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Observations From Cooperstown: Posada, Fish, and Rojas

Posted By Bruce Markusen On March 11, 2011 @ 10:15 am In Bruce Markusen,Observations From Cooperstown,Spring Training | Comments Disabled

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The Yankees made a bit of news on Thursday when they played Jorge Posada in the field for the first time this spring. It wasn’t at catcher, but at first base, where Posada actually looked good in catching a line drive and starting a double play.

I’m glad to see the Yankees use Posada at first base, giving them another option on days when Mark Teixeira needs a rest. (Ugh, there’s that word again.) But they have yet to use Posada as a catcher this Grapefruit League season, and have indicated they have no intention of doing so. I think that’s a mistake. By giving Posada just a few reps behind the plate, they could ensure his availability as a third-string, emergency catcher during the regular season. If Russell Martin were to miss a few games on a day-to-day basis, the Yankees would then have Posada available to back up Jesus Montero (or whoever the No. 2 catcher is). This would give the Yankees more flexibility, prevent an unnecessary call-up of someone like Austin Romine, and give the proud Posada the satisfaction of knowing that he might still do some catching in 2011.

The Yankees seem to think that Posada could get hurt if he catches at all this spring. That’s always a possibility, but it seems like an awfully negative way of thinking by which to operate a team. Imagining worst case scenarios at every turn can lead to some strange managerial decision-making. It’s also an odd way of thinking for a team that was willing to put Posada behind the plate in critical postseason games just five months ago…

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Should we name him The Fish Called Wanda? For the love of Kevin Kline, I hope the Yankees don’t carry Robert Fish on their Opening Day roster. The Yankees reeled in Fish as part of the Rule 5 draft over the winter, taking him with the hope that he could provide them with an extra left-hander out of the bullpen, after Boone Logan and Pedro Feliciano. Well, Fish was awful in Thursday’s exhibition game against the Phillies. His one-inning stint included a home run, a double, a single, and a walk, though he did manage to pick off one of the many baserunners.

Such an outing should come as no surprise from a pitcher like Fish. The sizeable, hard-throwing left-hander pitched well in ten appearances at Single-A Rancho Cucamonga last summer, but was then treated like a pitching mound punching bag after a promotion to Double-A Arkansas. In 42 innings, he put up an ERA of 8.93, which looks like it could have been compiled at Coors Field in the pre-humidor years. I don’t want to hear about bad luck either; even factoring in bloops and broken bats and defensive miscues, Fish’s numbers would have remained awful. He simply didn’t throw strikes and didn’t fool many hitters, as he allowed 14.7 hits per nine innings, a ghastly ratio.

It’s not like Fish has a prior track record of success either. In five minor league seasons, spent mostly at Rookie Ball and Single-A, Fish has compiled a career ERA of 5.05. Basically, he does one thing well, striking out batters at a clip of one per inning. Other than that, he doesn’t contribute. He’s walked 171 batters in 365 innings, or an average of one walk every two innings. If you’re looking for a left-hander who can throw strikes, this isn’t your man.

And yet, Robert Fish is somehow a candidate, albeit an outside candidate, for the Yankee bullpen. Frankly, I’d rather the Yankees bring back Bob Shirley, or Al Holland, or even Alfonso Pulido. Anything but The Fish…

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Now for a little fun. In my weekly column over at The Hardball Times, I profile the 1971 Topps card of former Royals second baseman Cookie Rojas. The card features an action photograph taken at Yankee Stadium on August,16, 1970. It was a Sunday afternoon game, won by the Yankees, 5-1, behind the six-hit pitching of Stan Bahnsen.

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Without looking at the article, can you name the Yankee baserunner who is trying to take out Rojas with a slide   at second base? He’s wearing the No. 9, but it’s clearly not Graig Nettles. Who is that mystery baserunner?

Hint: his name is similar to that of a famous musician.

Bruce Markusen lives in Cooperstown, NY.


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