What they're saying about the Lance Berkman trade

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The Astros traded first baseman Lance Berkman to the Yankees on Friday night for right-hander Mark Melancon and infield prospect Jimmy Paredes.  Berkman went 0-for-4 with a strikeout in his debut as the Yanks’ new designated hitter on Saturday, but most people like the fit and believe he will be plenty productive for the 27-time World Series champs as they try for their 28th.  Of course, everyone has a different opinion, and that’s why we play this “What They Are Saying About…” game.

  • As Craig pointed out early Saturday morning, SI.com’s Jeff Pearlman thinks that Berkman is not “meant for New York” because he is an “off-the-charts right-winger” and because he has spent most of his adult life in the state of Texas.  Of course, that has nothing to do with baseball and it seems like political conversations can be easily avoided in a major league locker room.
  • Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News writes that the Yankees’ trade deadline moves, including the additions of Kerry Wood and Austin Kearns, scream of “insecurity.”  Lupica calls them “sidebars” to Roy Oswalt, who he thinks would have been the real catch.
  • FanGraphs’ David Golebiewski thinks that Berkman’s production at the plate “should pick up” in the cozy confines of the new Yankee Stadium, “though not to the level of his glory days.”  No surprise there.  He is 34, after all.
  • Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle says that the Berkman trade “put an end to the Astros as they were known to half a generation of fans.”  He’s probably right, and it’s hard to see that as a bad thing.  The ‘Stros got younger this trade deadline and they also shrunk their payroll — two things that needed to be done in order to ensure a quality future.
  • Joseph Pawlikowski of the Yankees blog River Ave. Blues notes that Berkman has “gotten better from May through July,” and is now hitting with more power while also drawing more walks.  If he can play to his full potential, Pawlikowski writes, Berkman may be “the complete package in New York: a lefty who can spray the ball the other way but still take it over the short porch.”

The new Yankees DH is batting .242/.367/.430 on the season with 13 home runs and 49 RBI in 302 at-bats.  He had a .221/.388/.494 batting line in the month of July.  The Yankees, meanwhile, are two games ahead of the Rays in the American League East with a MLB-best 66-37 record.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉