Vin Mazzaro and Mike Minor Hurling Against the New York Teams Tonight

August 31, 2010

And I sponsor both their pages on

Here are those pages:  Mike Minor and Vin Mazzaro.

Mazzaro is a Bergen County (NJ) kid who dominated high school at Rutherford High. He played his games just over the George Washington Bridge from Yankee Stadium and I still do not know why the Yankees did not select him as he was right under their noses.

But, while he is in the majors now for the Oakland A’s, if Mazzaro was a Yankee, he likely still would have been mired in the minors.

And speaking of minors, Mike is 2-0 in his young career and is coming off a 12 strike out performance over the Chicago Cubs. He was the 7th overall pick in last years amateur draft out of Vanderbilt University.

Many baseball analysts said he was a reach going that high, but it sure has worked out better for he and the Atlanta Braves than the first guy drafted last year, huh?

Anyway, I also sponsor guys like Josh Johnson, Mike Leake, Rick Porcello, Mark Melancon, David Robertson, Johnny Sain (former Yankee great pitching coach) and Jim Tracy, who went to Marietta College like I did.

New York Mets Woes With Jason Bay Were Predictable

July 21, 2010

When many Mets fans were clamoring for their “big left field bat” last December, I was one of the few who thought signing Bay would be a mistake.

I did the research, analyzed the situation and came to the conclusion that the Bay signing would be a big waste of money for the Mets.

You can my original article right here. You can also see what I wrote AFTER the Mets did sign Bay.

It was a complete mistake by Omar Minaya, but what else do you really expect coming from a guy who was GIVEN his first GM job because he was Latino. Minaya has no baseball acumen whatsoever, and has made countless mistakes during his two GM tenures, the first in Montreal where he single-handedly almost ruining that Expos/Washington Nationals franchise.

The Bay signing was a disaster from the start as the big free agent bats last year (Bay and Matt Holliday), I thought would only use the Mets to gain more dollars from their 2009 teams, then re-sign with them.

Well, I was wrong on that one, but the only reason that Bay did sign with the Mets was because no one else wanted him for four years. Bay supposedly had knee issues which could haunt him a few years from now.  

I did predict in the second piece linked above that Bay would end up like Richie Sexson, a hitter signed to a big deal by Seattle to provide the “next step” for the Mariners.

Sexson provided two good seasons for the Mariners but then suffered a huge decline and was an albatross for the remaining two seasons before he was released.

Boy, was I wrong about that. Bay has turned into Sexson not in the third year of his contract – but he has turned into him during the first year of his 4-year, $66 million deal.

With slugging rookie Ike Davis shooting up the system, and Daniel Murphy (obviously before he got hurt) doing well his first full season in the majors, the Mets at the time did not need Bay’s bat. They needed pitching.

And if the Mets wanted to spend $66 million, they would have been better off signing John Lackey, the biggest free agent pitcher in the last off-season.

Only if Omar listened.

Randy Winn Designated For Assignment

May 28, 2010

As per the Lohud Yankee Blog:

As I mentioned earlier, the Yankees liked Russo’s versatility. Coupled with the fact that Russo has a better approach at the plate, iut made Randy Winn expendable.

Thanks for the three-run homer.

With Phil Hughes, as Yogi Berra Would Say, It’s Deja Vu All Over Again

April 22, 2010

He is not the savior, and he was never a prodigy, but he was a talented right-handed pitcher who had a popping fastball and killer, knee-buckling curve.

The fact that Phil Hughes carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning of last night’s game on the road, against an American League West opponent in his second start of the season, seemed familiar to Yankee fans.

That is because Hughes turned the same trick three seasons ago on May 1, 2007, as a 21-year-old in his second ever major league start at Texas. That game ended with Hughes allowing no hits but being removed from the game, as he popped his hamstring* making a pitch.

As Yogi would say, “It was deja vu all over again,” which is basically being repetitively redundant.

*The great image on SNY a few days ago of New York Mets reliever Ryota Igarashi’s hamstring popping and visible from underneath his pants was the same as Hughes’ hamstring issue in 2007 and Pedro Martinez’ in 2008.

Hughes did return that season, starting 13 games total.

Hs second start last night was just as dominating—probably more dominating. His fastball was great, and his curve induced many weakly hit balls, as there were not too many balls in play that were hit hard. The hardest-hit ball might have been Eric Chavez’ up the middle grounder that hit Hughes and bounced away, and Chavez made it to first base safely.

His final line last night was impressive: 7.1 IP, one H, one ER, two BB, and 10 K’s, with 70 strikes thrown in his 101 total pitches. He probably would have been able to finish the eighth inning, but Hughes walked Gabe Gross in a nine-pitch at-bat two batters after Chavez’ single.

Hughes pretty much threw fastballs, cutters, and curves all night, and when he needed to, he blew the ball by hitters for many of his 10 strikeouts. Interestingly, the pitch f/x summary indicated Hughes did not throw a single change-up, the same pitch he worked on throughout spring training.

Hughes’ command of that new pitch was the primary reason manager Joe Girardi and GM Brian Cashman gave Hughes the coveted fifth starter’s job.

The Yankees had too much invested in Hughes’ development as a former first round pick and projected savior. He is not a savior, but just a talented kid finally getting another chance at starting in the major leagues.

I am not complaining about Hughes getting that fifth starter’s job, as it was a foregone conclusion that he would “win” the job. It did not matter how well Alfredo Aceves or Sergio Mitre pitched. That is why the manager and GM came out with those change-up command reasons for keeping him in the rotation and sending Joba Chamberlain to the pen.  

I was against Joba in the pen (I believe Mark Melancon can be a dominant closer), as I feel he can still be a very effective starting pitcher, but it appears Cashman and Girardi’s plan of Hughes in the rotation and Joba in the pen has worked very well.

Everybody is happy with that.

New York Yankees: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

April 21, 2010

One of the best Clint Eastwood movies from his Western days was “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.” Fantastic. Rent it if you have not seen it. In fact, get a bunch of Clint movies one rainy day and park yourself on the couch.

This movie title is going to be the same as this Yankee theme. It will be a bi-weekly segment on the most recent Yankee two week stretch of games.

Don’t look now, but despite Javier Vazquez, the Yankees enter Wednesday at 10-3, a half game ahead of Tampa Bay and Minnesota for the best record in baseball.

With a record that strong, the Yankees obviously have much which is good about their team. Veteran Yankees like Robinson Cano, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter have performed well, while CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett have not suffered the Yankee sophomore jinx.

Newcomer Curtis Granderson was well documented in his inability to hit left handed pitching, but has hit well enough against southpaws. He was also supposed to have bad routes to the ball in the outfield, but appears to do an admirable job with the leather.

They have the best offense, and best starting pitching in the American League.

Here are my opinions on various players over the first two weeks:


1) CC Sabathia —He continues to be the defined ace. A 2-0 record with a 2.84 ERA and 0.737 WHIP including two dominant starts. The Yankees likely will not have a long losing streak (5+ games) as long as CC is pitching. The thought of removing him in his near no-hitter is dumb . Let this guy pitch and pitch often.

2) A.J. Burnett —I was not a big fan of his signing last year, but, after a nice rookie Yankee campaign, he has also produced this season. Has thrown the same amount of innings as CC with a better ERA (2.37 vs 2.84).

3) Andy Pettitte —Why do too many scouts and baseball people continue to stress high velocity for young starting pitchers? True that extra speed will let you get away with some mistakes, but Pettitte has showed over the last year and this April that a starter can win with movement, changing speeds and location. He didn’t top 90 MPH all day Sunday and still dominated a strong Texas Rangers lineup.

4) Robinson Cano —His hitting for early power has dramatically boosted his lineup presence. Hitting in the No. 5 spot is paying off early and his good start has helped temper the slower starts of Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez.

5) Brett Gardner —Brett the Jet has gotten on base at a .410 clip, and has shown what he can do when on the bases with seven steals, tied for the league lead. Still needs to improve his swing, as it is still a bit jumpy. Amazing that he went from first to third last week on a single by Derek Jeter to left field.

He should be in the lineup most every day, and leave the pinch hit duties for Marcus Thames, whose defensive skills are brutal. There is enough offense in that lineup that Thames’ right handed bat is not needed every time a lefty pitcher starts.

6) Curtis Granderson —He has performed about as well anyone could have hoped. He has hit for average (.313 BA), hit for power (.563 SLG) and also hit better against LHP (.263 BA). A good guy in the clubhouse, who has given the Yankees good early returns playing under the bright lights of New York.

7) Overall offense —First in runs scored, first in OBP, SLG and OPS, and second in batting average. They has also knocked in those runners once they get on base, hitting .291 with RISP.

8) Joe Girardi —Seems to be even better this year, but does have a little Sparky Anderson in him pulling pitchers too early. I still do not know why he removed David Robertson entering the seventh inning of game one in Boston .

Robertson did give up the game tying hit to Adrian Beltre in the sixth, but then got two weakly hit ground balls for easy outs. No way you burn K-Rob after only six pitches to bring in Chan Ho Park.

Unless it is for Mariano Rivera, never take out a pitcher who is doing well. You just do not know how the new pitcher will be, but you already can see how the current guy is throwing.


1) Robinson Cano —Huh? How is Cano good and bad? While Cano has had a nice start, most of his damage is still with the bases empty. He is only hitting .214 with RISP, and .227 with men on base. He also has a .100 average (1 for 10) in high leverage situations .

Cano still swings at too many bad pitches, getting himself out on pitches out of the strike zone or on good pitchers pitches.

I like his aggressiveness but he needs to be more tempered and selective during big at bats.

2) Nick Johnson —I really don’t care about his high OBP, he takes too many pitches which are good pitches to hit. That working the pitcher stuff is crap. When a hitter works the count against a pitcher who throws strikes, pretty soon you are down in the count and sitting on the bench very quickly.

Johnson struck out looking three times in Sunday’s game!

If it is a good pitch to hit, then hit the ball; especially with a struggling Teixeira hitting behind you. There are certain times to take a walk (bases empty, man on first), but other times where you need to swing the freaking bat and drive in runs.

If Teixeira was swinging the bat well, then NJ can walk as much as he wants. But when Teixeira, and Alex early on, were struggling, with men were on base and good pitches pumped down the middle, a hitter has to adapt to the situation and swing the bat.

3) Derek Jeter —The Captain is hitting .345/.368/.545/.914 OPS with three home runs, nine runs scored and nine RBI. Why is he bad?

Jeter is resorting again to his early pitch swings at balls he has no business swinging at. Like first pitch fastballs on the inside corner. That is not his pitch. He should only be swinging at inside fastballs if he has two strikes in order to protect. Otherwise, wait for a pitch near the middle or outside and drive it up the middle of the other way.

On good pitches for him to hit, Jeter is magnificent.

His bat seems a bit slow, though, and all those weak ground balls to short stop are an indication and the result.

Also, he has looked a bit tentative defensively, making one error and booting several other balls which were deemed hits by overly friendly official scorers.


1) Mark Teixeira —We know he will hit, but when will it begin? It appears he has bad approaches at the plate in that he knows he is a slow starter and is waiting for May to begin.

But, he is playing extremely well in the field, and there is no one else I would rather have as the Yankees first baseman. This team is so good, that is can get off to a 10-3 start with your #3 hitter looking like Bob Buhl  most of the first two weeks.

UZR Warning – Teixeira’s UZR took a hit early in the season when Jacoby Ellsbury doubled down the right field line. Doesn’t matter that Tex was playing Ellsbury (who doesn’t pull the ball down the line much) over in the 3.5 hole. A ball hit into his zone was not turned into an out.

2) Javier Vazquez —Up until last night I was going to include a REALLY UGLY category, but Vazquez got on the board with his first Yankee W in 2010. As in his first two starts, Vazquez puts up ZEROES most of the innings he works, but then gives up the big (2+ run) inning.

With Travis Buck solo HR in the 5th inning, it was the first time Vazquez worked an inning where only one run was scored. It is usually two-plus runs or zeroes. That was the pattern when Kurt Suzuki took him deep an inning later, resulting from the miscommunication on a lazy pop up behind second base. 

How many UZR were affected by that ball?  

Neither HR hurt as the Yankees had the big six run lead. In fact, Buck’s HR came on a 3-2 pitch with the bases empty. With a six run lead, Javy did what pitchers are supposed to do: throw it down the middle and hope for the best. But why not throw all the pitches down the middle at that point?

And as Pettitte has shown this year, you do not need 92+ fastballs to win in the league. So no worries here about Javy’s reduced velocity from last season.


The Yankees are stacked, having the best hitting in the league and the best starting pitching, too. Even the bullpen has been good, with Chan Ho Park’s Boston meltdown the only blemish. Bullpen ERA’s can get inflated with a blowout loss, so Robertson’s four-run inning while the Yankees were already losing late is not an issue.

But when the pen needs a big pitch, they are usually getting it—like Joba Chamberlain did last night by striking out Kevin Kouzmanoff with the bases loaded in the eighth inning.

What will happen in the next two weeks? Teixeira will hit, someone else will then slump (that’s baseball), Jeter, and CC and Posada will do their thing and Nick Johnson will continue to take pitches down the middle.

You can pitch count on it.

David Wright’s Career Is Over Unless He Becomes Fearless at the Plate

April 19, 2010

The event occurred after my college career was over and I was several seasons into one of the various semi-pro leagues I played in during the summer. Make no mistake about the quality of “summer ball,” as these were some of the most competitive seasons we ever played. A regular season was usually a 40-game schedule played over 60 days, then playoffs.

We were taking infield practice during a team workout and while playing second base, I moved to the left to field a ball hit into the 3.5 hole, when the ball hit something (the skin fields were never great), and came up and hit me square in the nose.

You can tell by my picture on my home page here a Bleacher Report , that it was not the only time I was hit in the nose by a baseball.

But this occasion, which produced a stream of blood and an immediately dark black eye, produced a fear for me in fielding ground balls. I would flinch every time I was about to field a ground ball. For at least a month (or maybe more) I shied away from ground balls, especially those which were hit hard.

I was relegated to outfield duty until my fear of the baseball eventually subsided.

If a baseball player is ever fearful of the baseball, then their ability to play the game is severely compromised.

Which bring me to New York Mets third baseman, David Wright.

After watching the very draining three-game series the Mets played at the St. Louis Cardinals, I have come to the conclusion that Wright’s baseball career, as he and Met fans knew it, is over.

Why? The Aug. 15, 2009 fastball from San Francisco Giants RHP Matt Cain which beaned Wright in the head. That 94 MPH 0-2 pitch sailed in on Wright and knocked his helmet off.

When Wright was beaned, he suffered a concussion, was placed on the 15-day disabled list and did not return to the Mets lineup until Sep. 1, 2009. Wright missed 15 games.

This past weekend, I saw all three Met games, including all 20 innings Saturday night. In these three games, Wright ducked away from eight inside pitches, literally turning away from the ball in a frightened state.  

What was amazing is that all eight of these pitches were curveballs! They were pitches which were thrown at Wright, which then broke over the inside or middle part of the plate.

David Wright was afraid of these pitches as they were thrown at him.

Wright also now “steps in the bucket” on most pitches, pulling his front foot towards the third baseman rather than stepping straight at the pitcher. It must be noted that Wright, in his career prior to the beaning, almost always didn’t step directly at the pitcher, but his bailing out now is much more pronounced.

After the inside curveballs, Wright was peppered with breaking pitches away. The standard procedure, likely devised by Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa and pitching coach Dave Duncan, was to throw Wright inside pitches to get ahead and then get him out away.

But teams cannot pitch the same way every time to a hitter, so the Cardinals mixed up the philosophy a few at bats, just to keep Wright honest. They would work outside, then get him looking outside before coming in with their “out pitch.” 

Also, a couple times this weekend (ninth inning Saturday, fifth in Sunday) Wright took inside curve balls for strike three. Wright literally turned away from the ball before taking the called third strikes. The main situation is that the Cardinals sensed Wright’s fear and set him up all weekend.

Professional sports are copycat businesses, and I expect to see other teams follow suit with this program of pitching to Wright.

If he continues to be afraid of the ball, Wright will never be the same type of productive hitter he used to be prior to Aug. 15th of last season.

There have been many beanings in baseball’s history and some of the most famous include Tony Conigliaro of the Boston Red Sox, Dickie Thon of the Houston Astros, and Paul Blair of the Baltimore Orioles.

Because of various reasons none of these three hitters ever were the same as they were before the beaning. It is tough to get back in the batter’s box to face 90+ mile an hour pitches when you have suffered a head shot.

Blair even tried switch hitting before ending that experiment. I do remember Blair from his days as a New York Yankee, a backup outfielder on the two World Series teams of 1977 and 1978. At that time, Blair had a severe “step in the bucket” hitting style, afraid to stand in against right handed pitchers.

Blair was one of the best defensive center fielders of all time and was primarily a defensive specialist for those Yankee teams.

In addition to Wright, there were seven other players hit in the head with a pitch during the 2009 season, including Marco Scutaro, Paul Konerko, and even pitcher Micah Owings. A check of their statistics after their beaning indicates very little change, although I do notice Scutaro stepping away from the pitcher a little. Several players even hit a little better.

However, Wright returned after the beaning and hit .239 BA/.289 OBP/.367 SLG/.656 OPS after the beaning. This was after putting up a line of .324/.414/.467/.882 OPS prior to the beaning. That is very significant.

And Wright also walked only nine times and struck out 35 times in that final month after the beaning, whereas he never had less than nine free passes and never had more than 27 punch outs during a single month—in any full season of his career!

While that could be a fluky final month in 2009, combined with Wright’s slow start and high strikeout rate already (14 whiffs) this season, there should be cause for concern. While he has continued to walk (17 times so far in 2010), that can attributed more to big money free agent Jason Bay’s even worse start (another great move by Omar !), the batter who normally hits behind Wright.

While the above beaned player’s careers were stunted after their beanings, three Hall of Fame players also suffered severe beanings—Mickey Cochrane, Joe Medwick, and Frank Robinson.

Cochrane was the premiere catcher in his day but never played another game after he was beaned in 1937, but both outfielder’s Medwick and Robinson returned to the diamond. 

Medwick won the National League’s Triple Crown in 1937 as a 25-year-old. He was in his prime when he was traded from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Brooklyn Dodgers early in the 1940 season, and was beaned a week later by former teammate Bob Bowman of the Cardinals.

Before the beaning, Medwick was a superstar, finishing first or second in various batting categories 28 times, including three straight RBI titles* from 1936-1938. After the beaning, he was a shell of his former self, never leading the league in any category and finishing second once.

*I know the sabermetric crowd doesn’t like the RBI stat, but driving in runs is still the most important job a hitter can do. Just ask the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets this season about getting hits with runners in scoring position (RISP). They can’t hit with RISP and, so far, both teams stink this season.

Medwick hit .338 and slugged .552 before the 1940 season and after the 1940 season hit hit only .302 and slugged .439. Severe drop-offs. According to reports from the time, Medwick was plate shy and not the same aggressive hitter.

Similar to Conigliaro , Hall of Famer Frank Robinson was a hitter who stood on top of the plate, and was always getting hit by pitches (198 total). Robinson, who was one of my favorite players (we share the same birthday), led the league seven times in getting hit by a pitch. Robinson was beaned in spring training 1958, his third season in the major leagues, and his career was in jeopardy.

In an interview with Investor’s Business Daily on April 5, 2007, Robinson admitted when he woke up in the hospital he wasn’t the same hitter. “I was in denial. I was fearful at the plate for the first and only time in my career. I had struggled through the first half of the season. I was just leaning back on pitches, rocking back, and I wouldn’t admit it to myself .”

The great Robinson, Rookie of the Year in 1956 and already a superstar was afraid of the ball. Then during the 1958 All-Star break, he decided it was time to have a talk with himself. “I said, ‘If you still want to be a major-league ballplayer, you’re going to have to start going into the pitches again and not have any fear up there at the plate .'”

David Wright has the ability to play the game at a high level, but the beaning he took last August has noticeably affected his play. The numbers since the beaning supports that observation.

Wright can take one of two routes going forward. He can fight through the fear of the pitched ball like Robinson did and improve his game or he can stay in his state of fear and continue his downward spiral, similar to the spiral Joe Medwick had after his beaning.

I fear Wright will follow Medwick’s path, and that is too bad.

If I was running a pre-series meeting before facing the Mets, I would tell my pitchers to be aggressive up and in EARLY to Wright at least once a game to intimidate him. Take advantage of his current weakness.

You never know how long it will last, and with continued aggression, it might last forever.

Top 20 Rookie of the Year Seasons Over the Last 35 Years

April 15, 2010

Atlanta Braves 20 year old outfielder Jason Heyward made the opening day lineup and has begun to produce immediate results with three home runs and ten runs batted in.

Other recently drafted, under-25 players such as Brian Matusz of the Baltimore Orioles, Wade Davis of the Tampa Bay Rays and Alcides Escobar of the Milwaukee Brewers began the 2010 season in the majors.

But other young players such as Washington Nationals RHP’s Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen, Pittsburgh’s Pedro Alvarez, San Francisco’s Buster Posey, Texas’ Justin Smoak, Cleveland’s catcher Carlos Santana (.423, 4 HR’s, 8 RBI’s) and Cincinnati’s Aroldis Chapman, started the season in the minor leagues but expect to contribute to their parent clubs in 2010.

With the influx of solid young talent, and many teams willing to give these youngsters a good opportunity, it reminds us here at Bleacher Report of the best and most influential rookie seasons over the last 35 years.

With 70 different Rookie of the Year (ROY) winners over this term, there will be plenty of arguments on what are the best rookie seasons.  Also, these “Best Seasons” include only those for winners of the ROY, so Chipper Jones’ great 1995 season is not included, neither are Troy Tulowitzki’s 2007 season, Todd Helton’s 1998 season, Kent Hrbek’s 1982 season or Tim Raines’ 1981 initial season.

All those players finished second for ROY.

But the winners of the award in all those seasons are included.

Many of the ROY winners here were dominant in their leagues that season and made this list. However, others who made this list might not have had a great season, but those players began a trend or their arrival began a nice run of success for their teams.

It is definitely not solely about numbers, but also about influence and importance.

Winning the Rookie of the Year award is not an indication of future greatness. Only 15 of the 124 ROY winners have made the Hall of Fame, but about a half dozen others are likely to enter.

Enjoy and let the arguing begin.

 #20 Dontrelle Willis – 2003 Florida Marlins

Dontrelle started 27 games in 2003, fashioning a 14-6 record to go along with a 3.30 ERA. The 21-year old Willis was important to that 2003 Marlins team, giving them five quality starters all under the age of 30, eventually helping the Fish to an improbable World Series title against the mighty New York Yankees.

Willis’ highlight year came two seasons later when he went 22-9 and finished second in the 2005 National League Cy Young voting.

While Willis’ career has fizzled in recent years, he is expected to make a push this season for Comeback Player of the Year for the Detroit Tigers, winning a starting rotation spot out of spring training.

He is a solid fifth starter who is still only 28.

#19 Andrew Bailey – 2009 Oakland A’s

Bailey came out of nowhere to become the 2009 closer for the Oakland A’s. A team struggling to fix a newly designed bullpen, Bailey found his role as former closer Huston Street was traded to Colorado. While several other pitchers were ineffective, Bailey dominated in March and made the team out of spring training. 

He continued his dominance during the season, posting a 6-3 record, 1.84 ERA, 26 saves and miniscule 0.876 WHIP.

This rookie season is important in that a pitcher who nobody ever heard of prior to 2009, makes the majors out of his first spring training and dominates a hitting friendly American League in a pressure packed role.

Bailey was the top rookie in an impressive crop of 2009 first year American League players, and won the ROY award beating out other outstanding freshmen such as Elvis Andrus, Rick Porcello, Jeff Niemann and Gordon Beckham.

He has continued his impressive major league career by not allowing a run in four appearances thus far in 2010.

#18 Andrew Dawson, Montreal Expos/Eddie Murray, Baltimore Orioles – 1977 Rookies of The Year

This spot goes to the two rookies of the year in 1977, Andre Dawson of the Montreal Expos and Eddie Murray of the Baltimore Orioles.

This is the only third time that both ROY winners in an individual season have become baseball Hall of Famers. The other seasons were in 1956 with Frank Robinson of the Cincinnati Reds and Luis Aparicio of the Chicago White Sox; and in 1967 with Tom Seaver of the New York Mets and Rod Carew of the Minnesota Twins. 

While Dawson and Murray were the third rookie of the year duo to make the Hall of Fame, they will not be the last as a few other possibilities exist, including one virtual lock.

Dawson will join the others in Cooperstown later this year when he is inducted into the Hall this August.

#17 Justin Verlander – 2006 Detroit Tigers

This former #2 overall draft pick has cemented himself as one of the top pitchers in baseball. The only reason he is with Detroit is that San Diego did not want to deal with Scott Boras, but Verlander’s father stepped into the Tigers negotiations and hammerd out the deal.

Verlander has never looked back.

Justin was promoted very quickly up to the majors, and dominated at times during his first full season in 2006. Not only did he fashion a 17-9 record with a 3.63 ERA his rookie season, but spun a complete game shutout at Kansas City.

More impressively, Verlander allowed one or fewer runs in 15 of the 30 starts that year and had the most wins and lowest ERA on a World Series team. He was nearly a unanimous AL ROY beating out Jonathan Papelbon and Francisco Liriano.

Verlander has extremely clean mechanics which will allow him to consistently put up 33 start, 220+ inning seasons without injury.

His future as a dominant pitcher should last for another 10 seasons or as long as Verlander wishes to continue.

#16 Bob Horner – 1978 Atlanta Braves

Bob Horner was the 1977 College World Series MVP and the first ever winner of the Golden Spikes award as the best collegiate player in the nation.

Horner was a major power threat and he set records for most home runs in a collegiate season (25) and in a career (58).

He was drafted first overall pick by the Atlanta Braves in the 1978 draft, and played his first major league game a few weeks later. In his first game, Horner homered off of Bert Blyleven. He finished his first abbreviated major league season with 23 homers, 63 RBI’s and won the NL ROY award over Ozzie Smith.

Horner never played a single game in the minor leagues.

Horner went directly from the Arizona State University campus to the major leagues, switching from metal to wood bats, and never mised a beat.

His 1978 rookie season was a classic season, which he became the first position player to go directly from college to the major leagues since Dave Winfield five years earlier.

A career 124 OPS+ indicates his impressive power ability, while his 162 game average season was for 35 home runs and 109 RBI’s in 600 at bats.

Although injuries (including breaking his right wrist twice) curtailed a HOF caliber talent, when Horner was healthy, he teamed with Dale Murphy (who came up a season earlier) to form the most feared 4/5 hitters in any lineup.

#15 – Ichiro Suzuki – 2001 Seattle Mariners

It is amazing to realize that Ichiro (the only player who has his FIRST name on the back of his jersey), has been in the major leagues now for ten seasons.

Although I really do not consider major league players from other countries as rookies (and thus should not be eligible for ROY), this was Ichiro’s first year in the majors after nine seasons in Japan’s Pacific League.

In 2001, Ichiro led all players with 242 hits, and hit .350 while stealing 56 bases.

His first year in the U.S. major leagues is important because Ichiro became only the second position player to make the Japan to U.S. transition, but was the first player to succeed in America.

This success paved the way for other foreign born postion players to play in the United States.

Ichiro is the first Japanese player in the U.S. to make the Japanese Hall of Fame, and is a virtual lock for the MLB Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. 

#14 Cal Ripken, Jr. – 1982 Baltimore Orioles

Cal Ripken is the rare player who grew up in the shadows of his hometown team, was drafted and became a superstar for that same team.

As a Baltimore Oriole for his entire career, Ripken went on to a member of the 400 HR, 3000 hit club, and became a first ballot HOFer.

His rookie year was sensational with 28 home runs, 93 RBI’s which led to a Hall of Fame career, only the fifth American League player (and thus far the last) to win the ROY award and enter the Hall.

Coming up as a tall (6″4″) power hitting shortstop, Ripken revolutionized the shortstop postion. Up unilt Ripken cam eup, the shortstop position was very much an all-field, very little hit position.

Ripken’s success lead other teams to begin developing similarly built shortstops, which permeate the major league landscape even to this day.

Cal is the rare player to play entirely for one team, and one of the greatest shortstops in baseball history.

#13 Huston Street

The 2002 draft was the last big high school draft. That season saw eight of the first 11 players taken were high school guys. After that season talent evaluators began to think more of drafting college players.

Entering the 2004 draft, Huston Street was the most accomplished college relief pitcher of all time, and in 2002 he was voted College World Series MVP as he led his Texas Longhorns team to the title.

Street made the majors ealry inthe 2005 season, becoming the AL ROY with a stellar 5-1 record, 1.72 ERA and 1.009 WHIP. Only Mariano Rivera had better numbers that season as a closer.

Street’s rookie year success began a resurgance in recent college draftees being promoted to the major leagues very quickly. Other players like Troy Tulowitski, Justin Verlander, Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Evan Longoria, Tim Lincecum, David Price and Matt Wieters made similar early jumps to the major leagues after Street’s meteoric rise.    

Currently on the disabled list with an arm issue, Street will eventually be back to his old form, but Street began the standard for the drafting of college players to make and immediate impact on major league rosters.

#12 Hideo Nomo – 1995 Los Angeles Dodgers

Hideo Nomo played major league baseball in Japan for five seasons before becoming the first Japanese player to play in the major leagues in 30 years.

His rookie year saw Nomo go 13-6, 2.54 ERA and 1.056 WHIP. His deceptively delayed delivery and tremendous fork ball allowed Nomo to strike out 236 hitters in only 191 innings.

Currently retired, Nomo’s success in the United States prompted many more Japanese stars such as Ichiro, Hideki Matsui and Diasake Matsuzaka to come over and play in the U.S.

#11 David Justice – 1990 Atlanta Braves

When David Justice came up to the Atlanta Braves in 1990, it is no coincidence that the Braves made the playoffs a year later in 1991, beginning a streak of 14 straight playoff appearances. Justice’s arrival in Atlanta added power to a lineup which only had Ron Gant to provide home run production.

He did win the NL ROY award in 1990 with his .282/.373/.535/.908 OPS line, at that time one of the highest OPS marks for a first year player.

The Braves did win with pitching as Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Steve Avery and then Greg Maddux dominated lineups, but Justice provided power and an ability to get the huge hit for a team which was built on pitching and defense. 

Justice was an outspoken leader throughout his career, helping six teams get to the World Series, winning the title twice. His arrival in Atlanta helped that franchise win for the next 15 seasons.

#10 Bob Hamelin – 1994 Kansas City Royals

Throughout the 1994 season, the Royals though they had their power hitting first baseman of the future. Hamelin was a slugger who also hit for average.

Hamelin’s rookie line of .282/.388/.599/.907 OPS was very impressive with his 23 home runs and 65 RBI’s, winning the 1994 AL ROY award over some guy named Manny Ramirez. 

But Hamelin went on to have various leg injuries and only hit 41 more home runs in his career.

The Royals has three AL ROY winners from 1994 through 2003, with Carlos Beltran winning in 1999, and Angel Berroa taking home honors in 2003.

But typical of the Royals over the last twenty years, they develop a decent player and either they fizzle out like Hamelin and Berroa or succeed like Beltran, but then are traded away.

Hamelin was the first of the Royals rookie stars to fizzle out, leading to a continuation of bad seasons for a once proud franchise.

#9 Kerry Wood – 1998 Chicago Cubs

Wood was a top draft pick (#4 overall) in the the 1995 draft, and three seasons later was the top starting pitcher on an almost comletely veteran staff.

Wood started 26 games, striking out 233 batters in 166 innings, with a 13-6 record, 3.40 ERA and 1.212 WHIP. His fifth start in the big leagues tied a record with 20 whiffs in a single game. It is considered one of the msot dominant pitching performances of all time.

Wood was shut down late inthe season with elbow soreness, but still did well enough to garner the ROY award, beating out Colorado Rockies slugger Todd Helton.

The elbow injury proved more severe as Wood underwent TommyJohn surgery in spring training 1999, missing that entire season. He came back to dominate again in 2003, teaming with Mark Prior to lead the Cubs to the 2003 NL Pennant.

After that season, Wood and Prior suffered sever arm injuries and neither player would regain his dominant starting stuff.

Many people blame manager Jim Riggleman’s use of Wood in that 20 strikeout performance (Wood threw 122 pitches) as the beginning of the babying of starting pitchers via pitch counts and innings limits. Wood would throw seven more games of more than 120 pitches that season, with a 133 pitch performance in his penultimate start before his elbow issues surfaced.

Because of these injuries, which I believe are more the result of Wood’s violent delivery than overuse, Wood never fulfilled what was a promising power-pitcher, major league career.

#8 Derek Jeter – 1996 New York Yankees

The Yankees had a good team in 1994 and 1995, but lacked strength up the middle. Tony Fernandez (SS) and Pat Kelly (2B) were good defensive players but more offense was needed.

Enter Mariano Duncan for Kelly, and 21 year old Derek Jeter for Fernandez. Jeter began his rookie campaign with a home run off of 245 game winner Dennis Martinez,a nd a great over the shoulder catch in shoret left field.

That type of catch would become one of Jeter’s trademark defensive plays.

Jeter went on to hit .314/.370/.430/.800 OPS with 10 home runs and 104 runs scored. He was a unanimous selection for ROY.

His early success helped the Yankees win their first World Series title in 12 seasons, and Jeter was the main position player during a 15 year run of excellence that rivals the best teams of all time.

Jeter is approaching 3,000 career hits and shows no signs of slowing down. If healthy, Jeter could get into the top 10 in career hits, and possibly top 5. He will be a first ballot Hall of Famer and could better Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan’s percentage of Hall of Fame votes of 98.8%.

#8 Ryan Braun – 2007 Milwaukee Brewers

Ryan Braun was a high draft pick (#4 overall) for the Brewers, and moved up to the majors leagues after only 340 at bats above Class A minor league baseball.

His bat was a terror for National League pitchers in his rookie 2007 season, and Braun put up a torrid line of .324/.370/.634/1.004 OPS with 34 home runs and 97 RBI’s. His .634 slugging percentage  (SLG) led the NL in 2007, and was the highest slugging percentage for any rookie in baseball history.

If it wasn’t for fellow 2005 first round draft pick Troy Tulowitzki, Braun likely would have been a unanimous ROY selection.

Braun’s presence in the Brewers lineup gave them a potent lefty – righty duo with Prince Fielder, and help lead the Brew Crew to their first playoff appearance in 26 years a season later.

Braun has all the potential to be a major offensive force for the next 10-12 seasons where he has the potential to hit over 500 home runs with better than a .300 career average.

Only nine other player in history have done that.

#6 Mike Piazza – 1993 Los Angeles Dodgers

A rookie year line of .318/.370/.561/.932 OPS with 35 home runs and 112 RBI’s. Not bad for a former 62nd round draft pick, right?

Mike Piazza made the most of his late round drafting as a favor to his brothers godfather, Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda.

Mike was the second of a record five straight ROY winners to come from one team, the Dodgers. It ws not the first time the Dodgers had a string of winners as they also has a run of four straight ROY winning seasons from 1979-1982.

What Piazza’s (and the other four winners did) was establish a base of young talent for the Dodgers, allowing the team to win two division titles and finish second twice. That is what good teams do; they develop their own talent. It works to set a foundation for winning.

Piazza is widely regarded as the best hitting catcher of all-time, with Johnny Bench, Roy Campanella and Yogi Berra all fighting for second place.

He will be a first ballot Hall of Famer.

#5 – Mark McGwire – 1987 Oakland A’s

Long before the steroid allegations, and subsequent admission, Mark McGwire was a power hitter extraordinaire. During his rookie season in 1987, Big Mac hit a record 33 home runs before the All-Star break, and, ironically, there was a tremendous amount of talk whether McGwire would break Roger Maris’ long held record of 61.

But while McGwire quieted down from the long grind of a baseball season, he still managed to hit 49 home runs, breaking the rookie home run record. Mark also drove in 118 runs and slugged .618, a rookie record until Ryan Braun came along.

Mac helped the Oakland A’s to three straight World Series appearances, winning the earthquake interrupted 1989 Series.

Whether HOF voters allow Big Mac entry into Cooperstown’s hallowed Hall remains to be seen, but his recent admission of such steroid use basically eliminated all the questions.

As with his rookie HR record, Big Mac has set the standard with voters during the steroid era. I doubt that he will see entry anytime soon, thus indicating how the voters will react to the entire steroid era.

#4 Dwight (Doc) Gooden – 1984 New York Mets

Similar to the #2 season, Dwight (Doc) Gooden was a young pitcher who burst upon the major league scene in dominating fashion. Brought up to the majors as a 19 year old rookie in 1984, Doc used a power fastball and knee buckling curve ball to set a rookie pitching record of 276 strikeouts, breaking Herb Score’s record set 30 years prior.

Gooden’s arrival transformed the Mets from 6th place also rans in 1983 to a strong second place finish in 1984. The Mets then went on to finish first or second for seven straight seasons after Gooden’s arrival, including winning the 1986 World Series Championship.

Off field issues curtailed what was definitely a Hall of Fame career, but when Gooden was young, and that fast ball was popping and that curve ball was snapping, at the time there was no one better.

He was the Bob Feller and Sandy Koufax of his era. 

Similar to the #2 season on this list, Dwight (Doc) Gooden was a young pitcher who burst upon the major league scene in dominating fashion. Brought up to the majors as a 19 year old rookie in 1984, Doc used a power fastball and knee buckling curve ball to set a rookie pitching record of 276 strikeouts, breaking Herb Score’s record set 30 years prior.

Gooden’s arrival transformed the Mets from 6th place also rans in 1983 to a strong second place finish in 1984. The Mets then went on to finish first or second for seven straight seasons after Gooden’s arrival, including winning the 1986 World Series Championship.

Off field issues curtailed what was definitely a Hall of Fame career, but when Gooden was young, and that fast ball was popping and that curve ball was snapping, at the time there was no one better.

He was the Bob Feller and Sandy Koufax of his era. 

#3 Fred Lynn – 1975 Boston Red Sox

Despite the success the Boston Red Sox have had this last decade, there were various times the franchise was terrible. They made the World Series in 1967, but finished no better than third in five of the next seven seasons. It was not until 1975, and the arrival of 23 year old Fred Lynn, that the Red Sox again made the World Series.

Lynn put up a rookie line of .331/.401/.566/.967 OPS, leading the league in slugging and OPS, and finishing second to Rod Carew in batting average. He also made a couple dozen spectacular catches in center field and won the Gold Glove that year and in three other seasons.

Not only did Lynn win the 1975 AL ROY award, but was also a runaway winner for the 1975 AL MVP award, too.

The 1975 season was the height of my baseball life as a kid (I was 11) and Lynn was very special, seemingly winning games for the Sox via a big hit or amazing catch.

Despite an injury bug which did not allow Lynn to play in more than 150 games in any season, he still had a very good career including the Joe Mauer Triple Crown in 1979, leading the AL in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

A very solid career for Lynn, with just over 300 home runs and 1111 RBI’s, but many wonder what could have been.

#2 Fernando Valenzuela – 1981 Los Angeles Dodgers

You had to be there to appreciate the control that Fernando Valenzuela had over the hitters in the National League AND the entire baseball world.

He was similar to Babe Ruth in stature, both in his popularity and in his physique. Like the Babe, Valenzuela was also a pretty good hitter

After being signed out of the Mexican League, Valenzuela was promoted in late 1980 during the Los Angeles Dodgers pennant run, where he posted a 2-0 record, 1 save, and a 0.00 ERA in 10 relief appearances (17.2 innings). 

Fernando followed that up with greatest eight start stretch to open a major league baseball season. In his first eight starts of the 1981 season, Fernando threw eight complete games, including five shutouts! Two other games he allowed only one run and after eight starts his ERA stood at 0.50.

And as a strikeout pitcher (four of his eight starts were double digit strikeout games) Valenzuela likely threw over 120 pitches in each start. Surprisingly, even by throwing his devastating screwball most of the time, his arm did not fall off.

Joe Girardi and other current managers should take note.

Add in the two wins and 17.2 scoreless innings from late in 1980, and after his first 18 major league appearances, Valenzuela had a 10-0 record with a 0.37 ERA.

His success spurred a phenomenon called Fernandomania, and while the Los Angeles Latino community were already big baseball fans, after “El Toro” (Valenzuela’s nickname) came alive, the Latin fans were now out rooting in full force.

Fernando’s patented delivery (see photo) included him “looking to the sky” before every pitch was in itself a separate phenomenon.

Fernando only went 13-7 with a 2.48 ERA, but he missed two months worth of starts due to the 1981 players strike.

His rookie year was amazing and I remember my junior year in high school, hanging out with friends at someone’s house on May 8th, watching that Friday night game Fernando pitched against the New York Mets.

A bad Met team (managed by Joe Torre) drew almost 40,000 fans that night to see Valenzuela and he did not disappoint, posting his 8th straight win and fifth shutout.

While he was only a 173-153, 3.54 ERA pitcher for his career, those first seven seasons were tremendous including a 21-11 mark in 1986. While he was dropped from the Hall of Fame voting in 2004, his early career, and the madness which ensued, were definitely Hall of Fame worthy.

#1 Albert Pujols – 2001 St. Louis Cardinals

For the young fans who wish they saw Ted Williams hit in his prime, you really are, but he hits from  the right handed batters box and he goes not by the nickname of “The Splendid Splinter,” “The Kid” or “Teddy Ballgame” but by the nickname of “Phat Albert,” “King Albert” or “The Machine.”

Similar to Ted Williams, Albert Pujols has several nicknames.

It is amazing to think that in Spring Training of 2001, Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa wanted to send Pujols down to the minors for more seasoning. But while Mark McGwire was petitioning LaRussa to keep Pujols, the Cardinals third basemen, Bobby Bonilla, was injured and Albert started the season at third base.

He would play four different positions that rookie season for the Cardinals, starting 32 or more games at third base, first base, left field and right field. He also batted .329/.403/.610/.1.013 OPS with 37 HR’s and 130 RBI’s.

Pujols was a unanimous choice for NL ROY.

Albert has continued his dominance over the next decade, winning three NL MVP awards and finishing second three times. In two of those three runner up seasons Pujols finished behind Barry Bonds.

Make your own judgments.

Only Williams, Joe DiMaggio and maybe Frank Robinson have had similar offensive beginnings to a career, dominating from thier first major league season. But unlike Williams, Albert Pujols has helped bring home a World Series title for his team, while Robinson has two titles and DiMaggio has an unbelievably amazing nine such championships.

When his career is over, Albert Pujols will be considered one of the greatest players of all time (likely top seven), and will be a first ballot Hall of Famer, probably recieving 95% or more of the vote.

But he needs to help the Cardinals win another World Series title to fulfill his career. This 2010 season could be the year.

2010 Prediction: Yankees Curtis Granderson Will Have More Power than New York Mets Jason Bay

April 4, 2010

Both New York teams have played their exhibition games and, except for Jose Reyes, Daniel Murphy and Carlos Beltran, all seems to healthy on the Mets front. With those guys on the DL, no other players had to see one of the Mets team doctors, and that is good.

History has shown that seeing the Mets doctors is one of the worst places a Mets player can probably be sent.

Both New York teams also have a new starting outfielder, both upgrades over their 2009 counterparts. The Mets signed free agent Jason Bay while the Yankees pulled off an old-fashioned trade as they acquired Curtis Granderson from the Detroit Tigers in a three-team, seven-player swap.

That trade also involved the Arizona Diamondbacks, and appears to be good for all three teams involved.

New York Mets fans demanded something be done about their lack of starting pitching depth, but General Manager Omar Minaya did nothing. Many fans wanted a new first baseman and a power hitting left fielder.

Well they got their wish in left field, but the most important thing, starting pitching, was dismissed out of hand.

Bay was given a four-year deal for $66 million, and is firmly planted in left field. Seeing him in a few games (live and on TV) far this spring, his OF play is shaky. There is the power in Bay’s bat to make up for his below average defense, but his ability to make consistent contact.

However, will there be enough power in Bay’s bat in new CitiField, the Mets home where deep fly balls go to die in outfielder’s gloves? Ask David Wright how bad the new home park plays. Will Bay’s rumored knee problems hamper him during the season in the field or at bat?

Bay had his best year last season, hitting .267/.384/.537/.921 OPS with 36 home runs and 119 RBI’s. Not that it was his best season statistically, as his 2005 and 2006 seasons were more productive, but that this season came in his final, walk year before his first free agency.

That was good for Bay’s bank account, but bad for the Mets overall.

Meanwhile, Granderson was coming off his most dismal season since becoming a full time player. His line of .249/.327/.453/.780 OPS became steadily worse that his last few seasons. His  best year was in 2007 when he hit .302/.361/.552/ a .913 OPS with 38 doubles, 23 triples, 23 homers and 74 RBI’s. He also walked 52 times.

But his OBP and slugging percentage (SLG) declined over the last two seasons, mainly because his average dropped and, while his homers increased to 30, his other extras base hits declined significantly. C-Grand’s SLG of .552 in 2007 was due to his 38 doubles and 23 triples as much as his HR total.

When those other XBH declined to 23 and 8 last year, and his average declined, too, it made his OBP and SLG (and of course OPS) fall to these extreme lows. His OBP fell despite his walk totals increasing from 52 in 2007 to 72 last year.

Just goes to show that high batting averages are still a key to high OBP’s. A walk is NOT as good as a hit unless the team has other hitters in the lineup.

Granderson has worked hard with hitting Coach Kevin Long to improve his overall hitting, more going the other way to improve is recent number against left handed pitchers. It showed with improved batting average (.286) in spring training this year and boosted his OBP to .375, two stats the Yankees will sign on the dotted line for this season.

He also improved against lefties with a .250 BA this spring.

The one negative for Granderson is that he did not hit a home run at all this spring, and his SLG was only .388. That will improve, though, once Granderson gets to the Stadium with the short right field porch. He will not pull as much as the past, but will hit his share of home runs, probably around 20-25, much less than people expect.

They might not be as high as everyone expects, but Granderson’s SLG will be much higher than last year. While his HR’s will be normal, his other XBH will improve to that of his 2007 season.

Granderson’s work with Long will allow him to love the deep left field gap. With his speed, the doubles and triples will skyrocket, raising his slugging percentage to that of 2007, somewhere around .530 to .550.

Jason Bay will also hit share of home runs, but due to the expansive home park, it will not be the 30+ he hit in four of the last five seasons. His double rate will also decline as those balls off the Green Monster will be caught by the left and center fielders in the more spacious ballpark his plays half his games.

Plus, Bay is expected to hit fourth or fifth in the lineup, one that does not scare many pitchers. Don’t be surprised if teams begin to pitch around Bay to get to the freer swinging Jeff Francoeur. Once again, a walk is not as good as a hit, if there are no other good hitters to produce.

Therefore, Bay’s OBP may be a bit higher, but his SLG rate will decline from last season’s .537.

With the type of player each guy is, and with the dimensions of CitiField, wouldn’t Granderson have been a better fit for the Mets as the left fielder? And he could have been the center fielder while Beltran is out. For Minaya, another boat that left the dock without him doing anything or having a plan and he appeared to settle to the whims of the public in regards to what the team needed.

When all is said and done in 2010, Granderson will more important for the Yankees than Bay will be for the Mets.

In fact, with his new hitting approach, C-Grand will have a higher SLG rate this year than Jason Bay.

You can bank on it.

Jose Reyes Needed To Be In The New York Mets Opening Day Lineup

April 3, 2010

The Mets wanted to have a nice easy Spring Training. After coming off three consecutive debacle seasons, they went out and signed Jason Bay, thinking they needed a power hitting left fielder (Ike Davis, maybe? Think out of the box, Omar!).

But then Carlos Beltran went out to Colorado and had his cranky knees operated on, Kelvim Escobar still has a sore pitching shoulder, Daniel Murphy twisted his knee and, most importantly Jose Reyes had a thyroid problem. The thyroid issue cost Jose three weeks of training camp, and he still has not played in a major league spring training game.

Still, Reyes’ thyroid levels stabilized, he is now able to resume athletic activities. Reyes has played a few simulated and minor league games, getting more at bats and even played three inning in the field during one game.

For a major athlete in his physical condition, which is better than mine and more than 99% of the population, he is ready to play. Reyes wants to play.

But the Mets have put Reyes on the Disabled List (DL) because they are being overly cautious. That is understandable after the prior season injury mishaps to Carlos Beltran, many of the pitchers and Reyes with his bad leg last season.

Being overly cautious is similar to a bad free throw shooter in basketball. If the shooter misses the first free throw really short or really long, they always overcompensate too much with the next shot. Being overly cautious with Reyes is bad for the Met fans who need something to improve their spirits.

With Beltran out for at least another month, and now Daniel Murphy out a few weeks, with all the bad karma over the last three seasons, it is important for Reyes to be starting at shortstop on opening day.

The Mets need to give their fans some optimism, and that will not happen with Reyes on the DL. General Manager (LOL!) Omar Minaya is making another mistake.

Even if Reyes plays Opening Day and then rests for a few days, it would mean so much to the Met fans, on this important day to be in the lineup.

In seeing the new left side of the defense, David Wright at third base, Reyes at short and new left fielder Jason Bay all starting opening day would give hope to the Met fans.

That is of course until Oliver Perez pitches a few days later.

Joe Mauer Signs Eight-Year Extension with the Minnesota Twins

March 21, 2010

On the day that the Minnesota Twin fans received terrible news about their closer Joe Nathan, they have good news from the receiving end of the battery, Joe Mauer.

According to many sources , the Twins have re-signed their 2009 American League MVP and three-time batting champion catcher to an 8-year deal for $184 million. The deal includes a full no-trade clause and keeps the homegrown (and hometown) All-Star with the team through the 2018 season. 

A press conference is scheduled for Monday evening.

Mauer is a Minnesota Twin for life.

There was much speculation that the small market Twins would never be able to afford Mauer, and he would go to the Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees via free agency. But what these speculators did not realize is that the Twins ownership, the Pohlad family, is one of the wealthiest ownership groups in all of sports, with a net worth of $2 billion. 

The fact that the patriarch, Carl Pohlad, was a tightwad should not have reflected negatively on his sons who now run the team after his father’s death.

Jim Pohlad correctly knew that the Twins needed to sign their hometown son to be a Twins for his entire career.

That is the way baseball should be. The Twins drafted and developed a three-time batting champ/MVP, and he stays a Minnesota Twin forever.

I said this in a post to a Mauer to the Yankees article on Bleacher Report :

Mauer will sign an extension before the 2010 season begins, and the Twins fans will be happy .”

Even as a Yankee fan, I did not want Mauer to leave Minnesota. With all the catching prospects in the Yankee system, they didn’t need, and shouldn’t have wanted, Joe Mauer. 

Also, the Twins are no longer a small market team. (The term “small market team” is such a stupid term anyway because all the owners are filthy rich, and they can afford to sign their own players.) According to a report, the new Target Field and the Twins’ subsequent new TV and radio deals will give the Twins Top 10 ranking for outside revenue in MLB.

That fact, and the Pohlad’s vast fortunes, made the Twins signing Joe Mauer to a long-term deal to keep him a Twin for life a no-brainer. The Mauer deal, signing Justin Morneau long term, and having the smarts to draft and develop well (and actually play their young players), will make the Twins contenders in the American League for the foreseeable future.  

And that is good for baseball.