Victor Martinez: Tigers Sign Catcher, Show They Don’t Know How To Build a Team

November 23, 2010

The Detroit Tigers are about to sign free agent Victor Martinez to a four-year deal worth $50 million. Martinez is listed as a catcher, but will primarily earn his keep via the designated hitter position.

It is said this move will give the Tigers a real good 3-4 duo of Miguel Cabrera and Martinez with V-Mart providing valuable protection for Cabrera. Maybe they can even sign another hitter (Magglio Ordonez, Jayson Werth, Carl Crawford?) to have a good 3-4-5.

That might boost Cabrera’s MVP status for next season (he finished 2nd today), but it still will not help the Tigers win in 2011 or 2012 and especially not during the final two seasons of the proposed deal.

The signing is terrible for the Tigers, and comes on the heel of another bad signing, the three-year $16.5 million deal for right handed relief pitcher Joaquin Benoit.

It just goes to show that the Tigers management has no idea how to build a winning team. As the Tigers are trying to do, it is impossible to buy your way into a championship.

Martinez does not offer anything more than a DH and occasional first baseman. He is completely unproductive on the defensive end of catching, unable to move well behind the plate and is really good in his ability to allow stolen bases. I am sure V-Mart is not the best game-caller either.

So to pay $50 million for a 32 year old DH is mind-boggling. And not only do they sign Martinez for four years, but they also have to give up a first round draft pick in 2011 (No. 19 overall) to the Boston Red Sox.

The Tigers give up a draft pick in a draft that is considered to be very, very deep. It could rival the 2002 first round and/or 2005 first round in terms of quality and depth.  And both those drafts were quality after the first round, too.

So, in a deep draft, a team which has a terrible farm system has given away its first round pick, and if they sign another Type A free agent, they lose their second round pick, too.

I am not against free agent signings. Many free agent signings work out for the teams with decent production, but rarely do they ever lead to World Series championships. When they do, it is because the free agent player was the “final piece.” 

Free agents are to be used to supplement a good farm system, to complement the players a team has already developed and who are ready to compete. They should not be signed to start a team or fix up some holes.

When your own home grown players have reached the point where they are “knocking on the door” is when you search the free agent market for that key piece. The Tigers did that in 2004 when they went out and signed Pudge Rodriguez to handle a younger pitching staff, and eventually went to the World Series in 2006.

The fact that the 2010 Tigers positional prospects are ranked the worst overall in baseball has forced the Tigers hand here to sign an aging FA veteran bat.

And the prospect spiral keeps plummeting downward for the Tigers. They would not win in 2011 without Martinez and they will not win with him.

Martinez is not a key piece for the Tigers as their lineup still stinks even with him protecting Cabrera in the No. 4 hole. V-Mart had a decent season last year, but in no way does it warrant a four-year deal worth $50 million. He is not a real impact guy, only the best available now, and will only decline as he gets older.

Even if Martinez does not catch any games in 2011, the wear and tear already on his lower half will hasten any decline*. Did you know Martinez only has had one season with a plus .500 slugging percentage?

Even Derek Jeter had one plus .500 slugging season, back in 1999. Jeter’s career OPS is a scant .001 below Martinez career mark of .838. Is that worth $50 million? In a park which is historically bad for Martinez and is considered a pitcher’s park?

*Some readers will relate this deal to the one the Yankees gave Jorge Posada four seasons ago, a four year $52 million deal. Another deteriorating switch-hitting catcher who will end up as a DH. But things are much different for the Yankees at that point.

First, Posada was a home grown, key member of the Yankees dynasty run in the late 1990s-early 2000s. There is something to be said for paying for past performance when you are a home grown champion. Second, Posada was still the primary catcher and also pretty decent behind the plate at that point. Third, he was coming off a career year which he slashed .338 BA/.426 OBP/.543 SLG/.970 OPS, with 42 doubles, 20 HRs and 90 RBI.

The deal does not make sense in terms of years, money or losing a draft pick.

The Tigers would be better suited to follow the lead of the Minnesota Twins, who won the A.L. Central division last year, three of the last five years and six of the last nine seasons. Load up on home grown talent, sign the top two or three to long term deals, and keep producing enough talent to fill holes along the way.

Granted the Tigers are taking on more payroll in trying to win.

But smart franchises increase payroll on their own players, not somebody else’s free agents.

That is the recipe for staying near the top of the standings nearly every season. But an organization first has to produce your own home grown major league talent.

Bad franchises keep signing other teams players instead of producing their own.

Victor Martinez and Joaquin Benoit are two bad free agent signings.

Par for the course within the Tigers ownership of Mike Ilitch.

What Jim Joyce SHOULD Have Done After Blowing Armando Galaragga’s Perfect Game

June 3, 2010

It was two seasons ago in a men’s wood bat summer league game. It is a good league, with great competition, plus many former (and at least one current) major leaguers as alumni.

I was base umpire, situated behind the pitcher’s mound in a two-man team. Man on first, one out, late in a tied game.

Batter hits a ground ball to the hole in short, throw is made to second for the force out, then the relay is made to first.

Bang-bang play and I signal OUT! Double play and inning over.

There were complaints from the batter/runner and first base coach, the hitting teams bench (of course); while the other side let out a couple “All Right’s.”  A few seconds later after the batter/runner said, “you blew it” I headed to the fence to take a break before the next inning started.

I had the feeling I blew the call.

One of the fan’s on the fielding teams side said to me, “It looked like he was safe.” I already realized I blew the call, but the fan’s comment cinched my realization.

The funny thing is that I DID see an out. He looked out and I called him out. I saw foot of the first baseman on the bag, ball in glove, then the runner hitting the bag.

I did not have the ability to get help from the home plate umpire because I saw the foot on the bag.

But Jim Joyce did have the option of reversing last night’s call on the field.

Everyone now knows what happened. Armando Galarraga had a perfect game taken from him by Joyce’s bad call at first base. It was the 27th (and final out) of a perfect game, and Galarraga would have been immortalized in baseball history.*

*Funny thing is that Galarraga IS IMMORTALIZED as the guy who lost a perfect game, not bad by a final hit like Mike Mussina had happen to him in 2001, or bad like the 9th inning, one-out hit Tom Seaver had happen to him in 1969. But it was nearly as bad as Milt Pappas’ perfect game bid in 1972, when Bruce Froemming (like Joyce, another respected umpire) called two straight two-strike reallyclose pitches each a ball. Froemming actually had the gall to smirk at Pappas after the close 3-2 call.

This is slighlty different than the 9 inning perfect game Pedro Martinez had with the Montreal Expos in 1995 who then allowed a double leading off the 10th inning of the 0-0 tie game, or Harvey Haddix’ 12 inning perfect masterpiece in 1959.

What advantage did Joyce have that I didn’t? He had the option of asking the home plate umpire for help on the call.

Similar to my situation when I realized a couple of seconds afterwards that I probably blew the call, Joyce must have realized that he might have blow his call, too. Especially when the batter, Jason Donald, had his hands on his head in disbelief.

But in the time it took Jim Leyland to come out on the field to ask about the call (about 21 seconds), Joyce could have said to Leyland that he did not see Galarraga’s foot hit the bag as the reason for the safe call. Then Leyland would have asked for help on the call from the home plate umpire, and Joyce could have gone to ask the home plate umpire if the fielder’s foot was on the bag.

Many times on close plays the umpire’s view of the foot on the bag can be obstructed, mainly on wide throws which pull the first baseman off the bag. Sometimes you can’t see the foot on the bag.

In this case, it could have been that Galarraga’s body obstructed Joyce’s view of the foot hitting the bag.

Joyce could have said to the home plate umpire, “I had a catch on the ball, and did not see the fielder’s foot hit the bag. Did you see the foot on the bag?”  

I bet the home plate umpire would have said, “Yes, I had the foot on the bag.”

Runner out, game over and perfect game intact.

The home plate umpire’s job in that situation is to come out in front of the plate, watch the bag to see if the fielder touches the bag with his foot. There have been several times I have umpired where calls have been reversed on the same exact play.

In that situation, Joyce would have been the hero instead of the goat. He would have made the decision for safe on what he saw because he has to make an immediate call, but asked for help to get the call right when asked for an appeal by the manager.

The official rules are sketchy but that play (especially in that instance) can be appealed when the umpire says his view was obstructed.

Under ML Rule 9.02 (a) it states that any judgment call such as out or safe at a bag is final. But 9.02 (b) states any umpire’s decision in which may be in conflict with the rules, the manager may appeal the decision and ask that a correct ruling be made.

That conflict of rules is the sketchy area but is usually granted by umpires and teams in tough situations. This includes cases such as missed calls due to being out of position, but also includes cases where something might be missed on a play being too quick. Think check swing and asking for help if a batted ball hits the batters foot while in the batters box.

Those types of plays are extremely difficult for a home plate umpire to make an accurate call, and many times help is needed.

Then 9.02 (c) states that if an appeal is made by the manager, the umpire who made the call has the right to ASK for help and gather more information from other umpire’s. After this new information is presented, only the umpire who made the original call has the authority to reverse that call.

If Jim Joyce was thinking quickly, he could have said he didn’t see the foot hit the bag, got an appeal request from Leyland, asked for help from the home plate umpire and made the correct call.

Like I mentioned earlier, batter out, game over and perfect game intact. And everyone is a hero for doing the right thing.

I do not think that Jason Donald or Cleveland Indians manager Manny Acta would have argued much, if at all.

New York Yankees Next 35 Games Are Of Extreme Importance

May 24, 2010

The Yankees began a crucial 35-game stretch Thursday night with a 8-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. The Bombers then have split the first two games of the Subway Series against the cross-town New York Mets.

The Rays showed just how much better they are than the Yankees, with better pitching, scoring early and having a back end of the bullpen which did not blow games.

They also out-scouted the Yankees, using defensive positioning to help defend Mark Teixeira and surprisingly, the newly-promoted Juan Miranda. 

With all the injuries and the starting pitching not performing well (at least the last turn through the rotation), it will be interesting to see how the Yankees respond to this upcoming stretch.

After concluding their three-game set at the Mets, the Bombers travel to Minnesota, then home for seven games against second division teams Cleveland and Baltimore. The Yankees go on the road, seeing for the first time the pitching-rich and homer-friendly Toronto Blue Jays.

Interleague play continues with three against the Houston Astros, last year’s World Series opponent Philadelphia Phillies and another series with the Mets.

The Yankees go west for the second time, including visits at the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Yankees renew friendships with former Yankee skipper Joe Torre and former pitcher (and first-round pick) Ian Kennedy.

It is about this time where Jorge Posada should be ready again, out for about a month with a stress fracture in his foot. The foot injury is devastating for any catcher who continually squats down and flexes his feet.

However, with the defense which Francisco Cervelli is displaying, Posada mostly could be used as a DH with occasional catching duties.

While Cervelli has certainly been impressive, it has mostly been as the “backup” catcher. Despite playing the majority of the last 10 days behind the plate, it was not until Posada actually went on the disabled list (DL) that Cervelli became the “starting catcher.”

While no one expects him to become the next Yogi Berra, the pressure is now on Cervelli to keep playing well. If he doesn’t, there is no one behind him to help carry the load. He has only hit .227 over his last six games, the time which Posada has been out.

Nick Swisher is back and hitting. Curtis Granderson has begun a minor league rehab assignment, and the Yankees could have a full complement of starting position players (minus Posada and the easily replaceable Nick Johnson), within a week.

After being swept by the Rays, the Yankees need to win 20 or more of these 35 games over these next five weeks, before they get Posada back.

At least keep the distance manageable from the Rays, but these upcoming games are not important due to catching the Rays, but because the Yankees are looking to keep distance between them and the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers.

Minnesota has the same record as the Yankees while Detroit is only two games back of the Yankees entering Sunday’s schedule.  

Both those AL Central teams have good starting pitching, with the Twins complementing that with a really good, powerful lineup.

The Tigers are riding veterans Johnny Damon, Miguel Cabrera and Magglio Ordonez, and have had immediate success with rookie outfielders Austin Jackson and Brennan Boesch. They did recently take three of four from New York.

Lots of question marks remain relative to the Yankees starting pitching, relief pitching, recent offensive woes and some defensive issues with Alex Rodriguez and his throwing. 

Is that all?

With certain guys still out, it is imperative that veterans Mark Teixeira (1 for his last 20) and Derek Jeter begin to improve their strike zone discipline and the starting pitchers work more efficiently to keep the weak middle relief off the field.

With all the other issues, the Yankees can ill afford to further their recent skid which has seen them drop nine of their last 14 games.

Other teams are lurking.

Detroit Tigers Manager Jim Leyland Puts Unnecessary Pitch Count on Justin Verlander

May 8, 2010

He was one of the last of a dying breed, and old school manager who made decisions on his gut instinct more often than the computer printouts. He was always smoking in the hallway leading to the clubhouse and swearing like a sailor would on a three-day weekend pass.

Jim Leyland was a bench coach with Tony LaRussa in Chicago back in the 1980’s before embarking on his own managerial career. After a couple playoff near misses in Pittsburgh, he then won the World Series in 1997 with the Florida Marlins. Leyland got there again in 2006 with the Detroit Tigers (his current team) where he lost the Series to his mentor, LaRussa and the St. Louis Cardinals.

But Leyland is finally gone the route of the namby-pamby skippers.

He has instituted a pitch count for his ace, Justin Verlander. A work-horse type pitcher with a big 6’5″, 225 lb frame, Verlander has taken the ball for 140 starts in the major leagues. He has never missed a start due to an injury, but during his 2006 rookie season the Tigers skipped Verlander two times, once during the All Star break and once in September.

The Tigers had a big lead late that season, and they theorized that since Verlander would pitch in the playoffs, they could limit his innings. OK, sounds good. Limit the workload of your best pitcher, keeping him fresh for the playoffs.

Didn’t quite work out as planned because in four starts during the 2006 post season, Verlander was 1-2 with a 5.82 ERA.

But even after that “heavy workload” season, Verlander has never missed a start for injury, making 32 starts in 2007, 33 in 2008 and a stunning 35 starts last season. Stunning in 2009 only to the fact that since Verlander never went on three days rest, and while even going on five days rest 11 times, he still managed to start 35 games.

He threw 240 innings last year, tops in baseball. He also threw the most pitches in 2009 at 3,937. And when Verlander got off to a bad start in 2010, there was a USA today piece saying his slow start could have been attributable to his 2009 workload.

Old school Leyland was asked about this workload and didn’t buy it, saying Verlander “threw more pitches last year because he pitched better, so he was in games longer.” Verlander also pitches in the American League (AL) and since the pitcher is rarely removed for a pinch hitter, all the top AL pitchers should be at the top of the innings and pitch amounts.

To prove his point to the Detroit writers, Leyland produced a computer printout showing in detail the number of pitches Verlander threw in each of his 35 starts last season, encompassing those 240 innings.

“Justin averaged 112 pitches a game,” Leyland said. “That’s a sneeze. Seven innings at 15 pitches is 105. If 112 pitches is a lot, then I should go home.”

“Justin Verlander is a horse,” Leyland continued. “He was mad at me a lot of times because I took him out last year.

In fact, there has been no velocity change at all for Verlander this season. His last pitch of the day yesterday was a 98 MPH fastball to Brett Gardner.

But after Verlander threw 125 pitches against the Los Angeles Angels on April 22 and 121 pitches (in 5.1 innings) against the Minnesota Twins (a loss with no earned runs), Leyland came out with his new policy on his “horse.”

“I don’t take a chance with anybody,” Leyland said. “I take pride in handling my pitching staff and taking care of them, and I’m not going to change. … Where do you draw the line? He’s a horse, I understand that, but he exerts himself a little bit more than other guys when he gets in certain situations.”

Leyland has twice used the word horse regarding Verlander, but it is plainly obvious that Detroit upper management had a little talk with Leyland about the horse’s steady work.

Without Leyalnd saying the exact number of Verlander’s new pitch count, I believe it is 120 pitches.

Since Leyland’s new stance was made public, Verlander has gone 120 pitches in 8.1 innings against the Angels and 118 in 6.0 innings today versus Cleveland. And in yesterday win over the Yankees, Verlander got a visit to the mound during the Gardner at bat, and the image was beautiful.

Verlander looked at the scoreboard to see what his pitch count was and talked Leyland into staying in the game because he had not yet hit his 120 pitch count.

Leyland has not divulged his limit for Verlander, but it is safe to assume it is 120 pitches.

But while Leyland says Verlander exerts more due to his power pitching stature, he also should realize that Verlander has tremendous mechanics which allows him to throw that hard and also throw many more pitches than other pitchers without feeling tired or putting extra strain on his arm.

And the Tigers hurler is not happy about this new policy. 

“I don’t know if I can put one word to it, maybe overrated. I think it’s incredibly hard to put a stamp on every pitcher in the world and say, this is when you’re tired, this is when your arm is going to fall off. I think everybody’s different.”

Verlander did admit the policy had something to do with his very large guaranteed contract.  He signed a five-year, $80-million extension in the off-season, thereby making his arm the Tigers’ most valuable asset.

“With the amount of dollars in this industry now, you really can’t take a chance,” Verlander said. “Do I wish I could stay out there for 175 pitches? Yeah … but I get a pretty long leash by today’s standards. Which I’m grateful for that, too.”

Leyland said he takes pride in protecting his by when he managed the Pittsburgh Pirates, Doug Drabek regularly went over 120 pitches, once throwing 150 pitches in a game. In 2006, Leyland babied Jeremy Bonderman but he ended up getting hurt.

But Bonderman di not get hurt due to pitching overload, but because Bonderman has crappy pitching mechanics which puts additional strain on his shoulder. Did you know that Bonderman has NEVER thrown 120 or more pitches in a game, yet has had recurring shoulder issues?

How can that be? He has never been pitcher abused with pitch counts, and his biggest increase in the Tom Verducci inspired innings increase garbage has been 45 innings when he went from 189 IP in 2005 to 234 (including post season) in 2006. And that was his fifth professional season.

No, it was Bonderman’s terrible mechanics which caused his arm problems. Look at this image of Bonderman. OUCH! Just try and place your arms in that position. Placing it in that position hurts your shoulder, yet I can’t imagine how it feeels to throw a ball with that arm action.

Verlander, however, has very clean mechanics, and nary an injury.

Justin threw 120 or more pitches 11 times in 2009. In the 10 games after throwing 120+ pitches, he was 7-3 with a 2.93 ERA, 1.005 WHIP and 85 strikeouts in 70.2 innings.

Pretty dominant. In the pennant race last year Verlander won four of his last five starts, pitching into the 8th inning and throwing 120+ pitches in every start. Leyland and the Tigers needed those games and Verlander delivered like a work horse ace should including in the final game on October 4 against the Chicago White Sox. That win allowed the Tigers to play the next day for the division title.  

Why was Verlander allowed to go deeper into those games? Was it because the Tigers needed them? Well, teams need all the games during a season.

In 2009 Verlander was pulled in three games due to pitch counts, the most important was during the 7th inning of a  May 14, a 6-5 loss to those same Twins. With one out and with a 5-0 lead and runners on first and second, Verlander was pulled after 122 pitches. The bullpen blew the game during that 7th inning, allowing six runs to be scored after Verlander left the game.

One thing consistent with pulling dominant starting pitchers out of games due to pitch counts is that many games are then lost due to inferior relievers trying to get important outs which the starter should be getting.

Ask Zach Greinke or Tim Lincecum all about that. In a pennant race in September, those early games which were blown usually come back to haunt those teams. Give me a dominant pitcher for six or seven years throwing lots of pitches and tons of innings, rather than a relatively good one for 12 or more.

I want Sandy Koufax and even the recently departed Robin Roberts on my squad for a dominant group of six or seven seasons before their career declines. I don’t want to lose key games during a specific year, miss the playoffs and possibly not have that great season for the individual or the team. 

So Leyland is now protecting his (and Detroit’s) valuable arm, quite the change from last season and four seasons ago when his Tigers (with a rookie Verlander) were taking on the New York Yankees in the ALDS.

When asked about the rookies (Verlander’s) workload prior to that 2006 series, Leyland said, “Who should it be harder for in September — Justin Verlander or Randy Johnson, who’s 40-something years old? If you can’t pitch the innings, then you don’t belong in the big leagues. Now, do I try to take care of them? Yes. Am I conscious about trying to not get somebody hurt? Absolutely. But I can’t live in this shelter that says, ‘Oh, I’m afraid to pitch my guy, because if he throws too many pitches, the general manager or the fans are going to be ticked off.’ ”

Sounds like Jim Leyland now needs that shelter more than ever, because the Tigers GM has dictated to Leyland to keep Verlander on a leash.

But Verlander’s history and clean pitching mechanics allows him to be treated differently than almost all other pitchers in baseball, with maybe the exception of Roy Halladay, another pitcher with clean mechanics, lots of innings and no history of arm issues. Verlander can go longer than 120 pitches, probably at least 135 to 140, especially when he is still throwing 98 MPH at the 120 pitch mark.

Similar velocity late in a game is a sign of continued strength in a pitcher during the course of a game. It shows good stamina and great leg strength, two key attributes for keeping your mechanics strong deep into games.

Maybe if Verlander was allowed to throw more during last season, especially during that May 14 game mentioned above, Detroit’s last game last year would not have been that October 4th play-in game against the White Sox, which the Tigers LOST in the 12th inning.

It would have been in the post season with Verlander possibly pitching them to the AL Central title.

Minnesota Twins – Vikings Home Field Situation

September 21, 2009

If the Minnesota Twins come back from their current three games deficit to tie the Detroit Tigers for first place in the American League Central division, they must have a single game playoff. That playoff game will be held at the HomerDome in Minnesota.

This is key for two reasons. One, Detroit finds the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome to be a horrific place to play, and the Tigers would be at a distinct disadvantage by having to play there.

Two, the night that this game is proposed, Monday, October 5th has already a game scheduled. It is the Monday Night Football Game between the Green Bay Packers at the Minnesota Vikings.

Brett Favre playing against his old team, the Packers, for the first time.

Bu the NFL is being a tad strict as they have said they will not switch home sites and move the game out of Minnesota. The NFL and MLB have butted heads for awhile, primarily over the Sunday night telecasts. ESPN has televised the Sunday night baseball game since 1990, and in 1998 ESPN also garnered the Sunday night football package.

During a game on September 20, 1998 to be played between the Baltimore Orioles (they were good back then) and New York Yankees, ESPN sought permission from MLB to move the baseball game to ESPN2 so the NFL game could be on ESPN. The station wanted the higher rated football game to be broadcast on ESPN, which had a larger audience then because that channel was in more homes.

MLB refused, and the baseball game was played on ESPN with the NFL game taking a back seat. This was also the first baseball game in 2,632 contests that Cal Ripken, Jr. did not play.

Not until 2000 did MLB give permission for ESPN to switch games, but by then it was too late. The seeds of bitterness have been sown.

Now, if the Twins tie for the division title, why can’t the game be played during the day? First, the ball is impossible to see during the day, evidenced by the lost fly ball this past Saturday which helped the Twins win that game.  During the day, it is worse, as the sun reflects off the teflon outer shell, making the inside dome the same color as the baseball. If a fielder is not used to the ceiling there, it can be major trouble.

Also, the game if played during the day could not even finish. The field crew at the Metrodome needs time to convert the facility from baseball to football. The Twins have already had a 2004 game stopped in the 11th inning because the field needed to be converted for a University of Minnesota football game.

Imagine Justin Verlander on the mound Monday afternoon on October 5th, and forced to stop pitching because of a time limit on the game?

An easier solution might be for the NFL to move the Monday night game to Sunday night, and have the scheduled Sunday night game that weekend between the San Diego Chargers at the Pittsburgh Steelers moved to Monday night.

Night games are basically the same whether they are Sunday night or Monday night. It is just the announcers who are different*.

* Although he missed much of the game in his later years, and wasn’t as sharp as an analyst, I truly miss John Madden in the booth with Al Michaels. Cris Collingsworth doesn’t do it for me. I think it is Madden’s booming voice that I am so used to, and now realize I will not hear again.

But that idea seems too sensible, especially with the bitterness that seems to still exist between the two leagues, brought on initially by MLB.


Kevin Youkilis Needed to be Suspended a Minimum of 10 Games

August 13, 2009

Bob Watson, MLB’s czar of punishment, came down with a five game suspension for Kevin Youkilis of the Boston Red Sox after Youkilis charged the mound in last night’s game beginning a benches clearing brawl. Youkilis was hit in the back by Detroit Tigers 20 year old right hander Rick Porcello, the second straight night Youkilis was hit in the back during a bean ball war between the Tigers and Red Sox.

Miguel Cabrera was also hit twice by the Red Sox hurlers. It appears both teams are pitching the better hitters “inside.”

MLB has always talked about protecting their players, not wanting to get their stars hurt.

That is why Youkilis should have been suspended at least 10 games.

I want to say that Youkilis used to be my third favorite MLB player behind Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols. All three players play the game exceptionally well, and go all out all the time, even hustling to first base on every batted ball. That is the way baseball is supposed to be played. Like my college coach used to say: “Always run hard to first base when you hit the ball, what else do you have to do for those five seconds?”

All those players hustle, and Youkilis even volunteers to play other positions when injuries hit the Red Sox. He is a first baseman by trade, moved to third when Mike Lowell was out, and moved to left field when Jason Bay was out. He also played second base last year and was drafted as a catcher.

My kind of player…until Tuesday night.

For him to go after the 20 year old Porcello, who probably has the most valuable young right arm in the American league, is beyond comprehension. From Porcello’s reaction after he threw the ball to his reaction when Youkilis came charging out to the mound, it was apparent that Porcello was not trying to hit Youkilis on purpose.

It was only fitting that Porcello ended up using Youkilis’ momentum to body slam the burly 1B/3B  to the ground. But Porcello could have been seriously hurt, especially hurting his right arm during the pileup and melee that ensued.

Do Red Sox fans remember Bill (Spaceman) Lee? He was a very effective left handed pitcher for the Sox in the 1970’s and formed a pretty good one-two punch with Luis Tiant on those really good teams from the mid to late 70’s. On May 20, 1976, New York Yankee outfielder Lou Piniella barreled over Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk at home plate. A brawl erupted between the two feuding teams.

During the melee,  Lee (the starting pitcher in that game) separated his shoulder and, despite winning 16 games a few years later with the Montreal Expos, Lee was never really the same pitcher.

While MLB has said they want to protect their players, and want to end intentional hit batsmen, they need to take a look at charging of the mound situations. The scrums that ensue are more likely to harm a young player than any thrown ball plunking someone in the middle of the back.

During the typical “You hit my best hitter, so I will hit yours” scenario, getting plunked is a badge of honor. But it is not honorable to charge the mound on a 20 year old up and coming pitcher.

For Youkilis to charge the mound after such a pitch shows that these scenarios are in his head, that maybe he expects to be hit once a Red Sox pitchers hits a batter.

I am now advocating the continuous plunking of Kevin Youkilis to get him off his game. If any pitcher gets in a situation with two outs, Youkilis coming up and no one on base, I advocate the pitcher to hit Youkilis with a fastball in the back. This will rattle his cage a bit more.

Youkilis needed to take his plunking like a man and head to first base, and play the hard nosed game the way he always has. But he didn’t take it, and paid the price.

It just wasn’t the price that needed to be handed down.

Detroit Tigers Make a Bold Move

July 31, 2009

Quite possibly beating the New York Yankees to the punch today, the Detroit Tigers made a bold move in acquiring LHP Jarrod Wahburn for the Seattle Mariners for LHP’s Luke French and Mauricio Robles.

Although French has bounced back and forth between AAA and the majors this season, neither of those two pitchers have been particularly impressive in their pro careers. But I guess the Mariners had to fill their coffers a bit after making the Erik Bedard trade a season ago.

Washburn is a free agent after this season, and he could be only a two-month rental for the Tigers.

That shows they are going for it this season. Washburn is a good complementary pitcher to the hard throwers the Tigers have in Justin Verlander, Edwin Jackson and Armando Galarraga. Rick Porcello will likely be given a breather, by allowing him to only now start (maybe) once a week. 

That is a pretty good rotation now to compete with the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins. I am record saying the Twins, with a combined 24 games still left with Kansas City and Cleveland, will win the AL Central division.

This deal might have tipped the balance.

Amazing how if the Yankees were involved (and reports are that Washburn WANTED to be a Yankee), it would have taken more than two simpleton LHP’s to get Washburn.

It would of had to include either AAA OF Austin Jackson or High A catcher Austin Romine and probably a top young pitcher.

The Yankees coveted Washburn over the last few weeks, and despite their starting rotation being very good since the All-Star  break, the wanted Washburn for the last two months–possibly to ease the innings on Joba or a backup for Andy Pettitte.

They can always sign the free agent Washburn during the winter, but might have to face him in the playoffs this year. 

Just proves that the Yankees need to continue to produce their own talent through the system and then buy a pitcher the following off-season if they really have to have a guy.

Sergio Mitre to Start on Weekend

July 16, 2009

It hasn’t been determined which day he will go against the Detroit Tigers, but it appears that Sergio Mitre will get a start. The 28 year old Mitre, who was 3-1, 2.40 ERA in seven starts with AAA Scranton, was a former starting pitcher for the Florida Marlins in 2006 when Joe Girardi was the manager.

Mitre had Tommy John surgery in July 2008 and had been rehabbing in the minors. He also had served a 50 game ban for ingesting andro, a supplement made famous by Mark McGwire.

Mitre is 10-26 with a 5.36 ERA in 78 major league games with the Marlins and Chicago Cubs.

Since Mitre is not on the Yankees 40-man roster, the Yankees would have to release somebody. The Yankees love to stockpile pitchers on their 40 man and I don’t see any pitcher, even Brett Tomko, getting let go.

So, with the emergence of Francisco Cervelli, and a plethora of young signal callers coming up through the Yankee ranks such as Jesus Montero, Austin Romine, Chase Weems and Kyle Higashioka, the released player will likely be AAA catcher Kevin Cash. 

The Yankees use the catcher position like a wild card. They have at least three catchers at each level and move them around like chess pieces. Although it is a position where an extra veteran is always good, extra catchers like Cash are expendable, especially when the Yankees still have veteran Chris Stewart at AAA.

The 40 man change situation is probably why Alfredo Aceves started the one game in Minnesota last week. Not having Mitre start there gave the Yankees more time to decide who they would release from the 40 man roster.

The thing to look out for on Mitre is that he is a strike thrower, or as they say now, “he pounds the zone.” In his 45 AAA innings, he allowed only five walks whiles triking out 35. His peripheral numbers were a .241 BAA, K:BB of 7:1 and GO/FO ratio of 2.96.

Look for Mitre to go Sunday against the Tigers and Justin Verlander. If Mitre struggles, I hope that the Yankees do not pull starts away from Mtre. The Yankees need some stability in the rotation and Mitre is just as good, if not better, than anybodythey have available right now.