counts at each level of the March competition mandated by the WBC. If that’s not feasible–or if it’s just not possible for the USA pitchers to do this–then the United States should withdraw from future WBC competition.

2) The manager of the USA team, in this case the respected Davey Johnson, made decisions based on political reasons, rather than being guided by the basic principle of putting the best team on the field. Case in point: Johnson handled the shortstop situation with a compromise solution that succeeded in compromising the possibility of winning. Johnson alternated Derek Jeter and Jimmy Rollins, giving each man playing time at shortstop and each time at DH. In the semifinal game against Team Japan, Jeter played shorstop while Rollins DHed. Jeter also made a costly throwing error that led to an extra run scoring for the Japanese team. As much as I like Jeter, this should never have been allowed to happen. Rollins is the better defensive shortstop of the two, with more range and a stronger arm. Rollins should have played every one of the WBC games at shortstop, with Jeter either serving as a DH or coming off the bench. If the USA is to continue playing the WBC in future years, then their managers need to stop doling out playing time to satiate egos and avoid bruised feelings–this isn’t Little League, for crying out loud–and instead put the best nine-man lineup on the field each game.

3) Once Kevin Youkilis went down with injury, Team USA had no reliable first baseman available to step in. Johnson tried converted outfielder Adam Dunn (a butcher no matter where he plays) or the versatile Mark DeRosa (who tried hard but is a middle infielder/outfielder by trade). Both players made critical errors during this tournament. Given the fact that Team USA was able to draw from 30 major league teams, management should have had better contingency plans in place. I understand that Team USA tried to bring in Derrek Lee, but he was coming off an injury at the time, which made him reluctant to play. What would have been the harm in carrying a legitimate first baseman-outfielder from the start, in the event of a Youkilis injury? After all, the same principles that apply to creating a roster for a major league team should apply to the World Baseball Classic.

4) Finally, we may need to reexamine some of the priorities current major leaguers place in the way they play the game. I saw too many Team USA hitters strike out with men on base (especially with runners in scoring position), in contrast to the Japanese players, who take a much more diligent two-strike approach, almost as if they are embarrassed by the consequence of striking out. Several other teams, including the Japanese, also flashed much better defensive play throughout this tournament, with better quickness and range than some of their USA counterparts. While it’s true that the USA talent level remains the highest of any team, shortcomings on defense and in situational hitting can be killers in a double-elimination format like the WBC. Even moreso than in the American postseason, defense, fundamentals, and pitching rule in a format where two consecutive losses result in the end of the tournament.

Clearly, there is a lot of work to be done. If the USA is prepared to make at least some of the proposed changes, then I’m on board for the next WBC. If not, if building up arm strength, playing politics, and an inability to execute some of the game’s finer points remain the norm, I’d just as soon not watch Team USA embarrass itself again on the global stage that is the World Baseball Classic. 

A Smattering of Intelligence–Ramirez, DeRosa, and 2008 Departures

No one seems to know for sure whether the Giants really did make a four-year offer to Manny Ramirez, but their rumored interest in the future Hall of Famer does make some sense. The Giants need offensive help all over the diamond–whether it’s a corner outfield spot, first base, third base, or second base–and when it comes to pure hitters, there’s no better short term fix on this year’s free agent market. Here’s where the problems lie for the Giants. They’d be crazy to give the aging Ramirez a four-year contract (which has been rumored), not when there hasn’t been a single team to step forward with even a three-year offer. The Giants also need to refrain from viewing Ramirez as a cure-all. No one player, not even one with Ramirez’ bat speed and pitch recognition, can make a miserable offense a good one. If the Giants sign Ramirez, they need to spend what it takes to bring in at least two other big hitters–think Adam Dunn and Ty Wigginton–as a way of making their offense respectable in 2009. With Ramirez and Dunn anchoring the middle of the offense and supporting one of the best young rotations in either league, the Giants would become instant contenders in a mediocre NL West…

Earlier this week, the Indians did well in acquiring the versatile and valuable Mark DeRosa from the Cubs, especially without having to surrender any top level prospects. Although DeRosa will be 34 in February and isn’t likely to match the career season he had in 2008, he’s the latest example of a veteran player reaching his full offensive potential under Sweet Lou Piniella, the unofficial guru of hitting. DeRosa represents a major upgrade at third base, a problem area for the Indians since the mid-season trade of Casey Blake. DeRosa is actually a better version of Blake, with his increasing patience, improved power, and his ability to play just about everywhere on the infield and the outfield. If he can sustain at least some of the improvement that he showed under Piniella’s influence, he’ll be a positive asset for the Tribe in 2009…

In compiling a partial list of baseball people who died in 2008, I failed to include at least two significant contributors to the game. Buzzie Bavasi, one of the greatest general managers in major league history, and John Marzano, the affable MLB.com host, both left us this past year. Here are short tributes to them… As the architect of eight pennant winners and four World Champions, Buzzie Bavasi oversaw the development of a flurry of young Dodgers during the fifties and sixties. Along with fellow Dodger patriarchs Branch Rickey and Walter O’Malley, Bavasi belongs in the Hall of Fame… A former backup catcher who once famously sparred with Paul O’Neill, John Marzano became an energetic talk show host and a beloved member of the MLB.com staff before dying all too young in a tragic fall at his home.