Results tagged ‘ Melky Cabrera ’
What in the name of Omar Moreno is going on in Pittsburgh?
With Ross Ohlendorf, Jeff Karstens, and Pat Maholm making like Bert Blyleven,
Jim Bibby, and John Candelaria, the Pirates find themselves on a PNC
Park roll. They just completed a
stunning three-game sweep of the Marlins on Wednesday, a happening that becomes
all the more remarkable considering that Florida
entered the series a major league best 11-1. The Pirates are the hot and
fashionable team National League team now, with a record of 9-and-6, just a
half game off the pace in the NL Central.
The Pirates are managing to play exceedingly well in a
division in which just about every team was considered better than the Bucs. First
and foremost, they’ve turned around their fortunes with improved starting
pitching. Last year, the Pirates’ rotation teetered on the atrocious. Now they
have confidence that Maholm can be an ace, and have reason to think that
ex-Yankees Ohlendorf and Karstens can be contributors at the back end of the
rotation. All three hurlers pitched well in shutting down the Marlins’ offense,
which is among the most potent and diverse in the National League. The bullpen
has also chipped in heavily. The late-inning lefty-righty punch of John Grabow
and closer Matt Capps has yet to give up an earned run this season.
Offensively, the Pirates have lived up to expectations, highlighted by a
nucleus of Nyjer Morgan, Nate McLouth, Adam LaRoche, and Ryan Doumit.
Can the Pirates keep up the pace? Well, perhaps for a few
weeks, but there are indications that their early-season play may not be
sustainable. Ohlendorf and Karstens fit better long term as relievers, not as
starters. Grabow and Capps will start to give up runs eventually; they’re
capable relievers, but they’re not the latest incarnations of Grant Jackson and
Kent Tekulve either. Three of Pittsburgh’s
hitters–Morgan, LaRoche, and Freddy Sanchez are all hitting over .300–a
circumstance that figures to change as the season ages. And now the offense is
the facing the predicament of losing Doumit for as many as ten weeks with a
broken right wrist.
Putting the negativity aside, the Pirates have succeeded in
avoiding the kind of cruel start that has doomed them in recent years. They
have some young talent that has a chance to blossom, especially in the form of
Doumit, Morgan, McLouth, and Maholm. For the first time in years, Pirates fans
have hope. And that, for a flailing franchise, is worth something…
The Yankees may have found a doable role for Melky Cabrera.
A full-fledged flop as the Yankees’ center fielder in 2008, Cabrera has emerged
as an early supersub stud in New York.
Receiving only his second center field start of the new season on Wednesday,
Cabrera switch-hit home runs–including a game-ending blast in the bottom of
the 14th. Cabrera now has four home runs on the season, despite irregular
playing time and a reputation as a singles hitter.
Based on the bulk of his major league career, Cabrera
doesn’t hit well enough or with sufficient power to play every day. But his
line-drive swing, good defensive skills, and strong throwing arm play well in a
reserve role. He can play center field one day, as he did on Wednesday, or
right field another day. He can come in as a late-inning defensive specialist,
especially in the outfield corners. He can also pinch-run. In other words, he’s
a good player to bring off the bench–an area where the Yankees could use the
If his struggles continue in left field, the New
York media will start referring to him as
“Murphy’s Law.” Daniel Murphy has made just about every mistake that
can be made in the outfield. He’s dropped a fly ball, made a throwing error,
missed the cutoff man, even fallen down on the job, and generally brought back
memories of Dave “King Kong” Kingman trying to play left field at
Shea Stadium. Two of Murphy’s miscues have led directly to Mets losses, which
has led to early calls of panic from some members of the team’s rabid fan base.
Let’s not give up on Murphy too quickly. He’s still learning
to play the outfield fulltime after dabbling in a variety of positions,
including second base. He’ll get better with more repetitions and he’ll be
helped by playing next to a Gold Glove center fielder like Carlos Beltran.
Besides, Murphy’s bat is too good (maybe good enough to win a batting title in
the future) to sit him on the bench or plant him in Triple-A Buffalo. A better
plan would be to platoon Murphy with Gary Sheffield, who also needs at-bats. That
way, the Mets would take some pressure off Murphy and limit their defensive
foibles to left field, while giving Ryan Church a chance to play right field
every day. That’s a far more workable solution, one that would not involve
tossing the towel on the talented Mr. Murphy.
There are those who believe that spring training performance
is too misleading to be useful in determining who should win spots on an
Opening Day roster. I would tend to agree with that, at least in the case of established
veteran players, but the Grapefruit and Cactus League seasons can be helpful in sorting out the best
and worst among younger players.
The 2009 Yankees provide a classic case in point. On Sunday,
Joe Girardi announced that Brett Gardner had won the center field battle, with
Melky Cabrera relegated to backup duties. Gardner
hit a leadoff home run in the Yankees’ first exhibition game this spring–and
has continued to hit all spring, even with surprising power. Cabrera, after a
slow start, has rebounded to lift his average into the .340 range, which is
very good, but still short of Gardner’s
In my mind, Girardi has made a perfectly reasonable and
rational decision in choosing Gardner.
Both players have their strengths, Gardner
his speed and range, and Cabrera his throwing arm, but neither has a huge edge
in talent over the other. Both are younger players still trying to establish
their levels of value in the major leaguers. Neither player hit well in 2008,
leaving question marks about their staying power as regular center fielders. If
Girardi can’t use spring training as a major factor, then what else can he rely
on? Tarot cards?
I believe that the pressure of spring training performance
can also tell us something about a player. If a player knows he has to hit well
in the spring in order to win a job, and then he goes out and does exactly
that, it may be an indication that he can handle the pressure that comes with
the major leagues. Similarly, I believe that competition should bring out the
best in good players. And based on the way that both Gardner and Cabrera have
responded to this spring’s competition, the Yankees may find center field to be
in far more capable hands than they originally planned…
The Mets nearly made a puzzling trade with the Tigers last
week. GM Omar Minaya was prepared to send reliever Brian Stokes to Detroit for
infielder-outfielder Ryan Raburn, but backed out after watching Stokes continue
to throw spring training smoke. I’m not sure why Minaya considered this trade
in the first place. Raburn is versatile–he can play third base, second base,
and all three outfield spots–and did slug .507 two years ago, but he slumped
badly in 2008 and basically duplicates Fernando Tatis as a super utilityman.
Raburn, 27, is really not the answer to the Mets’ second base problems either.
Second base is one of his worst positions defensively; he’s committed seven
errors in 37 career games playing the pivot.
The Mets are better off with the live-armed Stokes. Minaya
has done a good job of collecting hard-throwing right-handers, including
veterans Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz and phenom right-hander Bobby
Parnell. Stokes is a good supplement to that collection, someone capable of
giving the Mets a quality inning or two, especially on days when Livan
Hernandez is scheduled to start or Oliver Perez is doing the moonwalk. So let’s
put this one in the familiar category of “The best trades are the ones you
Speaking of categories, let’s put the following in the file
of the “strange and bizarre.” On Sunday, with the Orioles and Mets waiting out
a first-inning rain delay, Baltimore Assuming that Angel’s story is
true, I hope the Orioles call the radio station “decision-maker” on the carpet
for this one. He or she deserves to be publicly embarrassed for leaving the
broadcasters, the fans, and the listeners out to soak in the proverbial rain. Announcers Joe Angel and Fred Manfra, working the game on the team’s flagship
station, signed off and left the ballpark. The rains eventually stopped,
allowing the O’s and Mets to resume play, but the broadcast did not. Onlookers
immediately blamed Angel and Manfra for being lazy and impatient, but that may
not be the correct story. On Monday, Angel provided his version, explaining
that radio station management made the decision to pull the plug on the
broadcast in the midst of the rain delay. Angel says that he and Manfra wanted
to wait out the rain and call the game–it’s their job, after all–but radio
station “decision-makers” opted for Plan B. I tend to believe Angel, who is one
of the more professional play-by-play men in the game. I’ve worked for station
managers who treated broadcasts of games as “optional” programming, rather than
regular programming that is contractually bound–and that fans have every right
In all my years following baseball closely–a state of mind
that dates back to the mid-1970s–I can’t ever recall a spring training so
devoid of trade rumors as this one. There seems to be so few actual trade
discussion going on between general managers that even the rumors have dried
up, even the ones that are made up by those of us with usually creative minds.
In reality, this year’s quiet spring is simply a continuation of what we’ve
seen in recent years. There have been very few spring trades of substance over
the last decade. The last major spring deal I can remember involved the Reds
and Red Sox, who swapped Wily Mo Pena for Bronson Arroyo back in 2006. And even
that, while a significant trade, was hardly a blockbuster.
So why has the spring become such a dead time for dealing? I think a few
causes, each interrelated to the other, are at the root of this trend.
*Major league teams, more so than ever, have become conscious of dealing with
budgets. Budgets are set during the winter, allowing for the signing of free
agents and a significant trade or two for each team. By the time spring
training starts, teams simply do not want to increase the levels of their
budgets. Even if a talented veteran player becomes available, it becomes
problematic because of the expense of bringing in an expensive contract past
*The numbers game has become a bigger factor. By the middle of spring training, teams
are looking to cut down their rosters, as part of the master objective to pare
down to the 25-man limit by Opening Day. With most teams looking to reduce
rather than increase their roster numbers, it becomes more difficult to make
trades, especially involving players who are out of minor league options. If
you are going to trade for a veteran player, you have to be sure that he
represents an upgrade over the existing player at that position–and you have
to be certain you will have room for him on your 25-man roster.
*Teams, more than ever before, believe that they can find cheaper solutions to
their talent problems by relying on their minor league prospects. I’ve heard at
least three general managers or managers make the following statement this
spring: “We believe the answer to Problem X is right here in camp.”
This refrain has become so common that it’s almost become cliche. Sometimes, I
think the general managers are deluding themselves when they make this kind of
remark. A minor league player currently in camp might provide a cheaper answer
to a problem, but he might not necessarily provide a good answer…
One of the few players who has been mentioned in various rumor mills is Melky Cabrera. The Yankees’ onetime center fielder of the future has
drawn interest from the White Sox, a scenario that speaks volumes about Chicago’s center field
quagmire. Brian Anderson, Jerry Owens, and Dewayne Wise all have questionable
resumes and have failed to advance their causes through slapdash spring
performances. The White Sox like Cabrera’s defense and throwing skills, but I
have to wonder how much they would offer for a player who was an offensive nonentity
for most of 2008. If the ChiSox were willing to fork over a young catcher or a
third baseman, the Yankees might have to
take the bait. The power and bat speed displayed by Austin Jackson this spring,
along with Brett Gardner’s rejuvenated swing, have the Yankees thinking better about
their center field depth, thereby making Cabrera more expendable. By trading
Cabrera, who is out of options, the Yankees could also open up a roster spot
for another infielder or a third catcher…
The Washington Nationals, amidst an already turbulent spring, are facing another quandary created by departed GM Jim Bowden. It seems that Bowden made a handshake deal with first baseman Dmitri Young over the winter, guaranteeing the veteran a spot on the Opening Day roster. But Young is overweight and generally out of shape, and happens to play a position where the Nats are already heavily stocked with Nick Johnson and Adam Dunn. Simply put, the Nationals don’t need Young, whose presence would create flexibility problems on a roster that is already lacking in talent. So what should the Nationals do? Given that Bowden departed because of his alleged involvement in skimming bonuses from Dominican players, I think the Nats are well within their rights to tell Young that his handshake deal departed when Bowden departed.