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Alex Rodriguez, Dallas Braden, Oliver Perez and underachieving teams

Last night's Yankees game was so blah - A.J. Burnett had his first bad start of the season, the Yankees still won the series - that I stuck with what I intended to write before the game: An appreciation of Dallas Braden's perfect game, and of A-Rod's ability to generate both controversy and awe.

The whole thing made me recall an old blog entry - I have a pretty good memory and an ego the size of New Mexico, so many things make me recall old blog entries - about the funniest stories I've ever covered in baseball.

This has to go in there. Let's make it number four, and bump the old 4 and 5 down to 5 and 6. And rename it, "The six funniest stories," because I don't want to forget any of them.

--With Javier Vazquez returning to the Yankees' starting rotation, Jim Baumbach writes a piece discussing the challenge of changing leagues.

--Mark Teixeira, once again, has shaken off a characteristically bad April.

--As the Yankees bid farewell to Boston until the first weekend of October (the final weekend of the regular season), it was fair to wonder whether we New York media types would ever see David Ortiz hit in a home Red Sox uniform again. Anthony Riber writes about Ortiz's decline, and ties it into the Yankees' long commitments already on the books and soon to be so.

What I've found interesting in these scenarios - I'm thinking primarily of Ortiz in Boston, Bernie Williams in the Bronx and Mike Piazza in Flushing - is that the fans rarely seem to take their frustrations out on the fading players. Ortiz received a huge applause when he stroked an RBI double last night. Instead, fans get upset with the situation, if you will: "What are we gonna do about Ortiz?!" Or Bernie, or Piazza.

But it's a point worth remembering. A-Rod, Teixeira, Burnett and CC Sabathia now have earned good will with a World Series title, so if they get worse with age, perhaps they'd face the same scenario. It's sort of "Hate the fade, but love the fader."

--Jorge Posada will catch most of the time, Joe Girardi said. We'll see how this plays out. As we discussed yesterday, the Yankees might be at their best with Posada at DH and Cervelli at catcher...

...at least, against righty starters. Against lefties, by god, if you're that determined to keep Marcus Thames relevant, then DH him. He does not play an impressive leftfield, to be kind.

--Speaking of people with questionable skills in leftfield, the Yankees will see Johnny Damon tonight in Detroit. Now that Nick Johnson is out for a while and Damon is putting together a very strong season with the Tigers, the discussion will continue over the Yankees' inability to bring back Damon.

I was discussing this with Joel Sherman over the weekend: At the outset of the winter, the Yankees were open to committing two years and about $20 million to Damon. What happened was, with the Damon negotiations going nowhere, Johnson's agent notified the Yankees that he was going to sign with the Giants, his second choice, unless the Yankees were ready to go.

Brian Cashman responded by saying, essentially, "Let's go," and by the time Damon - pushed by realizing the Yankees were about to vote him off the island - expressed a willingness to go two years and $20 million, on Dec. 17, it was too late. The Johnson deal was done.

But let's say that the Yankees told Johnson, "Enjoy San Fran. We're going to wait out Damon." How long would it have taken Damon and Scott Boras to lower their demands to that two-year, $20-million mark?

I think it would've taken until mid-February. Would the Yankees have been willing to sit on the sidelines, waiting for Damon, that long? How would the fan base have responded to that? And if Damon and Boras, let's say, got the Tigers (knowing the Yankees were still involved) to commit two years and $24 million, what would've been the Yankees' Plan B at that point? Russell Branyan? Hank Blalock?

At the moment, with the Yankees rolling, it's somewhat of a moot point. But you know what they say about moot points. They can go from moot to meaningful pretty quickly.

(I have no idea if that's actually what they say about moot points.)

--JE alerted me to Joe Posnanski's take on Dallas Braden. Whatever you think about the guy, his story is a remarkable one.

--Didn't see the Mets game - was spending Mother's Day with Mrs. Insider and our son, in Boston - but it seems to me the lingering topic is Oliver Perez. It's a real pickle. If you put him in the bullpen, what are the odds that he'll provide any value there at all?

If the Mets don't want to release him and eat the $22-ish million they still owe him, then they should offer Perez to another team and propose to pay his entire salary in return for a prospect or two. Would anyone bite? How about the Brewers, who need starting pitching and whose pitching coach, Rick Peterson, helped produce Perez's very good 2007? How about the White Sox, who could use somebody and whose GM Kenny Williams likes to take some chances?

It's an idea that needs to be explored. If the Mets really want to contend this year, they can't be relying on 2010 Ollie. They of course should be grooming Jenrry Mejia to replace Perez in the rotation, but let's not even go there again.

--David Wright got ejected, and had the Mets sent the game into extra innings, they would've been short one position player. MLB.com's Anthony Dicomo reports that Jon Niese would've played leftfield, and Jason Bay would've moved to third base. That would've been highly entertaining.

--Luis Castillo returned to action.

--Baseball Prospectus' playoff odds are always entertaining to see; here is the PECOTA-adjusted version. And for perspective, here are last year's standings at this point (scroll down)

Let's say, for argument's sake, that the biggest disappointments so far this season have been, in alphabetical order, Atlanta, Boston, both Chicago teams, both Los Angeles teams and Seattle. Of those clubs, which is most likely to turn it around and make the playoffs?

The BP odds say Atlanta, with a 15.4 percent chance of qualifying for the postseason. The PECOTA-adjusted odds say Boston. at 14.9 percent.

Me? I'm going with the White Sox. I think the potential of their starting rotation and the potential ease of their schedule - they have 15 more games against Kansas City, 12 more against Cleveland, seven against Seattle and an interleague schedule featuring six games with the Cubs and three each with Atlanta, Florida, Pittsburgh and Washington - make them the most likely rebounders

--Still in Boston, as I type. Will fly to LaGuardia and head straight to Citi Field for tonight's Mets game. And at some point this afternoon, we'll have a book giveaway contest. You wouldnt' want to miss that, would you?

 

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