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Yankees should give Manny a homecoming

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  December 30, 2010 09:13 AM

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finnpettitte.jpgPlaying nine innings while waiting for Adrian Beltre to sign with the Angels already . . .

1. Ah, yes, what Yankee fan can forget Andy Pettitte's breakthrough season in Double A with the 1994 Albany-Colonie Yankees, during which he went 7-2 with a 2.71 ERA, earned a promotion to Triple A Columbus where he posted the same won-lost record, established himself as the No. 7 prospect in the organization according to Baseball America . . . then went home to Texas after the season to carefully ponder retirement.

You think I'm kidding, but check out the card; tell me those aren't his retirement papers right there.

Oh, all right, Pettitte's annual offseason waffling about his future doesn't go back quite that far, but sometimes it sure seems that way. Brian Cashman says he thinks Pettitte is leaning toward retirement. Mark Teixeira said he got the same sense.

But I'll believe it when he says no to the Yankees' pleas for one more year, because they're going to give him about 15 million reasons to say yes.


2. And while we're on the subject of accomplished 38-year-olds who should be on the Yankees' payroll next season, they really ought to sign our old friend Manny.

Yeah, I know, conventional wisdom and a lineup in which half of its hitters probably require a pregame concoction of black coffee and Metamucil suggest the last thing they need is another aging slugger . . . except, you know, they kind of could use this aging slugger.

Their starting outfield as currently constituted features two lefthanded hitters in Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson, and a switch hitter in Nick Swisher. The righthanded options currently on the 40-man roster aren't inspiring even if you're a Scranton-Wilkes/Barre season ticket holder: Greg Golson, Kevin Reese, and former Red Sox dynamo Jordan Parraz.

While Manny is clearly declining -- his .460 slugging percentage last year in stints with the Dodgers and White Sox was the lowest of his career -- he could still have significant value as an offensive player if used correctly, playing left field from time to time on the road while splitting some at-bats at DH with what's left of Jorge Posada's carcass.

His OPS last year (.870) was still excellent, and his adjusted OPS (138) was a point higher than David Ortiz's and just shy of Adrian Beltre's 141. He has a long way to go before he's finished, providing he can accept being a role player. There are the usual concerns about his quirks and antics, but given that he's always wanted to play in the Bronx, where he lived as a teenager, it's a reasonable gamble to think he'd be on his best behavior in pinstripes, especially on a one-year deal.

IThe Yankees have indicated they're not interested, and while I'm not sure I believe them considering their history of signing players they've claimed not to covet, I hope they're speaking the truth in this case.

Manny could help the Yankees. And if somehow if he couldn't, wouldn't it be fun to watch him become their headache for a season?

3. All right, I'll put it in writing: Jonathan Papelbon will bounce back next season. Now here comes the part where I try to talk myself into believing it.

I wish I could offer more concrete reasons than the fact that he's finally pitching for that big payday, something he's set as a goal virtually since the day he arrived in 2005, and that should be motivation enough for him to solve whatever ails him.

And I wish I could offer an explanation why his pinpoint command, which allowed him to dominate with a relatively straight fastball, has gone on the fritz by his standards over the last season-plus.

But I can't. What I can do is look at his half-decade of mostly remarkable success, note than he still struck out over a batter per inning, had a WHIP (1.27) that was lousy for him but better than what Bobby Jenks put up over the last two seasons, then cross our fingers, pretend last year wasn't the beginning of the end for a pitcher in a role with a typically short shelf life, and write it off as the aberration in a terrific career.

Everyone deserves one mulligan. I'm giving him his. Even if it's a struggle to find evidence that it is deserved.

Thumbnail image for finnbagwell.jpg4. My Hall of Fame Ballot, Which Is Hypothetical Because I Don't Really Have One, Never Will, And Now Live Vicariously Through PeteAbe And Colleagues:

Roberto Alomar, who should have been a first-ballot selection last year but apparently had to serve a one-year penance for the Hirschbeck incident.

Bert Blyleven, whose merits should have been obvious years ago.

Barry Larkin, who was essentially Derek Jeter in a small market.

Alan Trammell, whose most similar comp is Larkin.

Tim Raines, the second-best leadoff hitter of his generation, and perhaps, as Joe Posnanski pointed out, of all-time.

And Edgar Martinez, who had an on-base percentage of .423 or better for seven straight seasons.

As for Jeff Bagwell? Meh, I'm still trying to decide if I like him better than Scott Cooper.

5. I've ranted about this before, and much more often than once, and I'll probably do so again next year. So here goes:

Of whatever questionable oversights Hall of Fame voters have made over the years, the fact that Lou Whitaker last just one year on the ballot, receiving a piddling 2.9 percent of the vote in 2001, rates near the top of the list.

His No. 1 comp is Ryne Sandberg, and his No. 2 is his longtime double-play partner Alan Trammell, who thus far also has been shortchanged by votes, though at least he remains on the ballot.

Among second basemen, Whitaker is ninth in homers (244), eighth in runs (1,356), ninth in runs (1,084), and fourth in walks (1,197). In the New Bill James Historical Abstract, which was published in 2001, Whitaker was rated the 13th-best second baseman of all time. But here's the thing: Nos. 14 (Billy Herman), 15 (Nellie Fox), 16 (Joe Gordon), 18 (Bobby Doerr) and 19 (Tony Lazzeri) are all in the Hall of Fame. (No. 17 is Willie Randolph.)

I'm not saying Whitaker should be in; maybe he does just belongs in the Hall of Very Good. But such a decision should have been given more than a year of consideration. You almost wonder whether Whitaker's superb career was given any consideration at all.

larkinbarryfin.jpg6. Looking back on those Reds teams from the early years of Larkin's career, it's hard to imagine that anyone thought then that of all of the incredible young talent Cincinnati developed in the mid-'80s -- Eric Davis, Kal Daniels, even late-blooming Paul O'Neill -- Larkin would be the one to get into the Hall of Fame.

Davis and Daniels in particular were dazzling offensive players almost immediately upon arrival in the big leagues, while there was some debate at the time whether Larkin or Kurt Stillwell was the franchise's shortstop of the future.

Fair to say they made the right choice.

7. Tim Raines -- he of the 1,571 runs scored, 3,977 times on base, and 808 stolen bases -- would already be in the Hall of Fame had his career not overlapped with that of Rickey Henderson, the greatest leadoff hitter of all time.

As it stands, he probably won't get in on his fourth year on the ballot considering he received just 30.4 percent of the vote last year. But he will get in sometime within the next 5-10 years, because there are many smart baseball fans who will continue to point out the absurdity of the oversight until other smart H of F voters see the light and Raines's likeness is displayed on a plaque -- wearing an Expos hat, of course -- alongside the other greats of the game.

8. Gotta say, this old man's old man knows how to deliver on Christmas. Not only did this year's loot include a "Yo Adrian!'' Sox t-shirt, but Dad also got me Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster, which might not be the most well-known of the stat-oriented annuals (though it has been around for 25 years), but is certainly right there with Baseball Prospectus, The Bill James Handbook, and the Hardball Times among the most informative and entertaining.

Two tidbits gleaned from some selective skimming so far:

1) There's a belief that Carl Crawford hasn't hit his peak yet because of his durability and still-elite speed, with his upside set at 25 homers this year.

2) Not to be an alarmist, but Adrian Gonzalez's recovery from shoulder surgery could linger longer than we think given that it's similar to the procedures undergone by B.J. Upton and Travis Hafner over the past couple of years. Like that's going to stop me from wearing my new "Yo Adrian!" high fashion.

Theo wouldn't have made the deal if he wasn't sure he was going to be fine.

snowjackfinn.jpg9. As for today's Completely Random Football Card (But With A Baseball Tie-In, So It Counts):

Always wondered how J.T. Snow, one of the slowest baserunners (non-portly division) I've ever seen, had a dad who played wide receiver -- and played it rather well, even averaging 26.3 yards per catch in '67 -- in the NFL.

Momma Snow must have had a slow time in the 40.

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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