How did the Yanks get to Ponson?


In a few hours, weather-permitting, Sidney Ponson will make his glorious return to the Bronx. It is a day we not long-awaited since Ponson was DFA’d by the Yankees on August 23, 2006, a whopping 40 days after they first signed him.

In Yankee-land, the Ponson start is stirring up most consternation. How did the Yankees get there? Typical of that response is an e-mail I received this morning from Steve S., a long-time RAB reader:

someone needs to say something about Cashman and this Ponson decision. Yes the Yankees have been riddled by injuries but these are the kinds of things that happen. And I cant help but think that he should have had the foresight to get a guy like Colon. I didn’t care as much at the time because I had the belief that they would focus on using young arms, but now I have to see Ponson?

Now, before launching into this subject, I believe that Ponson will, unless he blows away the Yanks (and Mets) tonight, be around for just one start. The Yanks got screwed by the schedule and even more screwed by the rain last night and needed a starter.

That being said, is it fair to lay the blame — if that’s what you want to call it — for Ponson on Brian Cashman‘s shoulders? Not really. It’s a low risk, high reward move, and if it doesn’t pan out, c’est la vie.

The Yankees are at this point right now because 3/5ths of their Opening Day starting rotation is on the DL. They’re at this point because, while they have some very promising and lively arms in their farm system, those arms aren’t quite yet ready. They’re at this point because they see Sidney Ponson as a more viable option for whatever reason than Jeff Karstens. They’re at this point basically due to dire circumstances, and it’s not the end of the world.

But what about Bartolo Colon? Should the Yanks have been higher on Colon than they were? Well, they saw the same audition the Red Sox and the other 28 teams that passed on Colon saw. They weren’t impressed with his velocity, and they didn’t see how a 35-year-old injury-plagued pitcher coming off of shoulder surgery fit in with the Yankees’ current approach toward constructing a baseball team. For a few starts, Colon made everyone look bad as he went 4-2 with a 4.09 ERA. But as is his wont, Colon went down with an injury, and Boston doesn’t really have a timetable for his return.

Now, would Colon have been a good pick-up in hindsight? Sure. But unlike the Red Sox and Curt Schilling, the Yanks weren’t facing any long-term injury prospects when Colon signed his deal. As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20.

Having Ponson start tonight’s game is hardly ideal, but considering the circumstances, it’s not really worth holding Brian Cashman’s feet to the fire for it. He took someone 4-1 with a 3.88 ERA and is basically asking him to give the Yanks five innings of decent baseball once.

We’d rather see a young kid get a shot, but none of the young kids are quite ready for this. If only this game had been set for three weeks later when Alan Horne was more in his grove, Ian Kennedy had a few rehab starts under his belt and Alfredo Aceves had a chance to shine at AAA. Alas.

Categories : Analysis


  1. Casper says:

    I usually agree with you guys but I have to disagree about 2 things re Colon. First – The Yankees were not facing long-term injury prospects like the Sox were with Schilling, sure. But the Yankees WERE intending to enter the season with 2 untested, very young pitchers in the rotation. If the FO went into this season expecting Hughes and Kennedy to thrive right off the bat and for everyone to stay healthy, then they were foolish. Second – It’s unfair to counter the “the Yanks should have signed Colon” argument by saying “hindsight is 20/20.” Of course hindsight is 20/20, but that doesn’t mean you can’t look back to when a decision was made and question whether the right decision was made. You can certainly look back, in hindsight, and say “well we knew x y and z 3-4 months ago… did we make the right decision then?” Unfortunately, the answer is sometimes “no.” It’s not about looking at the results and then forming an opinion about the decision, it’s about looking at the scenario when the decision was made and reevaluating that decision.

    I’m a Brian Cashman fan, but that doesn’t mean the man (or the organization he heads) is infallible. The Yankees probably should have taken a flyer on Colon, there was really no good reason not to. Even we, as Cashman fans, can admit that. It’s not the end of the world and it’s not really a damning indictment of Cashman, it’s one relatively minor personnel decision that was incorrect.

  2. steve (different one) says:

    wow, Ben. i guess you are also “clueless” for making all the same arguments i made in the Matsui thread to Steve S.

    • Steve S says:

      Clearly the response here makes it obvious that I was making a little sense.

      And the point wasnt Colon in it of itself, the point is Ponson. It was raised on this very blog that Karstens should be starting this game. Thats my point. This move is indicative that they are shying away from the kids which to me is foolish and demonstrates that Cashman doesnt have the best grasp of things. Sidney Ponson has no place on this team. And I dont think its a foregone conclusion that he is gone after one start. Giese is not a long term solution and Rasner hasnt looked good in a month, which means this may be an audition that could go on for a while. My point about Colon was that he would have taken the minor league and stayed in the minors. Meanwhile we have already Kei Igawa pitch this year and now we have somehow got Sidney Ponson back. Cashman has to be accountable for the inuries, its not his fault but his decisions have been awful. Of course you can make an argument for why Ponson fits but in the end the result is that he is on the team. How is that a good thing????

      Colon represents a better version of Ponson, the post from the other day demonstrated that he was more lucky than good while he was in Texas.

      • Steve S says:

        And the Yankees were in a very similar position as the Red Sox. They had the schilling situation. But we had Hughes Kennedy and Mussina in the rotation. The original plan wasnt for Joba to take over now. The belief was , whether it was said out load, was that Mussina would eventually have to be lifted and Joba would fill in. And Joba wasnt supposed to come in until mid July. The Red Sox were also relying on Bucholz and they could have taken a shot with Masterson but Colon was the insurance. And Wakefield could have been considered the equivalent of Mussina. And thats not even bringing up Lester who is further along but has innings limitations just like Hughes and Kennedy. Its a joke that Ponson on the team, regardless of the first inning.

        • steve (different one) says:

          how about the first 6 innings?

          seriously though, i don’t really disagree about Colon too much. there is a case that the Yankees should have picked him up.

          but that wasn’t really my issue in the other thread.

          my issue was that you kept saying that using Ponson was using up the roster spot that would otherwise have gone to Gardner. you said this several times and you said there was “no doubt” Gardner would be up if not for Ponson.

          you were wrong on this point. i pointed this out, you called me clueless.

          it’s cool, let’s move on.

          • Steve S says:

            I should have bifurcated the point. Ponson is annoying me and at the same time I am annoyed that they arent bringing up Gardner. The two arent linked but I do think this is the perfect time to give gardner an audition for the centerfield job.

  3. Hybrid Moments says:

    Cash went into this season with no back up plan for Hughes, Kennedy, and Joba in the event that they were not successful. That is not acceptable.

    • whozat says:

      Actually, Joba was backup plan #1 to one of the starting 5 not being successful. Karstens and Rasner, who have both performed at replacement level or better in the bigs before, were backup plans 2 and 3. Alan Horne was backup plan #4. Igawa was plan 5.

      THREE of the five are on the DL, all at the same time. Horne and Karstens, two of the main backups, are essentially still on rehab assignments because they missed a lot of time as well. He went in with ten starters he could see helping the team during this season. FIVE have missed significant time. Four missed time all at the same time–Hughes, Kennedy, Horne and Karstens.

      • Hybrid Moments says:

        Kennedy and Hughes both had injuries last year. You’re telling me Jeff Karstens, Darrel Rasner, Kei Igawa, and Alan Horne are acceptable fall back options in the event that they are out/ineffective for an extended period of time? Karstens is garbage, Rasner and Igawa are back of the rotation guys in the best case scenario and Horne is a mystery since he came out of no where last year.

        • steve (different one) says:

          what type of pitchers do you think other teams have for their 7th-9th options?

          • Hybrid Moments says:

            Why not take a chance on Colon? Why not take a flier on Randy Wolf? Why not swing a trade with some of the extra arms we have?

            • Chris says:

              Because he had no velocity and his medical exam was a disaster. Do you really think his 33IP would have made a big difference? Do you really think Ponson is going to be that much worse than Colon for 1 or 2 starts?

            • steve (different one) says:

              Randy Wolf signed for about $5M.

              that’s not a “flier”.

              if Cashman signed Wolf for $5-6M, you guys would be ALL OVER HIM b/c Wolf would have an ERA of around 5 in the AL.

        • cult of basebaal says:

          and if horne was a mystery (at least to you) then what, pray tell, was colon? other than a older pitcher, coming off of intensive shoulder surgery, that didn’t crack 90mph during his workouts?

          seems ol’ tubby was such a sure thing there was a line of suitors stretching out the door …

          • Hybrid Moments says:

            How can you say Horne is not a mystery? He is in his mid-twenties and wasn’t successful in High A ball. Did you expect Horne to be promoted to Trenton and pitch well?

            I never said Colon was a sure thing and I am well aware of him struggling with velocity during his rehab in ST and in an independent league (want to say Carribean League but I am not sure). My point with Colon is that you have a pitcher with a good track record available for dirt cheap. Why pass on it? Whats the worst thing that can happen? He sucks and you have to cut him?

    • steve (different one) says:

      well, that’s not really true. since if you include Joba, you have 6 starters. so right there is at least one backup.

      plus Rasner, Horne, Karstens, etc.

      they had about 10 potential starters, 5 of them have been hurt.

      but you are right, Cashman did NOT prepare for Hughes and Kennedy sucking while AT THE SAME TIME Wang is injured.

      because if Wang didn’t get hurt, the Yankees would be in very good shape. his Joba plan worked out like he planned.

      and if Wang was healthy, we’d be looking at just needing ONE guy out of Hughes, Kennedy, or Rasner to be able to fill in the 5 slot.

    • cult of basebaal says:

      you forgot about wang. cashman’s failure to adequately prepare for injuries to his #1, #3 & #5 starters, his 7th and 8th inning relievers AND his #1 remaining minor league starter are totally unacceptable. Why even Bill Bavasi would know to sign up an extra 6 major league quality arms to keep stashed away for that rainy, rainy, rainy, rainy, rainy, rainy day.

  4. E-ROC says:

    Maybe the Yanks should sign Kiko Calero for tonight’s game.

  5. whozat says:

    “there was really no good reason not to.”

    Yes, there was. They couldn’t guarantee him a spot in the AAA rotation, even. Even WITH the injuries, they’ve had a hard time making room in the AAA rotation for McCutchen, Aceves et al.

    You also have to consider HIS choice. Given how Colon was pitching, the Yanks had five AAA rotation options that looked better. They also had AA guys that they knew would be pushing up to AAA. Colon knew that. They would have had to have him compete for a AAA rotation slot—and that would have been the right thing for them to do. The Sox could hand him a AAA slot. If you were Colon, which would you have taken?

  6. DP says:

    Regardless of what they could or could not have done, what will they do now that it’s clear 40% of the rotation blows/is falling apart? We simply cannot have 2 more months of both Rasner and Giese in the rotation…

    • The Scout says:

      You won’t. Cashman has made clear he expects to try out various “internal options” until the trade deadline. This is both prudent and unavoidable, since other teams are not dealing yet.

  7. steve (different one) says:

    and isn’t all of the anguish over the fact that Ponson is starting TONIGHT?

    even if they signed Colon, he is back on the DL and wouldn’t be helping.

    i am all for low-risk deals like the one to Colon. but i also trust that the Yankees did their due diligence on the guy and decided his arm was shot.

    • Hybrid Moments says:

      Colon hurt himself batting in interleague play. While it could happen, I would say this injury is of the ‘freak’ variety.

      • LiveFromNewYork says:

        Yea, none of our pitchers got hurt by playing offense in Interleague.

        • Hybrid Moments says:

          Yeah and that injury was described as a freak incident. 99 out of 100 times nothing happens to both Colon and Wang on those plays.

  8. E-ROC says:

    Maybe the Mets used up all of their offensive powers in the first, so maybe they won’t have anything left for the second game. The Yanks are Pedro’s daddy so they’ll win.

    Any predictions for Ponson tonight?

  9. LiveFromNewYork says:

    I didn’t go crazy when the Yankees signed Ponson either. He behaved in the Bronx the last time. I have a feeling that rowdy players (ones who are rowdy and/or badly behaved elsewhere) simply don’t act up on the Yankees.

    He was released from Texas for his horrible personal behavior. Not his pitching. Cashman probably thinks he (Ponson) wouldn’t dare pull the crap in the Bronx that he pulled in Texas and his track record says as much. And he was pitching well down there.

    So it’s not really a big freaking deal. Everyone can calm down. It’s a stop-gap measure until the 40 or so guys who are on the DL come off.

  10. Mark B says:

    I’ve said this on more than one occasion and will say it again. The signing of Ponson is another in a line of peculiar moves (thinking two rookies could hold down the #4 & 5 spots this year), signings (Pavano, Igawa, Farnsworth, Vazquez & Wright) and trades (Kevin Brown) performed by Cash since 2002.

    Cash deserves credit for rebuilding the farm system though, I think Damon Oppenheimer deserves some credit here.

    Cashman is not judged by re-building a farm system. He needs to build a playoff ready roster each and every year. This year especially defintely should have signed Colon. Thinking Kennedy AND Hughes would do well at a time when we all thought Mussina might be one step away from being DFA’d, is a joke. He also could have signed Colon and someone like Salomon Torres to solidify the pen (don’t laugh – check his stats since taking over the closer’s role in Milwaukee) but didn’t.

    I ask anyone out there to tell me of a clutch new free agent signing or trade that has worked out in our favor since 2002. That answer is you can’t because Cashman has been outmanuevered by several of his peers over the past 5 years.

    For a team with a $200 million payroll which should expect more. A signing like Colon would have been such a move.

  11. LiveFromNewYork says:

    I wonder what Girardi said on the ride crosstown. Other than yippee!

  12. Mark B says:

    If he goes out and trades a few of our can’t miss prospects that he has been so committed to developing and snags a guy like Rich Harden, however…..my opinion might change

    • cult of basebaal says:

      and what, pray tell, would be your response when the inevitable injury takes Harden down?

      • Mark B says:

        That is the risk you take to win a championship……especially to get a pitcher the caliber of Harden who is arguably one of the top 5 starters in the game now and is still is arbitration eligible

  13. E-ROC says:

    LOL, we’re arguing about Bartolo Colon. Wow!

  14. Newman says:

    Kei Igawa is back, Farewell Ohlie

  15. cult of basebaal says:

    well, here’s something else to chew on … Yankees sent Ollie down to Scranton and recalled … Kei Igawa!

    this ought to be fun to watch

  16. The Scout says:

    Everyone — put away all the sharp objects. When Igawa enters the game, repeat to yourself, “It’s only a game, it’s only a game…”

  17. E-ROC says:

    At least the Yanks are preparing for the worse. It’s nice to have a long reliever on the roster, albeit Kei Igawa.

  18. cult of basebaal says:

    well, i’m assuming the choice was between igawa and scary fly ball guy as they need something resembling a long reliever to shadow both ponson and rasner, especially after this afternoon’s debacle … both are on the 40, which makes the swap simpler than having to DFA someone to get somebody up

  19. Mark B says:

    DFA’ing Hawkins and calling up Robertson would have been my preference!

    The less I see of Igawa, the better…..

    • cult of basebaal says:

      i’m not particularily excited to see igawa either, but robertson isn’t a choice for what they need. right now, they need a long reliever in place by the start of tonite’s game to suck up innings if “snacks pontoon” (tip RLWY) goes kablooey. robertson pitched 2 innings last night and just isn’t available for that duty.

      iggy will be around this weekend, to take a beating if one is necessary, and then he will go back to scrub city to ride more AAA buses.

      look at it this way … i’d say there’s a 90% chance that the only way you see iggy is if the game is already lost …

  20. Austin says:

    What about signing chacon, hes probably a better option than Geise or Rasner at this point

    • cult of basebaal says:

      no thanks. he’s got a 5.04 era in the weak sister league, a 1.50+ WHIP and 16 HRs allowed in 85 innings.

      rasner and giese MIGHT suck as much as Chacon, but Chacon already does …

  21. DP says:

    Who are they sending down for Ponson?

  22. dkidd says:

    think cashman would take chacon? in a wresting match, i mean

  23. Manimal says:


  24. NC Saint says:

    We rented a fat, no-good pitcher for a game (who mysteriously suceeded for 6 innings) and people are complaining that we didn’t spend more money on a fat, no-good pitcher who has mysteriously succeded for a few games earlier in the season. Color me unimpressed.

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