"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Yankee Panky #18: A bunch of bull(pen)

If you believe what you’re reading, seeing on TV and hearing on radio, every team in contention is looking for middle relief help. And as far as the Yankees and their bullpen are concerned, the past couple of days have featured plenty of jibber jabber. Peter Abraham gave a clue into this on Sunday in a notes column that featured some surprising honesty from Joe Torre, a misleading headline, and a hitch in the second paragraph that spell check won’t catch but a decent copyeditor should.

While Pete Abes asserts that Scott Proctor’s removal from a primary set-up role is intended to restore confidence in the righty, Jayson Stark and George King write that Proctor is the most likely candidate to be dealt. This is due in part to the Cashman Manifesto of building from within. Joba Chamberlain’s move to the bullpen at Scranton, for all intents and purposes, is meant to accelerate his promotion to the Major Leagues. Yet Abraham wrote that the team had not formulated a plan to use Chamberlain as a reliever.

Which story is true? I wrote last week that it’s difficult to separate truth from rumor near the trade deadline. I would guess that Stark and King, two veteran writers that manned the Phillies beat for a long time, have it right. That’s not meant to discredit Abraham’s reporting. New information could have been presented between the time he filed his story and Stark and King filed theirs.

The Yankees are reportedly among four suitors for Eric Gagne, who has eclipsed 30 appearances for the first time since 2004 and made it known that if he’s traded, he wants to go where he can be a closer and not a set-up man. Kat O’Brien reports that Gagne has a no-trade clause, but he cannot block a trade to the Mets or Yankees, two teams where he would be a set-up man. The Red Sox, who also have a solid closer, are also reportedly interested in the Nordique.

But after what’s happened to the most recent bespectacled, brittle reliever to wear a Yankee uniform (see below), is Gagne worth the risk, especially at that price?

From the looks of things, Kyle Farnsworth is approaching persona non grata status. Monday’s stories, specifically in the Post and Newsday regarding Farnsworth’s fall from favor and incompatibility with Jorge Posada stole some layout space from a big day by Johnny Damon (it sounds more entertaining when you picture the Matt Damon marionette from "Team America: World Police" saying Johnny Damon’s name).

It’s no secret the Yankees were, and probably still are, shopping Farnsworth. Torre is in a big-time Catch-22 here; there is no usage pattern he can devise for Farnsworth that will convince anyone that the reliever is a part of the Yankees’ plans for the stretch run and beyond. If Farnsworth pitches, say, four or five times per week over the next couple of weeks as opposed to the recent number of twice in a nine-day span, the assumption will be made that the Yankees are showcasing him. If another prolonged span of Kyle the Sedentary occurs, it’s reasonable to believe he might already be placed on waivers and the Yankees are just waiting for someone to claim him.

I’ll be honest: I don’t care if Farnsworth is traded. It could very well be addition by subtraction. If you put Farnsworth’s numbers next to those of Scott Proctor, Brian Bruney, and until six weeks ago, Luis Vizcaino, the hard-throwing four-piece bridge to Rivera is basically the same pitcher in four different sizes, shapes and colors.

If Farnsworth is traded, I believe it’s because of the feud with Jorge Posada. Farnsworth is not the first Yankee pitcher to complain about Posada. The catcher can be prickly — I’ve witnessed it on numerous occasions. I was surprised to not see any mention of pitchers who previously had problems with Posada. There would be no need to go into extreme detail about the Randy Johnson saga which culminated in the signing of Kelly Stinnett (a move Joe Torre rationalized by saying he “had a little more stick” than John Flaherty), the punches Posada and El Duque exchanged several years ago, or even Mike Mussina’s comfort factor with Wil Nieves this season compared to Posada. David Cone preferred Joe Girardi to Posada, even after Posada won the everyday job in ’98. A brief sentence or two listing prominent Yankee pitchers that did not see eye to eye with Posada would have added another dimension to the story. Tyler Kepner added a historical component to his main story Monday,  but not on the Farnsworth-Posada feud. Kepner likened Joba Chamberlain’s possible promotion to young relievers on recent World Series winners who were called up in July or August and had an impact on the pennant race.

Maybe it’s just me. I’m a history buff. As an editor, I always thought past events added value to a story when used properly. As a fan, I want to read a story or listen/watch a broadcast and connect it to a past event or events. If I can piece it together, the writers or broadcasters should be able to, from being around the team every day. The incidents I mentioned above could have been included in the writers’ original drafts. (Maybe they were and were cut for word count restrictions.)

Do you agree? Do you think the past Posada feuds are relevant to the current one with Farnsworth?

* * *

“Impact” will be a buzzword today. It always is on Deadline Day. Like all of you, I’ll be scanning the wires for the latest. I’ll check back Wednesday with a best and worst of trade deadline coverage.

Talk to you soon.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver