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Observations From Cooperstown: The Obsession With Rest

Posted By Bruce Markusen On September 24, 2010 @ 11:29 am In Bronx Banter,Bruce Markusen,Observations From Cooperstown,Yankees | Comments Disabled

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Like pitch counts and innings limits, rest has become the new obsession in baseball. Or at least it has with the Yankees. “The Yankees need to rest up for the playoffs. The Yankees, an older team, need their rest. It’s more important for the Yankees to rest than go all-out for the division.” I hear these comments again and again, from the fans to the media to some members of the Yankees themselves.

Enough already. Rest? If this team has any more rest, I will be ready for a rest home come wintertime.

Frankly, I never heard so much about the notion of resting for the postseason prior to the advent of the wildcard in 1995. Prior to that, teams had to go all-out just to win the division and qualify for the postseason. They could rest come November. But for the past 15 seasons, teams like the Yankees have often had the wild card as a fallback option. And historically speaking, wild card teams fare just as well in terms of reaching the World Series as division winners, so there is some justification for the philosophy of rest. Just as it is important to set up your postseason rotation so that your two best starters are pitching the first two games of the ALDS.

Yet, like pitch counts and innings limits, the idea of resting players can go too far. Way too far. Joe Girardi has been extraordinarily guilty of this. On two occasions this year, he has given Alex Rodriguez days off on Sundays, despite the fact that the Yankees just had an off day the preceding Thursday. What, is A-Rod no longer capable of playing three consecutive games? Girardi is trying too hard to be the anti-Leo Durocher.

Then there is Jorge Posada, who has caught a grand total of 76 games this season. I understand that Posada is a 40-year-old catcher, but he does not have the body of Bengi Molina or, for us older folks, Smoky Burgess. Posada is well conditioned and strong enough to go behind the plate at least 90 to 95 times a season. Instead, we have had to endure all too often the non-hitting spectacle of Francisco Cervelli, who has made Jake Gibbs look like Yogi Berra by comparison.

Another example of “overresting” (there actually is no such word, though Girardi is trying hard to change that) can be found in the bullpen. Over the last two weeks, Girardi has repeatedly bypassed Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson, and Kerry Wood for the dubious likes of Chad Gaudin, Sergio Mitre, and Dustin Moseley–this despite the fact that none of the “big three” has pitched in as many as 70 games this season.

Of all the Yankee players, only two can possibly be considered fatigued at this juncture of the season. They are Robinson Cano and Derek Jeter, who have missed a combined six games this summer. No one else should have any reason to be tired. All of the other position players have missed a sufficient number of games, whether because of nagging injuries, a stint on the disabled list, or just plain rest. Not even CC Sabathia has been overworked; he is on pace to finish with only the fourth highest innings total of his career.

Simply put, the Yankees have no reason to rely on the crutch of being tired this October. If they fall short against the Twins, the Rangers, or the Rays, I don’t want to hear anyone say that it happened because they were “tired.” I just don’t want to hear it…

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“The Grandy Man can! The Grandy Man can!” Believe it or not, I heard John Sterling’s vaudeville home run call for Curtis Granderson for the first time this week. Where have I been all season long? Well, I usually follow the Yankees on YES, and not over the radio waves. And often, when I’m trying to tune in to the Yankees in the car, the AM radio signal doesn’t make it to these parts in central New York.

How is any of this relevant? Well, it really isn’t, but ever since Granderson retooled his stance and swing with the help of Kevin Long, while learning to keep both hands on the bat during his follow-through, he has become an offensive force. Don’t look now, but Granderson has a better OPS (.780 to .763) than Austin “Action” Jackson, the man for whom he was traded. Granderson has drawn unfavorable comparisons to Jackson all summer long, but those comparisons don’t add up. Given his power, his ability to draw walks, and the very fine defense that he has played in center field, the Yankees are actually better off with Grandy in 2010 than they would have been with Jackson.

An excellent defender himself, Jackson may end up winning the American League Rookie of the Year, but that’s in large part because of the weak competition in the league’s freshman class. Jackson has hit with little power, strikes out way too much for a singles hitter, and lacks the patience of an ideal leadoff man. If he were still playing for the Yankees, we would hear no end to these faults.

Let’s face it, The Grandy Man has been the better player.

Bruce Markusen writes “Cooperstown Confidential” for The Hardball Times.


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