Thursday, April 26, 2012

Some Yankee fans think that with Michael Pineda-Jesus Montero trade, there must be a pony in here somewhere

I was in Whole Foods yesterday when Squawker Jon called to tell me that Michael Pineda had a torn labrum, and would be out for the year. Needless to say, my reaction didn't exactly fit the peace-and-love vibe of the store! And I am still positively irate, over 12 hours later.

Best case scenario is that Pineda comes back some time early next summer. Meanwhile, Jesus Montero is starting to heat up, and even getting enough time at catcher to qualify in that position in fantasy baseball. Not bad for somebody who we were told could never catch.

And Hector Noesi is a major league pitcher for the Mariners getting a start tonight. Given that Pineda is out for what could be a year and a half, and given that there is no guarantee he will be able to pitch the way he once did, this trade is a complete and utter disaster for the Yankees so far.

Yet there is a sizable contingent of sportswriters and Yankee fans who still say that it is "too soon" to evaluate the trade. Really? Frankly, they remind me of the naive boy in the story presented with a mound of animal excrement as a Christmas gift. In that anecdote, the little boy keeps on digging through the poop, saying, "There must be a pony in here somewhere."

Newsflash: there ain't no pony. It's not Jose Campos, who is now being touted as being a superstar to justify the trade, even though he is only in Single A. And it certainly isn't Michael Pineda, who may never live up to his promise, and could end up being more like Phil Hughes Part Deux than anything else (and Hughes was terrible again last night.)

There is no bright side for the Yankees to this trade, as much as some try to downplay this as being no big thing. And don't tell me it's simply bad luck. It should have occurred to Brian Cashman that the Mariners might have been selling him a bag of beans here. It's not just that the Mariners have a history of trying to hold up the Yankees -- remember how they demanded more in the Cliff Lee trade? It's that why would they want to trade Pineda in the first place, if he was supposed to be so great?

I was against this trade from the beginning -- it never added up to me, the way it did to the "experts." So I'm not the least bit surprised that this has ended so poorly. (Incidentally, at least trading Montero for Cliff Lee, as costly as it would have been, may have helped the Yankees win No. 28 in 2010. Instead, Cashman gave up the team's best prospect for what is turning out to be a whole heap of nothing.)

And let's review the fact that Pineda's 2011 second-half numbers were so terrible -- he went from 8-6 with a 3.03 ERA and a 1.035 WHIP to a 1-4 record in the second half, with a 5.12 ERA and a 1.224 WHIP, and a significantly diminished velocity. Gee, did it ever occur to Cashman that there could have been a physical reason for that decline?  How can he be so naive?

Then again, we're talking about a GM who actually thought that signing Everyday Pedro Feliciano to a two-year, $8 million deal was a good risk, and who seemed to be the only person in the world to be shocked that Feliciano got injured so quickly into his Yankee tenure!

Then there is what injury expert Will Carroll of Sports Illustrated wrote on February 29 of this year, before Pineda ever even threw a pitch in a spring training game, giving Pineda a "red light" as an injury risk:
The Pineda trade seems like a coup for the Yankees, even giving up a solid hitter in Jesus Montero, but Pineda is in a bad situation. He's young, coming off a season where he saw a massive innings increase and a hit-the-wall moment as bad as any we've seen in several seasons. He's a red flag risk on that alone, which is horrible. (DAN STAT). On top of that, the records of Joe Girardi and Larry Rothschild in dealing with precisely this type of situation is terrible. As much as I like Pineda the pitcher, I can't handle Pineda the risk.
Then Carroll wrote this on April 4 about Pineda:
The parallels between Pineda and Phil Hughes are too perfect. Well, not perfect, since we're talking about young pitchers and injuries. Hughes injured his leg, started overthrowing a bit, and ended up with a sore shoulder. It set back his career more than we realize, even now. Pineda came in out of condition, still showing signs of last year's workload, and finally admitted that his arm was hurting.
An MRI came back with "no structural damage" and the calming diagnosis of tendinitis. Don't be fooled. The biceps tendon is a structure, one that's important to a pitcher. One of the buzzwords in sports medicine is the "biceps-labrum complex." Essentially, the labrum and biceps tendon work in concert, in ways doctors are still figuring out. The classic "buckethandle" labrum tear might have a different mechanism than doctors long thought.
As for Pineda, he might be better served looking to another starter on his staff for a better comp. CC Sabathia had some shoulder issues early in his career. A trip to Glenn Fleisig's lab in Birmingham helped him change some things, and the results speak for themselves. Why Pineda isn't heading down there is beyond me. 
So why didn't the Yanks do what Carroll recommended? And why didn't they take Pineda's condition seriously?

All spring, we heard Cashman downplay Pineda's lack of velocity this spring and make excuses for him. Now he admits that this was a sign that he was hurt. Gee, ya think?

I have to wonder, what is it that Cashman is going to have to do to get some of his defenders to stop justifying his actions? He gave away the franchise's most highly touted prospect, somebody who he himself compared to Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols, for a player who may very well have been damaged goods in the first place. Boy, that Cash is sooooo smart, isn't he?

I have said it before and I will say it again. Brian Cashman has exactly one tool in the toolkit -- the ability to spend a lot of money. Yes, he got Nick Swisher for Wilson Betemit -- this is the trade Cashman fans always bring up whenever the subject of  his record comes up. But he got to make that trade for two reasons. One was that Ozzie Guillen despised Swisher and wanted him out. The second was that it was a salary dump -- the White Sox still owed Swisher $20+ million, and the Yanks could afford that type of salary.

Even the Curtis Granderson trade involved the ability of the Yanks to pay for his salary. (And it's not like the Yanks got a steal on getting him in the first place -- they still had to give up Ian Kennedy, Austin Jackson and Phil Coke. Granderson is a superstar now, but he didn't come cheap.)

So tell me, what are the great Brian Cashman deals in recent years that he has made on his baseball savvy? Trading for Javier Vazquez again? Trying to get back Carl Pavano? Signing Kei Igawa?

And sorry, I don't buy Cashman's story that Pineda fully tore his labrum just this weekend. Some of his acolytes think it's cute, the way Cash constantly plays fast and loose with the truth. I don't. Why should I buy anything Cashman says, when it is clear he has a very long track record of saying what he needed to, regardless of whether it was accurate or not, in order to deflect criticism? When you do things like tell reporters about how A.J. Burnett really has great numbers, and that we all need to smoke the objectivity pipe to see it, then you pay the Pirates $20 million on Burnett's salary just to get rid of him, you don't exactly come across as a truthteller.

I think it's time that some folks wake up and drink the reality potion, to use a Cashmanism. And the reality is that Brian Cashman is a pretty crummy general manager. I said at the time of the trade that I had zero faith in his judgment. My faith in his judgment now? It's less than zero!

What do you think? Tell us about it!


Moneyplays said...

You spoke my mind exactly. I never thought we'd have to relive Jay Buhner, now it's our reality. I guess the moral is, don't get attached to Williams, Sanchez, Bichette, Austin or any other prospect because Cash will trade them for as you say, horse shit.

Moneyplays said...

You spoke my mind exactly. I never thought we'd have to relive Jay Buhner, now it's our reality. I guess the moral is, don't get attached to Williams, Sanchez, Bichette, Austin or any other prospect because Cash will trade them for as you say, horse shit.

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