Robinson Cano DOES have Intangibles – and They Helped Yankees win Sunday

August 31, 2009

Joel Sherman of the New York Post is the best baseball writer in New York, and possibly all of America. He looks at scenarios well before most writers do. Many times I have written a piece or had a thought and a day or two later, Sherman has a similar type article or comment on his blog.

A couple weeks ago, Sherman polled seven baseball executives and all of them said if they had the choice of Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia or Robinson Cano for the next five years, they would take Pedroia.

The main reason? Pedroia’s “intangibles” outweigh Cano’s talent. Here are some quotes from the article: “Pedroia has better makeup and gives his all every day,” an NL exec said. “On natural ability, Cano tops the list. But Pedroia is a winner and a leader.”

Now, Dustin is definitely a winner (2007 World Series title and 2008 MVP) and he is a leader. His outgoing personality and scrappy play gives incentive for other players on the team to perform at a 100% level. Very similar to how Derek Jeter plays the game, although Jeter is a “winner” many more times than Pedroia. The current Yankee squad has tons of leaders such as Yankee veterans Jeter, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera, plus newcomers Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia.

Players like Cano do not have to be leaders on this Yankee team. Actually, Alex Rodriguez seems to be the “Latin leader” for players such as Cano and Melky Cabrera, who have idolized A-Rod since the C&C boys came into the big leagues.

Actually, Pedroia’s number are pretty much down across the board from last season, and almost the same as his rookie year. And, more importantly, his team is six games BEHIND Cano’s team in the standings.

Does this make Cano a winner now, too? His team is in first place, and looks like the team to beat in October.

But, Cano has had a tremendous season in2009, playing great Gold Glove type defense and putting up numbers just below all his career high except for batting average. His glove is second to none at his position, and his range is so good that he regularly gets to balls up the middle no other second baseman will, and “flips” the ball with his strong throwing arm to make the defensive highlight reel.

Many people love the way Pedroia dives for balls, gets dirty and looks like the “old school” ballplayer. I do, too, but sometimes lack of range forces defenders to have to dive.

Cano also turns the double play better than any other second sacker. Not even a close second.

And his “intangibles” are tremendous also. Witness yesterday’s five run inning against the Chicago White Sox. With the Yankees leading 3-2 and a leadoff runner on first, Cano grounds a sure double play ball, but hustles his ass down the line and beats the relay throw.

Cano’s hustle saved the inning, and with now only one out, the Yankees rallied for five runs to ice a very close, one-run contest.

Intangibles –  check. Talent – check. Great defense – check.

I have not seen Pedroia play more than 20 games this season, but have seen him against the Yankees for the last three seasons, in addition to the playoffs. But I have seen Cano play almost every game this season and I have seen much more this season than in his past.

No offense to Pedroia because he is a really good baseball player, but I like Cano’s talent better.

And Cano has intangibles, too. And those intangibles helped the Yankees win yesterday’s game.


The Yankees Should Have Emulated Their Minor League “Joba Rules” in the Majors?

August 30, 2009

Joba Chamberlain will finally get his opportunity to pitch every fifth day as the Yankees yet again, refine the Joba Rules.

In trying to keep Chamberlain’s total amount of innings around 160 for the regular season, the Yankees have decided to let Joba pitch every five days. The disastrous results from his 6, 7 and 8 day layoffs haven’t thrilled Yankee management (or Yankee fans), so Joba will pitch in lock step within the the rotation.

But he will be limited in the amount of innings he goes every start. He likely will no go more than five innings in any of his remaining six of seven starts.

According to Yankee manager Joe Girardi, the primary goal is to get Joba on a regular routine and not worry about his (or the team) getting a victory.  “He’s in the starting-pitcher mode in the sense that he’s going to get the ball every fifth game,” Girardi said. “As far as innings, there’s going to be games that will be short. I will say that. He might not factor in a decision.”

While Joba might not factor in the decision, the idea to pull out an effective Chamberlian after four or five innigs could result in a Yankee loss. If Joba is cruising in a game with the Yankees winning, say 3-1, after five innings, the Yankees would then rather take the risk of blowing a September game with their bullpen coming in for the remaining four innings.

The Yankees do have a current six game lead over the second place Boston Red Sox, and with CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte throwing very well, the Yankees don’t appear to be in line to blow the division lead.

But, they should also keep an eye on Los Angeles for the best overall record in the American League. Especially if they want to limit Joba’s innings. With the best AL record, the Yankees get to choose what playoff schedule they want to appear. With the right schedule Joba does not even have to pitch until the ALCS, and then only one game there.

That is very appealing to the Yankees and their fans as they can ride the power arms of Sabathia and AJ Burnett, plus the playoff experience of Andy Pettitte as much as possible.

If the Yankees are worried about Joba throwing every five days and staying in “rotation” then they can simulate games while the ALDS is going on.

In today’s game, Joba only went three innings, giving up four hits and two earned runs. However, he did walk any White Sox hitters, and after only 35 pitches, Joba was relieved by Alfredo Aceves. With a plethora of pitchers (Mark Melancon, Anthony Claggett, Jonathan Albaladejo, Edwar Ramirez, Zachary Kroenke/Michael Dunn) likely being called up on Tuesday when rosters expand, the Yankees will have plenty of options to piggyback Joba’s future starts.

For example: Melancon, Claggett and Kroenke have regularly pitched 2+ innings in each of their last 10 appearances, with Claggett and Kroenke starting several games.

With the way it looked today, the best bet might be to always follow Joba with Aceves, the 26 year old multi-talented Mexican import*. That will allow Aceves to lengthen his innings to fill a long reliever/extra innings role during the playoffs.

*It is funny how the Yankees do not worry about Aceves’ innings, pitch counts or how they use him as he wasn’t a high draft pick or considered a “prospect.” Minor league starter to begin the season, multi-inning reliever, one inning reliever, major league spot starter. It didn’t matter for Aceves as he is still throwing the ball when called upon.

If the idea was to limit Joba’s innings this year, and the  didn’t ever want him in the bulpen, why not piggyback every one of Joba’s starts with a multi-innings relievers such as Aceves, Melancon, David Robertson or even Brett Tomko, who was the Yankees veteran “long man” early in the season.

It was a scenario I originally brought up on a radio show called “The Locker Room” with Kevin Williams last season when the Yankees moved Joba from reliever to starter.

That is exactly what the Yankees do in their minor leagues to develop their young pitchers, to keep their innings in check. Even though the minors are about development and not necessarily winning (although try telling that to the kids who travel the busses and play the games), it would have been better to let Joba from the #5 spot in the rotation go 30 starts at five to six innings per to get to his innings limit.

That scenario would have been much less problematic all season long, with less questions from an ever inquisitive New York media. After all isn’t it about Joba’s future and no his present?

With the stud aces at the top in CC and AJ, returning veterans Chien-Ming Wang and Pettitte and a potent lineup, this was the perfect season to let Joba and Aceves work the #5 rotation spot all season long. It would have limited Joba ‘s innings the correct way, and would have limited his frustrations, too.  It would have been a good plan all season long.

And it is the successful system the Yankee organization has been using in the minor leagues over the last several years.


Billy Wagner Succumbs To The Pressure

August 25, 2009

4:12 PM UPDATE: Billy Wagner just signed on to the trade to Boston. Wagner relented and decided it was better to go for a ring rather than stick it out in New York. Good move for him. If he succeeds in his role, their is a bigger payday ahead for him.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE:

Billy Wagner has told the New York Mets he will not waive his no-trade clause for a potential trade to the Boston Red Sox. Wagner stated that while Boston agreed not to pick up the $8 million option Wagner has on his contract for 2010, the Red Sox will not waive their ability to offer Wagner arbitration this off season.

By offering Wagner arbitration, and assuming Wagner is granted Type A free agency status, the Red Sox would then receive the signing teams first round pick (if they are not in the top 15 picks) and a compensatory first round pick. If the Sox offered Wagner arbitration, then any potential teams which wants to sign Wagner will forfeit their first round pick.

With the upcoming collective bargaining agreement seeking to curtail “over slot” high amateur bonuses, there is increased pressure on GM’ s to sign more guys now build from within. Draft picks, especially first round talent, are hot commodities.

Conversely, many veteran players last off season were not offered arbitration by their teams, and those which were offered arbitration did not get the big contract offers as they would have liked.

With the attached draft picks on his free agent status, their will be a diminished value next year for Wagner to close for another team for bigger money.

Teams did not want to give up their top picks. And with performance enhancing drugs out of the picture, most teams are going with youth from their own systems rather than the free agent market.

But one are where free agency is still prevalent and important is the closer market, and Wagner realizes this. Based upon his successful two appearances thus far in 2009 and his velocity at 95 MPH, Wagner feels he can make much more on the open market, without any variables (Type A status) affecting his money making position. Wagner just may well get a two year deal for much more than he would make next year alone-if he allowed to be an unrestricted free agent.

Was the claiming of Wagner by the Red Sox a ploy to get the two first round picks or did Boston really think they needed the lefty reliever/closer?

Some Red Sox players, specifically Jonathan Papelbon, have mentioned the Sox do not need Wagner and that he “hasn’t really pitched this year.”  Wagner retorted with a few choice comments about Papelbon.

The Red Sox are just coming off losing two of three to the Yankees, and are in the thick of the wild card chase, now leading the Texas Rangers by a game and a half, one in the loss column. At Wagner’s age and with all the money made that he is ever going to spend, why wouldn’t Billy agree to go to Boston? It might be his last chance to get a World Series Ring.

It’s about the money now, and there is too much pressure in Boston.  

That is why I feel Wagner doesn’t want to go to the Red Sox during the wild card race. Too much pressure to perform. There is no pressure right now with the Mets in the 8th inning, pitching every other day or every three days. There will be mucho pressure in Boston during tight game in mid-to-late September.

And Wagner knows he has not handled playoffs situations very well. His career record in playoff games is 1-1, 3 saves, 8.71 ERA in 11 appearances.

A non-pressured Wagner will perform better, and could command more money next year than his “measly” $8 million option.

I am surprised at this, but Wagner is looking at only the money. 

Now Omar Minaya sees the bigger picture and knows he needs to get younger throughout the Met system, which is done through the draft. Omar has never been a draft and develop GM, but this is his last chance to build a team. He now wants the two picks if Wagner is designated a Type A free agent.

Be careful what you wish for Omar. If Wagner doesn’t feel that a better offer during the off season is available, Wagner just might accept the arbitration, the Mets could be stuck with more than $8 million for one year on Wagner, and not get any draft picks.

Let’s see. An overpaid 8th inning guy in 2010 with an injury history on an eight figure contract?

Not very appealing if you’re the middle of the rung Mets.


Another Mets Loss on a Triple Play! – Let me count the ways they Find to Lose!

August 23, 2009

The Mets found another way to lose today, hitting the Philadelphia Phillies closer, Brad Lidge, hard in the 9th inning. They already had a run in when with runners on first (Daniel Murphy) and second (Luis Castillo), Jeff Franceuor lined a shot up the middle.

The runners were moving on the play (Jerry Manuel was trying, I guess, to stay out of the DOUBLE PLAY), when Eric Bruntlett snared Frankie’s hot smash, touched second to double up the runner there, and tagged Daniel Murphy coming into second base.

While trying to stay out of the double play, Manuel caused a game ending TRIPLE PLAY, only the second time ever that has occurred in major league history. It was also the 15th unassisted triple play in post-1900 major league history, tying the amount of perfect games in post-1900 history.

In fact, this was the third time a unassisted triple play and a perfect game (the two rarest feats in baseball) have happened in the same season. In 1968, Catfish Hunter beat the Twins on May 8th while Washington Senators shortstop Ron Hansen performed the feat on July 30th. In 1994 Kenny Rogers beat the Angels on July 28th, only three weeks after John Valentin had an unasssited triple play on July 8th. Lastly, both Bruntlett and Mark Buehrle accomplished each feat during this season.

I only use post-1900 seasons in my record talk since the game was so very different back then. Actually, everyone should use 1903 as the barometer since that was the first year of the World Series.

Anyway, the Mets have lost games via a dropped popup by Luis Castillo, missing third base while running (Ryan Church) and now an unassisted triple play.

Only the Mets..

Wouldn’t it be great if they lost a game on four home runs in a game by an individual? There have been 15 of those recorded in major league history, but only 13 of those are from post-1900.

And they also lose  a lot of games started by Oliver Perez. His start today is not even his worst start as a Met. Last year in San Francisco, Perez gave up six runs in the first inning, but only recorded one out.

Only the Mets.


Here is a Link to My Old Writings

August 23, 2009

http://blog.josephdelgrippo.com/


Billy Wagner…He’s Back with his Arm and his Mouth

August 21, 2009

I like Billy Wagner. Always have. Even when he was part of that no-hitter six years ago against the Yankees.

Wagner speaks his mind, like I usually do. And it gets him in trouble some times, like my mouth sometimes does too. I guess people get offended when they don’t want to hear certain things. True that many times, people can be taken aside and spoke to in private, like a manager with a player. But sometimes things need to be said out in front.

It’s like when a woman wants to “always hear the truth” and when you tell them the truth, and they don’t like what they hear, they get upset.

You may not like what Wagner has to say sometimes (especially if you are Oliver Perez) but you can’t doubt his passion for the game and the way it is played.

Listen to his quote after last night’s game: “To know that I was pretty much written off and then make it back quick, it was very enjoyable. I just wanted to go out there and throw strikes and not make a fool of myself. “

Typical Wagner. Breaking chops of all the doubters, and breaking his own as well. I am sure the media crush around his locker had fun last night at CitiField for the first time in a while.

Another reason why I like Wagner is that he advanced to the majors via a Division 3 small college Ferrum College in Virginia. I also went to and played college ball at a D3 school.

But when his song Enter Sandman played on the sound system AFTER his impressive inning of work (3 up-3 down, 2 whiffs vs the meat of the Braves order), it seemed like it was Wagner’s New York curtain call.

It would be great for Wagner to have shown what he could do, then be sent to a contender and play the last month of this season in a playoff race.

Unfortunately for Billy, Omar Minaya is still at the controls and is supposedly looking for a “top prospect” for Wagner.

The mets should get what they can get, but unless the Mets are going to pick up Wagner’s option for next year (at $8 million, it is unlikely), they will pay the $1 million buyout and Wagner is done – and the Mets get nothing.  

Mets need to take their losses on Wagner being hurt last season, do the right thing and trade Billy to a contender. They will save money and get a player, but don’t shoot for the moon on the player. Get something the system needs – get a young arm.

What teams would be interested in Wagner? Three teams come to mind (Atlanta, Philly, Florida), but they are all in the NL East. Would Omar trade Wagner to one of those teams, knowing he would help a rival to win this season?

Also, remember that Wagner does have the option for 2010, and if he is healthy and productive, why wouldn’t the new team want to sign a dominant closer for one season? It would be like the Angels getting a free agent on a financially feasible one-year deal for under market conditions.

While only out of the wild card by three games, Tampa Bay is also a possibility, and they could really use a veteran presence like Wagner, even for next season, too. There is no way Tampa would part with top pitching prospect Wade Davis, but would Jeremy Hellickson or even Rayner Oliveros be available?

They could be if Omar pulls the trigger early. The more time you give a new team with Wagner the more quility you will get back. Also, a team like the Rays could pick up Wagner’s option for next season. Even though he came back early (only 11 months) Wagner would have all fall and winter to continue his rest and rehab.

Omar needs to listen to all offers, even if they come from within the division, but unless he is looking to re-sign Billy for next year, Omar needs to take what he can get.

Exit Sandman.


New York Yankee 40 man roster needs this off season

August 20, 2009

Every year right after the World Series, the various major league teams need to update their 40 man roster. Sometime in November new names are added and mnay players are designated for assignment and released. The new 40 man roster attendees are usually young players (unless your the Mets, then you need to be over 40) who have impressed and moved up the ranks.

Most are in AA and AAA, but a few needing protecting could be in A ball, especially if the player has just come back from injury. In fact, the Yankees do have one pitcher who fits that description.

If a player not on a 40-man roster has spent four years with a minor-league contract originally signed when 19 or older or five years when signed before the age of 19, he is eligible to be chosen by any team in the rule 5 draft during the off-season. Usually when college players are drafted and they spend three seasons within organization, they are eligible for the Rule 5 draft. High school players (or underage free agents) need to spend four seasons before needing 40 man protection.

The 40 man roster was devised to keep deep teams from hoarding talent within their system.

The Yankees are very fond of keeping young pitchers on the 40 man, exposing injured players and generally have been pretty good about keeping their good talent within. No, I won’t get into the Damaso Marte/Xavier Nady deal for Ross Ohlendorf and Daniel McCutchen. By the way, Ohlendorf now is 11-8 with a 4.15 ERA (sorry no FIP numbers available) for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

But the Yankees will need to make significant changes to their 40 man roster this off season. There are good things and bad things about having a tremendous draft (like the Yankees did in 2006) is that all the great college players they took in that draft need to be on the 40 man roster this November. Or they could be drafted elsewhere.

Also, all the high school talent taken prior to 2006 need to be added, too. This group includes future Yankee fan whipping boy Austin Jackson, taken in the 8th round in 2005.

I have identified 11 Yankee farmhands who need to be protected this off season, some household names to those who follow the Yankees, and some which are not.

Those I would ABSOLUTELY protect at Triple A include Jackson, UT Kevin Russo, LHP Zach Kroenke (who will likely be called up anyway in September) and RHP Ivan Nova. Interestingly, both Kroenke and Nova were left unprotected last season, were selected by the Marlins and Padres, respectively, then offered back to the Yankees.

I was shocked both of those guys did not stick with the drafting teams.

Russo is a former college hitting star who can multiple positions including third, second and short. Similar to Ramiro Pena, but with more pop, but less of a glove. He will stick with another team if taken, but his history of injuries might scare off teams.

At Double A Trenton, I would ABSOLUTELY keep RHP Kanekoa Texeira, SS Eduardo Nunez and RHP Lance Pendleton. Little Tex was obtained from the White Sox in the Nick Swisher deal, and Nunez surprised many people in spring training with his hitting exploits (which have carried over into this season). Pendleton is interesting because while he is 26, he finally has been healthy.

Also starting the season at High A Tampa was RHP Tim Norton, a 26 year old taken out of college in that great 2006 draft. I would protect him, too, unless his recent 7 day DL is related to his shoulder surgery he had over a year ago. He is a beast on the mound with a little bit of a mean streak which would serve him well in the bullpen.

That is eight guys, but there are a few tweeners, too. Guys like OF Colin Curtis and George Kontos at AAA plus RHP Jason Stephens, who has bounced around the entire minor league system and is currently at High A Tampa.

Curtis likely won’t stick with another team if taken, but he is a sparkplug type of guy. A little pop, good defense, some speed. Kontos had Tommy John surgery on July 7th and should be out May/June of next season, so he might slip through. But he was performing extremely well before the surgery and I might not take on chance on him. The Yankees are very high on him, and if he didn’t not hurt his arm, he would likely be the #5 starter right now.

Jason Stephens is still only 24 and has been in the Yankee system since age 18, when he was a third round pick out of high school. He has appeared in High A, AA and AAA this season. He had really good success in the early part of his career before elbow surgery, and has pitched effectively this year despite the bouncing around, both with the levels and as a starter and reliever.

I feel if the Yankees left Stephens alone as a starter at Double A this season, he would have better numbers all around. I would protect Stephens because a lesser team could just stick him away as the last guy in the bullpen, and at age 24, he still has loads of potential. 

Of the maybe tweeners, I would keep both Kontos and Stephens, but let Curtis dangle. Yankees might feel otherwise as Curtis is destined for the Arizona Fall League. Maybe an audition for Colin to make the 40 this year? Kevin Russo did the same last year. He was a surprise pick for th AFL, but really blossomed out west and worked his way into the Yankees plans. And that is probably what the Yankees will do, too, as they love to hold young pitching.

Good deal for Curtis, who is a very likable guy, cancer survivor and all. He also played his college baseball at Arizona State. I remember last year after the Trenton Thunder won the Eastern League title, I asked Curtis if that title was bigger than starring in the College World Series his junior season. He smiled, took a few seconds, and said “the College World Series was awesome.”

He actually faced Joba Chamberlain and Zach Kroenke of Nebraska in Game 2, doubling off Kroenke in the 8th.

But since we are adding 10 guys to the 40 man roster, there needs to be some people released off the current 40.

On the current Yankees 40 man roster are marginal players not likely to have an impact on the Yankees major league team such as Jonathan Albaladejo, Wilkin De La Rosa, Christian Garcia (he’s hurt AGAIN!), Edwar Ramirez, Kevin Cash, Shelley Duncan and Xavier Nady.  

That’s seven guys right there – gone, released, see ya’. No way they ever get a shot with the parent club, and many could be re-signed after the release. Yankees just need to clear room for the new blood.

Everyone expects Francisco Cervelli to become the full time backup next season, so that eliminates Jose Molina. Hideki Matsui, as I have written previously, will not be retained. And that is even more true now that he recently had his knee drained, the second time this season he has had that procedure.

That’s nine.

And now the big decisions. Despite how they pitch this season, I can’t see Chad Gaudin and Sergio Mitre being part of the team for next season, but the Yankees could keep one (if not both) on the roster for depth. Even more so if what I believe should happen, will happen.

That gets us down to the last two possibilities.

Chien-Ming Wang had surgery on his shoulder in July and no one knows how that capsule tear will respond to the stress of throwing. If the Yankees release Wang, will another team claim him? If the Yankees offer Wang arbitration (they have tow more years left on Wang control), he will definitely get no less than $4 million. MLB limits salary reduction at 20%.

The Yankees likely will no-tender Wang, and try to sign him to a minor league deal where he can rehab at his own pace. But if another team signs him to a major league deal, Wang will get major league money, and that it is a possibility of Wang pitching in late 2010 or even 2011 with say…the Dodgers.

The other possibility is Andrew Brackman. Is there anybody out there in Yankee land who thinks this guy is ever going to make it to the big leagues, let alone any higher than Double A? He can’t even throw the ball into the strike zone – at Low A Charleston! Imagine him trying to throw into the miniscule strike zones of major league umpires?

The most important aspect in pitching is control, more important than velocity of “stuff.” Very few pitchers succeed with velocity and stuff but no control, but many succeed with great control and normal velocity.

But no way the Yankees (ie: Brian Cashman) releases Brackman off the 40 man roster, at least not until he gets another year under his belt.

If it comes down to making a decision on one more player to be released to fill out the 40 man roster, I would probably release Wang, try and sign him to a minor league deal then hope for the best that he doesn’t still feel too perturbed about being taken to arbitration a few years ago, losing, and having the Yankees brag about it to the press.

The Yankees would then likely need both Gaudin and Mitre on the roster if Wang goes somewhere else on a major league deal.

That’s what I would do with the 40 man roster this off season. Ten men in, ten men out.


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