Jose Campos As The Invisible Key

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Oh, did you wind up here looking for a Jose Campos injury update?

Sorry.

I don’t have one.

From what I can gather, no one else does either.

The elbow inflammation that shelved him and wasn’t supposed to be serious or long-term has kept Campos from pitching for over two months and, at this point with the minor league season over on September 3rd, he’s probably done for the year.

Of course that’s only speculation on my part because that’s all we have with the silence exhibited by the Yankees on the matter.

It’s not just the Yankees that have been mute on Campos, but the YES Network never even acknowledged that he was hurt. You’ll get nothing from their in-house blog River Avenue Blues and forget the NY Post’s Joel Sherman, Ken Davidoff; WFAN’s Sweeny Murti or anyone else who might as well have the interlocking NY tattooed on their forehead as a means of identification as to their true loyalties.

The transformation is amazing. First Campos was the lifeline—the key as it were—to defending a disastrous trade that sent their top hitting prospect Jesus Montero and a pitcher they developed Hector Noesi to the Mariners for Michael Pineda and Campos.

Pineda was meant to be the cost-controlled, high-end starting pitcher to fill out the Yankees’ big league rotation and Campos was the young stud at age 19 who the scouts loved and would eventually develop into a top-tier starting pitcher for the club.

Pineda’s out for the year. And Campos?

Um…oh….well….gee….ignore him and he’ll go away until they can use him? Is that the strategy?

So quick to reference his abilities and that the trade wasn’t about Pineda as a single entity, Campos was trotted out again and again to defend the shoddy record of GM Brian Cashman in judging pitchers.

It was Campos, Campos, Campos.

Then he got hurt adding to the embarrassment of the Pineda injury and that they gave away a bat that they were about to trade to get Cliff Lee two years ago and if they had him now could trade as part of a deal for any number of players who are or might be available from Cole Hamels to Justin Upton.

Now they have nothing.

Campos is persona non grata and they won’t even acknowledge his existence as long as he’s unable to pitch. The media hasn’t updated nor have they apparently bothered asking what the story is with Campos; when he’s going to return; what the doctor’s recommendations were.

Nothing.

Not to worry. If and when he’s healthy again, the Yankees will put him on their notably successful pitching program of innings limits, pitch counts and “protective services” that are more akin to extortion than implementations in the interests of the individual. He’ll be on the same carefully crafted plan that led to the ruination of Joba Chamberlain as a starter; have stagnated the development of Phil Hughes; led to the horrific control problems and demotion from Triple A to Double A for Dellin Betances; and the injury to Manny Banuelos.

Ian Kennedy turned into a good pitcher…in Arizona.

Then again, why should they need the update on Campos? He was the key at their convenience and when he got hurt, he turned into the invisible man.

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The A’s Had Nothing To Lose With Manny

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Billy Beane’s decision to sign Manny Ramirez wasn’t the work of a “genius” nor was it a desperate move for a desperate team with a desperate front office.

Was it an attempt to garner headlines for a stripped down club desperately hoping for permission to build a new park in San Jose and without the money nor the cutting edge advanced stats to compete with the clubs that were now paying for that which the A’s once got for free?

Or was it a worthwhile “why not?” risk to provide a reason to watch the A’s other than to see what their newest signing Yoenis Cespedes was going to do and how many games they were going to lose?

The truth about the Athletics’ signing of Manny is in the middle somewhere between promotional purposes and baseball maneuverings.

It’s the fog of baseball. There’s no method to determine the “truth” when there’s no 2 + 2 = 4 truth to begin with.

It was either going to work or it wasn’t. In that sense, it was just like the drafts and the trades and the signings and the so-called “genius” of Beane that wasn’t genius at all, but was the good fortune to stumble onto a method that allowed him to take brief advantage of tools that few others were using at the time.

It ended quickly. Now the A’s are back where they started from and Albert Einstein couldn’t fix them unless he rose from the dead with a 94-mph cutter and a knee-buckling curve while simultaneously building a rocketship to send Michael Lewis into space on an undefined “mission”.

There are plenty of whys in the A’s decision to sign Manny and the answers are all pretty much accurate.

The signing of Manny was done to accumulate attention for the uninteresting A’s. When he joined the club in spring training, he was on his best behavior, doing his Manny thing of not knowing people’s names, acting like the good teammate and behaving appropriately. That he was still set to serve a 50-game suspension for failing a PED test was irrelevant. When Manny was ready—if he was ready—to join the big league club, he’d be recalled and the team would figure it all out later.

Then Manny started playing for the Triple A Sacramento River Cats and batted a respectable .302 with a .349 OBP. That’s fine. But of his 19 hits, 16 were singles and none were homers. He’s 40 and if he couldn’t hit the fringe big leaguers and youngsters that permeate Triple A clubs today; if he couldn’t hit the ball out of the River Cats’ reasonably dimensioned home park, what chance would he have had playing his home games in the cavernous Oakland Coliseum against legitimate big league pitchers with fastballs, control, command and breaking stuff?

The A’s didn’t need him. They’re better than anyone could’ve thought they’d be. Manager Bob Melvin could’ve been sabotaged by Manny’s presence. The DH slot is glutted with Jonny Gomes and Seth Smith. They have plenty of outfielders that deserve to play instead of Manny. The short burst in attendance they would’ve gotten and the merchandise sales of Manny bobbleheads, jerseys and T-shirts would not have mitigated the trouble he might’ve caused once he reverted to the Manny who was reviled in Boston and Los Angeles for on-field and off-field act.

The charm of Manny disappeared with the new revelations that make his antics less a childlike, innocent inability and disinterest to assimilate to the world away from the playing field into more of an overtly stupid and self-involved “I can do whatever I want because what are you gonna do about it?” tale of arrogance and misplaced (though repeatedly validated) belief that the rules don’t apply to him.

He asked for his release and the A’s gave it to him.

The A’s had nothing to lose.

It was worth a shot and didn’t work.

And now he’s gone.

The A’s are better off.

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MLB September Stories To Watch, Part I

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Justin Verlander‘s MVP candidacy.

I went into the reasons why Verlander is a worthy candidate here.

Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated also believes pitchers should be eligible in this piece while saying Verlander’s not his pick now. In August. Why Heyman’s writing who his MVP is in August is a mystery aside from screaming, “I dunno what else to write about so I’ll write about the MVP in August!!”

While I’m unsure of whom should actually be the MVP in the American League yet, I don’t know how even the greatest holdout that pitchers shouldn’t win the MVP can deny Verlander serious thought if he wins 26 games and leads the league in ERA, strikeouts, innings pitched and the Tigers win a division that they wouldn’t have come close to winning without him.

I still might say Adrian Gonzalez is the MVP, but it’s simple arrogance to completely exclude Verlander because of self-inflicted parameters that aren’t in the mandate of who’s eligible for the award and who’s not.

What the Yankees will do with A.J. Burnett.

Burnett has the right arm of an ace and the results of a pitcher with the right arm of an ace who decided he’d pitch with his left hand.

And he’s not ambidextrous.

I’m not even convinced Burnett is capable of tying his own shoes.

He’s going to stay in the starting rotation for the next 10 days or so because of the number of make-up games the Yankees have to play, but by mid-September, they’re going to have to come to a conclusion of what to do with him.

They could take him out of the rotation, stick him in the bullpen or just sit him down completely.

All are possible.

All are viable.

Planting the seeds for Billy Beane‘s departure from Oakland.

Already there are whispers that sound more like preparatory statements for Beane to leave the Athletics.

The time is right. Moneyball is at his conclusion (at least with people believing that nonsense); the movie’s coming out in three weeks; Beane’s reputation is pretty much shot with only those holdouts who cling to his fictional genius, trying to justify it with alibi-laden columns and statements as to how what’s happened with the A’s is the fault of Northern California because the evil politicos won’t let the A’s build a stadium.

Yeah. The A’s are going to lose 90 games because of the stadium.

Nothing’s Billy’s fault.

Interesting that the stadium wasn’t an issue when there were so many experts picking the A’s to win the AL West this year.

What happened?

The skids are being greased and the nuggets are popping up from “those close” to Beane saying he might be tired of tilting at windmills with no money and no stadium revenue; that A’s owner Lew Wolff would let Beane talk to other teams that might be interested in him.

Blah, blah, blah.

I say he’s going to the Cubs. The only question is how it’s framed when he does.

LoMo and the Twitter and the mouth and the batting average.

The Marlins demotion of Logan Morrison was a warning shot that lasted a week. They brought Morrison back quickly in the hopes that he’ll learn his lesson that he’s not a veteran; he’s not a megastar who can say whatever he wants; that he’s an employee held at the whims of his bosses for the foreseeable future.

Will he understand?

Yes.

Will he listen?

I’m not convinced.

The Marlins don’t tolerate a lot of crap; don’t be surprised to see Morrison showcased by batting fourth for all of September as they hope he has a big month and then listen to offers for him. The price would be steep because he’s cheap, young and good, but the Marlins wouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger and trade him.

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Ivan Nova’s Wang Underappreciation Complex

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When Alex Rodriguez comes back, if the Yankees send Ivan Nova back to the minors in lieu of releasing Jorge Posada or to give themselves a couple of weeks to soften the blow of dumping Posada, it’s asinine. Pull the Band-Aid off.

Regarding Nova, I wouldn’t go as far as saying such inanities as “Nova’s the number 2 starter”; with the current configuration, I’d trust Bartolo Colon in a game 2 playoff start before a rookie, but Nova’s been above-and-beyond what could reasonably have been expected and is the unlucky one in that he still has minor league options remaining; if you examine his performance, he’s one the last starters that should be removed from the rotation, options or no options.

Much like Chien-Ming Wang, I wonder if there are ancillary factors in the lack of belief in Nova; that they’re not buying his success as a more than function of pitching for a very good team. In fairness to this concept, his production is around league average across the board.

But it’s not as simple as throwing his glove out there while wearing pinstripes and accumulating wins. If it was, there wouldn’t have been the disastrous tenures of Carl Pavano and Javier Vazquez, among others.

When Nova first got to the big leagues last season, he was a stopgap more than a prospect. In his first big league start, he showed that he wasn’t going to be intimidated by anything when he threw a pitch near the head of Blue Jays’ slugger Jose Bautista and stood his ground as Bautista barked at him.

Right there it should’ve been known that he was something different.

Wang wasn’t much of a prospect either. The Yankees treated him as if he was the type of pitcher they could find somewhere. They never went into any meaningful negotiations for a free agency/arbitration precluding contract extension despite his success; he was never truly appreciated for what he was.

Could it have been pure cold-blooded analytics? Concerns about his shoulder and mechanics? Or was it that he wasn’t a “chosen one” in whom they had deep investment—both financially and perceptively—that they wanted to succeed more than the others?

A higher draft pick and vaunted prospect or an expensive free agent simply looks better when he does well as opposed to someone allowed to be selected in the Rule 5 draft (Nova was taken by the Padres in 2008 and returned) or is always on the big league/Triple-A bubble out of convenience.

Wang’s fall doesn’t justify that treatment because his initial injury woes began with his ankle and morphed into the torn shoulder capsule from which he’s still trying to recover.

There are times to look at aspects other than numbers, scouting expectations and “should/shouldn’t bes” and accept what’s there; what’s happening before the eyes.

Nova should stay in the big leagues and in the Yankees rotation because he’s earned it. Everything else is secondary.

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Indians Get Ubaldo Jimenez And Go For The Deep Strike

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In trading star pitchers CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee at the trading deadlines of 2008 and 2009, the Indians acquired 1st round draft picks Zach Jackson and Matt LaPorta; they also acquired Michael Brantley (7th round pick), Jason Knapp (2nd round), Carlos Carrasco (a touted amateur free agent), Jason Donald (3rd round) and Lou Marson (3rd round).

In retrospect, they would’ve been better off keeping both Lee and Sabathia and taking the compensatory draft picks when they left as free agents.

But they didn’t know that then.

It’s short-sighted to let a few deals that didn’t work out in a club’s favor influence future moves so heavily, but it gives some background to the Indians thinking—given that experience—when they acquired Ubaldo Jimenez (pending a physical) from the Rockies for Alex White, Joe Gardner, Matt McBride and Drew Pomeranz.

White and Pomeranz were 1st round picks; McBride a 2nd round pick; Gardner a 3rd round pick.

The Indians gave up a lot, but they’ve seen first hand what can happen with “blue chip” prospects and building for a “future” that may never come. They have a right to be hesitant. A natural response would be that all players are different; all deals are different; and that experience shouldn’t factor so heavily into trading for a young pitcher in Jimenez who hasn’t pitched particularly well since a brilliant start to his 2010 season and whose availability should give some pause to the pursuing teams.

But the questioning glances stem from paranoid rumor-mongering (contingent on that physical). Apart from unattributed speculation, there haven’t been any concrete statements about Jimenez being in poor health or whining about his contract.

Sometimes there’s no smoking gun. Sometimes players are traded because they’re traded and both sides feel it’s the right thing to do.

The Indians are in a terrible division and in a pennant race; they needed a starter and got one in Jimenez days after bolstering their lineup with the underrated Kosuke Fukudome.

Jimenez is not a rental as Sabathia was; he’s not going to be able to demand over $100 million in a year-and-a-half as Lee was; he’s going to be with the Indians through 2013. The players they gave up weren’t going to help them now, if at all; the Indians are supposedly still trying to improve via trade.

The Rockies are fading in the NL West race, shed some salary and brought back a few cheap, young players.

The Indians are going for the deep strike—something I’m an advocate of when the opportunity presents itself.

Go for it.

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Amaro’s Mirror Trades

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In certain deals, it seems that Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. takes a sensible trade proposal, holds it in front of the mirror and does what the reflection says.

In short, he does the opposite of what he should do.

It was evident in the Cliff Lee for Roy Halladay trade (since rectified with the twin-acknowledgments that it was a mistake with the acquisition of Roy Oswalt a year ago and the re-signing of Lee as a free agent last winter), and it is so now with the trade for Hunter Pence.

Pence is a good player and he’ll help the Phillies; but when you’re trading two of your top prospects along with two other young players, I’d think you could do better than a “good” player.

I’d think that such a swap—tweaked when necessary—would bring back a star player along the lines of Hanley Ramirez.

But Amaro focused on Pence and got him. I give him credit for doing what he thinks is right in execution, not in theory.

If you compare what other clubs have acquired when they’ve traded their top prospects—specifically the Red Sox with the deal they made last winter in getting Adrian Gonzalez—reason dictates that the Phillies could’ve gotten a better player than Pence in a deal centered around Jonathan Singleton and Jarred Cosart.

Pence is under team control for the next 2 1/2 years and he fills a void in the Phillies lineup; Gonzalez was a free agent after 2011 before the Red Sox signed him to a $154 million extension to prelude free agency, so the Phillies have more certainty with Pence, but you can’t place the two in the same category on the field.

Amaro targets and acquires.

Sometimes that’s good as it was with Lee and Oswalt.

Sometimes it’s okay as it was with Raul Ibanez and the lateral move for Halladay (as great as he’s been) at the expense of Lee.

Sometimes it’s wrong as it was when he traded Lee for Halladay.

And sometimes it’s questionable as it is now with Pence.

No matter what happens with the Phillies from here on, they could’ve gotten more for Singleton and Cossart if they’d looked elsewhere and/or waited.

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