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Tag:Michael Young
Posted on: March 9, 2011 3:56 pm
Edited on: March 9, 2011 3:58 pm
 

Who could replace Chase Utley?

By Evan Brunell

ValdezThe injury to Chase Utley is certainly damaging. After all, when part of the solution includes Placido Polanco occupying the Nos. 3 or 5 spot in the lineup, you know something's gone very wrong for Philadelphia.

Already tasked with replacing Jayson Werth in the lineup, the Phillies now have to worry about Chase Utley, who is unlikely to start the season as second baseman and could be out for over a month. Surgery is also a possibility. As a result, the Phillies now have to worry about finding a second baseman to replace Utley.

Internally, the choice is clear: Wilson Valdez (pictured). The 32-year-old garnered 363 plate appearances for Philadelphia last season largely thanks to injuries to Jimmy Rollins. He hit .258/.306/.360, which is far from a surprise as he has shown no aptitude to hit. In fact, 2010 was the first time he had significant time in the majors after stints in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2009 with other clubs. He does boast a solid glove and could be an adequate replacement for Utley for a few weeks.

But if Valdez reaches 300 PA again, the Phillies really will be in trouble. He's simply not a viable long-term replacement, but Philly isn't prepared to look for those solutions just yet. Instead, the club will likely go after another utility infielder to pair with Valdez in being Utley's replacement as CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler reports. This would allow for greater flexibility upon Utley's return.

It's this flexibility and uncertainty surrounding Utley's injury that make an acquisition of a starter like Michael Young unlikely, especially given the Phillies have a very expensive ballclub that can't sustain adding three years and $48 million of Young to. The Rangers have shown no indication that they are willing to eat a large portion of the deal, either. A similar issue confronts the Phillies on going after the Mariners' Chone Figgins as well.

Related
That leaves names such as Ramon Santiago, as Knobler suggests. Santiago is in the final year of a two-year, $2.5 million deal and is a capable backup at second and short. He hit .263/.337/.325 in 367 PA and his power has declined sharply over the last two years.

Other options that could fit as a utility player include signing the face of scrappy ballplayers everywhere in David Eckstein or trading for Felipe Lopez. Lopez is currently battling for a backup job in Tampa Bay along with Elliot Johnson. Heck, the Phillies could go after Luis Castillo after the Mets release him, as is expected. Castillo may sound like an odd choice, but all indications are he can still handle the position defensively and would bring a better bat than Valdez to the plate as he can still get on base at a good clip. Helping matters is Castillo would sign for the league minimum after being released, so Philly could cut Castillo without reservations once Utley gets back.

Jeff Keppinger of the Astros was perhaps the best fit as he appears to be the odd man out in Houston, but is sidelined himself for six weeks. If he comes back healthy and Utley is still out for an undetermined time or one-to-two months, Keppinger would be a great fit. He is a tweener type -- best utilized as a great backup on a championship-caliber club but capable of starting in case of injury or on a second-division club.

One thing in Philadelphia's favor is the ability of Placido Polanco to play second base, freeing up the Phillies to go after a third baseman if needed. They'll need that flexibility, as the Padres are chasing a backup as well, MLB.com's Corey Brock reveals. The Padres are concerned about shortstop Jason Bartlett's durability.

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Posted on: March 5, 2011 2:21 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2011 2:24 pm
 

Beltre to take field Sunday

By Matt Snyder

Newly-signed Texas Ranger Adrian Beltre is expected to return to the field Sunday for batting practice and some light drills, reports the Star-Telegram .

Beltre strained his calf Feb. 24 and was said to be out 10-14 days with the injury at the time. Sunday will be 10 days since the injury, but he won't be ready to return to game action just yet. The activities -- which include fielding some grounders and running -- will simply be the next step in the process of returning to health.

The 31 year old signed a five-year, $80 million contract with the Rangers in the offseason. The move caused an issue in camp, as Michael Young was moved off third base and was then disgruntled over the situation. But the coincidence here is that Beltre's injury simply reinforced the value Young can hold for the Rangers, as he could fill in at third. He's also been working out at first base and is expected to DH some, too.

Beltre hit .321 with a .919 OPS last season for the Red Sox, easily his best offensive season since his last (healthy) contract year, 2004. Young, 34, hit .284 with a .774 OPS in a season when he saw a six-year string of consecutive All-Star appearances broken. Beltre is a far superior defender by nearly every metric.

Expect Beltre to be brought along slowly here. Young provides insurance. Even if the lineup is best with both healthy, there's no reason to risk anything longer term in early March.

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Posted on: March 4, 2011 7:21 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2011 9:00 pm
 

3 up, 3 down: Jon Daniels' best, worst moves

DanielsBy Evan Brunell

The Rangers have handed GM Jon Daniels a four-year extension, rewarding the 33-year-old for steering the club to its first-ever AL pennant in 2010. For all of Daniels' talents, however, he's made quite a few missteps along the way. Here's a look back at Daniels' three best and worst moves as Rangers GM...

3 UP

1. The Teix Heist

The reason the Rangers made the World Series is thanks to the trade that sent Mark Teixeira to the Atlanta Braves. Consummated at the trade deadline of 2007, this deal represented the first time Daniels was trading away a major piece of a team and he needed to hit a home run.

He did. By dealing Teix and left-handed reliever Ron Mahay, Daniels hauled in catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, shortstop Elvis Andrus, pitchers Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison and Beau Jones. The fact Salty stalled in Texas is concerning, but many viewed the backstop at the time as one of the elite young catchers in the game. Andrus would go on to blossom as Texas' starting shortstop while Feliz won the AL Rookie of the Year Award with 40 saves last season and is currently shifting to the rotation. Harrison is a young lefty who is battling for a rotation spot himself, while Jones is the one non-entity.

This deal will continue to pay dividends over time, as Andrus and Feliz will be in town for years to come while Harrison is valuable depth. Saltalamacchia's career is not yet over as he is slated to start in Boston, and the jury is out on Daniels' return for Salty in three minor leaguers.

2. Game Over

Daniels made another significant trade the day of the 2007 trade deadline when he dealt "Game Over" Eric Gagne and cash to the Red Sox for Kason Gabbard, David Murphy and Engel Beltre.

Gagne was impressive in his first season as an ex-Dodger and after missing the bulk of the 2006 season. He wasn't the lockdown closer of old, but looked as if he could be a quality part of the bullpen. Except as Red Sox fans know, he completely imploded and while he walked away with a World Series trade, he will forever be known as Gag-me in Boston. (For some reason, there are over 11,000 views of a video I took recording Gagne's Red Sox debut.) His saving grace in Boston was as a Type-B free agent, and the Red Sox would later trade the player they drafted with the compensatory pick to Cleveland as part of the Victor Martinez deal.

Meanwhile, David Murphy is one of the more valuable fourth outfielders in the game and would be a starter for many other teams. Beltre has his makeup questions but is developing nicely as Texas' center fielder of the future. Gabbard flamed out, but at the time was a possible back-of-the-rotation starter.

3. Draft Bonanza

A major reason why Daniels has stayed viable as GM of the Rangers is his drafting history. Of course, major credit goes to the people working under him that are in charge of the draft, but Daniels deserves credit for putting these people in those roles as well as having a hand in the drafting and development of these players.

His first draft pick, Kasey Kiker, has yet to develop significantly but is just 22 and does hold some promise. However, his following two have had major league time already: power-hitting Chris Davis who has unfortunately failed time and time again to lock down a starting spot in Texas and Danny Herrera, who is a member of the Reds bullpen currently and was used to get Josh Hamilton. Michael Main was used to get Bengie Molina, while Blake Beavan and Justin Smoak were packaged for Cliff Lee

Tommy Hunter was a viable member of the rotation last season and could have a nice career as a back-of-the-rotation pitcher, while Julio Borbon is prepared to start in center field. Tanner Scheppers ranked No. 77 on CBSSports.com's Top 100 Prospects and  may have ranked higher if he was clearly going to be a starter. The club also came away with an impressive haul in the 2010 draft.

Honorable Mention: One would expect the deal bringing in Josh Hamilton to be one of Daniels' better deals, but it's hard to justify that as one of his best deals simply by virtue of giving up Edinson Volquez. There's no denying Hamilton's talent -- after all, he won the AL MVP award -- but Volquez has turned out pretty well for himself. There's a similar case to be made for the trade that imported Carlos Lee and Nelson Cruz from Milwaukee in exchange for Laynce Nix, Kevin Mench, Francisco Cordero and Juan Cordero, so the honorable mention goes to signing Colby Lewis to a two-year deal prior to the 2010 season. Lewis was an utter failure stateside before heading to Japan and discovering his talent. Daniels didn't hesitate to bring in Lewis, and all he did was become the Rangers' best right-handed starter in the team's run to the AL pennant.

3 DOWN

1. The Young and Heartless

In March of 2007, Daniels signed shortstop Michael Young to a five-year, $80 million extension, a contract that was strange at the time and now has snowballed. Two seasons later, Daniels bumped Young to third base in a contentious move to free up short for Elvis Andrus. Young's bat has continued to be solid, but he remained a defensive liability at third and in a much-publicized spat, is now headed to DH and first base after demanding a trade. However, thanks to Young's contract, it will be difficult to move him.

Daniels certainly shouldn't have signed Young to this deal, but that's not why this ranks as one of his three worst moves as GM. While there's a lot of "he-said, he-said" going on by both sides, the fact remains that Young is not very keen on speaking to Daniels and feels "misled." Whether or not you believe Daniels or Young (or think the true answer is somewhere in-between), Daniels should have done a far better job managing the crisis as this has become a nightmare, both in terms of Young's trade value and in public relations. Heck, it even made a three-year-old kid very upset.

2. A-Gone

It's hard to fault Jon Daniels for trading away Adrian Gonzalez as he needed pitching and had Mark Teixeira at first. But goodness, couldn't he have done better? In his second significant trade of his GM career -- the first was also pretty bad -- Daniels shipped away someone who would become one of the best first-basemen in the game in short order in Gonzalez to the Padres along with Chris Young, who fashioned a nice run for himself in the rotation for San Diego. Terrmel Sledge was a throw-in to get Adam Eaton, Akinori Otsuka and Billy Killian in return.

Eaton was a disaster, making just 13 starts and moving onto the Phillies where he was even worse, while Otsuka became the Rangers' closer but fell to injury in 2007 at age 35 and has not returned to the majors since. Killian is now in independent baseball.

Hey, every GM has trades they regret. It's part of life. But this is one regrettable trade that makes one really cringe looking back on it.

3. A-Rod to Soriano to Nothing

OK, so Daniels wasn't responsible for the initial trade of Alex Rodriguez, but he certainly was responsible for turning Rodriguez's return in Alfonso Soriano into something. Unfortunately, his first major trade was a flop when he shipped Soriano to the Washington Nationals for Brad Wilkerson, Armando Galarraga and Terrmel Sledge. Sledge would be shipped in another terrible deal a month later in the Adrian Gonzalez deal, while Wilkerson couldn't arrest the decline he began in his final season for the Nats in '06. He did not top 350 at-bats in the two seasons he was a Ranger.

While Galarraga was and still is nothing to write home about, he chewed up almost 500 innings for the Tigers after the Rangers essentially gave him away, predominantly as a starter the last three seasons -- and of course, as the architect of the 28-out perfect game. He is now a Diamondback and expected to serve in the back of the rotation. These types of pitchers are far from sexy and you can't blame Daniels for tossing Galarraga in the deal, but it only serves to make this deal look even worse given he got absolutely nothing of value for Soriano, which in turn meant the team got nothing for A-Rod.

In Daniels' defense, he was handicapped by Soriano entering the final year of his deal, but Daniels should have looked for prospects in any deal, not an outfielder on the decline, a pitcher he would give away a couple years later and a bit piece that would go on to become part of Daniels' worst trade to date.

Dishonorable Mention: Not to pile on Daniels, who has turned into a very fine GM, but just like he has plenty of candidates for honorable mention, he has candidates for this category as well. Signing Kevin Millwood to a five-year, $60 million deal was head-scratching at the time and he stumbled badly on December 23, 2006 when he dealt away John Danks, Nick Masset and Jacob Rasner to the White Sox for Brandon McCarthy and David Paisano. Danks and McCarthy were two highly-regarded prospects at the time, but Danks is the one that blossomed, while Masset would go on to bust out himself as an important part of the Reds bullpen.

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Posted on: March 1, 2011 9:53 am
Edited on: March 1, 2011 10:21 am
 

Pepper: Finding Mauer in Montero


Posted by Matt Snyder


In the latest Ear on Baseball podcast , C. Trent Rosecrans and I had Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein on, and among other things we discussed how Yankees star catching prospect Jesus Montero may eventually be ticketed for a position change.

Interestingly, in a Tuesday morning Bats blog (via New York Times ), there's a piece on Joe Mauer discussing similarities between the two catchers and how he believes Montero should do everything he can to remain a catcher, if that's what he wants to do.

"Too big. Not quick enough. I heard everything under the sun," Mauer said. He's 6-foot-5, while Montero is 6-foot-4.

Mauer also encouraged Montero to learn everything he can from veteran catchers Russell Martin and Jorge Posada in camp, and to learn everything about the pitchers he might be catching.

Montero, 21, is generally considered one of the top prospects as a hitter, but many scouts believe he'll be inadequate behind the plate in the bigs. Mauer believes he heard the same, but I think there's a difference. Most scouts knew Mauer could handle duties behind the plate, if memory serves correctly, it's just that many believe he needs to move away from behind the plate eventually in order to lengthen his career. He's too good a hitter to physically fall apart by his early 30s. That doesn't mean he's a bad defender.

CARLOS AT THE BAT: Yes, Cubs manager Mike Quade will use pitcher Carlos Zambrano as a pinch-hitter when the game dictates this season. While his actual skill with the stick pales in comparison to the sheer entertainment value of an at-bat, he can swing it. He has three Silver Sluggers and 21 career home runs to go with a .236 average and .631 OPS. Obviously that's pretty bad for an actual hitter, but if you're looking for someone to extend the bench, he's serviceable enough. In fact, he's hit at least .300 in a season twice, as recently as 2008 -- when he hit .337 with an .892 OPS. He was a better hitter than Derrek Lee that year. Seriously. (Chicago Tribune )

ZITO VS. PRINCE, PART II:
Last season, Barry Zito and Prince Fielder had a slight flare-up in spring training after Zito plunked the portly first baseman -- in retaliation for a Fielder celebration in 2009. Monday, the two had a spat ... over a walk? Really, guys? They were seen jawing at each other, but fortunately both took the high road after the game. Zito said he asked Fielder how his offseason went and how his family was doing. Fielder said they were discussing dinner plans. Boys will be boys, even when it's not yet summer, so there's no reason to make a mountain out of a molehill. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel )

OBLIGATORY YOUNG UPDATE: Michael Young is not unhappy, nor is he dogging it in spring training. In fact, he's working just as hard as he ever has and made the first appearance of his life at first base Monday. He even accepts the addition of Mike Napoli, who is expected to steal plenty of at-bats from Young at DH this season. "He was a thorn in our side when he was in Anaheim. He can hit for power," Young said. "I think what he’s done in his career speaks for itself. When he got here in camp I think we’ve all been impressed with just how good a teammate he seems. That’s the kind of thing guys look at first. He seems a really good guy. Seems like he’s fit in really well since Day 1 and I’m excited that he’s here." (ESPN Dallas )

SCHLERETH INJURED: Tigers relief pitcher Daniel Schlereth injured his hamstring Monday. He actually felt a pop, but early the prognosis sounds positive, as the medical staff reportedly told the lefty it was a strain and not a tear -- which would cause him to miss significant time. Instead, it seems only a minor setback. In fact, he's more annoyed with the injury than anything else. "This is stupid," he said. "This isn't important. I'm not too worried about it. I just want to play. I want to make the team." (Detroit Free-Press )

TIME MACHINE: Mark Prior threw a perfect inning. In 2011. Granted, it was a single inning early in spring training, but it had to have been an encouraging outing for a man whose career was prematurely derailed years ago by injuries. For the optimistic out there, he's still only 30. There's time. (Star-Ledger )

WHO NEEDS OBP? The Rockies are ready to use catcher Chris Iannetta in the eight-hole this season. When you look at his batting average (.234) last season it makes sense. When you look at his OBP, it doesn't. His .353 career OBP is better than teammates Seth Smith, Ian Stewart, Dexter Fowler and Ty Wigginton. But his batting average is lower. It still amazes me how hard this concept is to grasp for so many. It astounds me that people look at batting average before OBP. Think about it in reverse. On-base percentage is a measure of how many times you don't get out. Isn't that the actual goal when you step in the batter's box? In this specific case, you could argue Fowler and Stewart are still young and could get better, but Iannetta's 27 and has torn up minor-league pitching for years. And when he takes a ton of walks this season with the pitcher on deck, his batting average won't be near as high as his OBP. Serenity now. (Denver Post )

SOLID INTERVIEW:
Another thing we discussed in the Ear on Baseball podcast was how incredibly loaded the Royals' minor league system is. General manager Dayton Moore sat down with John Sickels of Minor League Ball for an interview. I'm not going to bother to summarize or cut it down at all, just click through. The whole thing is worth a look. And while I'm not a fan of the Royals or anything, it's worth noting I'd like to see everything come to fruition with this group. It's been a long time since the Royals were a serious contender, so a little change there wouldn't hurt anything. Now, about those Pirates ...

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Posted on: February 28, 2011 10:38 am
 

Pepper: Bunting fit for a Prince


Posted by Matt Snyder


For years we've seen teams shift their defense greatly toward the right side of the infield for left-handed sluggers like Ryan Howard, Adam Dunn, Jim Thome and Prince Fielder. Just as often, you'll hear someone -- be it a fan, blogger or announcer -- mention the hitter at bat should drop a bunt down the third base line. If placed properly, it should be an easy base hit. Yet we rarely see the sluggers actually try it.

This year could be different for Fielder. In fact, he successfully did it Sunday during an intrasquad game.

"They've always encouraged it, I've always been a little stubborn," Fielder told MLB.com. "I've given it a half [hearted] try, maybe. Not that I'm going to be [former big league speedster] Brett Butler, but why not? ... Especially against a tough pitcher. When you have a tough pitcher on the mound, and you have a shift, and you smoke a ball to the right side, you get defeated at times. If I can help the team, I might try [bunting] a couple of times."

The 26 year old also noted he's been getting help on his bunting from speedster Carlos Gomez. (MLB.com )

EXTENDED POWER OUTAGE:
James Loney hit 15 homers in 344 at-bats in 2007. Since he took over as the everyday first baseman for the Dodgers, however, his home run power has disappeared. In the three following seasons, he's hit 36 home runs in 1,759 at-bats, and never more than 13 in a season. He actually regressed back to 10 last season. The Los Angeles Times notes manager Don Mattingley is not going to push Loney to hit more longballs, but Loney himself wants to. He's even slightly altered his swing and put in some extra work with hitting coach Jeff Pentland in order to increase his power. (LA Times )

HE'S BACK ... AGAIN: Josh Beckett was good in 2005, bad in 2006, outstanding in 2007, mediocre in 2008, great in 2009 and awful last season. So, if the pattern is to be followed, we're looking at a lights-out season from the 30 year old -- yes, he's still only 30, though it feels like he's been around forever. Early reports from spring training show Beckett as being determined as ever this season. It's a pretty good bet he's going to have a great year. (MLB.com )

CONFLICTING REPORTS: Adrian Beltre has gone down with a calf injury. Early indications were that he would miss around two weeks, but then there were some reports saying it would be much longer than that, even up to month -- which would have put the start of the regular season in jeopardy. Those reports are false, he says. The third baseman also said he'd be playing through the pain if it was the regular season. (Star-Telegram )

THREE HOLE: Adam Dunn has prodominantly hit fourth or fifth in his major league career. Over 4,000 of his roughly 6,000 plate appearances from come from those two spots. He's only garnered 689 at-bats from the three spot, but that is where Ozzie Guillen will be hitting him for the White Sox. Here's why I like it: Dunn is one of the most consistent power hitters in baseball. He's hit at least 38 home runs in each of the past seven seasons. People may have been reluctant to hit him third in the past due to his high number of strikeouts or low batting average, but his OBP over those past seven seasons is .381. He's patient enough to take pitches, and with a cleanup hitter behind him, there won't be tons of bad ones to avoid. In a launching pad like U.S. Cellular Field, that's huge. Look for him to challenge his career high (46) in bombs. (Chicago Sun-Times )

ZOOMIN' AGAIN: Joel Zumaya has had a rough time keeping his dynamic throwing arm healthy, including last season when a fractured elbow ended everything in late June. He was able to throw a scoreless inning Sunday and says he feels "great." That's music to the ears of baseball fans everywhere, because it's quite exciting to see Zumaya light up the radar gun and incredibly sickening to see how often his arm cries uncle. Hopefully that doesn't happen again anytime soon. (Detroit Free Press )

VALENTINE'S DAY: We all know the Mets (and Dodgers, but that's a different conversation) ownership situation is a mess. In a bit of a surprise, former manager Bobby Valentine is reportedly looking into buying a stake of the Mets. The team is looking to sell up to a quarter of the ownership, so Valentine's stake would certainly not be a majority, but it would still be quite the popular move among Mets fans -- many of whom still love the man. (ESPN New York )

ARIZONA COVETS YOUNG: Michael Young has not withdrawn his request to be traded, but he's not talking about it either. So it's still a possibility the Rangers retain his services -- especially if the spring injury to Beltre is an eye-opener as to Young's value. But there are still a few teams after the All-Star. The Rockies, Dodgers and Marlins have previously shown interest and we can now add the Diamondbacks to the mix. Young would be a good fit there, as the DBacks only have Melvin Mora at the hot corner. Of course, the Backs would need some financial help and Young's OK to get the deal done. (FOXSports )

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Posted on: February 27, 2011 12:01 pm
Edited on: February 27, 2011 12:13 pm
 

Pepper: Werth hates the Phillies

Werth
By Evan Brunell

HATE IS A STRONG WORD: How quickly Jayson Werth forgets.

"I hate the Phillies too," Werth said in response to GM Mike Rizzo's complaining about how Philadelphia has thrown purpose pitches and executed dirty plays against the Nationals in recent years.

Werth, in his new role with the Nationals as a $126-million man will be to bring an edge to the club, something club officials felt was lacking. In fact, prior to Werth's arrival, Ian Desmond was considered as the closest to a vocal leader as the team had. Oh, and Desmond was a rookie. But now, Werth will be looked at to assume the mantle and give the Nats a harder edge as they march toward respectability.

No mention of Werth would be complete without acknowledging the stupidity of the outrageous contract handed Werth. But while that contract will come back to burn the Nats one day, at least for the next three to four years, Washington will love his middle-of-the-order bat along with his leadership. (Washington Post)

STICK A NEEDLE IN ME: Jason Hammel has turned to alternative medicine to manage his high cholesterol. A hereditary condition, high cholesterol was responsible for his father's death via heart attack at age 47, and the Rockies pitcher has no interest in following in his father's footsteps in regards to a demise. However, Hammel's treatment via Chestor caused side effects of soreness, which Hammel believes was responsible for his poor finish to the season. Now, he's turned to acupuncture and herbal treatments. (MLB.com)

LEARNING EXPERIENCE: Don Mattingly enters his first season as a major league manager, but has already learned some important lessons. Namely, walking off the mound after a coaching visit and then turning around to answer a question counts as two trips to the mound. That gaffe, put on display last season, is not one Mattingly plans to make again. (San Jose Mercury News)

NEW-LOOK Rangers: It's early yet, but manager Ron Washington has already settled on his lineup. Ian Kinsler will lead off, followed by Elvis Andrus. It's a rather curious move, as Kinsler is more power-oriented while Andrus gets on at a good clip and steals bases. Michael Young will bat sixth to try to increase his RBI opportunities. That leads one to wonder: a baseball move, or an appease-Young move? (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram)

KROONING FOR 200: Marc Kroon is back stateside. The former longtime minor league reliever found success in Japan and nailed down 177 saves in a six-year span. However, Kroon found offers lacking this past season and thus has returned stateside, joining San Francisco in an attempt to make the bullpen. Some believe Kroon is being blackballed by Japan so he will not receive 200 saves, an important landmark in Japanese baseball. Given the league's treatment of foreigners when chasing Japanese baseball records, that comes as no surprise. Kroon still harbors hope he can go back. (San Francisco Chronicle)

ONE STEP AT A TIME: Matt Bush was out of baseball from 2008-09 and was a former failed first-round pick of the Padres with behavioral issues. Now, the ex-shortstop has turned heads since becoming a pitcher and has rocketed up the Rays' depth chart. Bush is still a ways away, but this is one potential feel-good story worth monitoring. (Tampa Tribune)

BOSTON'S WHERE THE STATS ARE AT: The statistical revolution isn't just flooding baseball, it's flooding sports in general. And Boston is where it's all happening, as many consider it the "Silicon Valley of sports analytics." A sports analytics conference is taking place in Boston this upcoming weekend, and the Boston Globe takes a look at how analytics have influenced sports growing out of Boston. (Boston Globe)

IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT BASEBALL: Rays skipper Joe Maddon has a lot on his plate this spring, trying to assemble a new-look Rays team to compete in the AL East. At the same time, he's attempting to make Hispanics welcomed in his hometown of Hazleton, Pa. Residents are resisting the Hispanic influx, which Maddon fears could be the demise of a city with residents long in the tooth. (St. Petersburg Times)

ON SECOND THOUGHT, IT'S JUST BASEBALL: A nice interview with Bill James, who helped usher in the statistical revolution in baseball. There's likely no sports analytics conference in Boston without this talent, but while baseball may constantly be on James' mind, he likes other stuff too. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

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Posted on: February 26, 2011 2:11 pm
Edited on: February 26, 2011 2:12 pm
 

Young isn't too sensitive, he's too nice

Posted by Matt Snyder

With the Adrian Beltre injury, we have a living, breathing illustration of the value that Michael Young brings to the Rangers -- and it's not just being a favorite of three year old fans . If the free agent signee goes down for any length of the time, the Rangers can easily plug Young in at third base. He can be a DH. It's probably not ideal, but the team could probably use him at shortstop or second base if the necessity arose.

All of this got me to thinking: was Young's trade request unreasonable, or is he actually being too nice?

I tend to come down on the latter.

I rarely support players becoming disgrunted due to demotions or position changes. See, I'm a merit guy. If you are good enough, you'll keep your spot. If not, you won't. Personal feelings shouldn't intrude upon business.

But at some point, enough is enough.

Young came up as a second baseman, and moved to short for Alfonso Soriano. That could should be seen as an upgrade, actually, as shortstop is a more prestigious position than second base. Still, Young moved positions to make room for a sub-par defensive player. In fact, Soriano was one of the worst defensive players in baeball his first season for the Rangers, by several metrics. Young, on the other hand, went on to start a string of six consecutive All-Star Games. He won a gold glove in 2008. Sure, it probably wasn't deserved and most of us could agree the voting system for that award is badly flawed, but if you're Young, you won an award for defense.

And just a few months later, the team told you to move to third base.

And Young did it.

Now, again, he was a sub-par defender in his own right, but he could swing the bat. From 2004-2010, Young had an OPS-plus of at least 105 six of seven seasons. Twice it was over 125, which is excellent. His average season was .309/.357/.461 with 18 homers, 90 RBI, 97 runs and 39 doubles. That's an average over the course of seven years. At 34, Young's not old. He hit 21 home runs and drove home 91 with 99 runs scored last year, so he's not washed up.

But with the poor defense, it's reasonable to see the team moving him to DH. That could easily be accepted for a true professional, which it appears Young is. I mean, we're talking about a guy who twice changed positions in a six-year span. At the very least, he should be able to accept DH as his final destination.

The problem, it appears, is the Rangers still didn't even want Young at DH. Buster Olney of ESPN notes, in his most recent blog , that the source of Young's unhappiness is that the Rangers tried hard to acquire Jim Thome at DH. When they failed, they still landed Mike Napoli -- a terrible defensive catcher who can hit. So, in Young's mind -- and the evidence at hand says he's probably right -- the Rangers didn't even think he was good enough to just hit.

Again, we're talking about a guy with a solid offensive resume who hit .284/.330/.444 last season, but was .322/.374/.518 just one season earlier and is not old. He had an .802 OPS in the Rangers' first-ever ALCS victory.

Thome is 40 years old. He had a stellar 1.039 OPS last season, but was at .865 the previous year. Again, he's 40 . And was treated to only relatively good matchups last year.

Napoli is 29, but he only hit .238 last year. His OBP was .316.

This all isn't to say I'd definitely rather have Young over Thome or Napoli -- though I would certainly rather have him hitting than Napoli -- it's just to see things from Young's perspective. From his point of view, it's hard to not be angry.

We're talking about a player who was the longest tenured major leaguer without a playoff appearance before last season. He did everything that was asked of him for 11 years in Texas and never signed elsewhere. He's a career .300 hitter who always took his lumps on the diamond due to being a poor defender, but now his bat is being questioned.

Now, everything has come full circle with the Beltre injury. Sure, it's a minor malady and Beltre will likely be just fine for opening day. But the injury should be a real eye-opener for anyone in the Rangers organization who may have underestimated the value Young brings to the team.

I'm guessing that's all Young ever wanted in the first place. Just respect what he brings to the ballclub. In the end, his disgruntlement with the organization wasn't about him being overly sensitive. It was simply him wanting to see the respect he's earned. Luckily for the Rangers, Young is enough of a professional that he's not talking about his trade demand any longer. In time, maybe they'll come to respect that and everything else about him.
Category: MLB
Posted on: February 25, 2011 11:14 am
Edited on: February 25, 2011 11:26 am
 

Report: Beltre Strains Calf

Maybe Michael Young will get some work at third base early in the season after all?

Adrian Beltre, who the Rangers signed as a free agent to take over at third base for Young, has gone down with a mild strain in his right calf, the Fort Worth Star Telegram reports. Multiple reports have him missing 10-14 days.

Now, the regular season doesn't start for about five weeks. The issue is the amount of time Beltre will need to work himself back into game shape once he returns from the minor injury. If he misses the full two weeks, he'll be basically starting over from scratch with baseball activities with just under three weeks to the regular season. We all know a shortened spring training can prevent a player from getting off to a good start.

This is where Young enters the equation. He will enable the Rangers to transition Beltre smoothly into the regular season, and they have other options for DH anyway (Mike Napoli, anyone?).

Beltre, 31, played for the Red Sox last season. He hit .321/.365/.553 with 28 home runs, 102 RBI and a career-high 49 doubles.

-- Matt Snyder

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Category: MLB
 
 
 
 
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