10 Years Later….

It was just over ten years ago that the Yankees traded their top pitching prospect to Minnesota as part of a package to get Chuck Knoblauch.  Eric Milton was highly-rated at the time and though he had some good years, he never turned into what scouts thought he could turn into.  Why the walk down memory lane?  Well the Yankees just signed Milton to a minor league deal. 

I am not sure that Milton can help the 2008 Yankees, he is recovering from TJ surgery, but his history is a good one for the Yankees to review at this point.  As Sickels says in the article above, he would have given him an initial grade of "B" and then upgraded it to "B+" before the ’98 season "comparing him to Andy Pettitte".  Take a look at Sickels 2008 rankings.  Hughes wasn’t a prospect anymore on his scale, so he didn’t make it, but all the other names you know are there.  Notice that only three names rated higher than a "B".  Notice that one of those names absolutely flopped in 2008 (so far).  I am not saying go back to the old days of trading every young player in the system, but the Yankees need to be aggressive with their pitching assets and take some risks.  Trade some of these guys, the one thing you can bank on is a lot of them won’t turn out to be stars. 

Further Proof

Check out this quote from Joe Girardi.  He was responding to questions about why Jorge Posada hasn’t been catching lately. 

"I will look at match ups and when you want to get two right-handed bats in the lineup you aren’t going to DH Molina."

So, the plan against LHP is to get Molina in there because he is a righty?  Surely Joe has noticed that Molina is hitting .192 against LHP and .226/.263/.311 overall.  Pretty much anyone would be a better choice than Molina and seeing how the Yankees have scored two runs or less in 31 games this season, the offense needs help.  Molina can throw out all the runners in the world, but his bat is part of the overall problem. 

If the manager is going to insist on running Molina out there everyday, it is the GM’s job to stop him.  Get Sexson signed, or make a trade.  (Matt Holliday is reportely available and he could cure a multiude of offensive sins)  The pitching has surprisingly turned out ok even with the injuries, the offense needs  help and fast. 

Sign Sexson

The Seattle Mariners released Richie Sexson today and I think the Yankees should sign him.  Now, before I state my case, let me get a few things out of the way.  Yes, Sexson is a strikeout machine, whiffing all the time.  Yes, he would probably lose a footrace to Jason Giambi by a lot and yes, the Yankees have plenty of old "unathletic" types already.  So, why make this move?  Simple, the guy still hits lefties and hits them well. 

Lost in his pathetic .218/.315/.381 season are 61 AB’s against LHP where he had compiled #’s of .344/.423/.623.  You may have noticed that the Yankees have a tough time with lefties and with Damon and Matsui hurt, there is playing time available.  Best of all, the Mariners are on the hook for his salary, so you can pick him up for the major league minimum.  Wilson Betemit can’t hit lefties, either can Melky.  Molina can’t hit, Shelley Duncan is hurt and out for the forseeable future.  The Yankees are carrying 13 pitchers, so making room shouldn’t be hard.  You could then do something like this the next time you face a lefty:

Jeter-SS

Abreu-RF

A-Rod-3B

Posada-C

Giambi-1B

Sexson-DH 

Cano-2B

Gardner-LF

Chrisitan-CF

I know it doesn’t look like a lot, but it is probably your best lineup against LHP.  Sign Sexson and give him a shot.  When Damon and Matsui come back you can always cut him.  Despite my predictions of doom, Ponson has done better than expected, so why not try it with Sexson? 

 

Keeping Up

MLB has seen some boffo trades the past few days.  Milwaukee got C.C. Sabathia and the Chicago Cubs got Rich Harden.

These acquisitions got me to thinking, do the Red Sox currently have enough to A.) make the playoffs (don’t laugh, they are 3 behind the Rays and only 2.5 ahead of the Twins for the wild card) and B.) do they have enough to win the World Series?

One thing is certain, David Ortiz makes an enormous impact on the Red Sox offense.  Without Ortiz, the threat of the "Big Inning" is greatly diminished.  The Red Sox without Ortiz can hit, no doubt, but they rely more on stringing together several hits.  Manny Ramirez hitting a 2-run shot Tuesday night to tie the game was the first time in a bit that the Red Sox just out-slugged another team.  But without that constant power threat from either Manny or Ortiz (or both) the Red Sox are not the same team.

Do the Red Sox need to trade for some offense?  If Ortiz is healthy, and all accounts suggest he is, they are probably ok, although ESPN’s Peter Gammons suggests he is probably still 2 weeks away.  If Ortiz can remain symptom-free, they should be good to go.  The "how can we tweak the offense" would then revolve around Julio Lugo and Jason Varitek.

To me, Varitek will be catcher for this team in 2008 no matter his offensive production, but Lugo is another story.  To all you little league pitchers, Lugo swings for the slider low and away 10 times out of 10.  That being said, Lugo is bad defensively and offensively.  In only year 2 of his 4 year deal, the Red Sox are likely to stick with him, but with Jed Lowrie waiting in the wings, a change is in order.  If Ramirez and Ortiz hit to their potential, the Red Sox (and any big-market team) can afford a mulligan like Lugo, but it isn’t good baseball management.

Justin Masterson to the pen.  Well, the Red Sox have decided that rather than trade for bullpen help, they are going to create bullpen help.  Masterson pitched very well as a starter and did nothing to embarrass himself.  He shutdown righties, but struggled against lefties.  If he is ok with the short inning role, then great.  If Javier Lopez can be the lefty specialist, Masterson can be the righty specialist.

What do you think the Red Sox need?  Getting back to my initial question, are the Red Sox, as constituted, good enough to win the World Series?  If you were GM, would you realistically upgrade a position or two or even make a major trade like Milwaukee and Chicago?  July 31st is the non-waiver trade deadline and between now and then, we will learn a whole bunch more about which players will be fighting for the Red Sox in defending their World Series Championship.

This Roster Is Dumb

I keep reading about how the Yankees want to become younger and more athletic with the author frequently pointing to the Rays as an example.  And, with the Rays nine-games ahead of the Yankees, New York would do well to imitate some parts of Tampa’s construction.  Unless the Yankees figure out a way to clone Longoria and Shields or bring back Navarro (that RJ trade looks better and better) the best thing they could do is to copy Tampa and only carry 11 pitchers.

Consider the current state of the Yankees’ roster.  Not only do you have 13 pitchers, leaving 12 hitters, but three of those hitters are catchers.  That means your bench is Molina, Moeller and if Betemit DH’s, Christian.  That isn’t a major league bench by any stretch of the imagination.  

The Yankees need to make some decisions here.  Three catchers is a luxury that went out when teams started to carry 11 pitchers, with 13 it is impossible to execute.  The bullpen seems to have clear roles.  Rivera closes with Farnsworth and Veras setting him up.  Robertson is settling in with Hawkins and Ramirez mostly mopping up.  Billy Traber makes 13 as the Yankees continue their quest for a lefty in the pen.  Cut Hawkins, demote Traber, let Robertson take some bigger innings, just don’t keep carrying 13 pitchers. You can add Gonzalez for now and then bring back Damon (or Matsui) when healthy.  The point is, don’t keep wasting the spots you have, no matter the reasons. 

 

Flop

No other way to describe the Red Sox Wednesday night and for the entire series in Tampa Bay.  Flop.

Using Billy Beane’s mantra of spending the first 1/3 of the season evaluating, the second 1/3 trying to acquire the necessary fixes and the third 1/3 making your postseason run, well, I think we know what the necessary fix should be.

Upgrade to the bullpen.

Last night’s bullpen collapse alone was enough to convince me of that.

2007 vs 2008 ERAs

1.85/2.00 – Papelbon

2.22/3.06 – Okajima

2.05/4.72 – Delcarmen

3.42/7.06 – Timlin

3.10/2.20 – Lopez

3.10/4.09 – Entire Bullpen

There you have it, a decrease in productivity for the bullpen.  Here’s my plan to fix this:  Go get Eric Gagne.  Wait, wrong answer.  Is Calvin Schiraldi still pitching?

Look I don’t know who to acquire, but it is clear what we are seeing of Hideki Okajima is more along the lines of what he is capable of.  Papelbon isn’t quite the shutdown closer he was in 2007, although he is still good.  And Timlin, well, you know my thoughts on Mike.

Relievers are a tough bunch to gauge as they can go from being good to bad in a split second.  Gagne was a very good example of that.  He changed on a dime.

We are well into the middle 1/3 of the season and I think we can safely say the Red Sox bullpen needs fixing, so get busy Theo Epstein.

4 in the Bronx starting tonight.  If the Red Sox want to win one game this long-weekend, let alone win the series, both Manny Ramirez and Jason Varitek need to figure out how to make contact with a fastball (or any pitch).  Manny swung through average fastball after average fastball Wednesday and the whole TB series while Varitek is just lost.  Which makes me wonder why Terry Francona ordered a hit and run in the 9th Wednesday night if A.)  JV isn’t making contact with air right now and B.)  Mike Lowell is very slow.  Help me understand that one Terry.

Not to continue on Terry’s case, but why did he leave Craig Hansen in there so long?  Hansen could not throw a strike and his fastball was at 91mph.  Brutal decision making by Terry Wednesday night.  I understand when nothing seems to be working, one might be hesitant to make too many changes, but the writing was on the wall with some of his decisions.  Terry is a good manager, but he had a bad night Wednesday.

Tabula Rasa boys.  Get to Yankee Stadium and start playing baseball again.

Battle for the East

Who’d have thunk a post entitled "Battle for the East" would actually be about the Tampa Bay Rays?  With more than half the season completed, the Rays are atop the AL East.  Tonight they host the Red Sox who are a half game back.

The story lines are obvious:  Battle for first as well as (and possibly the main reason people will tune in) the bad blood between the two teams.  James Shields, the man who hit Coco Crisp a few weeks back, is on the mound tonight.  The one missing ingredient tonight is the absence of Crisp, who started servings his 5-game suspension on Sunday.

But taking Crisp’s place in the list of most wanted by Tampa Bay is possibly Jonathan Papelbon who declared that things weren’t settled between the 2 teams yet.  Sounds like fun.

I think the Rays are built for the long haul and are not a fluke.  They sure have the talent.  The biggest question they have is experience.  Other than Troy Percival, Cliff Floyd and Eric Hinske, do they have enough veteran presence to keep focused.  That’s a nebulous argument/concern as perhaps each of the younger guys plays beyond his years experience-wise and therefore a difficult thing to measure, but it is still a valid question.

Regardless, good fun starting tonight.  The Red Sox need to focus on winning and not retaliation.  Or if they think retaliation is needed, for the love of all things holy, please don’t have a Red Sox starter do it in the 3rd inning!!!  Prove to everyone Red Sox players that you are smarter than the Rays in that capacity.

Also, it’s probably a good idea to tell Manny Ramirez that any reliever he faces tonight is really Red Sox Traveling Secretary, Jack McCormick, in disguise.

Manny Being a Jerk

Sean McAdam of the Providence Journal reports today that Manny Ramirez and Red Sox traveling Secretary got into a physical confrontation Saturday.

According to McAdam, Manny asked McCormick for 16 tickets (normal allotment is 2) for Saturday’s game, "an unusually high number for day-of-game."  When McCormick told him it might be tough to get that many, Manny yelled at him to "just do your job."  This escalated into an argument at which time Manny pushed the 60+ year (need to confirm age) old McCormick to the ground.

A completely logical move.  When I don’t get what I want, I tee someone up.

I don’t anticipate getting more details on the incident itself as the Red Sox, Manny and McCormick are all treating it as old news.  So I’m going to comment based on what has been reported.

What McAdams is reporting is stunning.  In what other career (perhaps save a boxer/MMA type) could you get away with shoving a co-worker to the ground?  If I stood up right now and shoved someone I work with down, I’d be gone so fast, not to mention with a police escort.

This is another example if a high paid player getting away with something just because the pain of losing his talent is apparently greater than holding him accountable and doing the right thing.

Manny has now assaulted 2 co-workers in 2008 the first being Kevin Youkilis.  I don’t care what Youkilis said, Manny took it to another level by becoming physical.  This item is now almost 2 days old, but really hasn’t made the rounds yet.  I think when more media outlets start reporting on it, we might learn of new/additional sanctions on Manny because as of right now, there weren’t any except for an apology.

Manny, quit being a jerk.

The Time Has Come Today!

Look who is coming up.  With Matsui on the DL are they going to start him and DH Damon?  We will find out.

Finally!

The Yankees are finally going to try someone new in the pen, David Robertson.  Just heard it on WFAN, though they don’t know who is getting sent down.  33 innings, 48 K’s and 16 walks at AAA this year with 0 HR’s allowed.  The guy has frequently been mentioned as a possible 8th inning solution and while I don’t think the Yankees will try him out there right away, it’s nice to see the Yankees trying something new.

Ian Kennedy is starting for Tampa today and you have to think he will get back to New York quickly if he is healthy and remotely effective.   

UPDATE: Thankfully, it is Kei Igawa back to Scranton.  Seeing him last night was enough for awhile.