Results tagged ‘ Josh Thole ’

We Shall Not Forget (Provided You Pay)

For four years, MLB has exploited all the in-season holidays – Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day – plus on many occasions 9/11, by having all players wear special caps. Today, caps with an American flag patch stitched on the back, to the left of the inviolable MLB logo, were worn by all clubs and all players.

So, in New York, where in 2001 first the Mets and then the Yankees honored the fallen members of – and the heroic and selfless acts of – the New York Police Department, the New York Fire Department, New York EMS, Port Authority Police, New York Sanitation, and several others by wearing their caps during the games of the weeks after the attacks, Major League Baseball denied the Mets the opportunity to wear those caps again, just for tonight’s anniversary game, the only one being played within a thirty minute ride to the World Trade Center.

According to team Player Representative Josh Thole, the Mets players debated violating the dictum and wearing them anyway. Thole told reporters shortly thereafter that the league was adamant and it was a “no-go.” It is meaningful to realize that only three current Mets were even in the majors a decade ago: Miguel Batista, Willie Harris, and Jason Isringhausen. Evidently the Commissioner’s representative reminded them that the punishment – a heavy fine – would be meted out on ownership, not them (and for all we know, a major fine might cause this team to go out of business before noon tomorrow). For his part, David Wright wore a Police cap on the bench, but even he resisted the temptation to wear it on the field and incur the wrath of the Bean Counters in the Commissioner’s Office.

Those bloodless MLB individuals have been down this path before. Ten years ago, Bud Selig’s initially ruled the Mets and Yankees could not wear the caps during games. The Mets ignored the threat, and MLB decided to give them a pass for a game or two, and then the Mets kept wearing them, and MLB wisely backed off their nonsensical decision. Tonight’s ruling reminded everybody that at the moment of the nation’s greatest grief, MLB’s money-making instinct was unhindered by the blood and destruction and fear.

At least in 2001 the sport was smart enough to shut up. Not this year. MLB first blocked the Washington Nationals from wearing military caps in tribute after a disaster in Afghanistan last month. Then came this decision, complete with in the kind of stupidity that would make a megalomaniac proud: they blamed it on MLB Vice President Joe Torre, the native New Yorker who wore these caps at the end of the 2001 season. So if it hadn’t been shameful already, pinning it on Torre made it doubly shameful.

As an aside, I should note that I actually got a tweet from an idiot who wondered why I thought wearing the NYPD/NYFD/PAPD/EMS caps was somehow “patriotic.” It never crossed my mind. It has nothing to do with patriotism. 343 firefighters and paramedics died that day. 23 New York policemen did. And 47 from the Port Authority Police. This is about remembering them – and acknowledging what all those who survived did for this city and the wounds they still have. For me, as the grandson of a New York fireman, and the descendant of several others, and many NYPD and regional PD, this is something deeper than patriotism.

CitiField is, of course, ringed with commemorations and in particular the “We Shall Not Forget” logo placed in the ad right behind the batter’s box. And it has all been rendered utterly hollow because of the crassness of the decision about the NYPD/FD/EMS caps. If you still haven’t figured out why MLB is permitting this public relations disaster to happen; why Commissioner Bud Selig didn’t get on the phone and tell the Mets they could wear those caps right away and damn the consequences, the answer is to be found here.

In case you don’t want to follow the link, here’s your answer: this is available as of tonight directly from MLB for just $36.99.

I guess we should be happy it has an American flag, and that MLB just didn’t sell the space to the highest bidder.

False Spring In New York

Pitchers and Catchers report, New York temperatures clear 40 degrees, and somebody issues a forecast that references “55” by the end of the week and it’s not the age of the latest pitcher the Yankees invited to camp.

These should all be good signs for baseball here in Big Town, and once again optimism balloons like CC Sabathia before his gallant off-season knee-saving conditioning program. And I’m not buying a word of it. In fact, 2011 is shaping up as one of those rare seasons in which neither of the local teams seriously contend, perhaps a year like 1967.
That was my first true season of baseball awareness, inspired by the events of a birthday party for a neighbor named Wolfgang (Wolf wasn’t originally from around here) at which each of us was given a pack of baseball cards and everybody else’s contained the bonus “miniature poster” and mine didn’t and I vowed to get one and I was hooked. This minor childhood trauma is recounted because my vague memory is that Wolf’s birthday was May 10th, which the record books will show you was the last 1967 day in which either the Mets or the Yankees were at .500 or better. Between them the ’67 New York clubs lost 191 games and had the 17th and 20th worst records in all of baseball in a time when all of baseball consisted of 20 teams.
I didn’t see it at the time. I was eight. But clearly, the missing “miniature poster” was a sign of things to come during that awful season.
It’s not going to be that bad, but I continue to get the impression that not one correspondent or fan or executive of either of the teams has any idea exactly how bad it is going to be. The telltale sign is the Mets and Yankees both ended 2010 in decided spirals, yet if the Yankees had not spent gaudy money on the largely unnecessary Rafael Soriano, identifying this city’s biggest off-season acquisition would require an argument over the relative merits of Russell Martin, Ronny Paulino, and Brad Emaus.
The Mets are bleeding at second base, dependent in the outfield on the comebacks of two mega-contract free agents who might not have been good ideas when they were healthy, and absolutely without hope if their closer doesn’t put both his problems with the law and his fastball behind him. The Yankees are facing a superstar’s existential crisis at shortstop, and a far greater drama behind the plate than anybody’s letting on. And barring the kind of luck you only find in Fantasy Leagues, neither team has the starting pitching to expect to compete in their divisions.
I don’t have to fully regurgitate my stance on Derek Jeter. I am as sentimental as any baseball fan, ever. But I get far more choked up about a team making the post-season every year than I do about whether one player performed for 17 seasons with one team or “only” 15. As near as I can figure it, instead of cutting the cord now (or at least keeping their obligations to a minimum), the Yankees have designed some sort of plan by which Jeter will be permitted to deteriorate further at shortstop this year and next, and then be moved to the outfield where he will squeeze out Nick Swisher while producing a quarter of Swisher’s offensive value. 
I get it. Everybody loves Jeter. I’d like to point out the Yankees released Babe Ruth, fired Yogi Berra, trashed Tino Martinez, demoted Bernie Williams, and traded Elston Howard to the Red Sox. Not every great player stays that way until he’s 40 and gets to go out on his own terms. The Yankees’ decision on Jeter will not only cost them playoff appearances, but it will still end in tears, and an even messier conclusion in which Jeter hits .217 and is benched or released or put on waivers or all of the above.
Something also has to give in this odd mish-mosh at Catcher. Jesus Montero is supposedly ready, despite wildly varying reports on his ability to hit or catch anything that isn’t straight down the middle. If there wasn’t already uncertainty about the youngster, it would have been supplied by the acquisition of Russell Martin, who clearly still has the capacity in him for a strong comeback. And then there is Jorge Posada, supposedly still a vibrant presence at bat if not behind the plate, and ready to slide in to the DH role much of the time. Where ever the truth lies here, there are still three guys going into two positions, along with some thought that the DH spot will be used as a parking place for Alex Rodriguez and an At Bats opportunity for Andruw Jones, Ronnie Belliard, and Eric Chavez.
By the by, did you know that Chavez – the new utility cornerman and presumptive emergency middle infielder – has played twelve years in the major leagues and has spent exactly 28 and two-thirds innings playing anywhere except third base? Not games – innings. 

I am also probably belaboring a point I’ve made here before about the Yankees’ starting rotation: They don’t have one. While Sabathia is, simply, one of the best free agent signings in the history of the sport, the questions that follow him do not begin with “who replaces Andy Pettitte?” or “what about A.J. Burnett?” They start with the presumed number two, Phil Hughes, who was a flaccid 7-6, 4.90 after the All-Star Break and was eviscerated twice in the ALCS by Texas. Assuming Hughes enters 2011 as an established front-line major league starter is itself a leap. Then comes the nightmarish implications of the Burnett mystery. Then come the Ivan Novas, Sergio Mitres, and the veritable Old-Timers’ Day grouping that greets new pitching coach Larry Rothschild. Freddy Garcia? Mark Prior? Bartolo Colon? No wonder Kevin Millwood is generating enthusiasm by comparison. Why not Scott Sanderson? Dave LaPoint? Kevin Mmahat?
This team is going to compete with the Red Sox and Rays? This team is going to compete with the Blue Jays who off-loaded the Vernon Wells contract. This team is going to compete with the Orioles in their Buck Showalter Honeymoon Year.
And still the Yankees are in better shape than the Mets. From the middle of last summer onwards, what passed for buzz inside CitiField was some sort of vague sense of doom. It had to do with the jailed Ponzi Schemer Bernie Madoff, but no other details emerged. It didn’t seem to make much sense; the Wilpon family had insisted it had not suffered greatly at the hands of the ultimate financial snake oil salesman, and all evidence backed up their assertion. Now it becomes clear that the owners were in trouble not because Madoff had stolen their money, but because he hadn’t. They are the defendants in an extraordinary billion-dollar suit that claims they knowingly pocketed the profits from a kind of privatized Enron disaster. While the action is headed to mediation by former New York Governor (and former Pittsburgh Pirates farmhand) Mario Cuomo, it has already paralyzed the team’s finances and threatens to continue to do so for an indefinite period.
Which explains why the Mets, when still vaguely competitive last June and July, added no payroll. Which explains why the bullets were not bitten on the statues that replaced Luis Castillo and Ollie Perez. Which explains why, when another bat was needed, the Mets could reach only for Mike Hessman. Which explains why men named Wilpon did not take the fall in October.
Jason Bay and Carlos Beltran are enigmas. Jose Reyes is at the critical step, forwards to greatness or backwards towards underachievement. Ike Davis and Josh Thole are dedicated and gifted players who may not bring enough power to their respective positions. The second baseman could be a Rule V draftee. There isn’t one starting pitcher who isn’t weighed down with a huge question mark (Mike Pelfrey’s head, Jon Niese’s endurance, Johan Santana’s shoulder, Dillon Gee’s inexperience, the overall health of Chri
sses Young and Capuano, and the likelihood that R.A. Dickey actually found himself last season at the age of 35). And the bullpen? You don’t want to know about the bullpen.
So as winter today loosened its grip just slightly after a mean-spirited winter, I am thinking not about the warm spring breezes in the Bronx and Queens. I am thinking again about Wolfgang’s birthday party and the prospect that this year, every New York fan’s pack of cards will be missing something he was counting on getting.

Jim Thome And Other Personnel (Fifth Update)

Vin Scully just announced on the Dodger broadcast that the team has obtained Jim Thome from the White Sox for a player to be named later. If they’ve dropped somebody from the roster, Thome would be playoff eligible. Every Blue player and fan would be happy, except, presumably, James Loney. The Chicago Tribune says the price is infielder James Fuller (24 years old, in A-ball, not much of a resume) and the Sox included some money to pay off the last month of Thome’s current deal.
Half an inning later, Vin waxed poetic about how nice it would be to see the Thome trade posted on the Dodger Stadium scoreboard when his producer instead showed a shot of Jon Garland in the Arizona Dugout. “He is being told he has just been traded to the Dodgers.” Again, with the option present to make him playoff-eligible, one assumes LA will clear roster space tonight (one would not be advised to invest heavily in the roster security of Charlie Haeger, James McDonald, or maybe even Juan Castro).
Meanwhile in Denver, the Rockies have announced they’ve gotten Jose Contreras from Chicago in time to put him on the post-season eligibility pile.
At some point in his long and varied playing career, White Sox General Manager Kenny Williams probably witnessed an on-field special promotion night performance of “Captain Dynamite.” It is hard to imagine today, but this gentleman would get into a box which also contained some explosives (and, honestly, if they’re in the box with you, exactly how many, and how powerful, do they really need to be before you begin to think this is a bad way to make a living?).
And then they’d blow up the box.
Captain Dynamite would then stagger to his feet, and wobble back to his trailer, no doubt shouting “Somebody answer the damn phone,” as he did.
The point of the act, of course, was that while one assumed Captain Dynamite knew what he was doing, even the realization that he probably had long since maximized the bang-for-the-buck without getting himself killed, did not take away any of the guilty thrill. It was the threat inherent in the performance that kept Captain Dynamite going, and self-detonating.
This brings us back to Kenny, who according to various reports (here’s Jon Heyman’s) spent the day after his White Sox washed out here in New York, advising other GM’s that he had waivers on most of his veterans and was willing to move them all, whether before or after tonight’s post-season roster “deadline”: Thome, Contreras, Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye, Octavio Dotel, and Scott Linebrink. After their embarrassingly flaccid performance at Yankee Stadium, during which they sank to 6-and-19 on the road, some members of the Chicago traveling party hinted to me that Williams would either get rid of anybody he could, or at minimum, use the threat of a fire sale to try to wake up his guys. Hitting coach Greg Walker had already met with his batters and warned them to start compiling smart AB’s, or lose playing time. Manager Ozzie Guillen was greeting old friends with variations on the announcement “We stink.”
As noted above, Thome went to the Dodgers, waiving his no trade clause as he did. He and Dotel become free agents in a month, Dye has a “mutual option” for twelve million, Contreras was thought to have little return value (a 5.42 ERA is not automatically considered a liability in Colorado), Linebrink is owed nearly eleven million over the next two years, and Konerko has a year to go, owed twelve mill. And while each of the hitters might spark up a contender’s line-up, Dotel looked like a mop-up man during a game in Boston, and Linebrink turned a close game into a laugher in just a handful of batters yesterday in the Bronx. For the White Sox, hopefully the scare will be effective, because the likelihood of a salary off-load seems pretty low.
ELSEWHERE:

Absolutely fascinating that the Mets, who deliberately kept some of their prospects in the minors even as gaping holes opened in their line-up, were the first out of the box to announce an intriguing September call-up. He’s catcher Josh Thole, who after hitting .300 in the Florida State League, improved that to .328 in the Eastern League. Take a look at his numbers and one will jump out at you. There may not be much power there, but in 384 at bats, he struck out only 34 times. Hard to guess how much they’ll play him in preference to Brian Schneider and Omir Santos, but I don’t think they called him up the first day of roster expansion (and announced it the day before) to have him warm up pitchers between innings.
In a sense, Arizona actually made a critical September call-up last week – but didn’t realize how critical. Daniel Schlereth, still considered the closer of the future, returned to the D’Backs  just in a time to watch the team’s only two veteran relievers exit, suddenly. Jon Rauch went to the Twins, and Chad Qualls was lost for the year with a dislocated kneecap. There seems no reason not to give Schlereth save opportunities or at least 7th or 8th inning duty over the last month. Juan Gutierrez might be Qualls’ successor (on the slim resume of two save opportunities) but it is unimaginable that an Arizona team driven by ex-Player Development guru A.J. Hinch would rather see if Gutierrez can claim the job for next year rather than Schlereth. If you’ve been trying to figure out what the Snakes are actually going to do, don’t bother scour those who cover the team. As usual, the obvious question (“Hey, A.J.? Who closes if you lead 4-3 in the ninth tomorrow?”) seems to have eluded everybody until about 9:30 eastern time when Nick Piecoro finally blogged that Gutierrez would get the first call, but he might also work in Schlereth. And Esmerling Vasquez. And Blaine Boyer. And Clay Zavada. The Arizona radio guys said it would be Gutierrez, maybe Zavada against lefties. There was much more in the Arizona websites about Luis Gonzalez’s new job in the front office. Sigh.

As it happened, Arizona used Boyer in the seventh inning while trailing 3-2. Then Justin Upton homered to tie it, and in came first Schlereth and Vasquez in the eighth in crunch time, and each pitched effectively. Vasquez continued through the ninth, and after Arizona went up in the 10th it was Gutierrez, working an almost effortless inning for the save.

Meantime, the Marlins managed to sneak Cameron Maybin into playoff-eligibility by bringing him back from New Orleans, and DFA’ing reliever Luis Ayala. Maybin hit .319 and cut his K’s to 58 in 298 at bats in New Orleans, and who memorably batted a gaudy .500 in the last eight games after his late-September call up last year. An update here: turns out Maybin actually isn’t a September call-up. Florida DFA’d pitcher Luis Ayala tonight and added Maybin before the midnight deadline and would thus be post-season eligible.
One last note. Can’t remember anybody who thought the Yankees didn’t rip off the Pirates last July when they stole Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte from Pittsburgh for “some minor leaguers.” The third of them, Daniel McCutchen, made an effective big league pitching debut Monday, joining Russ Ohlendorf (11-9, staff leader in wins) and Jeff Karstens (flashes of brilliance, then crap, then injury) on the Pirate roster. It means
that outfielder Jose Tabata, the high-upside crapshoot of a prospect, doesn’t even have to succeed for this to indeed be a ripoff – for Pittsburgh. Nady may never play again, and nailing Thome on a ground out on Sunday lowered Marte’s ERA to 10.57.
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