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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Carlos Quentin is a Good Risk For the Padres

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Say this about Padres GM Josh Byrnes: he follows through on what he believes strategically; trusts the people he trusts; and doesn’t care about perception when he makes his moves.

The Mat Latos trade came out of nowhere and Byrnes got a metric ton of young talent for a similarly young, talented pitcher still under team control for four years; he’s listening to offers for top prospect Anthony Rizzo; and he acquired an MVP-quality and injury-prone bat in Carlos Quentin for two minor leaguers.

As GM of the Diamondbacks, Byrnes proved he was willing to do anything and everything based on what he believed; sometimes it worked out as in the trade for Dan Haren; others it didn’t when he fired manager Bob Melvin and replaced him with the inexperienced A.J. Hinch and saddled him with the implication that he was a puppet of the front office by referencing the bizarrely phrased and cryptic term “organizational advocacy”.

In short, Byrnes’s philosophy isn’t about ego or positive press; it’s “this is what I’m doing, like it or not.”

Let’s look at the trade.

For the Padres:

It’s obvious now that Rizzo’s going to get traded and if they deal him for Matt Garza, the Padres will have had an understated and successful off-season.

Quentin’s big issue is staying healthy. When he’s healthy, he’s a middle-of-the-order, impact bat. The notion that he’s the product of friendly home parks is nonsense—he’s hit well on the road and when he’s struggled, his BAbip has been atrocious; he’s hit in bad luck. Quentin is an up-the-middle hitter; that tells me that he—in an Albert Pujols like fashion—sees the ball very well and hits it squarely on a regular basis. He’s a huge man (6’2”, 235) and has the power to get the ball out of Petco Park.

He’s had injuries to his knee, wrist, heel and shoulder; he might miss substantial time with maladies—he’s never played more than 131 games and his fractured wrist in 2008 likely cost him the American League MVP.

Quentin went to Stanford and knows what’s at stake in 2012: he’s playing for his contract and if he stays on the field and puts up big numbers playing in a pitchers’ park, he’s going to be an inviting free agent target for all the big money clubs in baseball.

It’s no risk and massive reward for the Padres since the young players they surrendered—LHP Pedro Hernandez and RHP Simon Castro—pitched poorly in Triple A and the Padres have pitching to spare. They needed a bat.

If they’re contending, they’ll have a power bat who will be the reason they’re contending; if they’re not and Quentin’s hitting well, they can trade him for a greater return than they gave up; if he gets hurt, he gets hurt.

For the White Sox:

Quentin was out of the lineup as much as he was in it, they weren’t going to keep him after next season and needed to slash payroll somewhere.

As negatively rated as the two young pitchers are, you never know with pitchers and White Sox GM Ken Williams is the same man who was in love with Gavin Floyd when no one else was and, in spite of atrocious numbers, traded for him and watched him become a top-tier starter.

The White Sox aren’t doing a full-scale teardown as Williams implied after Ozzie Guillen and Mark Buehrle left and he announced they were open for business for anyone on the roster; they signed John Danks to an extension and have yet to make any significant trades of players who would bring back name prospects. They cleared the Quentin salary, got two pitchers and will have a look at Dayan Viciedo as an everyday player.

Because the AL Central is so up-for-grabs, the White Sox can still compete; it makes no sense to do anything too drastic right now.

The trade makes sense for both sides and was crafted by two GMs who don’t let public reaction influence what they do one way or the other.

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Your Idiot Rumor/Stupid Idea Of The Day 7.24.2011

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It was a close call. The near winner was the rumor that the White Sox and Cardinals were discussing a trade that would sent White Sox pitchers Edwin Jackson (a pending free agent) and reliever Matt Thornton to the Cardinals for Colby Rasmus.

Supposedly the White Sox were also going to send young players to the Cardinals or a third team was going to be recruited to help facilitate matters.

Do the White Sox even have any worthwhile young players past Gordon Beckham, Chris Sale and Dayan Viciedo? And why would the Cardinals want to rent Jackson and take Thornton, who was a total disaster as the White Sox closer for Rasmus, who’s taken up residence in Tony LaRussa‘s entrance only doghouse?

Rasmus is 25 and under team control for the next 3 years. If they’re going to trade him, they’d better get a substantial amount more than Jackson and Thornton and don’t do it in a fit of pique for a manager like LaRussa who’s going year-to-year and is notoriously prickly with anyone—especially a young player—who dares rub him the wrong way.

It’s lunacy.

But there was another rumor that was even more deranged.

The worst of the worst is reserved for the Nick Cafardo weekly piece summed up here on MLBTradeRumors.

Here’s the relevant bit:

Some Nationals people believe a change of scenery would greatly benefit B.J. Upton, and are considering “offering the moon” for him.

The “moon”? For B.J. Upton?

The same Nationals organization that thought they were going to straighten out Lastings Milledge, Scott Olsen and Elijah Dukes is going to somehow get through to Upton?

Have they learned from their mistakes in the attempted nurturing and maturing of the aforementioned problem children and the failures? Do they have a new strategy that the Rays haven’t tried?

The Rays have benched, yelled at, physically challenged and fined Upton. They’ve had leaders like Troy Percival, Jason Isringhausen, Gabe Kapler and Evan Longoria in their clubhouse and not one has gotten through to Upton. Joe Maddon is probably the easiest manager any player is ever going to play for while according him a modicum of respect. Short of sticking him in a room alone with Kyle Farnsworth and telling Farnsworth to do whatever he has to do short of killing Upton to get him in line, I don’t know what else they can do.

So what gives the Nats the idea that they’re going to unlock the secret to Upton’s massive talent? Who came up with this concept and why would they surrender the “moon” to get him? Is this the same line of thought that spurred them to give Jayson Werth $126 million? Because if it is, maybe they should do the exact opposite of what they think is a good move now.

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