Thome The First Phillies’ Domino To Fall

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Now that Jim Thome has been traded from the Phillies to the Orioles for two low level minor leaguers, no one’s come up with a realistic answer as to why he signed with the Phillies in the first place.

It only made moderate sense for the Phillies hoping that he’d be happy as a pinch-hitter and DH in inter-league play. It would be the height of arrogance (possible) that the Phillies were looking forward to a World Series for Thome to be the DH in the AL parks.

But did both parties really think Thome was going to be able to play first base?

In what world is Thome—even as he’s turning 42 in August—mentioned in the same breath with other former Phillies’ pinch hitters Greg Dobbs, Ross Gload and Matt Stairs?

Thome can still hit and be productive as a semi-regular DH in the American League. That’s why re-signing with the Phillies made little-to-no sense for him and was done far too early in the free agent process to give the pretense of preplanning on either side. It was a rushed reunion like divorced spouses rekindling a relationship and hoping it would work out a second time.

But those types of reunions rarely work out.

The return to Philadelphia was a decision based on sentimentality and the friendship between Thome and Phillies’ manager Charlie Manuel.

As curious as the signing was in November, this trade is more curious.

Considering Thome had played 4 games at first base this season, Ryan Howard’s pending return had nothing to do with this trade. Thome was a pinch-hitter and Howard is their everyday first baseman. There’s no connection between the two.

The only obvious answer as to why this trade was made is that this is beginning of a Phillies’ sell off.

There’s no other explanation. Perhaps they’re going to give it another 3 weeks to see where they are before going full bore into sell mode and trading their two big name pending free agents Cole Hamels and Shane Victorino, but they’re preparing for that eventuality.

Even with the return of Chase Utley, they’ve lost 4 straight games. They’re 36-44, 10 ½ games out of first place in the NL East and 7 ½ games out of first in the Wild Card. The deficit can be overcome, but they have to win a few games of their own to do it.

They’re not auctioning Hamels and Victorino on July 1st, but you can bet if teams are calling GM Ruben Amaro Jr. to inquire about those two players, Amaro’s telling those teams that they’re not available…yet. He’s telling them to keep in touch and is thinking about what he wants in exchange for Hamels and Victorino.

You can also bet that the Phillies’ scouts are fanning out to look at the minor league systems of the teams that are calling about Hamels and Victorino so they have an idea of what to ask for if they do put them on the market.

Thome was the first domino.

If the Phillies don’t start winning soon, the other ones are going to fall by the end of the month.

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Ominous Signs For The Twins

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If Twins’ GM Terry Ryan’s recent moves and statements are any indication, the team is well on the way to another long lull similar to the one they experienced from 1994-2000 when they were not only considered a dead franchise, but they were almost contracted from MLB entirely.

Considering the context of his remarks at the SABR 42 convention, I’m surprised there hasn’t been more vitriol coming from the stat person crowd at Ryan’s open decision to stay the course with his beliefs of scouting and intuition rather than numbers.

I’m no stat guy and I don’t think any organization in any industry should be run on numbers alone. I have no use for people who’ve watched baseball for two years, can read a stat sheet and pompously and condescendingly declare that they know more than people who’ve been involved with the game for decades, but those that haven’t fully incorporated the use of statistics into the equation are missing out on factors that can be used to make more informed choices.

Under no circumstances do I believe in absolutes when building an organization.

The statement of alteration in their draft strategy would concern me.

Ryan said that Target Field has changed his team’s Draft philosophies. The Twins used to look at left-handed pitchers and hitters when they played at the Metrodome, but he said that the team’s new outdoor facility favors right-handed hitters and outfielders who can cover a lot of ground.

Drafting to the ballpark or the organizational belief system has its place within reason. I wouldn’t draft a player who had a history of drug or alcohol problems; trouble with the law; character issues unless I was convinced the incidents were isolated or had been handled and hadn’t occurred in recent history. I wouldn’t exclude a player if he didn’t prototypically “fit” into my big league ballpark. If there was a debate between two players of similar ability and one was a better fit for the big league park, then it’s a sensible to take him. Specifically looking for players that fit into a big league park is a doomed strategy.

In football or basketball, where a player is stepping out of the amateurs and into the highest level of professional competition, it’s an understandable method to draft based on need. Not so in baseball. For most players it will take several years for them to be ready for the big leagues; foreseeing the “need” argument for 3-5 years down the line is impossible.

The absolutist mentality came into prominence after Moneyball because the narrative suggested that Billy Beane had stumbled upon the perfect method of drafting. But there is no perfect method of drafting. It doesn’t exist.

There does have to be adaptation.

The question about Ryan becomes is he equipped to function in today’s game? Is he willing to do what’s necessary to turn the Twins around? They just signed Ryan Doumit to a contract extension—a questionable move. They should look to trade Justin Morneau. Will they?

They’re currently a disaster and have little talent to speak of in their system. He’s got a lot of work to do and is functioning under an “interim” tag.

It doesn’t sound as if the Twins have learned from their mistakes in building this monstrosity. They’re changing their way of doing things, but still following strategies that were en vogue 20 years ago. They’ve taken a different form.

There were some nice moments during the SABR convention and Ryan was gracious to appear and share his views, but I can’t help but picture many of the participants rolling their eyes and referring to Ryan as an old-school dinosaur who’s refusing to change with the times and knowing that the Twins are in trouble if he sticks to the template he outlined.

Ryan’s been a high-quality executive, a good baseball man and a decent person.

But maybe it’s time for someone else to oversee this reconstruction; someone with fresh eyes; someone open to doing things differently.

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Surprise Buyers—American League

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Let’s look at some teams that are unexpectedly hovering around contention, what they need and who they should pursue.

Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles could use a starting pitcher and a bat (or two). One of the bats has to be able to play the outfield competently.

Dan Duquette is looking pretty smart for his under-the-radar off-season maneuvers getting Jason Hammel, Matt Lindstrom and Wei-Yin Chen. He’s not going to gut the system for a big name should one come available, nor should he.

Ryan Dempster is the type of middling pitcher they should pursue. Matt Garza can be had. Cole Hamels isn’t worth the cost for a rental unless they know they’re going to sign him.

Jim Thome has been mentioned as a DH option and he’d provide an offensive boost on the field and would be a stabilizing, quietly strong veteran leader off the field.

Carlos Lee is available from the Astros; if the Cubs are willing to give them Alfonso Soriano for a moderate prospect and pay his salary, the change to a club in the pennant race could really wake up his bat—and he’s been hitting homers lately anyway.

Carlos Quentin is on the block from the Padres.

Chicago White Sox

It was supposed to be a bridge year for the White Sox with a new manager, Robin Ventura and an altered configuration and strategy. But they’ve taken advantage of a mediocre AL Central and are in first place.

They could use a starting pitcher and if they’re still hovering around the top of the division and Wild Card at the deadline, GM Ken Williams is going to go for a big name—that means Hamels or Garza.

For the bullpen they could pursue Huston Street (who I’m not a fan of), Brett Myers, Brandon League or Grant Balfour.

Cleveland Indians

It’s time to forget about Grady Sizemore and to not expect any long term health from Travis Hafner when he returns.

They need a bat that can play centerfield.

Shane Victorino is a pending free agent and the Phillies are soon going to be teetering on holding out for the return of their stars or accepting that this isn’t their season and moving forward for 2013.

Chase Headley would be an upgrade over journeyman Jack Hannahan at third base; he can also play the outfield and first base.

Casey Kotchman has been a disaster at first base. I wouldn’t give up much to get Carlos Lee, but I’d take him.

The Indians’ starting pitching isn’t impressive statistically, but there’s enough there to wait without overspending on an outsider.

They could use a bullpen arm or two and should check with the Padres on Street and the Rockies on bringing Rafael Betancourt back to Cleveland.

Kansas City Royals

What’s with all this talk of the Royals selling? They’re 5 ½ games out of first place.

Ravaged by injuries to their starting rotation, they need arms. They have the prospects to do something major like bringing Zack Greinke back. They have the money to sign him long term.

On the surface, they could use a power bat but they just got Salvador Perez back and there’s reason to believe that they have enough pop if Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer start hitting the ball out of the park.

I wouldn’t go too crazy trying to win now, but I’d explore what’s out there to improve in the short and long terms.

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Has Ruben Amaro Jr. Met Jim Thome?

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Ruben Amaro Jr. says some of the most ridiculous things in explaining his bizarre decisions.

The quote clipped from this posting on MLB Trade Rumors about the Phillies looking to trade Jim Thome follows:

The ideal situation right now, because he can’t really play defense in the National League, would be for Jim to play in the American League,” Amaro said. “He still has the ability to win a game for us and be productive off the bench. The problem is, the further away he gets from regular at-bats, the more difficult it becomes for him to do that.”

Has Amaro met Thome? Is he forgetting that he signed him last fall and could’ve uttered the above quote verbatim as an explanation of why he wasn’t going to sign him? The thought that Thome could play some first base was ridiculous and, as expected, he’s not happy as a pure pinch-hitter. He can still produce and there are teams—my money’s on the Blue Jays—that can use him.

The Phillies shouldn’t have signed him in the first place.

This might be characterized as the beginning of a potential Phillies’ sell-off. Chase Utley returned to action on Wednesday and the team promptly lost the next two games to the Pirates. But I don’t see any connection between the decision to shop Thome and a housecleaning. It’s more of a similar admission from Amaro that he made a mistake. While not as drastic as when he traded Cliff Lee for prospects and acquired Roy Halladay, then had to bolster the starting rotation the next summer by getting Roy Oswalt and re-signed Lee the next winter, it’s still a do-over.

Amaro’s lucky that the Ryan Madson deal he was said to have offered—link—didn’t go through. After Madson signed with the Reds and got hurt with Tommy John surgery, there would’ve been no fixing that with a “whoops, never mind” and the Phillies would be in even worse shape than they are now.

And where they are now isn’t particularly good either.

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Girardi Should Quit The Politically Correct Dance

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If he was given suitable time to acclimate himself to the role, perhaps in save situations Yankees’ reliever David Robertson wouldn’t be so tight that a guitar could be strummed across his chest. He’d learn to handle the different mentality and perception-induced pressure of pitching the 9th inning instead of the 8th.

Maybe he’d be able to do the job.

But in the crisis-a-day atmosphere of the Yankees, they aren’t predisposed to giving anyone time to do anything. Replacing a legend in Mariano Rivera only exacerbated Robertson’s plight; that he was supposedly the key to the whole season laid the entire roster and organization on his shoulders and he was neither ready nor equipped to deal with it.

Given his shaky start, it’s a moot point how long the Yankees would’ve moved forward with the Robertson-as-closer charade since he got hurt and was replaced by the man they should’ve placed in the job as Rivera’s replacement to begin with, Rafael Soriano.

Soriano, like Robertson, has looked like a different pitcher in the 9th inning. With Robertson that was bad; with Soriano it’s been great. The confidence and desire to be the person on the mound at the end of the game reverted Soriano to the pitcher the Yankees signed for $35 million to be Rivera’s set-up man; the pitcher he was with the division-winning Rays of 2010.

In retrospect the Yankees were lucky that Robertson strained a muscle in his side and the decision was made for them.

What was most laughable was the reaction—mostly on Twitter and in the media—of those who spend much of their time quoting statistics as a means to bolster their own self-created expertise and would prefer, instead of the designated closer pitching the 9th inning and the 9th inning alone, to have a manager go with the pitchers based on matchups and high-leverage situations while refraining from the Tony LaRussa innovation of defined roles for the relievers.

Those same would-be “experts” were roasting Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi for not having Robertson start the 9th inning—as if that would’ve mattered; as if Robertson hasn’t earned the nickname “Houdini” because he gets himself into trouble seemingly for no other reason than to get out of it.

Soriano was getting the night off after having pitched in four of the previous five days including Tuesday night and a hairy save on Wednesday afternoon.

Girardi did what the stat guys want. He went with the numbers and used pitchers who, on the surface, were better-suited to do the job in a save situation or otherwise. Sidearmer Cody Eppley started the inning against Alex Rios and allowed a single. Rios, by the way, is a career 3 for 4 vs Robertson. Girardi pulled Eppley for Clay Rapada. Rapada got a comebacker from A.J. Pierzynski and threw wildly trying to get the double play. Then Girardi brought in Robertson who promptly allowed a 3-run homer to Dayan Viciedo to lose the game.

Girardi invited the second-guessing by saying that he didn’t want to use Robertson too heavily after his injury but also said that he intended to use Robertson even if the double play had been completed. Only he knows if that’s the truth or if he didn’t want to put Robertson in too dicey a mess not of his own making. Girardi won’t come out and say he doesn’t think Robertson can close, but empirical evidence and Girardi’s experience as a manager, coach and player—experience that you don’t have—says exactly that.

So he went another route, protected his fragile pitcher’s psyche, and it didn’t work.

Do you want a designated “closer” or do you want mixing-and-matching?

Do you want to keep putting Robertson in a situation where he’s clearly uncomfortable and in whom the manager and pitching coach don’t place a great deal of faith to do the job? Or do you want to have him start the inning?

Do you want to stick to your faulty outsider theories or do you want to come to the conclusion—as hard as it may be—that you don’t know as much as you think you do?

Robertson might be able to close eventually, but it’s not going to be this year and it’s probably not going to be for the Yankees as they’re currently structured.

This is the truth whether your inexplicably bloated egos can accept it or not.

Girardi might be well-advised to stop being a politician trying to keep everyone happy and say what I just said. Maybe then people would leave him alone and let him do his job as he sees fit.

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Mid-Season Trade Candidates—Zack Greinke

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Name: Zack Greinke—Milwaukee Brewers

Tale of the tape: Right-handed pitcher; 28-years-old (29 in October); 6’2”, 200 lbs.

Contract status: $13.5 million in 2012. Free agent after the season.

Would the Brewers trade him?

They’re not going to be able to sign him, but there’s a difference between would they trade him and will they trade him.

There’s an undertone that Greinke is definitely going to be traded because the Brewers are floundering and are unlikely to climb back into contention.

They’re 34-41 and in 4th place in the NL Central. But they’re 7 1/2 games out of first place behind the Reds and 5 1/2 games out of the Wild Card lead.

The Reds are a good team but not so good that the Brewers should forget about a possible comeback in the division. There are two Wild Cards available and throwing in the towel before it’s absolutely necessary is a questionable decision.

If they fade out by the end of July with a double-digit deficit in the division and are 8 or so games out of the Wild Card and—more importantly—have not played well enough to justify holding out, they should trade Greinke.

Greinke is one of the top pitchers in baseball with a feel for pitching that is quite rare. He’s able to accelerate his fastball when he needs to and his control is impeccable with both his fastball and his off-speed stuff. He’s a pure ace in his prime and if he’s available teams would be remiss by not exploring his cost.

What would they want for him?

The new CBA has taken away the draft pick compensation for a team that acquires a pending free agent player at mid-season. Unless a club thinks that the player is the final piece of their puzzle and his acquisition will put them in a position to win the World Series, it may not be worth it to gut the system or even give up a top prospect to get the player.

The Brewers are not only losing Greinke after this season but Shaun Marcum is a free agent as well and Randy Wolf has a $10 million contract option for 2013 and is going to be 36 in August. Wolf’s pitched better than his record, but it won’t make sense to pick up the option if the Brewers are beginning a rebuild.

Their farm system is largely gutted. They need volume at the minor league level and pitching prospects. GM Doug Melvin is experienced and will dangle Greinke out there to maximize his value. They would get a couple of good prospects for Greinke. In retrospect the Brewers didn’t give up much to get Greinke so they’ll be able to recoup what they gave and get a bit more back after having the pitcher for a season-and-a-half.

Which teams would pursue him?

Greinke is a bad fit for either New York team and probably Philadelphia and Boston.

That won’t stop any of those teams from going after him and maybe he’ll surprise those who think he’s not mentally tough enough to handle the big stage.

Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman has said he doesn’t foresee pursuing anything of the high-end quality of Greinke, but the absence of Andy Pettitte and disabled list stint for CC Sabathia—no matter how short-term it supposedly is—has to give them pause for October and will force them to ask about Greinke.

The Orioles will be after him; the Tigers, White Sox, Indians and even the Royals might be involved.

The Royals are labeled as sellers with Jeff Francoeur, Bruce Chen and even Billy Butler being mentioned, but they’re 5 games out of first place in the mediocre AL Central and are 31-25 after their atrocious 3-14 start. Why should they sell?

The Braves, Cardinals, Marlins, Dodgers and Diamondbacks are in this drama too.

What will happen?

The window for the Brewers was narrow. If they were going to win with this group it had to be in 2011. They lost in the NLCS; Prince Fielder departed as a free agent; they tried to patch it together to replace him and it hasn’t worked.

Now they have to start over again.

Given their injuries and as poorly as they’ve played up to now, I can’t imagine a miraculous comeback for this configuration. Greinke’s going to get traded and my guess is that he winds up with the Braves.

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Chase Headley Is More Valuable Than…

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Chase Headley is an affordable and versatile switch hitter. He can run, has some power and plays good defense whether it’s at third base or the outfield. He can probably play first base relatively well. He’s not a free agent until after the 2014 season so any team that has him will have him for the foreseeable future at a very reasonable price.

He’s a nice player. He’s a pretty good player.

But this posting on MLB Trade Rumors implies, based on Fangraphs’ version of Wins Above Replacement (WAR), that he’s something more than a pretty good player. It says specifically that Headley is the 13th most valuable position player in baseball.

This exemplifies a problem with WAR. It gives information that may or may not be accurate, relevant or in the proper context.

Does value equal worth?

In other words, it may be accurate that Headley is that good in this framework, but is it true? Is it fair?

Based on fWAR, yes Headley was the 13th “most valuable” player in baseball. (He’s dropped since the posting.)

But salary aside, would you rather have Headley instead of some of the players currently behind him in the list? Headley instead of Carlos Beltran? Instead of Brett Lawrie? Mark Trumbo? Jose Bautista? Joe Mauer?

Headley might hit for more power if he was in a friendlier home park, but don’t expect him to suddenly morph from what he is—10-12 homers a year—into Asdrubal Cabrera and have a wondrous jump in power to 25 homers.

Looking at other Padres’ players who’ve gone on to play in fairer parks—Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Kouzmanoff and Mike Cameron—their power numbers have been the same or worse.

When in PetCo Park, the pitchers are aware of how difficult it is to hit a home run; that Headley hits a lot of balls up the middle which make it harder for him to hit home runs. They’re more likely to feed him pitches they wouldn’t if he were playing in a smaller park.

The dimensions of the park are static; the pitching strategy is variable.

Not unlike the oft-repeated and woefully inaccurate lament that if X player wasn’t caught stealing prior to Y player’s home run they would’ve had 2 runs rather than 1, it’s not taking into account that the entire pitching sequence would’ve been different and might’ve yielded an entirely different result.

It’s indicative of a lack of in-the-trenches knowledge to take fWAR—or any stat for that matter—at face value. Similar to those who said they’d stay away from Yu Darvish or Aroldis Chapman because of prior failures with Japanese and Cuban free agents; or the concept that because a tall catcher like Mauer has never made it as a star player then he’s not going to be a star player; or the Moneyball farce that college pitchers are a better option than high school pitchers, it’s a false “proof” based on floating principles that remove experience and baseball sense from the decisionmaking process.

Stats are important but not the final word. If you take seriously the idea that Headley is the 13th most valuable position player in baseball and judge him on that, quite bluntly, you don’t know anything about baseball and need to learn before putting your opinion out there as final. And if you knowingly twist the facts, that makes it worse because instead of full disclosure—statistical and otherwise—in spite of the possibility of them watering down your argument, you’re spiritually altering them to “prove” a nonexistent point. That’s not honesty. It’s agenda-driven and self-interested at the expense of the truth.

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The Yankee Mentality

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When I wrote my prior posting about CC Sabathia’s pulled groin I said that Yankees’ fans were loading up the phone banks to Mike Francesa’s show to call for the team to trade for a big name starter like Zack Greinke, Matt Garza, Cliff Lee or anyone who’s an All-Star caliber starter to replace their All-Star caliber starter.

It was ironic humor because as much as we don’t want it to be true; don’t want to believe that there’s that level of entitlement anywhere in the world, it came true.

It wasn’t Sabathia’s injury that created the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction moment, but Andy Pettitte’s fractured ankle sustained in this afternoon’s game that was the catalyst for Francesa to begin speculating on which All-Star pitcher they were getting.

“Are da Yankeez gonna getta pitchuh? Will dey getta Gahrza? Will dey getta Lee?”

I’m paraphrasing, but it’s pretty much dead on.

Who came up with this game of telephone that Lee is even available?

The Phillies are getting Chase Utley back tonight; they’ve played badly but they’re still in contention in the Wild Card and are a hot streak from being right back near the top of the NL East. The Phillies are unlikely to be sellers, but if they are it’s Cole Hamels (Francesa mentioned him as well) who’s going and not Lee. Lee has a no-trade clause to 10 teams and you can bet the house that the Yankees are on it.

He didn’t want to pitch for the Yankees when he was a free agent after the 2010 season and after the stuff that was said about him following his spurning the Yankees’ advances and when he revealed that the Yankees were his third choice after the Phillies and Rangers (the last choice since they were his only serious suitors), what don’t you get? He’s not interested.

Ruben Amaro Jr, the Phillies’ GM, admitted the mistake in trading Lee by acquiring Roy Oswalt during the 2010 season and then by re-signing Lee after 2010. Do you really believe he’s going to ruin his reputation among the players and toss in the towel on the Phillies’ season by trading Lee to the Yankees for prospects? And what prospects are the Yankees giving him?

It’s just crafted nonsense that’s not going to happen even if the Phillies come apart.

This mentality lends itself to the greed that takes a 97-65 season and ALCS loss and dubs it a failure. It engenders the hatred other fans and teams have for the Yankees and their fans because no one wants to hear this garbage that they can’t possibly function without an All-Star or post-season hero pitching for them every night.

What world is this?

It’s not good enough to have a terrific bullpen and a lineup that’s leading the Major Leagues in home runs with superstars at 5 of the 8 starting positions and a very good background cast?

It’s this thought process that labeled an athlete like Mariano Rivera—who got hurt doing athletic things—something more than what he is: a baseball player. That’s how an injury to a human being who plays a sport for a living was called a “tragedy”.

It’s not a tragedy and the Yankees aren’t “supposed” to have a potential Hall of Famer, Cy Young Award winner, MVP or legend playing every single position every night.

They wonder why they’re hated and it’s a joyful event when they lose and they have to do a postmortem on the season that wasn’t; a failed plotline that didn’t result in a World Series win (as has happened every year but one for this whole century). This is why.

It’s called reality.

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The Adductor Is NOT In The Elbow

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How many not-so-bright fans (I didn’t say Yankees’ fans, I said “fans” meaning in general) are going to read and hear that CC Sabathia is going on the disabled list with an adductor strain and think it’s something with his elbow; will think that he’s heading for Tommy John surgery; will think that he’s lost for a year; will demand that the Yankees immediately trade for Zack Greinke, Matt Garza, Felix Hernandez or, as in the warped Yankee-centric mind of Joel Sherman, Cliff Lee?

There’s a contingent of Yankees’ fans who will understand that Sabathia’s injury is to his left leg (his push off leg) and will still want the club to trade for a star commensurate with Sabathia’s status for the two starts he’s scheduled to miss.

It’s the way of the world in the Bronx.

An easy way to remember that the adductor comes from the hip to the inside of the leg is to think of adding in, bringing the leg inward toward the body. The abductor goes away from the body.

Ad in, ab out.

With Sabathia, this isn’t anything to worry about. Sabathia doesn’t want to go on the disabled list and if it were a September pennant race, I’d venture a guess that he wouldn’t go on the disabled list; he’d take a painkilling shot and pitch through it. But the Yankees, ever concerned about innings, pitch counts and manufactured limits even for a pure horse who logs 230 innings a year like Sabathia does, will take any opportunity to give a pitcher some extra time off.

The Yankees currently have a 4 game lead in the AL East and with the second Wild Card now available they’re in a strong position to make the playoffs, so it makes sense not to take chances. That logic isn’t going to prevent the phone calls that will be made to Mike Francesa at 1:00; it won’t stop the YES Network “personalities” from assessing the situation with a panicky undertone as if these things only happen to the Yankees and it’s a tragedy when they do.

On a positive note, I doubt YES and its affiliated blogs will be able to ignore the Sabathia injury as if it never happened as they did with the still disabled Manny Banuelos and Jose Campos.

Sabathia’s too big a presence in stature and performance to hide—especially when his absence is so conspicuous, 4 game lead or not.

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Resuscitating A Dying Fish—Solutions For The Marlins

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Since Jack McKeon is so old that he has a rotary cell phone, bringing him back in a significant capacity is unrealistic.

But something has to be done.

The Marlins are 5-18 in June and have fallen into last place in the NL East.

All is not lost however. In spite of their 34-40 record, they’re 9 games out of first place in the division. It’s a deficit that can be overcome. They’re also 5 1/2 games out of the Wild Card lead. With two Wild Cards available, there’s no reason for them to give up.

But they do need to do something to shake it up.

Let’s take a look at some of the options.

Fire someone.

Manager Ozzie Guillen is going nowhere.

It’s not pitching coach Randy St. Claire’s fault that Carlos Zambrano’s velocity is down to about 88 mph; that Heath Bell has been dreadful; that the bullpen overall hasn’t performed. But the pitching coach is an easy fire.

The Marlins are near the bottom of the NL in every offensive category. Hitting coach Eduardo Perez could be in the crosshairs as could bullpen coach Reid Cornelius.

It would be cannibalistic of owner Jerffrey Loria to fire Eduardo Perez while he counts Eduardo’s father Tony Perez as a friend and adviser, but he’s fired friends before when he dumped Jeff Torborg in favor of McKeon in 2003. Firing the hitting coach is symbolic, but it would count as doing something.

Make a trade/demotion.

Logan Morrison had a right to complain—within reason—when he was demoted to Triple A last August. But the club had warned him about his ubiquitous presence on social media and told him to tone it down. He ignored organizational responsibilities and those warnings. They sent him to the minors and brought him back shortly thereafter. He quieted down on Twitter. So it worked.

This time a demotion will be because of performance. Period. A .224/.302/.379 slash line with 7 homers isn’t cutting it.

They sent Gaby Sanchez down once and it didn’t help. The next step is to trade him for another team’s headache.

Trading Hanley Ramirez would drop a bomb in the clubhouse. The likeliest scenario of trading Ramirez would be during the off-season, but they can listen to offers now.

The Dodgers need a third baseman and a bat. The Padres are listening on Chase Headley. Maybe Ramirez and Morrison for Headley, Huston Street and Carlos Quentin would make sense. The Padres could spin Ramirez off this winter for more than they traded to get him.

Remove Bell from the closer’s role for the rest of the season.

If he wasn’t signed for 3 years not only would he have been demoted, they might’ve released him.

His teammates, coaches, manager and front office can say they believe in Bell all they want, but only a fool thinks they’re telling the truth. No one is comfortable when he enters the game and while a veteran is allowed to slump, he’s not allowed to torpedo the whole season. They don’t have enticing options, but a closer-by-committee is better than this.

Stay the course.

At this rate, if they do that they’ll be staying the course all the way to Miami’s finest golf courses.

With teams that are operating in bad luck or have veteran rosters with a history of winning, it’s reasonable to hold out and wait. That’s not the case with this patched together group. Loria knows this and something’s going to be done to awaken a shellshocked and increasingly ambivalent clubhouse.

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