Thursday, July 31, 2008

Trade Deadline Scorecard

Despite what Buster Olney, Peter Gammons and practically everyone else said, this year's trade deadline had a lot of big trades. Let's check out some of the bigger trades and see who won and who lost.

July 7th
The Brewers jump the trade deadline gun and Brewers trade OF Matt LaPorta, RHP Rob Bryson, and LHP Zach Jackson, for C. C. Sabathia. For the Brewers this is a message to the fan base and to everyone else that they mean business and want to win now. And so far, C.C. has delivered the goods; 3 complete games and an E.R.A. under 2.00. But for the Indians, this could be the coup in the long run. LaPorta is a stud and just the bat the Indians need in the middle of their lineup. 20-year old Bryson projects as a good closer down the road. Jackson has been struggling in his career in the minors.
Advantage:
Unless the Brewers go deep in the playoffs, the advantage goes to Cleveland, since Milwaukee has no chance at keeping Sabathia long term.

July 8th

The Cubs strike back by getting a shiny new stud of their own the very next day. RHP Rich Harden (who's seemingly been on the trading block out of Oakland since the womb) and RHP Chad Gaudin head to Chicago in return for
RHP Sean Gallagher, OF Matt Murton, 2B/OF Eric Patterson, and C Josh Donaldson.
Now if Harden stays healthy, a big if, this seems like a coup for the Cubs. Harden is a flat-out ace. And Gaudin isn't so bad himself, posting some nice numbers out of the pen. As for Oakland, it seems shocking that they acquired nothing of serious value in return for Harden. Gallagher has done well so far in Oakland, but doesn't exactly project to be the second coming of Bob Gibson. Murton has been a little bit of a disappointment since being a supplemental first round pick in 2004. Patterson has been solid in the minors, but hasn't burst into while in the majors. A second basemen who projects to left field, he has some pop to his bat.
Donaldson is a low-minor league prospect who has a ways to go both behind the plate and up at it.
Advantage: Big time advantage goes to the Cubs.

July 25th
The Yankees get the guy the needed to get—both of them. For a song. The Bombers get tough on lefties LHP Damaso Marte and OF Xavier Nady for RHPs Jeff Karstens, Ross Ohlendorf and Dan McCutchen as well as OF Jose Tabata.
The Yanks absolutely kill on this deal, getting the right-handed bat they need to balance their lineup—who's also a healthy corner outfielder having the best season of his career—as well as a lefty out of the pen who's lefty BAA this season is .200. And all they gave up is three middling prospect pitchers and a once-hot prospect in Tabata who's suffered through a horrible 2008 coupled with some disciplinary problems. Only McCutchen was viewed by the Yankees as anything as a plus-potential pitcher, and that was as a good middle reliever.
Advantage: Major advantage to the Yankees

July 29th
Last year's biggest trade deadline acquisition gets traded again at this year's trade deadline. Atlanta, realizing any chance at making the postseason this year was over when Tim Hudson went down—and also thinking of getting some payroll security—trade 1B Mark Texieira to the Angels of somewhere in southern California for Casey Kotchman and prospect RHP Stephen Marek. While the trade of first basemen is definitely in the Angels favor, as Texieira bests Kotchman in almost all offensive categories (both are excellent glovemen), the trade is truly made for Atlanta's financial security. The Braves knowing they won't contend this year take Kotchman knowing he's locked up for a few more years at a low salary. Texieira, on the other hand, is a free agent at the end of the season and will command beau coup bucks. So if the Angels don't resign him, they would have rented him for two-three months and get a couple of compensatory picks in return. Marek is a mid-level prospect.
Advantage: Angels—they may have just won the AL.

July 30
The Yankees pull off another shrewd deal in getting C Ivan Rodriguez from the Tigers in return for RH Kyle Farnsworth. The Yankees fill a big need as Jorge Posada was done for the season and while Jose Molina is a defensive diamond behind the plate, his .226 BA is 70 point behind Pudge's .295 BA, not to mention Pudge has a slugging percentage over 100 points better than Molina. And hey, Pudge is no slouch at this catching thing either. To get the 14-time All-Star, the Yankees gave up Farnsworth, who had been pitching better of late, after two bust years in pinstripes. That said, Farnsworth career numbers are 28-47 and a 4.42 E.R.A. And after getting Marte, the bullpen—now, a Yankee strength—really didn't need him anymore.
Advantage: Yankees again.

July 31st
Chicago GM Kenny Williams finally fulfills his dream of having OF Ken Griffey Jr. in the White Sox outfield. But isn't it maybe a decade too late? Also, where does he play? The White Sox have Jermaine Dye in right field and Carlos Quentin in left. And even if they play Griffey in center—a risky proposition at best—recent trade acquisition Nick Swisher is there. Also, Jim Thome is locked in at DH and Paul Konerko is at 1st. And it's any one's guess how well Griffey plays at any one of these positions at a very old 38. In return the Reds got two average performers; RH Nick Masset is an unpolished reliever with good stuff, but gives up a walk every couple of innings and gets into trouble because of it. AAA 2B Danny Richar is average across the board. All in all, a salary dump for the Reds.
Advantage: Nobody, really. But slight edge to the White Sox, as they get some flexibility.

July 31st
Completed by a desperate Red Sox organization at something like 3:59:59 PM at the trade deadline, the Bosox rid themselves of one of the best hitters of his generation—and a complete headcase in OF Manny Ramirez—as well as 7 million dollars to the Dodgers. In return, the Red Sox got OF Jason Bay from the Pirates. Pittsburgh received 3B Andy Laroche and RH Bryan Morris from the Dodgers, and OF Brandon Moss and RH Craig Hanson from the Red Sox.
Obviously, the Dodgers made out huge in this one. Combined, the Dodgers had a .377 slugging percentage, 4th lowest in the majors. Manny brings credibility and a serious threat to their lineup. Immediately. Even in this, a "down year," Manny has a slugging percentage 150 points higher than the Dodger average. His 20 HRS is 8 higher than the next Dodger.
Jason Bay is no slouch though. His slugging percentage is right there with Manny, and actually has a couple of more home runs. More importantly for the Red Sox, (at least for the time being) he is a solid citizen. Bay is also six years younger, a better defender and is signed up affordably through next season.
LaRoche has a good eye and according to most scouts figures to be a solid player if he can stay healthy. Hanson, a big draft signing by the Red Sox has powerful stuff and has been fantastic in the minors, compiling a 2.61 E.R.A and averaging almost a SO an inning. However, he hasn't been able to put it together in the majors, where he has a 1.7 WHIP. He'll certainly get his chance in Pittsburgh to win the closer role. Morris, a former first-round pick is a big time prospect with 3 plus pitches. Moss figures to make a play for the Pirate's RF job soon, and if he doesn't succeed, should be a solid fourth outfielder.
Advantage: Everybody actually. How nice.

All in all, this is all just speculation, as Manny may pull an Andruw Jones out in L.A. or Marte could turn into Steve Trout in Yankee Stadium. But that's the fun of the game. you never know. Enjoy the rest of the season.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Transactions....

Has their been a mid-season pick-up by a contending team better than the Brewers pick-up of C.C. Sabathia? 4-0 with 3 complete games. A WHIP of .848. 31 SO in 33 IP. Damn, the CC Man really is a winner.


Let's hear if for Eric Edhom at ProFootballWeekly getting it exactly right regarding the Jeremy Shockey trade. Here's a snippet.

For all the talk about how athletic he was, how ferociously he played and how many mismatches he created, Shockey also produced like a No. 2 possession receiver for most of it. Over the past five seasons, if you equate his per-game average during that stretch for 16 games, you come out with 70 catches for 784 yards and six touchdowns.

What is special about that?

But even doing the 16-game model makes little sense because Shockey never has played a full season. Granted, he only has missed five games the past four seasons, but he was banged up for many of the ones he did play.
Heck yes. The Giants were a better team without the baby on the field, a baby that didn't like to block, was always dinged up and who pouted when he didn't get a pass thrown his way. Goodbye and good luck Jeremy.


I said it before and no that he's doing it, I'll say it again. If Jeff Samardizja provides the Cubs even a little bit of Joba-like energy and slamming-the-door-like relief ability, the Brewers and Cardinals are in trouble.


How about Manny to the Dodgers for Matt Kemp, Joe Beimel and Clayton Kershaw? Just saying, the Sox get a young outfielder with potential, a lefty in the pen, and someone to groom to long relief and eventually start. And the Dodgers get a P-O'd Manny ready to prove something—in a contract year. Hey Dodgers fans, your team slugging percentage is .380. Go get Manny.


Hey, as much as I respect Hideki and Jorge trying to gut it out this season....go home guys. Really, it's laudable, especially Manny didn't play against the Yankees because he had a boo-boo on his knee. But go home guys, get better and come into spring training healthy. You're not helping anyone now.


And now, go see this. http://www.realclearsports.com/video_log/2008/07/melky_cabrera_waves_to_bleache.html This was Melky last week in the first inning fielding a base hit up the middle. Only as he's going to field it, he waves to the Bleacher Creatures, gets distracted and commits an error, allowing the runner to go to second base. Luckily, Darrell Rasner pitched out of the inning without any damage.

Brilliant, Melky, just brilliant. Brilliant stuff. Just like Joe DiMaggio fielded center field, eh Melk?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

No Respect

Chien Ming Wang is the most under appreciated pitcher in baseball.

I know what you're thinking: a Yankee who doesn't get the attention he deserves? Well, it's true. Just look at the facts.

The under-appreciation of Wang isn't new. In the minor leagues, he was always a side prospect; never the gem, the can't-miss blue-chipper—despite quickly rising through the Yankees farm system to ultimately post a 2.03 ERA in AAA in 2004 (with a .98 WHIP). That year, BaseballAmerica.com only rated him the 10th best prospect in the Yankee farm system (at that time, considered a very weak farm system), behind such prospects as Steven White and Christian Garcia.

In the majors, it's been the same way. Coming into this season, Wang had the third highest winning percentage in baseball (behind Carpenter and Halladay). Also, he had the most wins in the past two years with 38. Nobody, not Santana, Webb or Sabathia had that many.

However, listening to baseball fans, you wouldn't know that. In a quick survey of web sites where pitchers were rated for the 2008 fantasy draft, Wang was rated 31st coming into this league. How can the winningest pitcher in baseball be ranked 31st—behind the likes of Ian Snell and John Maine? Earlier this spring, SIKids ranked him the 33rd best pitcher in baseball—again behind Ian Snell.

Even Forbes magazine didn't put him in their "Top 10 Pitchers For The Buck" despite the fact that Wang hasn't earned 1 million dollars yet in salary from the Yankees, even though he's 54-20 in his career.

Heck, even Yankee fans call him out. On a Yankee fan web site earlier this year, one writer called him "awful" and said he was overrated, just a ".500 pitcher." This despite being 8-2 to start this season and his opponents batting under .250 against him (down from a career .265 BAA). Not to mention also that Wang is the first Yankee pitcher to win at least 19 games in consecutive seasons since Tommy John did it in 1979-80. Awful...? Wang won his first 6 starts this season and is 18-5 since last year's all-star game, something he wasn't invited to.

Some people point to the fact that he isn't a strikeout pitcher and gives up his fair share of hits. But this misses the point. Frankly, Wang isn't a dominant strikeout pitcher. He's a durable ground-ball pitcher (and an excellent fielder) whose strikeouts are increasing every year. For example, in 2006, Wang had 76 SO in 218 innings; this year, he had 54 in 95 innings. That said, even as he gets more strikeouts, he's still a pound-it-the-dirt ground-ball pitcher. That's his bread and butter.

But all that doesn't seem to be enough to win him the credit he deserves. Earlier this season, here on DugoutCentral, someone wrote that Wang should switch from being a ground-ball pitcher to a strikeout pitcher. As evidence, they wrote that Wang's ERA goes up with men on base. So he should learn to strike men out and avoid that problem.

However, one stat that this person didn't factor in is, in fact, Wang's forte: the GIDP. Last year, Wang was tied for the league lead with 32 GIDP. And while, yes, as a "contact" ground-ball pitcher, Wang does give up some hits, he doesn't give up HRs. He allowed just 3 HRs in his last 108 innings in 2007, and overall has allowed just 7 HRs in his last 203 innings. Strikeout pitchers, on the other hand, give up HRs. Last year's leader in SO, Scott Kazmir gave up 18 HRs; No 2. Johan Santana gave up 33. Wang gave up 9.

In fact, Wang's career average of 0.51 HR/9.0IP (30HR, 533.2IP) is the lowest since Bruce Berenyi allowed just 0.37HR/9.0IP over his seven-year career from 1980-86. And, remember, Wang pitches in Yankee Stadium, which was ranked 7th in stadiums giving up HRS last year, just behind Coors Field.

So yes, Yankee fans, you can complain that Wang isn't a strikeout artist; he isn't Nolan Ryan—then again, who is? But he does happen to be a durable pitcher (pitching at least 6 innings in 66 of his 80 career starts as well as pitching at least 7 innings in 14 starts in 2007) who wins ballgames, prevents HRs and is becoming more of a strikeout pitcher while remaining the double play machine he's always been.

So while you may not love him and wish he was more of a strikeout artist, you have to appreciate him for the superb pitcher he is.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

An Open Letter To The Commisioners

While, yes, I love sports, I am not blind to the fact that they could be better. Sports, like the human beings that run them, play them, announce them, and watch them, could be a heck of a lot better. Here, I'm going to write a few "suggestions" for the commisioners to take (or leave) to make their respective sports better.

MLB
No Replay
Get this notion off your desk immediately. Baseball has not and does not, need replay. Ever. The most human of sports, judgement and fallibility are integral to the game. How much less a moment would it have been if, after Jackie slid into home and Yogi's tag, they had gone to the replay booth, to make the call? What's next, a computer, to figure out balls and strikes?

Even Out The Divisions
I wrote about this once before here: http://andaplayertobenamedlater.blogspot.com/2008/03/worst-injustice-in-all-of-sports.html
And yes, it is a little OCD of me, but really, the teams aren't starting on a level playing field. It is that much easier for Anaheim to get a spot in the playoffs that it is for the Brewers, if all the Angels have to do is finish first against three other teams while the Brewers (or Cardinals, or Astros) have to beat five other teams.

Shorten The Season
I'm not saying shorten the amount of games—heaven forfend I suggest anything that would limit revenue—I am saying shorten the season by scheduling more doubleheaders. Baseball began in March this year and ends around Halloween. Games have been called on account of snow and come playoffs, Fox cameramen show people in scarves and gloves watching playoff baseball. This is ridiculous. Two weeks could be shaved off the schedule by scheduling a doubleheader every two weeks or so. A little bit of work and we could avoid a blizzard interrupting a Detroit game

Tell Fox to Stop Interviewing The Manager In the Middle Of Ballgames
How intrusive is this?


NFL:
No TV Timeouts
God, I hate when the natural flow of the game is interrupted by NBC reminding me that "So You Want To Be An Air Traffic Controller" is being rebroadcast THIS TUESDAY!

Work On A Rookie Pay Cap
When A team want a player but is afraid to move up to the first 5 picks to get him because his salary is so prohibitive, they'd have to raise ticket prices....something is wrong.

Move the Jaguars to Los Angeles
For god's sake, Jacksonville can't sellout games against the Colts—meanwhile America's second biggest city hasn't had a team since the Rams moved to Saint Louis? Just get it done.

Shorten The Preseason And Start The Season Later
First off, I hate injuries to key players in August. In some meaningless game in August, Peyton Manning or Adrian Peterson goes down and there goes your season. It's stupid and shouldn't happen. Secondly, football shouldn't be played in sunshine and humidity. It needs to be played in winter, in the cold and mud. No Labor Day games watched during a barbecue, more Valentine Day games during a blizzard. Also, pushing it back would mean the Super Bowl (more on that in a moment) would be played just before spring training starter. And my life would have no down period sports-wise.

Super Bowl Saturday
Who here has to leave a Super Bowl party early because they have work the next day? I rest my case.

NHL
Retract Expansion
Hockey in Phoenix? Columbus? Nashville? Really?

Hockey is a religion in Canada and in the north. Not so much in the south. And attendance and interest reflect that. 4 of the lowest 6 teams, attendance-wise last season were, Phoenix, Columbus, Florida and Nashville—newer and mostly Southern teams. The best attended games took place in cities like Buffalo, Montreal and Minneapolis—cities were there was a passion for the game. Start there to build re-interest in the sport.

Open Up The Game
The game is slow and clogged. Too many players (often less talented due to overexpansion) positioned in the neutral zone slow the game down and drain interest in what should be a fast-paced fun game of skill. Open up the ice to the size they play on the Olympic level. This along with retraction (and getting rid of players who shouldn't be playing professional hockey) should hopefully speed up the game and make it more exciting.

Have a Salary Maximum Cap And A Minimum Cap
This proposal was brought about by a GM and it has its points. While admitting, it of course doesn't solve every problem hockey has, it does give everyone something. The top cap won't be a hard one; if a team goes over, it has to pay a prohibitive 'luxury tax", but it can go over the cap. But it also has a minimum spending cap so teams have to spend at least a certain amount. That said, it give the owners financial a sense of security, it ensures the players won't be completely robbed of a competitive free agent market. And, it promotes a sense of competitive parity, meaning smaller markets get to keep up with the bigger markets. Actually, this proposal could work for all the sport leagues.

NBA
Open The Court
When basketball first became a major sport, anyone over 6'7 was a giant. Now shooting guards are that size. Which means there are ten guys over six feet and upwards of 275 lbs. The court is too small and clogged. Spread the court out a little bit.

Organize Lower Level Basketball
For a variety of reason—from America's decline in international competition, to the fact that "summer leagues" are a breeding ground for agents and other unsavory characters to feast upon gullible 16 year old kids—the NBA needs to create some sort of minor league. What they have now, is a defacto, unpaid minor league system in the NCAA and in the Nike "summer camps." Sonny Vaccaro, who has retired from the buisness of summer camps and has privy to practically every deal that has gone down in them, had this to say of the NCAA and the summer camps: "I would say the majority of major college basketball programs break the rules...You'd be disgusted with the number of coaches in the Hall of Fame who got there by cheating," he said. The American public wouldn't believe it."

If that's the case, then create a minor league system a la baseball. PAY these kids to play the game that they get paid to play albeit under the table at UCLA, Florida or Kansas State.

This isn't just a basketball issue, either, as if sneaker companies and illegal payoffs were solely a problem of March Madness. The NFL could take a look as well.

Get An Outsider
Was it just me, or was there a malaise of disinterest in the NBA Finals this year? Heck, it was Boston—Los Angeles. But nobody I know was talking about it. Nobody was interested.

The NBA has an image problem—thugs, greed and game fixing charges have taken the headlines away from the game itself. And while David Stern can do only middling things about the greed and thuggery, what David Stern needs to do is go get a George Mitchell type to go clean up the game fixing charges. Get get a impeccably reputed person to review the fixing scandal and to write a full report. That would give the game the sense on internal cleansing, a sense that everything that could be done, was done and that the full truth was revealed.


Now, if these these professional sports leagues did these things, fans would respond in a big way and frickin' NASCAR would go away and become the sandlot sport it is.

Ragin' Giant Fans Gets A Response

A few days ago, I posted a letter from my sister- and brother-in-law who wrote an open letter to the Mara family regarding the insanely high "seat licensing" prices. They being longtime Giant fans and ticketholders for years, were upset. You can read it here:

http://andaplayertobenamedlater.blogspot.com/2008/07/letter-from-ragin-giant-fan.html

Well, I am happy to say, they got a response. Assemblyman Anthony Chiappone wrote this in response to reading the letter:

Dear Theresa,

Terrific letter and thank you for "cc-ing" me on it. Like many other Giant fans who have written to me, there is a common consensus that Giants management has truly done the loyal dedicated fan like you an inexcusable and greedy injustice. If the PSL plan proceeds, die hard loyal fans will soon be replaced by corporate clients, many of whom I venture to say will not even know what a third down is. And when it gets cold, when the team is 4-8, they will not be there to weather the inclement weather or the bad seasons. I want to tell you that I am working very hard to find a way to stop this from happening. There is a
question of what is legally considered a "license", and while PSL's have been around for a few years now, there are different versions of PSL's and I believe that they have not been scrutinized thoroughly. And since there are public moneys involved directly or indirectly, I believe that there may be some further issues and controls available for regulating or restricting the issuance of PSLs.

I have your email and while time is of the essence, I will keep you informed of my progress. In the meantime, please contact your local Assemblyman and Senator and ask them to support me in this effort.
Sincerely Yours, Assemblyman Anthony Chiappone


Well, I can't vote for this guy, but I would if I could. Giant fans have had tickets for years and years; these tickets get passed down in wills from parent to child. Their loyalty (whether the team was good or bad) is beyond question. They supported the Giants product through good and bad. The fact that the Giants are turning their backs on longtime fans reeks of the utmost greed. We here at ANDAPLAYERTOBENAMEDLATER.com (and by "we, I mean "me") will keep on top of this, and post anything relevant as this goes forward.

Write in with your sports "greed" story.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Transactions....

Boy, he's barely gone, and I miss Jeremy Shockey already.


Former Notre Dame wide receiver and potential NFL first round draft pick, Jeff "Jabberjaw" Samardzija is a potential call up for the Cubs in September. After a slow start, Samardzija has a 4-1 with a 3.13 ERA in AAA Iowa. If Samardzija even provide a smidgen of relief for the Cubs pitching staff in September, it'll make it that much harder for the Cardinals and Brewers. And, to remind you, I predicted the Cubs for the World Series back in March.


Carl Pavano is about to start a rehab assignment in hope of making good on the 4-year 40 million dollar investment. Good luck with that, Carl.


And Barry Bonds' free agency availability continues on unabated.


Baseball America reports that Deolis Guerra, the other major part of the package the Mets sent for Johan Santana, is struggling in Low-A ball. His mechanics are a mess and his fastball is down to the high 80s. Not good for a kid who's only 19 years old. Maybe the Twins should have taken the Phil Hughes package instead.


Is Brett Farve done pouting yet for Greta Van Suesteren?


And, lastly, this past Saturday, 53 years ago, one of the most astounding accomplishments in baseball history occurred. Vern Law of the Pirates, throws eighteen complete innings of a 19 inning game. Think about that—that's two complete games in one afternoon. In those 18 innings, Law only gives up 9 hits and 2 runs, while striking out twelve. Despite this, he is taken out for a pitch hitter after the eighteenth inning. Reliever Bob Friend, who pitches one inning, gets the win.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Letter From A Ragin' Giant Fan

What follows is an actual real-life letter from my sister-in-law and brother-in-law to the Giants regarding the one-time seat licensing fee that all Giants fans have to pay—even ones who've been attending games for decades. Anyway, hope you enjoy. And if you do, write your own letter.


July 18, 2008

Mr. John K Mara
9 Westwood Dr
Harrison, NY 10528-2501

(914) 777-0544

Mr. Mara


I am writing not as a Giants fan, but as the wife of a
long time Giants fan. My husband and his family have
been season ticket holders for over 40 years. They
have followed the team regardless of the location or
the quality of the product you have put on the field.
In the ten years I have known my husband, he has
missed only one game...for our wedding. I have always
felt your ticket prices were disproportionate to the
experience, but who am I to interfere with a family
tradition. I just read about the price for the
personal seat license. As you can imagine, being a
40+year season ticket holder, my husband’s seats fall
in the $20,000 + category. Now, I’m not going to lie
to you, we’re probably one of the few ticket holder’s
in this category who can afford to pay this price
outright; but we’re not. If you are going to ask us to
invest upwards of $40,000 in your product, you are
going to have to give us (as well as other investors)
a better answer than “the price of the new stadium
went over budget”. For the record, that answer hardly
inspires confidence in the financial leadership of
this venture. No, you owe it to your “investors” to
provide a detailed explanation for the overtures,
complete financial records as well as a sound
financial plan for the future. At that point,
investors will have been given the appropriate
information to decide on the level of their
investment. I do not expect you to call each season
ticket holder directly, but I do expect you to call my
husband (Alexander B Swingle—646-). We will be happy
to help you arrange a town hall meeting at which you
can personally discuss the above.

Looking forward to hearing from you

Theresa Ryan, MD

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Little Past The Halfway Point.....

As always, I'm a little late with my "prediction" posts. Anyway, at a little past the halfway point, let's check in with what I predicted way back when the season was just starting, and what actually happened.

AL EAST:
So, I picked the Red Sox to win; not bad, they are only 1 1/2 games out. However, it's not the Yankees they are behind, as might have been expected. It's the Rays. Now I said the Rays would be better, but who the heck predicted they would be this good—not me anyway—and, as I wrote recently, they are very much for real, and could take the East with a great pitching staff and a getting better offense. They Yanks are doing pretty much as I thought—good enough to consider, but not to lead. However, I predicted the Jays would be better. Ooops. Baltimore, as we all predicted, would stink.


AL CENTRAL:
OK, name one person who picked the White Sox to be in first here. I mean, back in March, who thought that they would be second in the AL with a 3.60 ERA and lead the AL with 130 HRS? And Minnesota in second place—how exactly are the Twins tied for first in the AL with a collective .281 BA? I picked the Cleveland Indians and their pitching staff to rule the Central, and while they're pitching isn't as good as advertised, their hitting is truly stinky (barely batting .250 as a team). However, I was right about Detroit not being nearly as good as expected, and Kansas City still has growing pains as expected.


AL WEST
The Angels are right where I said they'd be; in first with a chance to take the American League. However, the Mariners are the biggest disappointments in the AL and are already blowing up the team well before the trading deadline. And while the Mariners are surprisingly bad, the Athletics are surprisingly dang good. Now I thought they'd be better than expected, but even I am surprised at their AL leading 3.43 ERA and their 51-46 record. The Rangers are a little better than predicted, but still have a ways to go before any playoff hopes are sprouted.


NL EAST
This has got to be the most wack-adoo division in baseball. However, at the end of the day, it's lining up pretty much where I said it would. Even though the Mets are in second place, they are only a game out and seemingly headed in the right direction. The Phils are hanging on to a tenuous lead, and they are doing it with better than expected pitching. And while they just traded for Joe Blanton, who might help down the stretch, I still remain skeptical of their staff in general. Statistically speaking, the Braves should be right in the thick of things (their pitching is second in the NL in ERA; their BA is third), not 5 games behind the surprising Marlins. The Marlins are the White Sox of the NL, terrible pitching, and "meh" hitting...except for the fact that they put the ball in the bleachers more than anyone in the NL. The Nationals are celler dwellers, right where everyone thought they'd be.

NL CENTRAL
So far, the central is essentially shaping up to be the Cubs, and a fight for second place—which is what most people thought it would be. And as some people—including me—thought, the Brewers would be right there behind the Cubs, and they are. However, I did NOT predict that the Cardinals would be in the race too. I must have forgotten about Albert Pujols being the best player in the NL bar none, because he's leading the Cardinals to a good for second place in the NL .277 team BA. Cincinnati is pretty much where I'd thought they'd be—middle of the pack, pitching holding them back. Same with the Astros. And the Pirates are right where they always are; dead last, hoping for next year.


NL WEST
The NL West is also pretty much as I thought it would be with the D-backs riding their pitching to first place and the Dodgers and Rockies battling it out to chase them. However, no one thought that the ENTIRE division would be under .500 at this point. For the D-backs and Dodgers you can blame both of their hitting for their predicaments, as both their pitching is excellent, 3.94 and 3.65 ERA for the staffs respectively. The Rockies on the other hand have average hitting to go with a pitching staff that has fallen back to earth after last year's above average output. The Giants and the Padres are no threat to anyone, which is all anyone expected out of them both.


To sum up, I blew the pick on the Indians to win the AL Central, but am on course with the Red Sox to take the East and the Angels to take it all. The Mets, Cubs and Diamondbacks all are on track to fulfill my predictions for taking their divisions and the Cubs should win the NL like I said they would. The Mariners and Rockies have made me look foolish as my "could surprise" teams, but I am on target with the Tigers disappointing and the Phillies could still easily blow it in the NL East.

As for my pick at AL Cy Young, well it would be nice if my guy was even playing; as Fausto Carmona hasn't pitched since late May. And while Johan Santana is pitching fine out at Shea stadium, he's getting no run support for his 3.10 ERA and is only 8-7, not good enough for the NL Cy Young. Both Chase Utley and Vladimir Guerrero aren't embarassing me as my MVP choices; they are both doing fine, though probably not well enough to be serious MVP candidates. Evan Longoria is probably the AL Rookie of the Year, so I nailed that one; however, my NL pick for Rookie of the Year would need to be in a few more games than the 3 he's played so far, to be a candidate. Heck the Pirates Steve Pearce isn't even having a good year down in AAA, so it's safe to say I missed on that one.

Well, we still have 2 1/2 months to go, so anything can happen. Post how your predictions are panning out on the talkback. And enjoy the rest of the season.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Tampa For Real

The Tampa Bay Rays have just lost seven games in a row. The wheels are coming off the bus; the ship is sinking. It’s what everyone’s been waiting for, the little team in the ugly stadium to fold it in and let the AL East to get back to business.

Not so fast.

Now this is not to say that the Rays are going to sweep the Red Sox and blow out the Angels. But make no mistake, the Rays are for real, and they are a serious threat.

As with everything in baseball, it starts with pitching. With the recent slide, the Rays ERA has ballooned a bit, however, they still have an ERA of 3.79, with 4 of their five starters under a 4.00 ERA. The team WHIP is tied for third in all of baseball at 1.27. Of their five starters, the highest WHIP is a fine 1.38. Those numbers go way down at home, where the team ERA is 2.82, with a collected team WHIP at a paltry 1.13. (It’s interesting to note that 6 of the 7 games they’ve lost on the slide have been on the road, and that they won the previous seven games, all at home, including 3 from the Red Sox.) Should the Rays win home field advantage in the playoffs, the threat they pose to the big boys of the AL will be even more daunting.

Their bullpen even more remarkable than the Rays’ excellent starting staff has been nothing short of excellent. Thought to be a weak link before the season (how many people criticized the Troy Percival signing?), the pen has 27 saves so far and runs very deep. Here are some ERAs from the bullpen: Grant Balfour, 1.64; Dan Wheeler, 2.38; Troy Percival, 3.54; J.P. Howell, 2.68. And the bullpen should only get deeper once Al Reyes (out since early June), not to mention Troy Percival, come back off the DL.

The problem comes on the other side of the ball, where the Rays are mainly middle-of-the-pack in batting average, slugging percentage, on base percentage, and most other offensive categories. However, two areas that the Rays are doing quite well in are base on balls and steals. They are third in the AL in walks (with B.J. Upton second only to Jack Cust in walks) and they rule in stolen bases with 101 stolen bases, collectively, and B.J Upton, Carl Crawford, and Jason Bartlett with 18 stolen bases or more each. Their speed and their patience bodes well come playoff time when the quality of pitching goes up and the reliance on the long ball goes down.

Don’t schedule the parade yet, but keep in mind that for years the Rays have drafted high and have acquired a heap of talent---last year’s number 1, David Price has a 1.38 ERA in AA ball---a lot of which is coming to fruition now. They are young, they are dangerous, they are fast.

And they are for real.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Transactions....

After a short vacation, I'm back. Let's get started.


To all the people—and there were a lot of them—who said the Yankees overpaid to sign Mariano Rivera this winter...nice call.

Get these stats. A 1.06 ERA. A 0.64 WHIP. 50 strikeouts in 42.1 innings. For those numbers on my team, I'd give Rivera my nephews and nieces if that's what he demanded.


Supposedly Chris Simms is interested in joining the Cowboys as a backup. That might be a good idea for him. He's only 26, has shown that he can be a capable player in this league. And it would get the pressure off him for the time being as he recuperates. I think it might be worth it for the Boys to take a flier on the kid as Romo's backup.


Word from cheese country is that more than a few Packers are ready for Farve to move on and they've had enough of the "Will-He-Play-Or-Wont-He" soap opera. Frankly, it seems ole Brett has forgotten that the Packers aren't his personal sandlot team. He retired, said he didn't want to play and a couple of months later, when he rethinks the situation, he gets offended when the Packers don't drop all their plans and offer him the starting job immediately, now that he's made up his mind.

He wept. He said he had nothing left. He said he didn't want to play. "It's over," he said. He completely rejected the notion that the Packers pushed him out. Now he says, he was “never fully committed” to retiring and felt pressured by the Packers to make a decision. He say now that he feels "unwelcome."

Unwelcome? You retired, dude. It's right here.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kACbVGsWN74

The Packers have had to go through this kind of diva-quality, "the-world-revolves-around-me" behavior from Farve the past few offseasons when he couldn't make up his mind to retire until around May. (Remember, the Packers drafted Aaron Rodgers in 2005 because they weren't sure if Farve was retiring.) And now, as is being reported on the web, Brett is going on the record smearing Packer GM Ted Thompson, saying that Farve lobbied Thompson to sign Randy Moss and get Steve Mariucci to be head coach, but that Thompson didn't listen to him. But then he says, these aren't the reasons he retired.

So, if they aren't the reasons you retired, why mention them? Oh, yeah, you need to win the court of public opinion and distract people from the fact that you're a diva. And who cares if Ted Thompson didn't listen to you? You're a freakin' QB, not the GM. That's his job and his call. He doesn't have to listen to you because that's not your job and this isn't your team. So please, Brett, please. For the love of God, Brett, go drive your tractor down in Mississippi and go away.


Some St. Louis fans want the Cardinals to trade for Jarrod Washburn. Really? Seriously. I think the Mariners would buy the ticket to Missouri and a new pair of red cleats for Washburn if St. Louis would make the deal. Likewise, the Cubs have been sniffing around Khalil Green. And again....really?


The father of Jaguars receiver Matt Jones says his son claims no responsibility for the cocaine seized in the car he was driving with two other men. Police say Jones was inside a car cutting up cocaine with a credit card before he was arrested. Jones says he spoke to Coach Del Rio of the Jaguars and said he made a mistake. A mistake....Hmmm, the over/under on the Jaguars cutting Matt Jones just dropped from after camp to two days.


And lastly....why does anyone run around in narrow European streets with bulls that can weigh up to 2000 pounds and possess long pointy horns. Really people, if you want to feel "alive" go run to your local bar, do a few shots of tequila and play some White Stripes on the juke box. Really loud.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Derby Hangover

It’s been talked about on sports radio, commented on by sportswriters, and debated on TV, newspapers, and the Internet. What is it?: C.C. Sabathia getting traded? The surprising Rays playoff chances? No. Should A-Rod participate in the All-Star Home Run Derby.

Seriously.

Be honest. If this were anyone else, say Jermaine Dye or Chase Utley, no one would be talking about this. No one would care. And why would they? The Home Run Derby is a silly diversion, a sideshow to a sideshow. Really, does anyone truly fret about this exhibition, have his or her heart set on whoever wins it? Does anyone even remember who won last year?* No. But since it’s Alex Rodriguez, suddenly missing the Home Run Derby is akin to spray-painting over the Sistine Chapel. And everyone has to have their opinion.

Here’s an example of the hyperbole. This is from FanIQ, a web site dedicated to this kind of stuff.

Just like Barry Bonds a year ago, Alex Rodriguez has chosen the "messes with my swing" excuse to avoid the humiliation of potentially not winning [the Home Run Derby]. Besides, I thought the only thing that messed with A-Rod's swing was postseason pitchers and Yankee fans breathing down his neck.

A-Rod belongs in the Derby for many reasons. For starters, he's the games best and most popular player. He's capable of putting on a show that would be fitting for this final sendoff to Yankee Stadium, arguably the game's most historic landmark.

…how about sending a few shots into Monument Park, a simple ode to those who made this game a national pastime.

Hey, it's not just chicks that dig the long ball. Come on, A-Rod, swing your bat to the fences instead of at Madonna.

Another one, this time from FanNation.com

It is easy to understand players protecting themselves, but this is a bit much. As an MLB player, he is obligated by the league to participate in events such as these, especially during All-Star Week. The players owe it to their fans to give them entertainment.

Obligated? Really?

It goes on. Heck, even Jayson Stark of ESPN, normally one of the more levelheaded sports reporters out there, chimed in saying he “didn’t like Alex Rodriguez's reasoning for wanting to sit out the All-Star Game's Home Run Derby.”

One question Mr. Stark—and I ask with all due respect—why should Mr. Rodriguez care what you like or don’t?

Alex Rodriguez is getting paid—quite well, as we all know—to play for the New York Yankees, as well as he can. That is his priority. His only one. And anything that can affect his ability to do so, should be avoided. And frankly, the Home Run Derby has affected players in the past. I mean, all Alex Rodriguez has to do is look over to right field to see a guy damaged by the Home Run Derby. Bobby Abreu said the Home Run Derby “was a lot like golfing” and that “it took a long time to get his swing back.” In point of fact, it’s never really come back. In the four seasons preceding Abreu’s victory at the 2005 Home Run Derby, he averaged a little over 25 home runs a season, and had 6 straight seasons of 20 or more (in 2005, he had 20 by the All-Star game). After winning the Home Run Derby, Abreu hit just 6 more that season. He hasn’t reached 20 home runs a season since.

Or if Rodriguez wanted more proof, he could just look across town to David Wright who had Home Run Derby hangover in 2006: 20 HRs before the break, 6 after.

You don’t even have to make it to the second round to be affected. Look at Hank Blalock’s splits the one year he participated (2004). Before the Home Run Derby, Blalock was batting .303 with 23 home runs and a .572 slugging percentage. After the Derby, Blalock batted .240 with 9 home runs and a .406 slugging percentage.

Rodriguez has done it 3 times before; at Coors Field in 1998, at Safeco Field in 2001, and at Miller Park in 2002. He has done his fair share to answer the people who say he “owes it to the fans” Nor is he the only ballplayer to opt out of it; David Ortiz, Barry Bonds, and Ken Griffey Jr. all declined just last year. Why? Because they felt it has an adverse effect on their swing. Where were the people then claiming Ken Griffey owed it to the fans? That Ortiz was a coward and had “forgotten the fans.”

And to those who say that since it’s being held at Yankee Stadium, he should participate. Oh please. The only “fitting sendoff” any Yankee fan would want for Yankee Stadium is a World Series Championship. And that’s what Alex Rodriguez is focusing on.

He doesn’t owe anybody anything else.


* It was Vladimir Guerrero. I looked it up.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Transactions....

Don't know if you guys ever saw Boris Becker or Bjorn Born play, but for my money, yesterday's Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal match was the best tennis match I've ever seen. And except for the Giants upset of the Patriots, the best sporting event I've seen for the year.


And hey, congrats Nadal. But could you please buy some new underwear, so you could stop picking your butt after every point. With all your Wimbledon winnings, I have one word for you: boxers.


And further congrats to the Brewers for winning the Sabathia sweepstakes. Even if it is just a rental, they get half a year of one of the most dominant lefties to help them try to close the 3-1/2 game gap between them and the Cubs. And even if they lose Sabathia and Sheets in the offseason, they get 5—that's right, 5—of the top 35 draft picks next MLB draft.


ESPN writer Paul Kuharsky has an interesting article about next year's draft. With the collective bargaining agreement about to be jettisoned and Commisioner Goodell making comments about how it is "ridiculous" to reward unproven rookies with guaranteed contracts of up to 30 million dollars or more, a whole bunch of juniors might want to enter the draft early so they can get paid before the whole system changes. interesting article. Check it out.
http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/columns/story?columnist=kuharsky_paul&id=3472921&campaign=rss&source=NFLHeadlines


Word is that the Cubs are jamming the phone lines to Oakland in hopes of landing Rich Harden. But the question is will Oakland trade him. Entering Monday's games, Oakland is 47-41 and still in it for both the AL West and the Wild Card hunt. Does Oakland GM Beane call it a season and trade Harden and get killed by whatever fan base Oakland has, or does he keep him and try to make a run for it? Either way, he's got some thinking to do before July 31st.


No seriously, how are the White Sox doing it? Mirrors? Bribes? Gandalf casting "Befuddlement" spells on opposing hitters? In any case, there is no way this team should be in front of the AL Central. Or the that the Twins should be in second place.


The left side of the Falcon offensive line is shaping up to be rookie Sam Baker at left tackle and 2nd year player Justin Blaylock at left guard. That slippery spot at the line of scrimmage is coming from the drool of opposing defensive lines getting ready to tee off on Bonus Baby quarterback Matt Ryan. Lotsa luck, rook.


Lost in all the Joba—Jacoby rookie talk is Greg Smith of the Oakland A's. This kid has a 3.62 ERA and has only given up 87 hits in 104.1 innings. Like I said, Billy Beane is going to have a tough July deciding whether he should pack it in this season and trade Rich harden or try to win the West with the Athletics' sick pitching staff.


And finally, Brett. Stay retired. Really.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Cashman's Legacy

Let's be honest; no organization, outside of maybe the Oakland Raiders, operates the way the Yankees do. Schizophrenic, money-saturated, ego-driven, three-headed, emotional, often bizarre, they are truly unique in the way they do business. So it is all the more amazing that it's been ten years since Brian Cashman was named General Manager of the New York Yankees—considering the Yankees had 5 general managers the previous 10 years. And it is even tougher to assess how well he has done his job considering that at times it is hard to discern who is really running the show.

Cashman works for the Yankees, which means a lot of hyperbole gets written about him, both good and bad. It's time to take an clear-eyed look at his career as GM of the Yankees. Since he's been named GM, the Yankees have been in 6 World Series and won 4, though none since 2000. However, it's fair to say that the foundation that led to the 4 World Series wins was in place before Cashman became GM: Jeter, Petitte, Rivera, Posada, etc. So, let's look at some of the bigger moves Cash has made over his decade in office. This list doesn't include every move Cashman made, it's just a look at some of the key decisions made by Cashman over the years, from the brilliant to the boneheaded.

The Brilliant:
Signed Orlando Hernandez
Signed Scott Brosius
Found Alfonso Soriano in the Japanese league
Signed Mike Stanton
Traded Hideki Irabu for Ted Lilly and Jake Westbrook
Traded Geraldo Padua for Jim Leyritz
Signed Mike Mussina
Signed Ching-Ming Wang as a free agent
Signed Robinson Cano
Signed Melky Cabrera
Drafted Shelly Duncan
Drafted Chase Wright
Signed Hideki Matsui
Traded Robin Ventura for Bubba Crosby and Scott Proctor
Drafted Phil Hughes
Traded Alphonso Soriano for Alex Rodriguez
Traded Brian Myrow for Tanyon Sturtze
Traded Randy Johnson for Luis Vizcaino, Ross Ohlendorf, Steven Jackson and Alberto Gonzalez
Selected Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain in 2006 MLB draft
Claimed Darrell Rasner off waivers
Signed Brian Bruney
Traded Jaret Wright for Chris Britton
Traded Gary Sheffield for Humberto Sanchez, Kevin Whelan, and Anthony Claggett
Signed Edwar Ramirez


The Boneheaded:
Drafted Mark Prior but did not sign him
Drafted Drew Henson
Traded Mike Lowell for Mark Johnson, Ed Yarnall, and Todd Noel
Let Jeff Nelson go in free agency
Traded for Denny Neagle
Signed Jason Giambi
Signed Rondell White
Signed Sterling Hitchcock
Signed Steve Karsay
Traded Damoso Marte for Enrique Wilson
Selected John-Ford Griffin in MLB draft over Noah Lowry
Selected Bronson Sardinha in MLB draft over David Wright
Traded Ted Lilly for Jeff Weaver
Traded Nick Johnson, Juan Rivera, and Randy Choate for Javier Vasquez
Traded Jeff Weaver for Randy Brown
Let Andy Petitte go in free agency
Signed Gary Sheffield
Acquired Randy Johnson for Javier Vazquez, Brad Halsey, Dioner Navarro, and cash
Signed Jose Contreras and later traded him for Esteban Loiaza
Drafted Jonathan Poterson ahead of Huston Street in 2004 MLB Draft
Signed Tony Womack
Signed Kenny Lofton
Signed Jared Wright
Signed Carl Pavano
Signed Kyle Farnsworth
Traded Ramon Ramirez and Eduardo Sierra for Shawn Chacon
Signed Kei Igawa after missing out on Matsusaka, and spurning Ted Lilly and Gil Meche
Signed Octavio Dotel
Signed LaTroy Hawkins

Looking at the brilliant and the boneheaded chronologically, one thing that becomes evident. And that is that the philosophy of the Yankees changed over the years of Cashman's reign—or rather, Cashman's philosphy changed, three times. When he was first hired as GM, Cashman's job was to find complementary parts for the championship juggernaut. They were low-risk, high-reward moves and generally, he did an adequate job. Scott Brosius, Mike Stanton, and the like were solid, low-risk moves. Around 2000-2001, however, the philosophy changed and the Yankees went for the big splash to get them back to being World Champions, as evidenced by the signings of Jason Giambi, the trade for Jeff Weaver, signing Pavano, Wright, and Sheffield. These weren't the best years for Cashman as most of his signings were big-money disappointments. And most recently, Cashman's philosophy has been to mostly avoid the big free agent signings and rather rebuild from the farm and to stockpile pitchers. That's not to say the Yankees won't be players in free agency, however, Cashman seems to want to build the bedrock of the team—especially the staff—via the farm system. Cashman rebuffed the Twins last year in the trade for Johna Santana; this would be an example of the Yankee's new philosophy.

To his credit, Cashman is aware of his past errors and is blunt in his change of philosophy, saying, "This is why we changed the process two years ago. It wasn't working the way we were doing it. ... Clearly we made mistakes in the past on how we went about our business, and we are trying to be better now."

We can only hope. Because he's certainly made his share of "mistakes," especially in the early part of this decade. Granted, Sheffield and Womack were signings made by Steinbrenner and cronies and not him, however, Pavano, Weaver, Brown, Vasquez, the Mike Lowell trade, and the 5-year contract for Igawa, just to name a few, were all Cashman's. As the list shows, more often than not these mistakes were trades for high-profile, big-money players (Weaver, Johnson) and big free-agent signings, but his successes were low-risk young talent signings (Robinson Cano, Ching-Ming Wang, Alfonso Soriano, Melky Cabrera, Edwar Ramirez) and drafts, especially pitchers. If Cashman deserves the credit for some of the moves he's made, and he does, he needs to own up to and learn from his share of mistakes.

And hopefully he has. Staying within and developing talent is a promising new philosophy. The Yankees last won when the developed their own players and built a core. Cashman seems to recognize this. If he truly is the sole voice of the Yankees now and can accept a slight downturn before developing a new core to build on, his legacy will be one of success.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Why The Yanks Need To Trade Melky

The Yankees should trade Melky Cabrera for the same reason they called up Brett Gardner today: there are better options out there.

That’s not to say that Melky isn’t any good. He covers Yankee Stadium’s spacious centerfield well and his arm is the best they’ve had in center in many a season. That said, it is becoming clear that his bat is not going to develop the way the Yankees had hoped and most likely won’t be much more than a no. 8 hitter in the Yankee line-up. His hitting against lefties has gotten progressively worse (.198 BA against lefties this year). He’s always had trouble against power pitchers (lifetime .245 BAA) as well as finesse pitchers (lifetime .241 BAA), but has done well against junkballers. Overall, Melky is the kind of hitter who may do well against back-of-the-rotation types, but can’t handle a good pitcher. Melky is adequate.

Adequate won’t cut it in Yankeeland. Especially not when there are other options. And there are. While Melky’s OBP is .312 and falling and his slugging is a sad .354, AAA prospect Brett Gardner in Scranton, has an OBP of .412 and a slugging percentage of .429. He also has 34 stolen bases and an astonishing 10 triples!! Also, in 2006 Baseball America rated Gardner the best defensive outfielder in the Yankee system. Gardner, 24, could over time develop into a leadoff-pest type of run-producer who can take the extra base, be a threat to steal, and be a constant worry for opposing pitchers and catchers. And Lord knows his speed would be a jolt to the Yankees poky, station-to-station base-running roster. Currently, the Yankees have 48 stolen bases. To whit, the Devil Rays have 88, the Red Sox 74.

OK, so who can the Yankees get for Melky? Well, sure I’d love to shoot pie-in-the-sky and go for names like Eric Bedard or Ben Sheets, but the guy who the Yankees could realistically trade for and get great value for in return is a lesser-known name: Damaso Marte. A lefty reliever for the Pirates, Marte is exactly what the Yankees need; that is, a bullpen lefty who can get opposing lefties out. Marte has a dominating lifetime .198 BAA against lefty batters, something the Yankees will surely crave come the next time Big Papi is up with two on. Also, unlike a lot of National League pitchers who fold once they get to the American League, Marte has pitched in the AL before, and has pitched well. For four years, he threw for the Chicago White Sox and the highest his ERA got was 3.77. To the Yankees, Marte would be the unicorn standing next to a four-leaf clover at the end of a rainbow, an experienced lefty out of the pen come October.

It probably will take more than just Melky to get Marte. The Yanks might have to take Adam Laroche off the Pirates hands as part of a Pirates salary dump: LaRoche is making 5 million while batting a soggy .221. Eating LaRoche’s contract for the rest of this year for the Pirates and giving them a low- to mid-level prospect is a win-win deal for the Yankees and the Pirates. The Pirates farm system was rated a truly pathetic 26th out of 30—especially considering how often they’ve drafted high in the Amateur draft—and could use a prospect from the 5th-rated Yankees farm system. Not to say the Yankees should hand over a great prospect to the Pirates—Mitch Hilligoss should do it.

If that doesn’t do it, the Yanks could redouble their efforts for the more-heralded Brian Fuentes. Fuentes, also a lefty and 32 as well, is pitching an impressive 2.56 ERA and lefties are hitting .174 against him. However, more teams are interested in Fuentes and the price for him might be higher—Jose Tabata or Mark Melancon might be demanded, a price the Yankees should not pay. Also, in an interesting stat, while Marte has a 2.45 ERA in late-inning pressure situations with RISP, Fuentes has a 4.85 ERA. And Marte did pitch 1.1 scoreless innings against the Yankees last week.

Some might say this trade is too costly for the Yankees. After all, Melky is just 23, is a good defensive outfielder, and is a streaky hitter who can get hot—in fact, it was about this time last year when he got hot. But the truth is, is that the league has caught on to Melky, and he is unable to adjust. Conversly, the league now has adjusted to Melky's weaknesses and are exploiting them. Last night’s game is a perfect example: In the ninth, Melky was up with the Yanks down one and one runner on. On the mound for the Rangers was hard-throwing lefty, C. J. Wilson. Hard-throwing and lefty—signing point to Melky having a problem with this. The result, Melky grounded softly into a double-play.

I like Melky, but the Yankees should trade him for 2 reasons; Marte can help a weak situation become strong—the pen would be immeasurably better with him as the Yanks try for the playoffs. And 2; because, there are other options in CF. Better ones.