Monday, March 17, 2014

Tinkers, Evers and No Chance: The top three Yankee hitters this spring represent the Legion of the Lost

Of course these "games" don't matter. They are TV illusions, like Duck Dynasty or the political "debates." Think of this as Survivor: Tampa, except instead of eating salamanders, the contestants must avoid the trans-fats of the clubhouse bang bang shrimp buffet. So all spring stats, however conveniently they are presented to us, carry the weight of Absolute Zero. Nada. Nothing.

Still, more than any other sport, baseball is numbers, and we are inexorably drawn to study them. And what do they show us?

Well, we have three tongue-clogging names leading the Yankee hitters this spring: Yangervris Solarte, Francisco Cervelli, and Zolio Almonte - 18 syllables, if you're scoring at home. And each, sadly, is the odd man out.

Solarte has been unstoppable this spring, batting over .500. He's a 27-year-old switch hitting infielder, supposedly can play anywhere. (He made an error yesterday, for whatever it's worth.) Last year - a repeat season in the Pacific Coast League - he hit .278 with 12 HR. We picked him off the scrap heap. And though Joe Girardi extolls the virtues of spring competition, it's been clear lately that Brian Roberts is the starting 2B, that Kelly Johnson will play 3B, and unless Brendan Ryan is seriously hurt - (he's swinging a broomstick these days) - Solarte could hit .800, and it won't matter. So long, Yangveris. If he's lucky, he'll win that Dawson Watch, the doomsday gift for players destined for Scranton on the Yankees/Malaysian Flight 370 shuttle.

Cervelli - whom we've discussed in the past - just keeps hitting. At this point, the chess match between Cashman and the White Sox/Diamondbacks/Mariners et al is more a game of chicken. Those teams need catching, and the Yankees need to deal a catcher, and Cervelli looks like the answer to everybody's problem. Cashman's dilemma is that the more Frankie hits, the more Yankee fans will expect to get for him in a deal, and unless Brian concocts some huge three-team package of prospects and hangers-on, we probably won't receive much for our receiver.

Almonte, 26, is another switch hitter, who played well for us last year, had a breakout winter in Venezuela, now is crushing the ball in Tampa, and he's destined for Scranton, because Ichiro (who got two hits yesterday) cannot be moved. Zolio looks like everything we would need in a backup OF - speed, glove, pop in the bat - while Ichiro will have to adjust to playing sporadically. (Note: Ichiro is a consumate pro, and I'm not suggesting he won't do fine as a backup; it'll just be tough for him.)  Also, Ichiro is way past his sell date. So we're stuck with him, I guess. Too bad, Zolio.

In the last few years, the Yankees have had a tendency to sign the stars of 2005 and play them - regardless of their current abilities. The worst was Andruw Jones, who was excruciatingly woeful for nearly two seasons. There was Travis Hafner, who played hurt and absolutely killed us last July, batting cleanup. There was Vernon Wells and Kevin Youkilis and - oh, God, let's not do this, let's just try to forget - and though Brian Roberts was a great 2B in 2007, there is a real possiblity that he is just the latest incarnation of a Scooter Store Star of Yesteryear - that is, a guy we will play until he's killing us, and by then, we will have squandered a month, maybe two - and I'm not sure this team can squander a month, or maybe two, and still make the post-season.

Roberts has two weeks to show up. He's batting .217, but - hey - nothing matters, right? It's all an illusion. Poof.


Vengeance74 said...

Best piece you've posted in weeks.

KD said...

Any other team would be giving one, or all, of these guys a chance. But we will never let a guy sit who's earning the GNP of the Dominican republic or who has significant name recognition.

Secretly, in the recesses of my dark, evil heart, I may be wishing for multi-week stints on the DL for a star or two, just to give a kid a chance. Am I bad for thinking that? Damn you, Cashman. I hate what I've become. What YOU'VE done to me. Gaaaa!!