Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Chamberlain's Injury And The Yankees Silence

  • Ominous signs or precautionary silence for Joba Chamberlain and the Yankees:
There are two ways to look at the Yankees silence regarding the MRI/X-Ray results for
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Joba Chamberlain and the subsequent decision to send him to Alabama to see Dr. James Andrews: one, the results are positive and the team is treating Chamberlain with the same caution he's been treated with since he arrived in the big leagues before starting any kind of program or pitching him again; or two, the news is bad and they're getting an opinion from the best guy in the field as to the next course of action. I'm not going to hazard a guess as to what it is, but if Chamberlain is really hurt it's going to demolish the Yankees grand plan of handling their young pitchers.
The whole idea of integrating a young pitcher in the bullpen and slowly working him into the starting rotation is not new; the Orioles did it for years under Earl Weaver
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and George Bamberger and they consistently developed durable and successful starting pitchers. The Yankees had done their homework on pitchers who were overused at a young age and burned out quickly before coming to the solution to have Chamberlain on a strict, game-by-game pitch count and innings threshold and using him as a reliever before making him a starter.
With the Yankees gentle and thoughtful treatment of Chamberlain, there are going to be excuses galore if Chamberlain is really hurt, but the silence can be seen as a continuation of the close-to-the-vest treatment Chamberlain has received in his career; or it could be that they're making sure that the bad news is accurate and are coming up with a story as to why their grand plan didn't work.
  • Cardinals 6-Dodgers 4 (11); the Cardinals can't function this way:
I have to believe that when Tony La Russa re-upped to stay with the Cardinals, there were several factors at work: there wasn't a viable destination for him to leave and win immediately; the Cardinals have been his baseball home since 1996 and it's hard to leave after such a long-
Thumbnail image for la russa and duncan pic.jpegterm relationship; and he was told by ownership that if the team was in contention, some effort would be made to improve on the fly.
In looking at the team's roster and injuries coming into the season, management was probably hoping against reality that La Russa's genius would keep the team in contention without any belief that it might happen; but it has happened and as the season has moved along, the Cardinals haven't made any improvements whatsoever. Their strategy, aside from relying on La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan's brilliance, was to have their injured pitchers Mark Mulder and Chris Carpenter provide the mid-season reinforcements in lieu of trades. Mulder returned briefly and got hurt again and Carpenter has
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pitched in two games so far this allowing one run in nine innings. The starting rotation isn't the Cardinals problem though; it's the bullpen.
Despite the fact that they won last night's game against the Dodgers in the eleventh inning, their tattered bullpen blew a four run lead in the ninth inning complete with another implosion by Jason Isringhausen. A team with designs on the playoffs cannot function like this where no lead is safe no matter the score and with no help from anywhere on the horizon because of the cheapness of the organization. With two teams in their division that have made drastic improvement (the Brewers with C.C. Sabathia and the Cubs with Rich Harden), the Cardinals were in no position
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to stand pat. It might have been a strategy if they didn't have a collapsing bullpen, but something needed to be done.
The Cardinals are still winning enough games to stay within range of the Cubs in the NL Central and the way the National League is playing, they'll be around the top of the Wild Card standings until the end of the season, but a team can't continue running relievers to the mound who are going to blow what should be comfortable leads; not only does it chip away at team confidence, but as the season winds down, it stresses the entire team by increasing the amount of work they have to do to win a game that should have been easy.
While it's only a matter of perception in how and why the Cardinals didn't make any drastic improvements when compared to other teams who also didn't do anything to improve like the Mets and Rays, the difference is that it wasn't for a lack of trying or willingness to spend money on the part of those teams. The Cardinals put forth the excuse that their minor league system is short as it is and they didn't want to deplete it any further by trading away the few prospects they have; but that seems to be a cover story that, while viable, is really an excuse for saving money and hoping for the best. With the way their bullpen has continued to pour gasoline on the fire, it's going to be hard for them to stay in contention as anything more than a team hoping that none of the other contenders get hot thereby giving the Cardinals a chance at winning a war of attrition.
Even with all of the good work he's done this year and how he's been so loyal to the
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Cardinals organization, eventually this is going to take a toll on La Russa who, at age 64, isn't going to want to put all this work in without proper support from the front office when needed. Other opportunities may be available after the season including Seattle (a team that spends money); Milwaukee (filled with young talent); the White Sox (eventually Ozzie Guillen's mouth is going to get him fired; and Jerry Reinsdorf has always regretted letting Hawk Harrelson fire La Russa); and San Diego (a nice place for a final job; he's worked with Sandy Alderson before; and they might be desperate enough to do something drastic after this train wreck). He's going to have options and with the way the Cardinals are penny-pinching, they'd probably be happy to get out from under La Russa and Duncan's contracts for someone cheaper if the duo really wants to leave. Such a scenario may be best for all involved because they certainly can't go on like this for another year because appreciation of genius can only go so far without a payoff and it doesn't look like there will be one for the Cardinals this year if they continue down this road.
  • Mets 6-Padres 5:
Before anything else, I railed against the fact that Fernando Tatis was even invited to camp with the Mets in spring training; I railed against them calling him up; I railed against them using him and wasting a roster spot on him; but the guy has found a second baseball life after
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his fall from grace. This is a player who hit 34 homers; drove in 107; scored 104; batted .298; had an OBP of .404; and slugged .553 in 1999; he also hit two grand slams in one inning that year and had MVP-quality numbers across the board; he then fell off the planet and was out of baseball in 2004 and 2005, played sparsely with little success with the Orioles in 2006; spent 2007 with the Mets Triple A team in New Orleans and was called up this year as little more than a journeyman veteran to fill out the bench. Instead, he's contributed mightily to the team with his clutch hitting and has regained a semblance of his power; he's also played solid defensively. I'm still halfway expecting him to revert to the player who couldn't find a job for so long; couldn't do much of anything for any team in any capacity, but all he's done is hit and hit in the clutch, so they may as well ride him for the rest of the season because he's earned at least that much given his stunning contribution.
Without Billy Wagner for at least the next couple of weeks, the Mets are resorting to a "bullpen by committee", but they may as well just throw Scott Schoeneweis out there as the
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closer and hope for the best. Schoeneweis has done the job in spurts before; doesn't seem all that bothered by the pressure; has experience in playoff-type games and usually throws strikes. The other pitchers in the Mets bullpen haven't been able to handle the job in the brief tries they've received and the gigantic rookie Eddie Kunz has to be worked in slowly for what is likely his future job. Schoeneweis is the best option for the moment and that's who they should use in their current predicament.

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