The New York Yankees: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Segment No. 4

June 15, 2010

This is the latest installment of the 2010 New York Yankee progress, honoring the epic Clint Eastwood movie of the same name. According to the astute readers of imdb.com, the Baseball-Reference of the movie and T.V. industry, “Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo ” is ranked as the No. 4 movie of all time .

What is more important is that the Yankees have vaulted themselves into the No. 1 record in the major leagues. With Sunday’s 9-5 win over the Houston Astros, combined with Tampa Bay’s 6-1 loss to the Florida Marlins, the Yankees and Rays are tied atop of the AL East with identical 40-23 records , the best record in MLB.

The Yankees have been 9-3 in June, fattening up on the Baltimore Orioles (5-1) and the Houston Astros (recent three game sweep), while losing two of three to the pitching-rich Toronto Blue Jays.

All numbers are from the last 14 days, unless noted.

Il Buono

No. 1 Robinson Cano —has slashed .395 BA/.469 OBP/.605 SLG/1.074 OPS, with three doubles, two homers, seven RBI and 13 runs scored. Even more impressive are his numbers over the last month at .443/.476/.660/1.136.

During one stretch of his recent 17 game hitting streak, Cano had multiple hits in eight straight (19-33, 3 2B, 3 HR, 14 RBI).

Simply ridiculous, and at the top of the leaderboards for American League MVP.

No. 2 Brett Gardner —How can you not love Brett the Jet?  After a mini-slump which brought his numbers down considerably, Gardner began to hit again (and walk), by slashing .455/.552/.773/1.324 over the last week. Included were a double, triple, and his third home run.

Until Sunday, that homer tied him for the New York city left field lead with the New York Mets Jason Bay, he of the $66 million contract. Bay hit his fourth home run Sunday, but Gardner still leads the very wealthy Bay in OPS (.822 vs. .806).

No. 3 Derek Jeter —Do you really think he was going to stay on the bad list forever? After going through a long funk at the plate and in the field, which prompted the annual “Is Derek Jeter Done?” articles, Jeter has ripped a .333/.391/.514/.906 line over the last month.

While many do not like it when Jeter goes after the first pitch, he is hitting .404 with a .908 OPS when hacking at the first offering. The key is swinging at good strikes.

No. 4 Curtis Granderson —While Granderson’s overall numbers since returning from the disabled list are not great, the team has picked up its pace since Curtis returned to the lineup and his position in center.

That is because we saw less of Randy Winn (before being released), Marcus Thames and rookie Kevin Russo.

The Yankees are 12-4 since his return, but were only 7-11 in the last 18 games he was out of the lineup.

I would still like Granderson to sit back more when he swings, as he is often out in front on the right leg during swings and misses.

No. 5 Nick Swisher —He is turning in to one of my favorite Yankee players. I was not a fan of the trade which brought him here, but he has done very well, and has been instrumental in the lengthening of the 2009 and 2010 lineups. Has hit a very consistent .308/.402/.495/896 with 19 runs, eight doubles, three homers and 16 RBI over last month.

No. 6 CC Sabathia —What? He is struggling, right? Well, he is 2-0 with a 3.21 ERA in his two June starts. A 6-3 record thus far should be 8-3, but CC lost a win at Boston because of a rain delay and another when Joe Girardi pulled CC early against the Sawx and the bullpen blew the game.

This is a durable pitcher who should be allowed to throw 125-135 pitches each start.

No. 7 Andy Pettitte —Happy Birthday to Pettitte, who turns 38 today. Imagine on Thursday when Pettitte faces Jamie Moyer, who is seven years older than Andy?

Age is no factor for Pettitte, who is still dominating lineups by changing speeds and hitting corners. Again, why do scouts always worry about velocity and arm strength when a guy who does not top 90 MPH can consistently get guys out?

No. 8 Yankee bullpen —Over the last two weeks, the main part of the bullpen, Mariano Rivera, Joba, D-Rob, Chan Ho Park and Damaso Marte have been outstanding. They have thrown 21 innings, allowing 12 hits, five walks, and struck out 23. That is a WHIP of .809 and the one earned run allowed leads to a miniscule 0.43 ERA.

No. 9 Javier Vazquez —He is 4-1, 3.03 ERA over the last month with a 0.918 WHIP. While he has allowed five home runs, Javy has only walked five over his last 33 innings. He has been the most consistent starter this side of Pettitte.

He is similar to Andy by changing speeds and hitting that outside corner to RH hitters with his curve ball being the key to his success.

Il brutto

No. 1 Francisco Cervelli— Wow! He has come back down to earth faster than the Space Shuttle. Over the last month, the Cisco Kid has hit under .200 with an OPS of .522. He still dos come through with key RBI singles.

His 13 hits (all singles) over the last month have produced 12 RBI. He is still a force on defense and calls a great game.

I love the way he watches the batter before he puts down the sign. Concentrate on Cervelli during a couple at bats tonight and you will see what I mean.

No. 2 Alex Rodriguez —it has nothing to do with his lack of power, because he is still hitting the ball hard. But his injury could be more severe than a few missing days. Any long term time missed could hurt the Yankees lineup at a time when it was finally complete. (I do not count Nick Johnson).

No. 3 Jorge Posada —Two swings doesn’t make a season. Posada was brutal before his two grand slam weekend, but he also swung the bat better in other at bats during the Houston Series.

Posada gets into a taking pitches groove once in a while, taking good hitting strikes. This leads to indecisiveness and too much thinking at the plate.

When Posada is aggressive and still taking his walks by not swinging at balls outside the zone, he is a much better hitter.

Stay aggressive and hit good pitches, Jorge!  

Il cattivo

No. 1 AJ Burnett —An 0-2 record with 7.11 ERA in June with four home runs allowed in two games. Combine that with five walks and 14 hits in 12.2 innings pitched, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Bad AJ go home, but tell your twin brother, good AJ, to come back out and play.

No. 2 Marcus Thames —basically it is the entire bench which stinks, but since I think Thames never should have made the team in the first place, he is my poster boy.

Thames is 2 for his last 22 with eight strikes out and an OPS of .322. By the time his injury heals, I hope Chad Huffman (or Jorge Vazquez from Triple A) takes his roster spot – for good.

Combine Thames with Ramiro Pena, Kevin Russo and Chad Moeller, and the bench is 14 for 81 with four doubles and six RBI over the last month.

That is why Alex needs to be back in the lineup soon.

No. 3 Chad Gaudin —There is no conceivable reason why Gaudin actually pitches in games or is on the roster. He stinks!

Having been released twice already this season, once by the Yankees should only reiterate how bad this guy is.

There is no reason why Gaudin should have been in the June 5th game in the bottom of the 13th in a tie game at Toronto. It only took nine pitches before the Yankees were walking off the field.

That 13th inning rundown: Batter One – leadoff walk on FOUR pitches. Batter two – sac bunt on second pitch. Batter three – game winning single on an 0-2 count!

No way the Yankees should lose on the road to a division rival without using your best relief pitcher, Mariano Rivera.

Get rid of this loser, Gaudin, and bring up Mark Melancon for good.

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Jorge Posada needs to rehab more than just his shoulder

October 20, 2008

It was recently reported that Jorge Posada will begin a throwing program around December 1st. It has been speculated that if Posada’s surgically repaired shoulder is unable to return to prior form, he would be a possible replacement for first base and sometime DH.

But, Posada has demanded that he catch and doesn’t want to play 1B or even DH full time. That puts the Yankees into a bind, given that they need to decide what to do at first for 2009.

My advice to Posada is to play wherever the team tells you to play. Be a team player and stop worrying about your petty self esteem issues and think about what is best for the team – not just yourself. The Yankees are the team that gave you a $52 million contract after the 2007 season, and they are your employer. After an injury riddled first year of that deal, think they would like to renegotiate those terms?

On July 30, Posada had surgery to repair a torn labrum, and since his shoulder was worse than originally thought, he also had work done to repair tears in the rotator cuff. It is not the first time Posada had surgery on that shoulder – he had a small labrum tear repaired in 2001.

Since the labrum is cartilage and not muscle, it remains very difficult to return to form. So, Posada has had two surgeries to repair the labrum. His very likely won’t have a strong enough arm to be able to stand the rigors of the major leagues, and he won’t be able to throw runners out on a consistent basis.

He should not be the full-time catcher next season.

However, if he whines and gets to catch, it will seem like Dave Roberts is on base all the time.

Of all the surgeries that could be performed on the throwing arm, labrum surgery is the worst.

I had labrum surgery and it took me more than a full year to be able to throw a ball again with any authority, and even then the throws weren’t as strong as they were before the surgery. I was 36 at the time of my surgery – the same age Posada is now.

Also, a check of major league players who have had torn labrums repaired reveal that Mark Mulder, Rob Nen, Jason Schmidt and former elite pitchers Mark Gubicza and Houston pitcher Mike Scott never fully recovered. The only pitchers I am aware of who have successfully returned have been Dwight Gooden (no-hitter in 1996, but did not have nearly the same velocity), Arizona reliever Jon Rauch and Kansas City starter Gil Meche.

So why is Posada insisting on catching next year? Why did he snap at reporters in July when manager Joe Girardi mentioned that Posada played 1st base on July 10th?

Here is a newspaper report from that incident: “Still, Posada stubbornly had maintained plans to return this season. He even defiantly snapped at reporters when he played first base July 10 in Pittsburgh: ‘I like to catch. Okay? I’m happy that I’m in the lineup, but I like to catch. I’m a catcher. I’m not a first baseman and I’m not a DH. I like to catch, so I’m looking forward to catching.’”

That defiant statement about not being able to play where he wanted was a direct slap in the face to Girardi. There have been recent reports also that indicated Posada has been detrimental to Girardi’s authority in the clubhouse.

Clearly, Posada is not enamored with his manager? But why?

It all goes back to 1999. Here is a statement from back then: “The New York Yankees picked up their $3.4 million option on Joe Girardi yesterday, keeping their catching platoon in place for 1999.” A catching platoon with Posada.

It’s obvious that Posada still has a beef with Girardi over Joe’s return in 1999. During the 1998 season, Posada caught the majority of games and was becoming the starting catcher, but when Girardi was resigned for the 1999 season, Posada became upset, mainly because he wanted to be the everyday catcher.

That was the year when Joe Torre missed the beginning of the season with prostate cancer surgery and Don Zimmer had the managerial reigns. Posada knows that Zimmer preferred Girardi and played him the majority of time early that season.

Here is what Posada said about that time period: “‘It was tough because we didn’t know what was going on,’ Posada said. ‘Don Zimmer was our manager, and there were a lot of changes. I’m the starting catcher, but now I’m not starting. I played the first game (of the season) and then I didn’t play the next few days…it seemed like Zim didn’t have the trust in me. (Girardi) was like a son, and he trusted him a little more.’”

Girardi was Zimmer’s catcher for a couple of years when Zimmer managed the Chicago Cubs. He knew Girardi and liked his ability. Posada was still young and some pitchers liked throwing to Girardi more. That is why Joe Torre insisted Girardi be signed for the 1999 season.

Posada’s resentment likely stems from an even earlier time. He didn’t make the cut on the 1996 post season roster (Torre chose utility man Andy Fox instead of a third catcher) and split time with Girardi in 1997 and 1998. But, he was still young and had plenty of future ahead of him.

Besides the pitchers liking to throw to him, Girardi was kept around for another reason – continue with the tutelage he began with Posada, who was still early in his catching career, having been drafted by the Yankees as a second baseman.

Girardi stayed with the Yankees in 1999 to continue to help Posada, but Jorge resents it because he wasn’t the full time guy. Posada was only the main guy behind the plate on one World Series title team during that dynasty – the 2000 team. And that is the main reason why he is so bitter towards Girardi.

But Girardi was extremely helpful to the young Posada. After Posada arrived for a platoon role in 1997, Girardi knew Posada would eventually take over the majority of the playing time and rather than resent Posada, Girardi embraced and tutored him.

Zimmer said it best back then, “No catcher could come to the big leagues could be treated any better than Posada. But that’s Joe’s style. Joe has done everything he could to make the other guy better.”

However, Posada said in a 2008 interview about his favorite moment as a Yankee (catching David Wells’ 1998 perfect game), that he was happy when Girardi left the team so he can be the full-time catcher.

Posada’s mouth has not been confined to only his position on the field either. Since he had shoulder surgery, Posada also has become a champion of controversy.

He rehashed the Joba Chamberlain debate, adamantly stating on Michael Kay’s YES network’s CenterStage show that Chamberlain needs to be a reliever because, while going 200+ innings, he would get hurt as a starter. Another likely reason is because Posada feels that with Chamberlain in the bullpen, the Yankees would be a better team.

 But if Posada can’t throw (and history states he won’t throw as well), wouldn’t the Yankees be a better team with him at 1B/DH?

Other players have done the position switch. Throughout history, major players have switched positions for the betterment of their team (and the length of their careers).

Robin Yount moved from SS to CF for the Milwaukee Brewers (and won an MVP at each position); Dale Murphy moved from catcher to CF and Cal Ripken moved from SS to 3B. Even HOFers Ernie Banks, Carl Yastrzemski and a former Yankee catcher, Yogi Berra, have switched positions to help the team.

Banks and Yaz switched to first base. If those great names can switch, then Posada can make the switch.

Players have moved for injuries, too. This season, Kevin Youkilis has played OF, 1B and 3B. He came up to the Red Sox in 2004 and played mostly 3B, but moved over to 1B when the Red Sox traded for Mike Lowell after the 2005 season.

Because Lowell is now injured, Youkilis has moved back over to third for the playoffs. He has even played a few games at second base and originally was drafted by the Red Sox as a catcher.

Bottom line is that Youkilis is a baseball playing, team player who will do anything to keep his bat in the lineup and help his team win. He does not pop off and complain that “I am a first baseman and I want to play first base.”

Jorge Posada needs to put his mouth and ego on hold and do what is BEST FOR THE TEAM. Maybe that is one reason why the Yankees did not make the playoffs in 2008 – not many team players.

When Posada needs to get ready for Spring Training, he can bring his catcher’s mitt, but he better make sure he also has a first baseman’s glove.

It’s what’s best for the team.