Matt Harvey’s Elbow Injury Fallout

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No matter what happens with his elbow, Matt Harvey of the Mets is still going home to this:

Anne_V

I’m not using that image of Anne V. in an attempt to accumulate gratuitous web hits, but as an example of Harvey being perfectly fine whether he has to have Tommy John surgery or not. The reactions ranged from the ludicrous to the suicidal and I’m not quite sure why. There’s being a fan and treating an athlete as if he or she is part of your family and cares about you as much as you care about them.

Let’s have a look at the truth.

For Matt Harvey

The severity of the tear of his ulnar collateral ligament is still unknown because the area was swollen and the doctors couldn’t get the clearest possible image. Whether or not he can return without surgery will be determined in the coming months. It’s possible. If you run a check on every single pitcher in professional baseball, you can probably find a legitimate reason to tell him to shut it down. Some are more severe than others. Harvey’s probably been pitching with an increasing level of damage for years. The pain was  manageable and didn’t influence his stuff, so he and his teams didn’t worry about it. This surgery is relatively common now and the vast number of pitchers return from it better than ever. The timetable given is generally a full year, but pitchers are now coming back far sooner.

“That’s so Mets”

This injury is being treated as if it’s something that could only happen to the Mets. The implication is that their “bad luck” is infesting everything they touch. But look around baseball. How about “that’s so Nats?” Both Jordan Zimmerman and Stephen Strasburg required Tommy John surgery in spite of the Nationals’ protective measures and overt paranoia.

How about “that’s so Red Sox?” Clay Buchholz has spent much of two of the past three seasons on and off the disabled list with several injuries—many of which were completely misdiagnosed.

How about “that’s so Yankees?” Joba Chamberlain and Manny Banuelos had Tommy John surgery; Michael Pineda has had numerous arm injuries since his acquisition.

How about “that’s so Braves?” Tim Hudson, Kris Medlen, Eric O’Flaherty, Jonny Venters (twice), Brandon Beachy and Alex Wood have all had Tommy John surgery. The Braves are considered one of the best organizational developers of talent in baseball.

Dave Duncan warrants Hall of Fame induction for his work as a pitching coach and had Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter undergo Tommy John surgery. You can go to every single organization in baseball and find examples like this.

The Mets kept an eye on Harvey, protected him and he still got hurt. That’s what throwing a baseball at 100 mph and sliders and other breaking pitches at 90+ mph will do. It’s not a natural motion and it damages one’s body.

The Twitter experts

Some said the Mets should not only have shut Harvey down earlier, but they also should have shut down Jonathon Niese, Jenrry Mejia, Zack Wheeler and Jeremy Hefner. Who was going to pitch? PR man Jay Horowitz? Others stated that they were planning to undertake research into the pitching mechanics technique of “inverted W” (which Harvey didn’t use). I’m sure the Mets are waiting for a layman’s evaluations and will study them thoroughly.

Of course, many blamed the Mets’ manager Terry Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen. That was based on an agenda, pure and simple. Some have been pushing for the Mets to bring back former pitching coach Rick Peterson. They’re ignoring the fact that Peterson is now the pitching coordinator for the Orioles and their top pitching prospect, Dylan Bundy, had Tommy John surgery himself. Is that Dan Warthen’s fault too?

To have the arrogance to believe that some guy on Twitter with a theory is going to have greater, more in-depth knowledge than professional trainers, baseball people and medical doctors goes beyond the scope of lunacy into delusion of self-proclaimed deity-like proportions.

Bob Ojeda

With their station SNY, the Mets have gone too far in the opposite direction from their New York Yankees counterpart the YES Network in trying to be evenhanded and aboveboard. Former Mets pitcher Bob Ojeda should not have free rein to rip the organization up and down  as to what they’re doing wrong. This is especially true since Ojeda has harbored a grudge after former GM Omar Minaya passed Ojeda over for the pitching coach job and openly said he didn’t feel that Ojeda was qualified for the position.

Now Ojeda is using the Harvey injury as a forum to bash the Mets’ manager and pitching coach and claim that he had prescient visions of Harvey getting hurt because he was throwing too many sliders. I don’t watch the pre and post-game shows, so it’s quite possible that Ojeda said that he felt Harvey was throwing too many sliders, but if he didn’t and kept this information to himself, he’s showing an insane amount of audacity to claim that he “predicted” it.

He needs to tone it down or be removed from the broadcast.

Player injuries can happen anywhere

The winter after his dramatic, pennant-clinching home run for the Yankees, Aaron Boone tore his knee playing basketball. This led to the Yankees trading for Alex Rodriguez and Boone not getting paid via the terms of his contract because he got hurt partaking in an activity he was technically not supposed to be partaking in. Boone could’ve lied about it and said he hit a pothole while jogging. The Yankees wouldn’t have known about it and he would’ve gotten paid. He didn’t. He’s a rarity.

On their off-hours, players do things they’re technically not supposed to be doing.

Jeff Kent broke his hand riding his motorcycle, then lied about it saying he slipped washing his truck. Ron Gant crashed his dirtbike into a tree. Other players have claimed that they injured themselves in “freak accidents” that were more likely results of doing things in which they wouldn’t get paid if they got hurt. Bryce Harper, shortly after his recall to the big leagues, was videotaped playing softball in a Washington D.C. park. Anything could have happened to injure him and he wouldn’t have been able to lie about it. Boone told the truth, but no one knows exactly when these injuries occur and what the players were doing to cause them.

With Harvey, we don’t know how many pitches he threw in college; how many softball games he played in; how many times as a youth he showed off his arm to the point of potential damage. This could have been coming from the time he was twelve years old. In fact, it probably was and there’s nothing anyone could have done to prevent it.

The vagaries of the future

The Mets were counting on Harvey for 2014. They have enough pitching in their system that it was likely they were going to trade some of it for a bat. If they wanted Giancarlo Stanton, Carlos Gonzalez or any other young, power bat they were going to have to give up Wheeler and/or Noah Syndergaard to start with. Without Harvey, they’re probably going to have to keep their young pitchers. That could turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Or it could be a curse if either of those pitchers suffer the same fate as Harvey or don’t pan out as expected.

If Harvey can’t pitch, it’s a big loss. That’s 33 starts, 210 innings and, if he’s anywhere close to what he was this season, a Cy Young Award candidate and potential $200 million pitcher. But they can take steps to replace him. They can counteract his innings with other pitchers and try to make up for a lack of pitching by boosting the offense. In short, they can follow the Marine training that GM Sandy Alderson received by adapting and overcoming.

Harvey is a big part of the Mets future, but to treat this as anything more than an athlete getting injured is silly. It happened. There’s no one to blame and when he’s ready to pitch, he’s ready to pitch. Life will go on.




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Campos is Cashman’s Misshapen Key

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This is a small but striking piece from yesterday’s New York Times—link.

Phil Hughes agreed to a 1-year contract to avoid arbitration. The contract pays him $3.2 million, a raise of $500,000.

There’s nothing notable about a four-year veteran receiving a contract with those dollar figures. But it was the conclusion that caught my attention. It says:

Teams are likely to inquire about Hughes, and the Yankees will be willing to listen to trade offers.

It was only four years ago when Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy were in the nascent stages of redefining the Yankees developmental apparatus. They were to be homegrown talent providing competence-to-brilliance at an affordable price.

Of course it didn’t work out that way.

Kennedy was traded and fulfilled expectations in a Diamondbacks uniform. Chamberlain was shuttled between the starting rotation and bullpen and is now recovering from Tommy John surgery, a mere shell of the dominating force and sensation he was on his arrival in 2007. And Hughes was also used as a starter and reliever, saw his velocity drop to levels where he couldn’t get anyone out in early 2011 and returned to some semblance of effectiveness late in the season.

Hughes is a tradable commodity fighting for his spot in the starting rotation with non-existent on-field value. Other teams will be attracted by his age and the hope that he can fulfill that potential away from the usage guidelines imposed upon him by the Yankees, but aside from their own headaches or projects, they’re not going to give up much of anything to get Hughes.

This is why it’s so ludicrous to think that the same Yankees front office is suddenly learning its lessons as they acquire Michael Pineda and Jose Campos from the Mariners for Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi.

The concept that Campos is the “key” to the trade—at 19-years-old and having spent last season in low-A ball—is either delusional or a transparent attempt at propaganda to assuage the anger that Montero was traded at all.

Have the Yankees proven that they’re able to assess pitchers under Brian Cashman? The same GM who signed the likes of Kyle Farnsworth, Steve Karsay, A.J. Burnett and Pedro Feliciano?

There are some instances in which Cashman gets a pass. Carl Pavano was a disaster that, had it not befallen the Yankees, would’ve hit someone else because there were about four other teams prepared to pay Pavano the same amount of money the Yankees did.

But these examples of dropping the lowest grade haven’t happened often enough to warrant deferring to his or anyone in the organization’s judgment when it comes to pitchers.

Now they’re waiting and following the same trajectory with Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances as they did with Kennedy, Chamberlain and Hughes. They point to studies—both medical and historical—to validate the babying that’s gone on since both joined the organization.

Is it paranoia?

Is it fear?

Is it arrogance?

Is it a calculating desire on the part of the GM to accrue the credit that the likes of Theo Epstein has for being a “genius”?

Any reason is an explanation.

I’d be very concerned if Cashman is doing these things because he thinks they’re the right way to go about nursing a pitcher to the majors. That would indicate a total obliviousness to what’s happened right in front of his eyes to all of these starting pitchers who will go on his ledger as, at best, disappointments. The mandates on innings and pitch counts not only hindered the development of the three pitchers from 2008, but both Hughes and Chamberlain got hurt in spite of them.

They couldn’t pitch effectively and didn’t stay healthy, so what was the point?

Some refer to the development of Ivan Nova as “proof” that the Yankees can nurture pitchers. But Nova was never considered a prospect and the Yankees repeatedly left him exposed to other clubs. Nova was selected by the Padres in the Rule 5 draft of December 2008 only to be returned to the Yankees the next spring. They didn’t know what he was and as recently as last season, they sent him to the minors as the odd man out when they had too many starting pitchers.

Was it so hard to look at Nova and see something different? Didn’t it impress the organization when he buzzed Jose Bautista and Bautista took a few steps toward the mound attempting to intimidate the rookie and Nova didn’t back down an inch?

There are aspects to pitching more important than high draft status a dazzling array of stuff. Nova’s fearless. That counts for something.

Is it poor recognition skills or did they want to bolster the pitchers that were “supposed” to be the centerpieces?

Cashman was once adept at speaking to the media, saying three notebook pages worth of stuff, yet saying nothing at all. As he’s aged, he’s dispatched the circular dialogue sprinkled with non-committal corporate terminology to allocate blame and place the onus on players in an unfair manner.

Feliciano’s shoulder injury was left at the door of the Mets when Cashman said the pitcher had been “abused”. Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen shot back asking how the Yankees didn’t know about Feliciano’s workload before they signed him.

A few days ago ESPN’s Jim Bowden revealed this Cashman analysis of Pineda:

Brian Cashman told me last night that Michael Pineda better improve the change-up & develop into a #1 starter or he will have made a mistake

Cashman also compared Montero to Mike Piazza and Miguel Cabrera.

Is Cashman really putting that yoke around the neck of a 23-year-old as he enters a new clubhouse to stand behind CC Sabathia in the starting rotation, pitching for a team and fanbase to whom anything less than a World Series win is considered disastrous?

I would not have traded Montero and Noesi for Pineda and Campos. I would have done as the Yankees did simultaneously to the trade being announced and signed Hiroki Kuroda and moved forward with what I had. Unless Cashman has something else on the burner, his reservations about Pineda and blustery proclamations about Montero made it too high risk a decision to feel good about. If he doesn’t feel cocksure about Pineda, how does he justify trading a bat he valued so highly?

Those who are trying to play up the inclusion of Campos as important had better look at the Yankees history of pitchers and how many of them have fulfilled the hype—not the promise, but the hype.

It’s right there in black and white, on the medical reports and in the trade buzz.

If you’re thinking that Campos is their new discovery and saving grace for a risky trade, you’d better look at history and think again.

//

Yankees Signing of Okajima Isn’t Flushing Money Down the Toilet

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Hideki Okajima is exactly the type of signing a team in the hunt for a lefty specialist should make.

The Yankees signed the former Red Sox lefty to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Okajima was a find for the Red Sox based on luck, but he turned out to be an excellent reliever—and not just a lefty specialist—from 2007 through 2010. His performance in 2010 was subpar, but he had several injuries that hindered him. He spent much of 2011 in the minor leagues.

The saga of Okajima and how he wound up with the Yankees is a cautionary tale that the Yankees have clearly learned something from.

The Red Sox signed Okajima because he was lefty and that he was their bigger name acquisition Daisuke Matsuzaka’s friend, but he became an important cog in their bullpen until last season.

On the other side of the equation, the Yankees spent $8 million on Pedro Feliciano to be their lefty specialist and Feliciano didn’t throw one pitch for the Yankees in 2011 because of a shoulder injury; he had rotator cuff surgery in September and is trying to come back in 2012, but his career is in jeopardy. If the Yankees get anything from Feliciano next year, they’ll be lucky.

Luck. Again.

The same sort of luck that brought Okajima to the Red Sox was evident on the opposite end of the spectrum with the Yankees and Feliciano.

For years, the Yankees had watched Feliciano function as an effective workhorse for the crosstown Mets and signed him based on the need to get out the likes of Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Hamilton.

One of the main reasons the Yankees signed him was because of his known durability; that’s why it was so absurd that Yankees GM Brian Cashman, in an act of self-preservation and shifting of the blame for Flushing (see what I did there?) $8 million down the tubes, dropped Feliciano’s injury on the doorstep of Citi Field and the Mets by using the term “abused” in discussing the pitcher’s past workload.

Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen came out swinging at the allegation with the perfect reply: “They didn’t know that when they signed him?”

Warthen also added that the Mets monitored Feliciano and that the pitcher always wanted the ball; in fact, he wanted to pitch more.

It quieted down quickly.

This all could’ve been avoided had the Yankees decided that a cheaper alternative like Randy Choate would’ve been at least as effective as Feliciano and gone in that direction rather than overspending for a luxury item.

Or they could’ve just signed someone’s friend and gotten lucky.

That would work just as well.

The one issue I can see is if Okajima is ineffective or injured, the Yankees won’t be able to blame the Mets. But if that happens, they’re not going to be paying the pitcher $8 million for nothing, so it’s a wash. And a cheap one at that.

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Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong

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Given the current events, it’s ironic that the title of this posting and its creation emanates from spin doctoring. A hit song from a mediocre band, The Spin Doctors, around 20 years ago was called “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong”.

And it fits for Yankees GM Brian Cashman as he twists himself into a pretzel that’s worthy of an Olympic gymnast or triple-jointed circus freak.

Pedro Feliciano is out for the year with a shoulder injury and probable surgery; in fact, he may never pitch for the Yankees at all after signing a 2-year, $8 million contract.

First Cashman blamed the Mets and their “abuse” of Feliciano; then, yesterday when discussing the injury, he began his verbal gymnastics that are so ludicrous and self-serving that they’re bordering on embarrassing.

The Yankees and Mets had a brief spitting contest that made the Yankees look foolish and self-indulgent as they engaged in a bit of buyer’s remorse after Feliciano went on the disabled list.

In the rarest of rarities, the Mets looked smarter than the Yankees; in a nod to the new organizational hierarchy led by Sandy Alderson, the Mets are no longer taking these attacks without retort. They stood up for themselves as pitching coach Dan Warthen said straight out that part of the reason the Mets didn’t re-sign Feliciano was due to workload issues.

Does Cashman, in all his cautious phrasings and clever corporate machinations, not realize that the statement “no evidence of a capsular tear whatsoever,” is as much a direct indictment of his own club’s operations as the silly and specious retrospective blame he placed on the Mets?

Does Cashman not see the logical trap he stepped in yesterday? If Feliciano was healthy when he signed with the Yankees, the Mets can justifiably say, “Hey, he was fine with us; what’d you do to him?”

Cashman looked foolish.

Of course the workload may have been a factor in Feliciano’s injury, but we don’t know. He was fine when he signed; now he’s not.

Cashman, sensitive to the allegations of hypocrisy due to the overuse former manager Joe Torre inflicted on the likes of Scott Proctor among others, went into a backtracking exercise of inanity—ESPN Story.

The statements are ridiculous on so many levels. First he’s running from having laid the label on the Mets and fundamentally blamed them for Feliciano’s injury; then he’s saying he covered his bases with the relievers telling them to speak up if they couldn’t pitch; he holds Torre responsible for the perception of disinterest in the health of the pitchers’ arms; then he implies that such a problem is no longer a factor with the Yankees because Joe Girardi is the manager.

Read between the lines.

With Feliciano, he needed someone to hold accountable for possibly tossing $8 million into a shredder. Who better than the reeling Mets?

Concerning Torre, Cashman claims that he was involved by telling the pitchers to be honest with their old-school manager; a manager who had the personality and history of success to stand up to his GM and wasn’t afraid to do so.

And with Girardi, he’s saying he now has a manager who’s going to do what he’s told.

Cashman needs to stop.

Just walk away.

It’s enough.

The bottom line is this: If he thought Feliciano was abused, he shouldn’t have signed him. Period.

Cashman needs to find a mirror that wasn’t salvaged from a funhouse.

The Yankees bought it. The Yankees own it. The Yankees are paying for it. Accept it and move on.

****

Purchase my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide. It’ll be useful all season for your fantasy sports needs and pure entertainment.

I published a full excerpt of my book here. It’s about the Mets and it’s coming true as we speak. Right on the money and it ain’t too funny.

It’s available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN. It’s also available via E-book on Borders.com.

It’s out on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.

If anyone would like to purchase an autographed copy, leave a comment; Email me; contact me on Facebook or Twitter.

Become a fan on my Facebook fan page. Click on the link.

//

The Stages Of Phil Hughes

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Given my predilection for predictions, here’s the template for what’s happened, is happening and will happen with struggling Yankees pitcher Phil Hughes. Like the stages of grief, it goes in segments.

I’m not here to diagnose. I’m here to observe and report; express and explain; serve and protect.

Stage 1—Explanatory Calm:

Going back to spring training there were whispers about Hughes’s alarming lack of velocity.

Being it was spring training, there was nothing to be concerned about, but clearly there was pause emanating from all parties as to why a seemingly healthy and well-protected 24-year-old couldn’t achieve previous heights with his fastball.

Contrary to popular belief, velocity isn’t the most important thing in a pitcher’s arsenal—provided he has the ancillary pitches and control to get by without it; Hughes has always been able to rely on a live fastball to get through if he needed it.

The Yankees hierarchy gave the cliché responses of not worrying, but obviously they’re worried. And they should be.

Stage 2—Game Circumstances:

Hughes got blasted by the Tigers in his first start; he got rocked by the Red Sox in his second start. He looked and said he was “lost” and is grasping for answers; clutching at that missing few inches on his fastball that’s so unexplainable in its appearance and disappearance.

Despite the idiotic talk from the likes of Buster Olney who said, via Twitter:

“You’d have to assume the Yankees will talk about replacing Hughes in their rotation with Colon; for whatever reason, Hughes has no weapons.”

The Yankees won’t replace Hughes as long as he’s healthy because they can’t replace Hughes.

Fastball or not, he has to pitch and hope his fastball comes back.

Stage 3—The Obvious Process:

The biggest hurdle with his fastball isn’t necessary the pitch itself; nor is it the diminished velocity.

No.

The issue is that everyone, everywhere is talking about it and expressing their personal and uneducated opinions about what’s wrong with Hughes and how to repair it.

The Yankees themeselves aren’t saying what their diagnosis is—publicly. Perhaps there’s a lingering injury that won’t get any worse if he pitches through it, but is sabotaging his fastball. It could be to his lower body, his shoulder, his hips—we don’t know.

The relentless chatter will be a ghostly presence around Hughes as he climbs from his hole.

Chatter from the media; the fans; teammates; opponents—everyone—will make matters worse.

Desperation to regain what he lost will lead him to try too hard; to incorporate all the advice he receives and create a mishmash of techniques, movement and exercises; this will add to the confusion and self-doubt.

It won’t take long before someone suggests he head to the Florida Keys to engage in alligator wrestling under a full moon to regain his fastball.

And Hughes tries it.

I find if laughable that laypeople are diagnosing the Hughes “problem”.

Believe me when I say that Larry Rothschild and Joe Girardi know more about pitching than you do.

Maybe GM Brian Cashman would like to simplify matters and blame Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen. Although it didn’t fly with the Pedro Feliciano back-and-forth, it doesn’t mean you abandon the strategy after one failure. And last year, Dave Eiland was a convenient scapegoat for A.J. Burnett.

Stage 4—Panic and Reality:

The Yankees are not in a position to remove Hughes from the starting rotation if he’s healthy enough to pitch. Bartolo Colon looked good yesterday, but he’s 38; has a long injury-history and hasn’t been a regular part of a big league club’s starting rotation since 2005. Do you really believe he’s the answer? The answer to questions that were present before the Hughes enigma?

As for Freddy Garcia, the Yankees are making painstaking gymnastic flips to prevent him from pitching; I recently said that Garcia won’t last past May-June in a Yankees uniform, but he might hang around if he never pitches.

Neither Colon nor Garcia are long-or-short term answers for an absent Hughes.

Stage 5—Fallout:

The Yankees are in deep, deep trouble without Phil Hughes delivering some semblance of what he did last year. Their 2011 starting rotation was woefully short with Hughes pitching up to his potential.

Now?

Now what?

Their bullpen-based strategy was contingent on getting length from CC Sabathia, Burnett and Hughes; Ivan Nova is gutty and looked good in his first start, but they don’t know what they’ll get from him over the course of the season; and the fifth starter—Garcia—hasn’t been used yet.

Pushing the bullpen hard to account for another pitcher in their rotation is going to exhaust its reserves by mid-season. Girardi overmanages anyway and with the finger on the button of pulling his starter to win games with Hughes as well, they’re going to blow out.

The Yankees will have no choice but to start scouring baseball for starting pitching. Presumably this will be after giving Kevin Millwood a chance. Teams know the desperation; they’re aware of the Yankees farm system; Felix Hernandez is not available.

What then?

Will they find themselves in a dogfight for a playoff spot at the trading deadline (or sooner) and have to ante up more than they want to for a James Shields? Ryan Dempster? Carlos Zambrano? Fausto Carmona? Chris Carpenter?

And what if the bullpen is shot by mid-season? They’re going to need relievers too.

The Yankees have a problem here.

A big one.

Currently, they can wait and use what they have to get through the Hughes starts, hoping that his fastball and confidence reappear just as miraculously/disturbingly as they vanished.

After that, then what?

What if it doesn’t come back?

What if he’s hurt?

What are they going to do?

****

Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide is available and will be useful for your fantasy leagues all season long. It’s not a “preview”; it’s a guide.

I published a full excerpt of my book here.

It’s available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN. It’s also available via E-book on Borders.com.

It’s also out on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.

If anyone would like to purchase an autographed copy, leave a comment; Email me; contact me on Facebook or Twitter. We’ll hash out the details.

I’ve started a Facebook fan page if you’d like to check it out.


//

Missive From The Dark Side 4.5.2011

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Let’s mine the mainstream media and find stuff about which to rant and rave.

The revisionist history with Scott Kazmir:

This posting on MLBTradeRumors discusses the fall of the Angels’ Scott Kazmir.

The Mets’ horrific trade of Kazmir to the Devil Rays for Victor Zambrano is now ancient history; we won’t know what would’ve happened with Kazmir, the Rays or the Mets had they not made the deal.

The residual effects have subsided and Kazmir is on a major downslide. The reactionary response to Kazmir when he first arrived in the big leagues was one of indignation that the Mets were stupid enough to trade a pitcher with such electric stuff.

Five-plus years later, his arsenal isn’t what it was. His fastball and slider no longer have the life they once did and he’s injury-prone.

For all the hype surrounding Kazmir, how good was he? He made over 30 starts twice in his career; pitched 200+ innings once. From 2005-2009 he was pretty good. And that’s it. No more, no less.

Is he “done” as so many suggest?

I don’t think he’s finished, per se; he’ll have to learn to pitch differently if he’s going to have any success at all—but it’s possible. Perhaps this fall as a starter will place Kazmir in the bullpen and the adrenaline rush from being a reliever with enliven his fastball and help him stay healthier than he can as a starter. I’ve long said he should be a reliever and if the Angels fall into that as a matter of necessity, he could be quite useful.

Kicking dirt on Lou Piniella:

Kevin Millar made some negative comments about former Cubs manager Lou Piniella in a radio interview—ESPN Story—suggesting that Piniella was out of tune with player complaints and the team was disorganized.

Was it Piniella or was it the Cubs being the Cubs?

Ordinarily I’d look at Piniella’s career and Millar’s consistently flapping mouth and dismiss the allegations, but considering the way the Cubs imploded after their failed run at a championship in 2008, it makes sense.

It did appear that Piniella’s interest had waned after the 2008 NLDS loss and his passion was missing. Players sense when a manager’s heart isn’t in what he’s doing anymore and if he’s ignoring a simple entreaty to keep them happy like posting the lineups earlier then maybe it’s time for him to go.

He tried to bluff his way through hoping reputation and teamwide talent would win out—literally and figuratively. That can’t work with a veteran clubhouse because once they see where the season is headed, they’ll bail. And that’s what happened with the Cubs.

Although Millar says some ridiculous things without thinking on occasion, in this case he was probably speaking for a large segment of the Cubs roster and telling a truth they others had kept to themselves.

The Pedro Feliciano Chronicles:

Think about this for a second.

There’s a controversy about Pedro Feliciano.

Rarely has a relatively nondescript lefty specialist been the subject of such a lasting bit of “news”.

The latest is that he’s “hurt” by the comments made by Mets pitching coach Dan WarthenNY Times Story.

I have one question: if Feliciano was healthy and pitching well for the Yankees, would Yankees GM Brian Cashman be saying that Feliciano was “abused” by the Mets? What if Feliciano said, “I’m better with more work” or something in that vein? Would Cashman thank the Mets for working Feliciano to the point where he’s at this best?

For a GM who’s become so immersed in objective analysis, he’s doling blame and providing subjective caveats for a pitcher to whom he gave $8 million and is on the disabled list.

If Cashman felt Feliciano had been abused, he shouldn’t have signed him. Period.

As for the Mets, they simply can’t win in the court of public opinion or with the media no matter what they do.

They made a conscious decision not to bring Feliciano back because he’d been used so heavily and the new regime doesn’t want to pay that kind of cash for a lefty specialist—they made the right decision given all circumstances—and they get attacked because they ruined him for the Yankees.

The leaps of logic are astounding.

Enough already.

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My podcast appearance with SportsFanBuzz previewing the season is posted. You can listen here The SportsFan Buzz: March 30, 2011 or on iTunes.

I was on with Mike at NYBaseballDigest and his preview as well. You can listen here.

You want to hear my voice, don’t you?!?

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Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide is available and will be useful for your fantasy leagues all season long.

I published a full excerpt of my book here.

It’s available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN. It’s also available via E-book on Borders.com.

It’s also out on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.


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And You Signed Him Why?

Books, Management, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players, Podcasts, Spring Training

Yankees GM Brian Cashman might want to consider going back to saying lots of stuff while saying nothing at all. By that I mean speaking in circles, using corporate terminology to answer questions without really answering them in a way that might come back to haunt him.

This past off-season, Cashman alienated Derek Jeter during their contract negotiations; made the bizarre decision to pursue Carl Pavano for a return engagement that would’ve been something similar to Chevy Chase getting an opportunity to give The Chevy Chase Show another go; and was overruled by ownership in the signing of Rafael Soriano after he’d said he didn’t want the reliever.

One pitcher he did want was Pedro Feliciano.

Feliciano was a longtime Mets reliever who was their lefty specialist and acquired the nickname “Perpetual Pedro” because he was used so often. Beginning in 2006, Feliciano appeared in 64, 78, 86, 88 and 92 games. He didn’t throw that many innings—never more than 64 in one season—but factoring in all the appearances and warming up in games where he didn’t pitch and there’s a basis for Cashman’s lament that Feliciano was “abused”.

In this ESPN Story, Cashman makes his statement; Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen retorts; and Feliciano speaks out regarding the rotator cuff strain that has placed him on the disabled list.

There’s no one who’s obviously “wrong” here, but Cashman appears to be using selective information when discussing the Feliciano injury.

As Warthen said, “[The Yankees] didn’t know that when they signed him? … He volunteered for the baseball every day. He was asked whether he was able to pitch. He said ‘yes’ every day — every day — and wanted to pitch more than we even pitched him.”

Cashman was unaware of the “abuse” that Feliciano had been subjected to? And the excuse for ignoring the “abuse” was that there was a thin market for left-handed specialists and the Yankees needed him? This was why they signed him for 2-years and $8 million?

The suggestion that Feliciano was abused implies that he’s damaged goods and is on borrowed time. Wouldn’t common sense dictate that this is a pitcher who should’ve been offered a 1-year deal or avoided entirely? That maybe the Yankees should’ve looked elsewhere for a lefty specialist?

Cashman’s timing is a bit out-of-whack for this sudden misplaced blame and buyer’s remorse especially since a week ago, this article about Feliciano was published in the NY Times relating his desire to pitch, pitch and pitch some more and that Feliciano himself said that the current injury has nothing to do with workload.

You can craft a bit of a family tree concerning Feliciano and trace it all the way back to the Yankees if you’re looking to assign blame for the situation.

The Mets manager from 2006 to mid-2008 was Willie Randolph who, prior to taking the job as Mets manager, was on Joe Torre‘s staff with the Yankees; Randolph ran his bullpen similarly to the way Torre did. Is Cashman conveniently ignoring the wasteland of overused relief pitchers from Torre’s days as his manager?

Does the name Scott Proctor ring a bell?

Proctor never complained, always took the ball and was blown out by Torre.

Other Yankees relievers like Tanyon Sturtze, Steve Karsay and Tom Gordon were battered by Torre as well.

Where was Cashman with his protectiveness? To shield them from the horrific “abuse”?

How about the fact that the Yankees felt compelled to install the Joba Rules in part to protect Joba Chamberlain from being overused by the reliever-happy Torre; that part of the reason Chamberlain has degenerated into a glorified middle-reliever and failed prospect is due to the dictates, regulations and paranoia for which the Yankees’ GM was the catalyst.

Given Cashman’s up-and-down history with pitchers (and I’m being generous), what position is he in to be blaming others for Feliciano’s injury? And if he was so concerned about it, why did he sign him in the first place?

My podcast appearance with SportsFanBuzz previewing the season is posted. You can listen here The SportsFan Buzz: March 30, 2011 or on iTunes.

I was on with Mike at NYBaseballDigest and his preview as well. You can listen here.

Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide is available.

I published a full excerpt of my book here.

It’s available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN. It’s also available via E-book on Borders.com.

Now it’s also out on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.


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