Pedro, Randy injuries leave

October 1st, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Pedro, Randy injuries leave

Subway Series? It depends what day it is.

A week ago, New York's baseball fans were ga-ga over the way the stars appeared to be aligning for a Yankees-Mets World Series. But that was before Pedro Martinez's latest calf injury and rotator cuff surgery would shelve him for the entire postseason and half of next year and it was learned that Randy Johnson's back had gone out on him again. Now, as both New York teams prepare to embark on the always dicey best-of-five divisional series, there are legitimate concerns about each's starting pitching.
These are the same concerns that prompted the Mets and Yankees to take their multi-year gambles on the aged and creaky Martinez and Johnson two years ago: Both teams, bereft of any top quality arms in their farm system, felt they couldn't get to the promised land without a power-pitching No. 1 starter. In the Mets' case, it was a four-year, $54 million contract for Martinez from which they all but openly conceded they'd be happy to get three years. All things being relatively equal, they knew he wasn't leaving the Red Sox without four years and the Red Sox made it clear they didn't feel Pedro was worth the risk of more than three. Likewise, the Yankees knew Johnson wasn't particularly enthralled with New York, but for a two-year, $32 million contract extension, that would take him up to age 44, he'd be more than happy to anchor their rotation.
So now, two seasons later, have the gambles been worth it?
In Johnson's case, without his team-leading 17 wins, 225 innings and 34 starts for an injury-depleted rotation last year, the Yankees probably wouldn't have made the playoffs. But when they needed him most for what they were really paying him for - the must-win Game 3 start against the Angels in the ALDS - he was kayoed after three innings. This season, Johnson again won 17 games, but gave up nearly a run and a half more per game than last season and now there is concern he, too, may not make a postseason start. Bottom line: For the Yankees to win it all this year, Johnson will need to be a factor and if he's not, then the Yankees can hardly consider it a good return for their $32 million.
As for the return on the Mets' $54 million payout for Martinez, it comes down to perception versus performance. Between his multiple injuries and ailments this year, the Mets rolled to the NL East title mostly without him. So his loss for the postseason may not be quite as catastophic as perceived. But even though performance-wise Martinez has had little to do with the Mets winning their division for the first time since 1988, if signing him gave them instant credibility - GM Omar Minaya argues it led to the additions of Carlos Beltran, Billy Wagner and Carlos Delgado - then it was a worthwhile gamble. Even if Martinez justifies the Red Sox's doubts about him and doesn't pitch at all the two final years of his contract, the Mets can say his mere presence the first two years helped make them a bona fide playoff contender for the near future.
Jeter leads awards list
AL MVP: We've been saying for weeks that Derek Jeter, second in the AL in runs and batting with runner in scoring position, was the one constant all season for the Yankees, especially when they were decimated by the combined losses of Gary Sheffield, Hideki Matsui and Robinson Cano. More evidence of why the Twins' vote will have to be split between AL RBI-runner-up Justin Morneau and likely batting champ Joe Mauer was Mauer's two-out game-tying homer against KC on Thursday night.
NL MVP: Talk about depending what day it is. A month ago, it was either the Cardinals' Albert Pujols or the Mets' Carlos Beltran. Then came the Phillies' Ryan Howard, who has hit .376 with 26 HRs and 65 RBI since July 28 to singlehandedly propel them into the wild-card race. As of yesterday, he was still our choice, but if the Astros win the NL Central, how can you not give it to Lance Berkman?
AL Cy Young: The only no-brainer of any of this year's awards is the Twins' Johan Santana, who is likely to win by unanimously after taking the rare Triple Crown of pitching - wins, ERA and strikeouts.
NL Cy Young: Got a hat, anyone? Had the Cubs' Carlos Zambrano won his start Friday against the Rockies, our vote would have gone to him - a pitcher 11 games over .500 on a team 30 games under. But he failed and now about the only choice is Arizona's Brandon Webb, the NL ERA leader who's tied with Zambrano for most wins, an underwhelming 17.
AL Rookie: The temptation is to go for the Angels' wunderkind Jered Weaver, who went 11-2, 2.56 after his midseason call-up. But, in the year of the rookie pitching sensation, our vote would still go to the Tigers' Justin Verlander, who was there all year and was a true difference-maker in their remarkable turnaround season, tying for the team lead in wins (17).
NL Rookie: In contrast to the NL Cy Young, you couldn't go wrong with any number of worthy candidates here - Florida's DP duo of shortstop Hanley Ramirez (sixth in NL in runs, third in steals) and Dan Uggla (major league rookie second baseman HR record), Giants' blossomed pitching ace Matt Cain - but when a rookie drives in 100-plus runs as Washington's Ryan Zimmerman did, that's an almost automatic first-place vote. His Gold Glove-caliber defense only enhanced his credentials.
AL Manager: Who else but the Tigers' Jimmy Leyland, who turned around a perennial (1994-2005) losing team into a 95-plus win playoff squad? Honorable mention to Oakland's Ken Macha for guiding the A's to first despite being without the services of his No. 1 starter, Rich Harden, for most of the year and his two best position players, Milton Bradley and Bobby Crosby, for large portions of it.
NL Manager: Once Joe Girardi self-destructed in Miami and the Marlins fell under .500 and out of wild-card contention, it was Willie Randolph in a walk. The Mets' homegrown skipper implemented his "play smart and hustle" program last year and, given the extra horses by GM Omar Minaya, won the division in a runaway - with almost no help from Pedro Martinez. And, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, Randolph is the only manager to improve his team by 20 or more games in each of his first two seasons.
Major League Executive: No one made more moves and more right moves than Minaya.

It's A Madd, Madd World...

This general consensus that ex-Cub Joe Girardi is the heir apparent to Dusty Baker in Chicago is both unfounded and unlikely. To the best of anyone's knowledge, Girardi has no relationship with Cubs GM Jim Hendry and, according to Cubs insiders, Girardi's inability to get along with Marlins GM Larry Beinfest has not been lost on Hendry. Or most other GMs, for that matter.
First it was complete games that became the victim of the pitch count syndrome that has infected baseball. Now it's 20-game winners. This is the first season in the history in which there were no 20-game winners, at least not without a labor stoppage. Suffice to say, after Tom Glavine and maybe Randy Johnson, we've seen the last of the 300-game winners.
According to the Elias Bureau, Tony La Russa's reeling Cardinals are fighting to avoid joining the 1934 Giants and '38 Pirates as teams that blew the largest September leads (7 games). But if it's any consolation to La Russa, in contrast to baseball's two most celebrated chokers, the '51 Dodgers and '64 Phillies, who were pretty good teams with 97 and 90 wins respectively, the Cardinals are no better than mediocre.
Can anyone explain why the Houston Astros, the defending National League champions in baseball's biggest (NL Central) division, are finishing their season playing the Atlanta Braves in the NL East? Wasn't the idea to have the prospective best teams in each division playing each other the final week?
Say It Ain't So
"We've actually come closer to .500 than I would have expected given the injuries we've suffered toward the end of the season." Mariners GM Bill Bavasi in spinning how a third straight last-place finish by Seattle is progress while ignoring an 11-game losing streak in August and 15 straight losses to the A's.

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