With the World Series shifting to Philadelphia for the next three games and the designated hitter not in play, the Yankees are facing a decision about what to do with Hideki Matsui.
Matsui was one of the team’s best hitters during the regular season, batting .274/.367/.509 with 28 homers and 90 RBIs in 142 games, and after last night’s go-ahead blast off Pedro Martinez he’s now 10-for-36 (.278) with two homers in the playoffs.
However, because of knee problems Matsui hasn’t played the outfield for a single inning all season, and he’d have to dust off his glove and take the bags of ice off his knees to get into the starting lineup for Games 3, 4, and 5. Here’s what manager Joe Girardi said when asked if using Matsui in the outfield was an option in Philadelphia:
That’s something we’re going to have to talk about. We’ll see how he’s doing. We’ll have to see. We’ll make a decision when we get there. We have all day to think about it.
For his part, Matsui said: “If the manager decides to put me in the outfield, then I’m going to make sure that I am ready for that.” Nick Swisher has been so awful in the playoffs that Girardi benched him in favor of Jerry Hairston Jr. last night, which is an extreme enough measure to make me think that the Yankees skipper is probably leaning toward using Matsui in the outfield for at least one or two of the games in Philadelphia.
Matsui could be a disaster out there after his complete lack of action defensively, but if you’ve given up on Swisher to the point that you’re willing to start Hairston in right field for a World Series game … well, then you’re probably willing to role the dice on Matsui’s legs, right? Of course, with the way Girardi has tinkered and micro-managed his way through the playoffs it wouldn’t be surprising if Matsui, Hairston, and Swisher each get a start, and benching the slumping Johnny Damon probably isn’t out of the question either.
The Nationals bullpen is a tire fire. They’re about to add another tire. Per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, Washington is about to sign free agent reliever Francisco Rodriguez.
K-Rod was released by the Tigers last week after posting an ERA of 7.82 over 28 appearances this season. He has a 1.658 WHIP, is allowing 11.9 hits per nine innings and is posting his highest walk rate in five years. Also worth noting: the Detroit Friggin’ Tigers decided that he was not good enough to be in their bullpen.
So, yeah, good luck with that Washington.
I’ve spent years arguing with people about team chemistry. You know the battle lines on all of that now: people who talk a lot about team chemistry tend to attribute winning or losing to good or bad chemistry, respectively. I tend to think that characterizing chemistry is a retroactive exercise in which teams that win are happy and then cite their happiness as the reason and vice versa. Jim Leyland agrees with me, for what it’s worth, so I’m pretty happy with my take.
Not that I’ll claim a monopoly on wisdom here. I’ve never played on a professional baseball team. I don’t know what it’s like to try to prepare to play baseball while surrounded by jackwagons who don’t get along with anyone. I can’t imagine that makes life easier. Indeed, based on the testimony of players I have spoken to, I will grant that there is at least some intangible yet real benefit if everyone is happy an gelling. I dismiss team chemistry arguments for the most part, but if I ran a team I’d at least try to get rid of bad seeds if their bad seeding was not outweighed by seriously outstanding on-the-field play. You want your workers happy, folks.
All of which makes me wonder what the heck to do about this passage from Ken Rosenthal’s latest column. It’s about the reeling San Francisco Giants. They have all kinds of issues — their offense is putrid, their pitching isn’t much better and they’ve been without their ace most of the year — but today Rosenthal looks at their team chemistry. It’s a quiet and subdued clubhouse, he notes, and it has a lot of people wondering if something is wrong there. What could it be?
Sandoval, who was an often noisy and boisterous presence during his time with the club, departed as a free agent after that season. Pence has suffered a number of injuries in recent years and declined offensively, making it difficult for him to be as vocal as he was in the past. Some with the Giants muse that the team even misses Angel Pagan, who created an odd sort of unity because most of the players disliked him.
Read that last sentence again. And then go on with your talk about how team chemistry is a legitimate explanatory concept regarding what makes teams win or lose as opposed to a post-hoc rationalization of it.
Not that it’s not a good article overall. There’s some interesting stuff about the Giants’ bullpen culture. And, of course, we now know why no one signed Pagan last winter.