Early Season Blues And Blahs

Books, Games, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players

This morning I focused on the “oohs and ahs”; now it’s time for the blues and blahs.

The Yankees starting pitching holes:

You can go on and on about Bartolo Colon‘s stunningly great work so far (he has been great); and Freddy Garcia‘s craftsmanship and intelligence (he’s been really smart); but it’s 16 games into the season and they’re not—N.O.T.—not going to keep it up past May-June.

A.J. Burnett is 3-0 and hasn’t pitched particularly well; Phil Hughes is on the disabled list with a “dead arm”. All they have to rely on in the starting rotation is CC Sabathia.

It’s a problem whether you face it or not.

They’re going to have to find a starting pitcher somewhere.

And maybe Brian Cashman is right to keep asking the Mariners about Felix Hernandez.

Buster Olney wrote a piece about the Mariners last week (it’s ESPN Insider access, so no link), but here’s the crux:

If the Mariners’ decision-makers determine for themselves that Hernandez is getting fed up and bored with the losing, then the best time to trade him will be this summer. His value is extraordinary, and similarly, their trade leverage will never be higher, because of what he would immediately mean to any interested team, whether it be the Yankees or the Braves (who could put together a heck of an offer) or the Red Sox.

It’s a longshot, but maybe the Mariners will put Hernandez on the market.

Short of that, the Yankees will have to wait to see who comes available and hope that Colon and Garcia are still of use and Hughes comes back to do….something.

Speaking of the Mariners…

In that same ESPN piece, Olney wonders whether GM Jack Zduriencik will survive the continued losing that the Mariners are going to have to endure for the foreseeable future. The old standby excuse of “there wasn’t much talent there when he arrived” is actually a viable excuse; I can’t fault him for the slow starts of bats who should’ve improved the offense in Jack Cust and Miguel Olivo; but Chone Figgins is batting .162 and, so far, is one of the worst free agent signings in my memory. Giving Figgins $45 million was ridiculous and I said so at the time.

Nor is it Zduriencik’s fault that he was anointed as a genius based on an overachieving/statistical correcting season from 2008 to 2009. The 2008 Mariners weren’t 100-loss bad; the 2009 Mariners weren’t 85-win good.

That said, after last year’s on-and-off the field embarrassments, I would’ve put Zduriencik on notice that the team had better look more passionate on the field and no….controversies….off….the….field!!

Here’s what I would do if I were the Mariners. I’d call the Yankees and offer them Felix Hernandez for: Joba Chamberlain; Brett Gardner; Jesus Montero; either Manny Banuelos or Dellin Betances; and the Yankees have to take Figgins and his contract back.

Take it or leave it.

The key for the Mariners is deciding who’s going to be running the club. If they’ve lost trust in Zduriencik, they have to make a change before trading season gets underway.

Your 2011 Minnesota Twins:

I find it laughable that the likes of Mike Francesa have the audacity to make “predictions” by uttering such inanities as, “I’m pickin’ da Twins because I always pick ‘da Twins”.

Um. Okay.

With that kind of expert analysis, it was a legitimate question as to why I wasted my time and energy writing my book…until the season started.

How about looking at the team before coming to such a conclusion?

The Twins bullpen is awful; their starting pitching predictably mediocre; their defense is shaky; their offense pockmarked by injuries; and I’m convinced there’s a hangover from last season when they put everything they had into finally beating the Yankees and were swatted away like an irritating mosquito.

They’re going to have a long year.

The A’s imported some hitters; so why can’t they hit?

What’s the problem in Oakland?

They bring in three good, professional hitters in David DeJesus, Josh Willingham and Hideki Matsui and none of them are hitting. Their starting pitching has been masterful; the revamped bullpen mediocre. If they want to contend, they’ve got to coordinate their performances a bit.

As much as I wish I could blame Billy Beane for the meager offense, I can’t. They’re not hitting and it’s not his fault.

I’m still ambivalent about the A’s—I don’t think their starting pitching can sustain this pace—but Willingham, DeJesus and Matsui are going to hit eventually.

The staggering White Sox:

Ozzie Guillen‘s job has been “teetering” how many times now? And he’s never gotten fired.

It’s not his fault that Matt Thornton hasn’t been able to close games; that the overall bullpen is killing them. Could Guillen be in trouble? Real trouble with the potential to be fired?

I doubt it, but I’ll say this: in my book, before Guillen’s 2012 contract option was exercised, I speculated that the expectations for this team were high; that they spent a lot of money and pretty much maximized the limits of their payroll—they have to win. If the relationship between Guillen and GM Kenny Williams deteriorated any further, Williams might pull the trigger on his longtime cohort.

I also suggested that Cito Gaston might be a viable replacement; Williams nearly hired Gaston to manage the team before he hired Guillen; I didn’t get the impression that Gaston wanted to stop managing after last season with the Blue Jays.

Then when the White Sox exercised Guillen’s option, I deleted what I’d written.

But could they make a move if the team’s fall continues?

The obvious new manager would be Joey Cora, but Williams thinks outside the box and Gaston is a calming voice with two World Series wins to his credit.

Don’t discount the possibility.


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2 thoughts on “Early Season Blues And Blahs

  1. I’d like to see Felix get dealt, even if it is to the Yankees. It pains me to see his efforts squandered with no supporting cast. He looks like he could use a hug.

  2. Joba Chamberlain has very little value. The Mariners could do a lot better than than “Joba Chamberlain; Brett Gardner; Jesus Montero; either Manny Banuelos or Dellin Betances” if they decided to put King Felix on the market. And there is really no reason for them to do so for AT LEAST the next year and a half. He is the only real draw they have and Seattle can afford to pay him. Plus, with Smoak looking like he’ll stick at first for a long while, they’d have to put Montero at DH, lessening his value to them. It just not going to happen.

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