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Observations From Cooperstown: The Offense, The HOF, and Elliott Maddox

With all of the focus on the Yankees’ alleged pursuit of Ubaldo Jimenez and sundry other pitchers, most of the mainstream media has lost focus on the team’s other concern: an inconsistent and hardly overpowering offense. The Yankees have not scored a ton of runs since a time from before the All-Star break–with the sorry output against James Shields on Thursday being the latest example. Very quietly, the Yankees have fallen to third in the American League in runs scored, trailing not only the Red Sox but the resurgent Rangers.

In the last 11 games, the Yankees have been held to one run four times. In another game, they scored two runs. They haven’t scored more than seven runs in any game over that stretch. And they haven’t reached double figures in runs since June 28. This ain’t a powerhouse any more.

It should be no secret that the loss of Alex Rodriguez is playing a role. A-Rod should be back within the next month, but will the Yankees be able to score enough runs to stay close to the Red Sox during the interim? Even with a small resurgence since his dreadful start, Jorge Posada is still having a terrible season; Derek Jeter remains a middle infield mediocrity; and Mark Teixeira is struggling to keep his batting average above .240. Frankly, the Yankees need some help, and it will probably have to come from within since Brian Cashman will be saving most of his trade chips for a pitcher.

Eric Chavez appears on the verge of returning from the DL, and it’s can’t come at a better time. Once he’s activated, he should immediately be made part of a third base platoon with either Eduardo Nunez (who hasn’t hit much since the A-Rod injury) or prospect Brandon Laird.

Then the Yankees should address the DH situation, where Posada and aging Andruw Jones simply aren’t cutting it. For the umpteenth time this summer, I’m calling for the promotion of Jesus Montero. Once he comes off the minor league DL, it‘s time to let him make his debut as a Yankee. (As Bill Parcells once said about one of his kickers, “It‘s time to take those Huggies off.”) For crying out loud, bring up Montero once and for all, put him in a platoon with Posada, and let him back up Russell Martin ahead of the useless, fist-pumping Francisco Cervelli. It’s beyond me why the Yankees continue to play with a 24-man roster, which is essentially what they’re doing with Cervelli.

None of this is meant to say that the Yankees should ignore their pitching concerns. They shouldn’t. But they need a boost of hitting, at least until Rodriguez returns. And they need it now…


As usual, there will be a nice Yankee presence in Cooperstown this weekend for the annual Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. The Hall of Fame contingent includes plenty of pinstriped blood: Yogi Berra, Wade Boggs, Whitey Ford, Goose Gossage, Rickey Henderson, Reggie Jackson, Phil Niekro, and Dave Winfield. Plus, let’s not forget 2011 inductee Pat Gillick, who once worked for the Yankees as an executive and had extensive input on the trades that brought Willie Randolph, Mickey Rivers, and Ed Figueroa to New York.

There will be other ex-Yankees in town, too. Jim Kaat, who once honeymooned in Cooperstown, will attend Sunday’s ceremony. Favorites like Ron Guidry, Dwight Gooden, and Paul Blair will be signing autographs on Main Street. And others who made relatively overlooked appearances in pinstripes will also be signing, including Jesse Barfield, Bert “Campy” Campaneris, and Elliott Maddox.

Five of these six ex-Yankees have become Cooperstown regulars. The exception is Maddox, who has not visited in years. He tends to be a forgotten Yankee, having been acquired in a straight cash transaction from the Rangers, but at his peak, Maddox was one of the game’s premier defensive center fielder, a player who appeared destined to succeed Blair as the game’s premier flychaser. He had it all: loping speed, the knack for lightning quick jumps, and a powerful arm. On offense, he was a contributor, finishing fourth in the AL in on-base percentage in 1974. The Yankees thought so much of him that they moved Bobby Murcer to right field just to make room for Maddox in center.

And then Maddox had the misfortune of slipping on the wet outfield grass at Shea Stadium (which didn’t drain particularly well) and badly tearing up his knee. It happened in 1975, when the Yankees were playing out the string at Shea as they waited to move into the renovated Yankee Stadium. Maddox was never the same after the incident, for which he sued the Yankees, Mets, and anybody else he could think of, including the City of New York. He lost the suit, not to mention any chance of being a premier player.

But man, at one time, Maddox could go get them better than most, and that includes Mickey Rivers, Bernie Williams in his prime, and even Curtis Granderson. Elliott Maddox was that good.

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


1 Jon DeRosa   ~  Jul 22, 2011 11:23 am

If the Yankees don't dump Montero at this trade deadline, it'll be interesting to see what they do.

The longer they keep him in AAA the less inclined any other organization will treat him like a big-time, immediate impact prospect.

Because if he was that, wouldn't the yanks use him for themselves?

2 a.O   ~  Jul 22, 2011 2:52 pm

In addition to exchanging Montero for Cervelli, much as it pains me to say it, I would trade for a DH and release Posada.

3 monkeypants   ~  Jul 22, 2011 3:33 pm

[2] There is no need to release Posada. I would keep him around in an increasingly limited hitting role and as the #3 catcher and #2 1B. Of course, that would be easier to do if teh team didn't carry 12 pitchers, one of whom is designated the "only use if we need a long man because the starter is knocked out in the first inning and we are down by 10 runs," a situation that seems to happen somewhere between once and never per season.

4 monkeypants   ~  Jul 22, 2011 3:35 pm

With regard to Montero, I am not convinced that he shouldn't be the starting catcher right now. Cervelli is useless---on that everyone seems to agree. But Martin has been pretty much awful since April. Take away his first 60 ABs and his season line is really, really bad. I would be interested in seeing Montero share the starting job with Martin, at least for a while.

5 a.O   ~  Jul 22, 2011 4:13 pm

[3] You say there is no need to release Posada as though it's a fact or something other than your opinion. LOL. The need for a #3 catcher (read: emergency) is also something that happens approximately less than once per season and he should definitely not be the #2 1B because his defense over there is pretty suspect. Chavez and Swisher are both better. And DH needs an upgrade.

[4] Only problem with Montero and Martin sharing the job is the huge defensive drop-off. Remember, he didn't make the club for one reason only, and that was because his defense sucks. IMHO, he will never be a good MLB catcher. But I definitely think it's time for the Yanks to find out once and for all whether he can hit MLB pitching on a regular basis.

Regardless of what they do, I hope they add some offense. We need a latter-day Justice to carry us home this year.

6 OldYanksFan   ~  Jul 22, 2011 4:21 pm

Is anyone concerned that at AAA, Montero has only posted a .281, .337, .410, .748 line?

7 a.O   ~  Jul 22, 2011 4:44 pm

[6] The party line is that he's pouting. Not sure if that's better or worse than just sucking, LOL.

8 monkeypants   ~  Jul 22, 2011 4:54 pm

[5] Well, I thought that it was obvious my post represented my interpretation, or if you prefer, opinion. As I see it: Swisher is not a real option as BU1B because there is currently no credible replacement for him in RF. Talk of Chavez is irrelevant because the man can't stay on the field and hasn't for years. He makes Nick Johnson look like the Iron Horse.

The larger thrust of my post was twofold. 1} Modern roster construction is silly, as teams continue to carry pitchers that are never used only to short their bench. A third catcher does come into play more often than the 12th or 13th pitcher, especially in games that go into extra innings. Last night was potentially a prime example. Down by 1 run, the team surely should have PR for Martin, but they did not. Having a third catcher (who can play a couple of other positions ideally) allows for more late inning maneuvering out of the catcher position, a position that has provided little offense this year save for 60 ABs in March and April.

2] As bad as Posada has been, he has shown some life. He has hit well at home (.800 OPS) and he has hit reasonably well as a RH batter (.774 OPS). If deployed properly, he could still offer some utility to the team. Yes, they could use to improve at the DH position, but that need not mean releasing Posada.

But just to clarify, that is my interpretation of the data and situation.

9 monkeypants   ~  Jul 22, 2011 4:59 pm

[6] His off year is cause for concern. On the other hand, that line would make him by far the best offensive catcher on the team this year. He is still drawing walks this year and hitting for a reasonable average even though his power is down. Plus, one should not ignore his entire MiL corpus: .870 at AAA last year and a career .859 OPS. Lastly, not only is Cervelli hopeless, Martin is rapidly heading into it can't get much worse territory. At the least, maybe Martin simply needs more rest to stay on teh top of his game. All in all, I'll take my chances on Montero.

Heck, some around here were anointing Nuñez the SS of the future, and this is a guy with a career .687 OPS in ML and .687 OPS in MiL. And he's three years older than Montero!

10 monkeypants   ~  Jul 22, 2011 5:02 pm

[5] I do agree with you that they need to find out what they have with Montero. I am actually cautiously optimistic that he can be a ML catcher for a couple of years, in the Mike Piazza mode: excellent offense outweighing really bad defense. Maybe not. Let's see, though.

In the short term, he probably represents at least an upgrade at DH.

11 monkeypants   ~  Jul 22, 2011 5:08 pm

OK, one more---hey, I don't get to banter much these days, so tonight is a treat!

[5] Maybe the easiest-and-best thing the Yankees could do would be to add another OF, so that he, Swish and Teix (and maybe Po if he's around) can split the RF-DH-1B duties.

12 monkeypants   ~  Jul 22, 2011 6:58 pm

[6] I seem to have killed this thread, but this one is for you, OYF:


13 Bruce Markusen   ~  Jul 22, 2011 11:18 pm

So I complain about the Yankees' offense, and they go out and score 17 runs! A soothsayer I am not.

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