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Observations From Cooperstown: The Catching, The Other Jorge, and Moneyball

Posted By Bruce Markusen On September 19, 2011 @ 8:38 am In 1: Featured,Bronx Banter,Observations From Cooperstown | Comments Disabled

[1]A few weeks ago, it would have been unthinkable, but there is now a real possibility that the Yankees will carry both Jesus Montero and Austin Romine on their postseason roster. Francisco Cervelli’s concussion is enough of a concern that it jeopardizes his postseason standing, while Jorge Posada remains a longshot to make the playoff roster. Without Posada, Montero becomes the primary DH, which would make it difficult for him to be the backup to Russell Martin. So that would necessitate carrying Romine as the No. 2 catcher. Romine is eligible for the postseason because the rules allow for a season-long minor leaguer to replace an injured player, in this case Cervelli.

Even if Cervelli is healthy, I would prefer Romine, who is the better defensive catcher. If the Yankees have to pinch-hit for Martin in the late innings of a close game, I’d rather have a more reliable receiver and thrower behind the plate. And there is simply none better in the organization than Romine, who might be the best defensive catcher the Yankees have had since Joel Skinner in the late 1980s.

Of course, I have no idea if Romine is ready to hit at this level (and it would be tough for him to match Cervelli’s second-half hitting surge), but I would be willing to take that chance. In the postseason, where runs are often at a premium, a good defensive catcher who can block pitches and throw out base runners is probably more valuable than someone who might bat once or twice in the late innings. So yes, my vote goes to the inexperienced Romine over the erratic Cervelli…

***

This is a minor point, but one that deserves mentioning. The Yankees currently have 36 players on their active roster, but haven’t found it fit to include minor league slugger Jorge Vazquez among their late-season promotions. I know what some people will say: Vazquez is not on the 40-man roster, so it’s problematic to include him among the callups. To that I say, “Bunk.” The Yankees are currently carrying at least three players who have little to no business being on the 40-man roster of a playoff team. They are Ramiro Pena, who makes Eddie Brinkman and Mark Belanger seem like Silver Sluggers, and doesn’t have the versatility to be a true utility infielder; journeyman Scott Proctor, who’s simply not a major league caliber pitcher any more; and Raul Valdes, a journeyman left-hander who ranks behind Boone Logan and Aaron Laffey for the lefty specialist role.

Though he’s hardly a primetime prospect, the 28-year-old Vazquez has more value than any of those players. Yes, he strikes out a ton (166 times), but he has legitimate power, can play both of the infield corners, and would be worth a look as a right-handed pinch-hitter. Vazquez likely wouldn’t play much, but he at least deserves a spot based on the 32 home runs he hit at Triple-A Scranton (or 14 more than Jesus Montero), not to mention the team-leading .516 slugging percentage he posted. At the very least, Vazquez profiles like longtime ex-Yankee minor leaguer Shelley Duncan; it would be nice for the Yankees to reward his production by giving him a late-season promotion. At some point, the Yankees need to show their minor leaguers that placement on the 40-man roster is based on merit, and not on being a name player (Proctor), or a failed prospect (Pena), or a pitcher who happens to throw left-handed (Valdes). Until then, too many minor leaguers in the system will remain frustrated by an organization that doesn’t reward minor league productivity…

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There’s been much debate recently about the merits of the new Moneyball movie. Aaron Gleeman likes it, Keith Law hates it, and I find myself feeling indifferent. I haven’t even seen the film, but the story just does not strike me as that compelling. A sports movie needs to have a good ending, and that is something that the Moneyball A’s have lacked. Yes, they have made the postseason several times under the regime of Billy Beane, but have reached only one League Championship Series, and never once made the World Series, let alone won one. Where is the payoff, where is the climactic ending? I just don’t see it.

Based on the previews I’ve seen–and boy, they’ve been running trailers on this thing since the spring–Brad Pitt looks funny and charismatic in the role of Beane, but Jonah Hill looks terribly miscast as Paul DePodesta (or Peter Brand, as he’s called in the movie). Maybe I’m typecasting Hill based on his disgustingly funny role in Superbad, but I just don’t find him believable as an advisor to the general manager of a baseball team.

So I remain skeptical. I do plan on watching the movie, and maybe I’ll find it entertaining, but I keep thinking this: a film about Charlie Finley’s A’s would have been a whole lot better.

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


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