The Astros and the Antiquated “Process”

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In this Tyler Kepner piece in today’s New York Times, the Astros and their plan for the future is again detailed. You can insert your own joke about their early spring training activity of practicing a post-victory celebration. By the time we get to August and they’ve likely traded off the rest of the veteran players they have on the roster including Carlos Pena, Bud Norris, Jose Veras, Rick Ankiel and Wesley Wright and released Philip Humber and Erik Bedard, they’ll be so dreadful that a post-victory celebration will be so rare that the celebration should resemble clinching a post-season berth.

What’s most interesting about the piece is the clinging to the notion that the key to success is still the decade ago Moneyball strategy (first put into practice by the late 1990s Yankees) to run the starting pitchers’ pitch counts up to get them out of the game and get into the “soft underbelly” of the middle relief corps and take advantage of bad pitching in the middle innings.

Is it still an effective tactic if everyone is doing it and the opposition is better-prepared for it? There’s a case for saying no.

Back then, most teams were still functioning with a middle relief staff of journeymen, youngsters and breathing bodies. In 1998, for example, the Red Sox won 92 games in comparison to the Yankees 114, made the playoffs, and had as middle relievers Rich Garces, John Wasdin, Carlos Reyes and Jim Corsi. The Indians of 1998 were the one team that put a scare into the Yankees that season and had Paul Shuey, Eric Plunk, Jose Mesa (after he’d lost his closer’s job to Michael Jackson and before he was traded to the Giants at mid-season), and other forgettable names like Steve Karsay, Chad Ogea and Ron Villone.

These were the good teams in the American League. The bad teams starting rotations were bad enough before getting into their bullpens that it didn’t matter who a team like the Yankees were facing, they were going to hammer them.

Today, the game is different. The pitch counts are more closely monitored, but certain teams—the Rangers, Giants and Cardinals—don’t adhere to them so fanatically that it can be counted on for a pitcher to be yanked at the 100-pitch mark. Also, teams have better and more diverse middle relief today than they did back then because clubs such as the Rays are taking the job more seriously.

Waiting out a great pitcher like Felix Hernandez is putting a hitter in the position where he’s going to be behind in the count and facing a pitcher’s pitch. In that case, it makes more sense to look for something hittable earlier in the count and swing at it.

With a mediocre pitcher like Jason Vargas of the Angels, he’s more likely to make a mistake with his array of soft stuff, trying to get ahead in the count to be able to throw his changeup, so looking for something early in the count makes sense there as well. In addition, with a pitcher like Vargas (and pretty much the whole Angels’ starting rotation), you’re better off with him in the game than you are with getting into the bullpen, so the strategy of getting into the “weaker” part of the staff doesn’t fit as the middle relievers aren’t that far off in effectiveness from Vargas.

Teams use their bullpens differently today. You see clubs loading up on more specialists and carrying 13 pitchers with a righty sidearmer, a lefty sidearmer, a conventional lefty specialist, and enough decent arms to get to the late relievers. The Cardinals are an example of this with Marc Rzepczynski as their lefty specialist; Randy Choate as their sidearmer; and Trevor Rosenthal and Joe Kelly, both of whom have been starters, can provide multiple innings and throw nearly 100-mph.

I’m not suggesting hitters go to the plate behaving like Jeff Francoeur, willing to swing at the resin bag if the pitcher throws it, but swinging at a hittable fastball if it comes his way and not worrying that he’ll get yelled at for being a little more aggressive and deviating from the faulty “process.”

The Astros can use this idea of “process” all they want, but the reality is that they may hit a few homers and be drilling it into their hitters from the bottom of their minor league system up that they want patience and don’t care about batting average, but by the time they’re in the middle of their rebuild it might get through that this strategy isn’t what it once was. Waiting, waiting, waiting sometimes means the bus is going to leave without you. Other teams have adjusted enough so it won’t matter if the hitter is trying to intentionally raise the pitch count because it won’t have the same result as it did when the idea first came into vogue with Moneyball. And it’ll go out the window just as the theories in the book have too.

Essays, predictions, player analysis, under the radar fantasy picks, breakout candidates, contract status of all relevant personnel—GMs, managers, players—and anything else you could possibly want to know is in my new book Paul Lebowitz’s 2013 Baseball Guide now available on Amazon.comSmashwordsBN and Lulu. It’s useful all season long. Check it out and read a sample.

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Yankees Belt-Tightening, Part II—the Aftereffects of Austerity

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In normal circumstances, the words “austerity measures” would never be linked with “$200 million payroll,” but that’s where the Yankees currently are.

With that $200 million payroll and the upcoming strict penalties on franchises with higher payrolls, the mandate has come down from ownership for the Yankees to get the total down to $189 million by 2014. This will supposedly save as much as $50 million in taxes and they’ll be able to spend again after 2014.

I wrote about this in detail here.

But what will the team look like by 2014 and will players want to join the Yankees when they’re no longer the “Yankees,” but just another team that’s struggled for two straight years and whose future isn’t attached to the stars Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte who will either be gone by then or severely limited in what they can still accomplish?

To illustrate how far the Yankees have fallen under this new budget, the catcher at the top of their depth chart is Francisco Cervelli who couldn’t even stick with the big league club as a backup last season. They lost Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, Eric Chavez, and Raul Ibanez. The latter three, they wanted back. They couldn’t pay for Martin, Chavez and Ibanez? What’s worse, they appeared to expect all three to wait out the Yankees and eschew other job offers in the hopes that they’d be welcomed back in the Bronx.

What’s worse: the ineptitude or the arrogance?

If George Steinbrenner were still around, he’d have said, “To hell with the luxury tax,” and qualified such an attitude by referencing the amount of money the team wasted over the years on such duds as Carl Pavano, Javier Vazquez, Kevin Brown, Steve Karsay, Kyle Farnsworth, Pedro Feliciano and countless others, many of whom were total unknowns to George, therefore he wouldn’t have received the convenient blame for their signings with a baseball exec’s eyeroll, head shake and surreptitious gesture toward the owner’s box, “blame him, not me,” thereby acquitting themselves when they were, in fact, guilty. But now, the bulk of the responsibility falls straight to the baseball people. He’d also be under the belief that the Yankees brand of excellence couldn’t withstand what they’re increasingly likely to experience in 2013-2014 and that the money would wind up back in their pockets eventually due to their success.

Are there financial problems that haven’t been disclosed? A large chunk of the YES Network was recently sold to Rupert Murdoch and News Corp. In years past, that money would’ve functioned as a cash infusion and gone right back into the construction of the club, but it hasn’t. They’re still not spending on players over the long term with that looming shadow of 2014 engulfing everything they plan to do. Every improvement/retention is on a one or two year contract: Kevin Youkilis—1-year; Hiroki Kuroda—1-year; Ichiro Suzuki—2-years. It’s hard to find younger, impact players when constrained so tightly and the players they’ve signed are older and/or declining which is why they were available to the Yankees on short-term contracts in the first place.

The Yankees don’t have any young players on the way up to bolster the veteran troops.

It takes inexplicable audacity for GM Brian Cashman to trumpet the pitching prospects the club was developing under stringent rules to “protect” them, then to dismiss their failures leading to a release (Andrew Brackman); a demotion to the lower minors to re-learn to throw strikes (Dellin Betances); and injury (Manny Banuelos). The reactions to the injuries to Banuelos, Jose Campos and Michael Pineda are especially galling. Banuelos’s injury—Tommy John surgery—was casually tossed aside by Cashman, pointing out the high success rate of the procedure as if it was no big deal that the pitcher got hurt. But he got hurt while under the restrictions the Yankees has placed on him—restrictions that were designed to simultaneously keep him healthy and develop him, yet wound up doing neither.

Campos was referenced as the “key” to the trade that brought Pineda; Campos was injured in late April with an undisclosed elbow problem and is now throwing off a mound and expected to be ready for spring training. That he missed almost the entire 2012 season with an injury the Yankees never described in full would give me pause for his durability going forward. The 2013 projections for Pineda to be an important contributor are more prayerful than expectant, adding to the uncertainty.

There’s a streamlining that may make sense in the long run such as the decision to drop StubHub as an official ticket reseller and instead move to Ticketmaster. They sold that chunk of YES and are in the process of slashing the payroll.

Any other team would be subject to a media firestorm trying to uncover the real reason for the sudden belt-tightening with the luxury tax excuse not be accepted at face value. Is there an underlying “why?” for this attachment to $189 million, the opt-out of the StubHub deal, and the sale of 49% of YES? The potential lost windfall of missing the post-season and the lack of fans going to the park, buying beer and souvenirs, paying the exorbitant fees to park their cars and bottom line spending money on memorabilia is going to diminish the revenue further.

Perhaps this is a natural byproduct of the failures to win a championship in any season other than 2009 in spite of having the highest payroll—by a substantial margin—in every year since their prior title in 2000. Could it be that the Steinbrenner sons looked at Cashman and wondered why Billy Beane, Brian Sabean, Andrew Friedman, and John Mozeliak were able to win with a fraction of the limitless cash the Yankees bestowed on Cashman and want him to make them more money by being a GM instead of a guy holding a blank checkbook? In recent years, I don’t see what it is Cashman has done that Hal Steinbrenner couldn’t have done if he decided to be the final word in baseball decisions and let the scouts do the drafting and he went onto the market to buy recognizable names.

Anyone can buy stuff.

Cashman’s aforementioned failures at development show his limits as a GM. It’s not easy to transform from the guy with a load of money available to toss at mistakes and use that cash as a pothole filler and be the guy who has no choice but to be frugal and figure something else out. Much like Hank Steinbrenner saying early in 2008 that the struggling righty pitcher Mike Mussina had to learn to throw like the soft-tossing lefty Jamie Moyer, it sounds easier when said from a distance and a “Why’s he doing it and you’re not?” than it is to implement.

No matter how it’s quantified, this Yankees team is reliant on the past production of these veteran players without the money that was there in the past to cover for them if they don’t deliver.

The fans aren’t going to want to hear about the “future.” They’re going to want Cashman and the Steinbrenners to do something. But given their inaction thus far in the winter of 2012-2013, it doesn’t look as if they’re going to with anyone significant.

This time, they don’t have a prior year’s championship to use as a shield. The Yankees were subject to a broom at the hands of the Tigers. That’s not a particularly coveted memory. In fact, it might have been a portent of what’s to come, except worse.

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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.

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Viewer Mail 8.3.2011

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Brendan writes RE Brian Cashman, Derek Jeter and the Yankees:

“What if he’s not there to be the one voice to prevent Randy Levine and Hank Steinbrenner from doing such short-sighted and stupid things as outbidding themselves for a pitcher with issues on and off the field like Soriano?”

Correct me if I’m wrong and I’m the one living in a parallel universe, but didn’t the Yankees do exactly the short-sighted and stupid thing described above despite the wise, cool-handed GM? And didn’t they do the very same thing with their 37-year-old, 85 OPS+ing future Hall of Fame shortstop?

Cashman was adamantly opposed to the Rafael Soriano maneuver and said so before and after. My point was that there are going to be other such decisions if Cashman’s not there and another GM is brought in—a GM with less capital than Cashman’s accumulated from his long association with the club and success and ability to rebel and maybe get his way.

If Cashman were making the call regarding Jeter, and it was a pure “in the now and future” baseball move, he’d have looked for an alternative and moved on with a different plan; there were ancillary concerns with Jeter and they weren’t based on sentiment and team history alone.

Aside from the 3000th hit and the disastrous PR hit they’d have taken had he left (and Jeter really had nowhere to go anyway), they didn’t have a suitable replacement for him as we’ve seen in their attempts to fill in with Eduardo Nunez and Ramiro Pena. I suppose, if they had to, they could’ve shifted Alex Rodriguez back to shortstop and found a third baseman along the lines of Mark Reynolds, but the reaction to that among the fan base would’ve been terrible.

Despite their shoddy treatment of Jeter, the fans would’ve had a fit if they saw him playing shortstop for the Tigers, Giants or Reds.

Money isn’t the problem with Jeter and it never truly is with the Yankees—they have the money; and if they lose, it won’t be because the lineup couldn’t carry him and his diminished production.

Cashman has been ruthless in his assessment of players. It was he that wanted to allow both A-Rod and Jorge Posada to leave as free agents before he was overruled by ownership. He was right in both cases.

I’ve been as intense a critic of Cashman as anyone. His pitching decisions have been atrocious with Kyle Farnsworth, Steve Karsay, A.J. Burnett and others along with the foolish rules enacted to “protect” the pitchers; but to criticize him for Jeter? You can’t do it. They knew what the deal was and what they were getting.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE Moneyball and my posting about Billy Beane.

Right on point. Had me LOLing from “Yay” onward.

Oh, just wait.

Did you see this bit of revisionist history/pitiful whining in Sports Illustrated by Tom Verducci?

I’m preparing to unleash the full power of the Dark Side because there are certain bullies who deserve every single bit of it.

Beane’s one of them.

If there’s collateral damage to those who are invested in the appellation of genius to the extent of losing any and all concept of “objective reality”, so be it. They’ve earned it too.

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Injured Extensions

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Here’s an unexplored area of low cost value: young, injured players.

Years ago it was on base percentage that was unappreciated; then it became speed, defense, versatility and athleticism; now some are advocating the exploration of non-traditional areas in search of baseball talent like Brazil, India, Africa—wherever. (I happen to think that’s a terrific idea.)

Baseball is running out of things to “undervalue”.

So how about paying players who aren’t healthy, but could reasonably be expected to make solid comebacks?

I’m not talking about rolling the dice on a player returning from injury like the Yankees did with Bartolo Colon. I’m talking about players who are young, injured or needed surgery and are still contractually controllable in the near future, but will be very expensive in the coming years.

How much money could the Mets have saved had they approached Reyes’s representatives in 2009 and offered him a contract extension while he was out for the year with a torn hamstring and surgery—for a discount—while he was on the disabled list?

What would’ve happened had the Mets looked at Reyes in 2009, realized his best-case scenario and that his price-tag was going to be astronomical by the time his contract expired after 2011, and tried to sign him long-term?

Would Reyes—recovering from surgery—have accepted such a deal?

This is contingent on Reyes playing as well as he has in 2011 regardless of contract status—a shaky tenet—but how much aggravation and consternation would it have saved the club?

There are players now who are on the disabled list who fit into this category.

Adam Wainwright and Joba Chamberlain both underwent Tommy John surgery; both are still in the lower echelon of contracts in relation to other, similar pitchers.

Wainwright’s situation is extremely interesting because of the clause in which the Cardinals can void 2012-2013 because he’s hurt. There were options for those years at $9 million for 2012 and $12 million for 2013; these options were guaranteed when Wainwright finished in the top 5 of the National League Cy Young Award balloting last season (he finished second).

The Cardinals aren’t letting Wainwright go; so what’s to stop them from trying to extend him before he’s back on the mound? No, they don’t have to—he’s theirs through 2013—but maybe they’d be smart to sign him through 2017 at a reduced rate.

Chamberlain is arbitration-eligible after the season. Could the Yankees realize that they’ve wasted so much money on relievers Steve Karsay, Kyle Farnsworth and Rafael Soriano and try to sign Chamberlain for 4-years at $9 million? If he’s the heir apparent to Mariano Rivera when (if) Rivera retires, that’s a super-cheap closer.

Buster Posey is another case. Posey’s ankle injury is severe enough that initially there were concerns for his career. He’s expected back next year, but ankles can be tricky as we’ve learned with Kendrys Morales of the Angels.

Posey’s arbitration eligible in 2013 and a free agent in 2016; maybe he’d sign for some security. Morales, represented by Scott Boras, might also be agreeable to a reasonable contract extension.

Baseball’s new math is exhausting the different ways in which clubs can find “undervalued” talent. Perhaps the next step is an equivalent of “futures” and hope—hope that star-level talent is able to rehabilitate from injury and return to form at a reduced price.

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And You Signed Him Why?

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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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Heroes

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White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen exploded after pitcher Jake Peavy had to leave Saturday’s game with pain in his shoulder—ESPN Story.

Peavy, recovering from an injury of unknown territory for an athlete—a detached muscle in his back—admitted to having shoulder pain all spring and (deluding himself?) thought it was normal spring soreness. Now Guillen, a players manager, is not going to believe Peavy no matter what he says regarding his health.

This is an ominous sign for the White Sox; Peavy has always been a high-risk pitcher because of his all-out delivery and atrocious mechanics; in fact, on an annual basis, I said that I was waiting (not hoping, waiting, realistically and objectively) for his arm to come flying off at the shoulder. The one year—2010—I accepted the motion for what it was and picked him to win the Cy Young Award, he rips the latissimus dorsi completely off the bone.

With his salary ($37 million guaranteed through 2012), you’ve got a potentially bottomless pit in the White Sox payroll.

The mechanical issues are what they are and can’t be seen as the final arbiter in whether or not a pitcher stays healthy. You look at a pitcher like Dave Stieb, who had horrendous mechanics—so bad that Stieb had a public back-and-forth with Tom Seaver when Seaver criticized them—and was one of the most durable pitchers in baseball from 1980-1990; and Steve Karsay had picture-perfect mechanics right out of the textbook and was constantly hurt.

You never know.

The best you can do is let them pitch and hope they stay healthy; that it’s in their genes to be able to withstand the pounding that all pitchers take.

As far as Peavy’s decision to pitch through the pain, you can chalk that up to some macho code combined with the desire to be the man who pitched through the pain and led his troops to victory.

Athletes receive divergent signals. Should they confess to being too hurt to play? Or is it part of their job description to fight through normal aches that come with strenuous physical activity?

There’s an old saying of knowing the difference between pain and injury.

What that means is anyone’s guess.

Just like the mechanics of all pitchers and hitters are different, so too are their pain thresholds and it’s unfair to judge someone who is legitimately hurt and wants to participate but can’t.

Years ago, Jim Leyland was quoted as saying: “Christ, you have to play in a little pain.” And “We don’t need any *bleeping* heroes.”

Which is it?

Where’s the line between doing what needs to be done not in a selfish, aggrandizing way but as a means to assist the group in pursuit of the common goal?

Kirk Gibson‘s limping homer in the 1988 World Series off of Dennis Eckersley in game 1, spurring the Dodgers to their 5 game destruction of the heavily favored A’s are on one end of the spectrum; the prepubescent, adolescent fantasies about courageously and selflessly saving the girl and limping away in bloody, dramatic glory exemplified in videos by the talentless Enrique Iglesias are on the other.

A billion people (and not just kids) have the backyard, Gibson moment or the closed door Iglesias moment every single day—only Iglesias was arrogant enough to place it into the plotline of a video.

The truth is it doesn’t happen very often and many times, those that try to work their way through the pain by means of “helping” the team end up making things worse.

Where’s the line between selfishness and heroism?

The line between playing with pain or, as Leyland said, “not needing any *bleeping* heroes”?

Maybe there’s a stat for it.

If it’s discovered somewhere, let me know because I certainly can’t find it.

I published a full excerpt of my book on Wednesday here.

The book is 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.


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