Friday, October 9, 2009

The Posada/Molina/Girardi/Burnett Foursome

  • A mess that could've been avoided:

I love empty threats.

Jorge Posada was understandably upset when told that he wouldn't start behind the plate for game 2 of the ALDS against the Twins with A.J. Burnett pitching; but Posada's emotional reaction resulted in him saying something I'm sure he'd like to take back: “We better win that game, that’s all I gotta say."


Or what?

What's Posada going to do? Is he going to hold his breath until he turns blue? Is he going to take a bat to the post-game spread? Seek solace in the arms of Kate Hudson, creating more clubhouse discord between himself and Alex Rodriguez? What are the consequences implied in the Posada quote? Answer: there are none.

He should probably have stuck to the handy book of generic ballplayer quotes: "It's the manager's decision; it's what he thinks is best; I want what's best for the team; I feel I should be in there, but it's not my call," etc.

Threats don't do anyone good especially when someone's in no position to be making them to begin with.

As for the decision itself, I can absolutely understand all sides of the equation. It can't be easy for someone of Posada's stature and with his pride to be told that he's disliked by a certain pitcher given his career-long success dealing with stars like Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera. Posada's strong-willed, so his reluctance to back down when he thinks he's right regardless of what the pitcher wants is part of the reason he's become such a fine player.

It took balls for Girardi to do this and to not even throw Posada the bone of using him as the DH. Numerically, there isn't much to go on between Hideki Matsui and Posada as DH; Matsui's 1 for 3 career against Twins starter Nick Blackburn with a double; Posada's never batted against him. Girardi is in a position to have the depth of understanding to make this a well-thought out decision. He was a strong defensive catcher himself and knows the importance of having his pitcher comfortable. I don't know that I would've done this. I probably would've shut my eyes and started Posada behind hte plate for Burnett's start; then again, if it were my decision, Burnett would be pitching game 3 instead of game 2 and Posada would be behind the plate for Andy Pettitte tonight.

This is nothing like Billy Martin's spiteful and vindictive benching of Reggie Jackson in game 5 of the ALCS in 1977 because Paul Splittorff was pitching and Reggie had poor numbers against Splittorff. This is a pure baseball decision; I'm sure Girardi would prefer to be able to comfortably play Posada and not deal with the controversy, but he's doing what he sees as right.

I can't blame Burnett either. A pitcher has enough to think about without worrying for days about how his catcher is going to fight with him on pitch selection. If he's more comfortable with Molina, he's more comfortable with Molina. This is an important game and no time to worry about one man's feelings over what's perceived to be best for the club. Making that evaluation is the manager's job and that's what Girardi's done with this move.

Molina's little more than an innocent victim here.

One thing I do not understand is why this situation wasn't resolved earlier in the season. There was plenty of time from spring training on for Posada and Burnett to get comfortable with one another and that it's gotten this far is on Girardi and pitching coach Dave Eiland. They couldn't sit the two players down, have an airing out session of their issues and concerns in a blunt fashion and get the problems straightened out? To come to a consensus and gameplan so this wouldn't go on for the entire season? These are (ostensibly) adults; they're (apparently) professionals; they couldn't fix the problem before this? Agree to disagree and come up with something to make it workable? Everyone knows of the tension between Girardi and Posada simmering beneath the surface and it has affected the situation adversely no matter how both deny it.

Egos and childishness are just as much a proximate cause for this mess as are philosophical differences and they should've been nipped in the bud in March. That's the manager's problem and he didn't handle it as his job requires.

  • Will there be a managing job for Valentine this winter?

With the Marlins inexplicable vacillating on the job of Fredi Gonzalez evidently settled with Gonzalez staying; and the Mets keeping Jerry Manuel, will there be a spot for Bobby Valentine to take a managing job this winter?

There was talk that the Indians were interested, but they're not going to pay Valentine what he wants. The Nationals are a realistic possibility if Mike Rizzo is willing to cede some of his (just acquired) power to deal with Valentine. Aside from that, where is there for Valentine to go? And will he sit out until early next season when numerous jobs are undoubtedly going to be up for grabs? If Joe Torre wins the World Series and retires (and I don't think he would), Valentine has always been like a son to Tommy Lasorda, who still has some sway with the organization; Valentine's a guy that could replace Torre seamlessly on and off the field.

The specter of Valentine hovering around will be another distraction for managers under fire. If the Mets get off to a bad start and see the season going down the tubes (and GM Omar Minaya knows he's going to get jettisoned if things really spiral), Valentine will be the obvious call. That's not Valentine's fault; he can't help that he's the hot name as a replacement. Other jobs that could be potentially rewarding are the Rays (that's one to watch closely); the Rangers, Cubs, Orioles and Marlins.

Don't be surprised if Valentine stays with ESPN into next season to see what develops on the managerial front and there's no reason to call him a vulture because of it.

  • Viewer Mail 10.9.2009:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Joe Girardi's overmanaging:

I disagree about Girardi. One of the reasons CC pitched so well last night, compared to his previous outings in the postseason, is that he hasn't been pushed to pitch complete games or go on short rest. Why not take him out in the seventh? It had nothing to do with pitch counts. He looked tired. Time for a fresh arm.

The situation was such that I would've had to look at all the possible outcomes and stayed with Sabathia. Sabathia vs Mauer was a better choice to me than Coke/Hughes vs Mauer. It could've been disastrous. Girardi dodged a bullet. I would've let him finish the inning. He's the man, let him do his job.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE ESPN's "Body Issue":

There is no reason for me, nor any other human being (specifically males between the age of 18 and 39, ESPN's main audience), to see pictures of a nude Dwight Howard... EVER... no matter how artsy it claims to be.

ESPN's been a bit discriminatory in their selection of whom to use in the issue. If they did it fairly, they'd add the likes of Pablo Sandoval, Prince Fielder, George Sherrill and the newly pudgy Pat Burrell. They're contributing to the poor body image of society on the whole with their insistence on using people in so-called "great" shape.

Isaac writes:

I do remember you talking about the mess Depodesta made with Mota, Penny and others, and also remember you talking about Ricciardis unwise spending (Vernon Wells and others). The thing is, I didn't see very clearly how those decisions were based in only stats. I can see they were mistakes, but, for example, how do you know Depodesta's overreliance on stats were what led him to make those mistakes?

With Ricciardi, it was an interesting dichotomy. He adhered to the Moneyball tenets in the draft and looked to find cheaper, useful alternatives----and did in the likes of Marco Scutaro. He also threw money at problems in a way that was decidedly "un"-Moneyball. Perhaps he had no choice to get players to come to Canada.

The Wells signing has been blamed somewhat on ownership telling Ricciardi not to let him get away no matter the cost; if that's the case, then he deserves a pass. The A.J. Burnett signing was stupid given Burnett's injury history. People rip the B.J. Ryan signing, but Ryan was almost unhittable his first season; he got hurt; what can you do? Is that a referendum on Ricciardi's scouting skills to have looked past Ryan's horrendous mechanics and sign him anyway? Yes. But Billy Wagner was another big name closer available that year and he got hurt too. The trade of Troy Glaus for Scott Rolen was a gaffe; and his repeated firings of managers made him look like he was doling the blame on others for his own mistakes.

I honestly believe that if Ricciardi hadn't been such a polarizing figure and created such controversies with his mouth as he did, he might still be the Blue Jays GM. It was an accumulation of screw-ups on and off the field, along with his rampant paranoia and out-of-control temper that contributed to his dismissal. He wasn't a terrible GM in building a team, but his reluctant to take the blame for mistakes and self-immolated far too many times for him to stay.

As for DePodesta, the stat zombies believe fervently that a good starter is more important than a good reliever. This is arguable in most cases. But what DePodesta did with the Guillermo Mota/Paul LoDuca trade for Brad Penny/Hee Seop Choi wasn't simply an on-field mistake. What I think happened there was DePodesta wanted Randy Johnson and was willing to take Penny and spin him off for Johnson; if he didn't get Johnson, he was willing to live with Penny.

The problem was that Penny arrived hurt and DePodesta had stripped the Dodgers of what had gotten them to that point in the season (60-42 and 3 1/2 games in first place). That team had grown up together and developed into a contender as a cohesive unit; they liked and trusted manager Jim Tracy and were rolling toward the playoffs.

If the club was floundering or simply didn't feel right, then yes, you drop a bomb in the clubhouse with a big deal. The arguable point of whether a reliever is more important as a starter wasn't applicable with the 2004 Dodgers because he essentially gave Mota away for Penny, from whom they got nothing for the rest of the season. Once that Dodgers club had a lead in the sixth or seventh inning, the game was over. Duaner Sanchez was also part of that bullpen. It was devastating with Sanchez, lefty specialist Tom Martin, Mota and Eric Gagne. That championship-winning formula was eliminated with one stupid move.

What the trade also did was force the veterans, manager and coaches to look at DePodesta with a jaundiced eye. Up until then, he hadn't done anything to indicate his tenure would unravel as it did. In fact, his first major trade was a risky one that was paying dividends when he acquired Milton Bradley from the Indians. Bradley behaved himself that season and played well.

Dealing the de facto captain of the team, Lo Duca; the best set-up man in baseball, Mota; installing the injury-prone and overmatched Darren Dreifort as set-up man; and having Penny get hurt made the club wonder if they'd be the next ones out the door if DePodesta got a chance to find someone whose on base percentage was eight points higher than theirs. The team stumbled down the stretch, but made the playoffs because of what had been built in the first half of that season and long before by the stability and principles under which teams are properly formed. These were symptoms of a larger malady.

The blindness to anything other than bottom-line numbers and Moneyball principles was taken to its logical conclusion after the season. Sufficiently undermined, Tracy was already on the managerial death watch despite the great work he'd done. DePodesta ignored any and all tenets of team chemistry by bringing in the passionless (J.D. Drew); the misanthropic (Jeff Kent); and paying big money for mediocrity (Odalis Perez) and 2005 was a direct result of that.

When you build a team that way; when you ignore anything other than numbers and baseline principles with little-to-no flexibility, it's either going to pay off big or fail miserably. You cannot have a team----and that Dodgers club was a team, better than the sum of its statistical parts----saying to themselves that they'd better play for their numbers because as soon as someone with slightly better stats is available, they'll be gone. It's a recipe for disaster and that's how and why DePodesta's time there ended.

It was his own fault. Those that refuse to acknowledge these facts are simply promoting a friend for another job because he's their friend and it demolishes any and all credibility because of an agenda. The sad thing is that they're either so invested in their beliefs to accept it, or don't realize it at all. That's a poor reflection on them.


Jeff said...

Though I respect Jorge Posada as a baseball player, he seems, to me, to be the type of guy who would screw his best friend's wife. I'm just sayin'...

She-Fan said...

Prince, you know better than anyone how it works in NY. There a million media guys begging Jorge to say something they can use. After he said all those "right things," he came out with the "threat," as you call it. Give the guy a break. He was probably sick of answering the same question over and over.