Blog Entry

3 thoughts to end a busy week

Posted on: April 15, 2011 1:13 pm
What a week in baseball. Two MVPs head to the DL, and another is now a felon. And the guy who was many people's pick to be this year's MVP gets a huge (if totally expected, and already widely reported) contract.

We dealt with Josh Hamilton and Barry Bonds earlier in the week . Now a few quick thoughts on Joe Mauer and Adrian Gonzalez, and a bonus thought on Phil Hughes:

1. In Fort Myers last month, Twins people seemed convinced that Mauer would be fine. There were even suggestions that Mauer could have caught earlier in the spring than he did, but that he didn't want to wear himself out (I even heard a Brett Favre reference). Mauer said then that he caught as soon as he could, and also suggested he might need more time off than usual in April.

Now he's on the disabled list with what the Twins described as bilateral leg weakness, and it doesn't sound good, does it? The Twins figure to know a lot more after Mauer visits a specialist, but that visit has been delayed because Mauer was too sick to fly.

It's worth noting that the last time Mauer went to visit this specialist, he missed the first month of the 2009 season and still won the MVP and led the Twins to the playoffs. It's also worth noting, as Tom Verducci does at , that more Mauer injuries will bring back the debate of whether he should continue to catch.

That's a legitimate question, but a large part of the reason that Mauer is so valuable (and that the Twins gave him an eight-year, $184 million contract) is that he is a catcher. On any given night, Mauer gives the Twins a huge offensive edge over any opponent's catcher (and a huge edge over anyone else the Twins would catch). As a first baseman, say, how does he match up against Gonzalez, or against Miguel Cabrera?

I remember former Indians general manager Mark Shapiro making exactly that argument when the Tribe left Victor Martinez behind the plate, even while many were calling for him to play first base (albeit because of his poor defense, rather than health concerns).

2. It's hard to get excited about Gonzalez's seven-year, $154 million extension, simply because the probable extension (and even the basic contract terms) were reported back when Gonzalez was traded to the Red Sox in December.

But it's still a huge deal, with the biggest annual salary the Red Sox have ever paid a player.

Gonzalez should thank Mark Teixeira, and not just because Teixeira's $22.5 million a year contract seems to have set a standard that Gonzalez (who signed for $22 million a year) has basically matched.

Remember, the Red Sox tried hard to sign Teixeira when he was a free agent after the 2008 season. They made a huge offer, reported to be more than $21 million a season, and Red Sox people thought they were going to get him right up to the moment he signed with the Yankees.

If the Red Sox had signed Teixeira, who as a free agent would have cost them only money, they don't trade for Gonzalez, no matter how well suited his swing supposedly is for Fenway Park.

3. Plenty of people (including many rival scouts) were expecting the Yankees to pull Phil Hughes from the rotation after two terrible, velocity-deficient starts to begin the season. Now that it's three ugly starts, it's even harder to imagine that the Yankees will continue starting Hughes.

Yankee history says they won't. According to research through 's great play index feature, no pitcher in Yankee history (since 1919, anyway) has started the year in the rotation and stayed there after failing to finish the fifth inning in any of his first three starts (as Hughes now has).

With off days next Monday and Thursday, the Yankees could get by with four starters until April 26. But as Yankee officials said before Hughes poor start against the Orioles on Thursday, if Hughes isn't hurt, the best way for him to build arm strength (and theoretically build velocity) is to keep pitching.

In that case, Hughes may be better served by a trip to the minor leagues.


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