Thoughts about our National Pastime and occasional thoughts for the Good and Welfare of the Reader (and maybe the writer)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Winners and Losers

Spring training camps will be closing up this week. The last spring game I will see will be Wednesday when the Marlins and Orioles pack it up in Fort Lauderdale. Of course, for the Marlins the trip home is a white knuckle ride down I-95 while the Orioles have a relatively peaceful flight back north to Crab Cake Corners. I really do not think of Baltimore as Crab Cake Corners, but every once in a while I get in the mood to write like a sports writer and use cliché nicknames.

The rule when I wrote sports for the Daily Pennsylvanian was to never use the same word twice to describe something. The headline "Natators Triumph over Middies 39-26" can be translated to mean that Penn's swimming team defeated the Naval Academy's team by 13 points. Similarly, "Cagers Get by Cantabs" meant that Penn's basketball team beat Harvard. I am not making this up, but it is a digression.

The news this weekend had to do mainly with competitions among players (batsmen and hurlers) for key assignments. Two that interested me were the Yankees (Bronx Bombers) naming Brett Gardner to be their starting center fielder and Kevin Gregg winning the closer job on the Cubs (Wrigleymen). Some of my friends think that Jordan Zimmerman being named to the back of the rotation slot with the Washington Nationals (Nats) is a big deal, but I do not. You have to feel sorry for a kid whose big break is to participate in a projected 100-loss pitching rotation.

Thinking about Gardner and Gregg, I got to thinking about the losers – Melky Cabrera and Felix Marmol, respectively.

They Yankees announced that Cabrera will go north as the fourth outfielder. Joe Girardi, was spoke highly of him, pointing out that he is only 24 years old, he is a switch hitter and he can play all three positions. He is also out of options. To me that can mean that he might well be making his contribution elsewhere by June. There are some big gaps in the bullpen and what if Alex does not come back as scheduled? Do you see Cody Ransome as the answer at third base?

The Gregg win over Marmol is a puzzler to me. Gregg is a career 4.00 ERA guy. He is a decent closer who turned in 29 saves for the Marlins last year, before being closed down on August 30th with a bum knee. He also had 38 BBs against 57 Ks. Personally, I like closers whose K:BB ratio is north of two. He does not give up home runs easily but his H/9 ratio is greater than nine. You really want a closer who shuts them down.

Marmol looks more like a closer. His ERA lifetime is below Gregg's and last year he turned in a sub-1.0 WHIP. His BB to K ratio is a very healthy 5.0 and his H/9 is well below one per inning, 3.7 last year. The only thing I can think of is the woeful performance of the Dominicans in the WBC. Being away from camp may hve hurt him although being away from Pinella may have helped.

Marmol, like Cabrera will be OK. He could be a bargaining chip in a trade negotiation, but he is more likely to stay in Chicago. He was given the set up job and with Gregg's age and medical history, he might well end up closing when the Northsiders meet the Gotham nine in the World Series this year.

Old Business: I wrote the case for no #1s in the Final Four at the start of the tournament and I was half right. Hey, if I could make 50% of my shots from behind the arc, I would be an NBA all star. Besides, BHO picked North Carolina when he did his bracket and who overturns a presidential directive these days.

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