Curtis Granderson

Alfonso Soriano as a Granderson replacement seems far-fetched

62 Comments

The silver lining about a 10-week injury to Curtis Granderson: Opening Day is still more than a month away.

Losing Granderson’s power is far from an ideal way for the Yankees to start the spring, but it’s hardly a season-wrecker either. And while there might be some concern over whether Granderson will regain his power right away after his broken forearm heals, I think that’s less of an issue than it would be were it a wrist or hand injury.

One problem the Yankees do face here is that they released their best Granderson replacement last month. Veteran Chris Dickerson hit .316/.417/.514 with 17 steals in 69 games for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and also popped a couple of homers in 14 at-bats in the majors last season. A plus defender in a corner still capable of manning center, he was the fourth best outfielder on the Yankees’ roster at the time of his release. The main issue is that, like the three guys ahead of him, he’s a left-handed hitter, which made him poorly suited for a spot on the team’s bench.

The Yankees also lost Russ Canzler on waivers earlier this month. Like Dickerson, he’s now an Oriole. He would have been a liability in left field, but he projected better offensively than any of the Yankees’ current internal options, a group that includes journeymen Juan Rivera, Matt Diaz and Thomas Neal and prospect Zoilo Almonte and Melky Mesa.

The one internal option not getting much play yet is Eduardo Nunez. Nunez started three games in left field for the Yankees last season, but the team was committed to keeping him at shortstop this spring with Derek Jeter rehabbing. Perhaps that will change next month if Jeter shows he’s ready to play shortstop on Opening Day.

Of course, then there are the external options. Alfonso Soriano is the name on everyone’s lips, even though he still has two very expensive seasons left on his contract. Also, he wields a no-trade clause and he presumably wouldn’t be happy about shifting to a part-time role once Granderson returns. Soriano was asked about the Yankees possibility by CSN’s Patrick Mooney today: “If they call for me, I have to think about it because I don’t want to take a quick reaction and say yes or no.”

The Cubs would presumably cover a heavy portion of the $38 million left on Soriano’s deal in order to move him, but still, even taking on $5 million or so for 2014 would hurt the Yankees as they try to get under the luxury tax. For a one-month Granderson replacement, he wouldn’t make much sense.

Other external options include free agents Scott Podsednik, Johnny Damon and Bobby Abreu, none of whom figure to hold much appeal. The Mariners have Casper Wells and Eric Thames expendable after loading up on veterans. The right-handed-hitting Wells would actually be a pretty nice fit as a fourth outfielder after Granderson returns. The Tigers’ Brennan Boesch and Padres’ Jesus Guzman could be made available. There are also veterans like Ben Francisco (Indians), Conor Jackson (Orioles), Darnell McDonald (Cubs), Tony Gwynn Jr. (Dodgers), who might not make their current teams and could be had next to nothing, though they’re not necessarily better bets than Rivera and Diaz.

The guess here is that Rivera is the Yankees’ Opening Day left fielder.  He doesn’t have a whole lot left, but he’s a better bet than Diaz and none of the younger prospects are ready to hit in the majors. Keeping Mesa around as a defensive replacement might make sense, though only until Granderson comes back.

Columnist calls for Sammy Sosa to “come clean.” He probably shouldn’t.

15 Sep 1998:  A silhouette portrait of Sammy Sosa #21of the Chicago Cubs taken in the dug-out as he looks across the field during the game against the San Diego Padres at Qualcomm Park in San Diego, California. The Cubs defeated the Padres 4-2
Getty Images
2 Comments

Yesterday Sammy Sosa — quite ridiculously — compared himself to Jesus Christ. The idea: he has suffered greatly since retirement, having been shunned by the Cubs and disparaged by the baseball establishment and . . . well, I don’t know how that makes him Jesus, but forget it, he’s rolling.

Today, predictably, a Chicago columnist does what columnists have been doing for years with respect to guys suspected of PED use: argues that Sosa should “come clean” if he wants to come in from the cold. Here’s David Haugh of the Tribune:

The game welcomed back Barry Bonds and McGwire from steroid exile after both separately acknowledged their involvement with performance-enhancing drugs. Fox Sports employs Alex Rodriguez, who admitted to PED use during his career. The door back to baseball is open for Sosa, but only if he follows the same path his contemporaries from the steroid era did. The Cubs have made this clear to Sosa, in no uncertain terms, yet he continues to paint himself as the victim.

This is not accurate. Bonds has never “come clean” about his PED use. He was in litigation over it until 2015 and wasn’t giving any confessionals about it. When the Marlins hired him he said nothing. He made allusions to being “an idiot” in an interview last summer, but that was clearly focused on his cagey attitude, not his drug use. There was no deal with the Marlins that his job was prefaced on his “coming clean,” and he never did.

The same can be said for McGwire. Big Mac was hired by the Cardinals as a hitting coach on October 26, 2009. His acknowledgment of PED use came months later, just before spring training in January 2010. While it may be plausible that the Cardinals told McGwire that they would not hire him absent a confession of PED use, that’s not how it tracked in real time. At his hiring, John Mozeliak and Bill DeWitt each said there was no set blueprint for how McGwire would proceed as far as his public statements went and they allowed him to control the timeline. His confession seemed to be very much a function of heading off spring training distractions and questions from the press which would have access to him everyday, not some precondition of his employment.

But even if we grant the apparently erroneous premise that Bonds and McGwire “came clean” to return to baseball’s good graces, such a road map is of no use to Sosa. He’s not looking to coach or, as far as we know, even be employed by a club. If the study we talked about four years ago remains accurate, coming clean about PED use makes an athlete look worse in the eyes of the public than those who deny. Ask David Ortiz how that works. It likewise will do nothing for his Hall of Fame vote totals. Ask McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro how that works.

Sosa may be engaging in some unfortunate hyperbole, but as far as can be determined, he’s not asking for a whole hell of a lot. He’s not asking for a coaching job or to have his number retired or for them to rename Wrigley Field after him. He’s asking to be acknowledged as a part of Cubs history. He’s asking for the same kind of treatment other retired greats receive from time to time. A first pitch? A public appearance or two? Some minor role as a team ambassador? The bar for that isn’t very high.

The Cubs, who benefited greatly from Sosa’s production — and, necessarily, by whatever juicing Sosa did to achieve it — aren’t being asked to do much. Just to be decent to a person who is an important part of their history. That should not require that Sosa give a weepy interview about steroids which will serve no one’s purpose but the tut-tutting media. A media which, if McGwire’s example is any guide, will still slam Sosa if he comes clean and claim that his confession wasn’t good enough and his contrition wasn’t genuine. If he does confess, bank on that reaction. Bet the mortgage on it.

All of which makes me wonder if it’s the media, and not the Cubs who are the ones who really want to see such a thing.

Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 5:  Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media prior to a game between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
16 Comments

Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.

The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?

Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.

The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.

I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.