Oct
09

Ride ‘em while you’ve got ‘em

By

Lance and Kerry in their younger and more vulnerable days. (AP File Photo)

The New York Yankees playoff roster reads as one from a mid-2000s All Star Game would. Somehow, some way, both Kerry Wood and Lance Berkman landed on the 2010 New York Yankees, and while those two players aren’t nearly as good as they once were, they’ve each made their impacts felt during the first two games of the American League Division Series.

For Berkman, coming to the Bronx hasn’t been easy. A Texas man with Rice University in his blood, Berkman spent 12 years and played 1592 games for the Astros. At age 34, his health is failing him, but he can still hit right-handers. The Yankees picked him up in a salary dump for Mark Melancon, and while Berkman moved from the bottom of the NL Central to the top of the AL East, he was hesitant about the trade. He didn’t want to leave Texas and had no idea what New York held for him.

His regular season stint in New York wasn’t a booming success. In limited duty, he hit .255/.358/.349, and he didn’t power his one home run over the fence until his 32nd game in pinstripes. Yankee fans grew to despise Berkman when he made some fielding flubs in Tampa Bay and later hit A-Rod on the shin with a line drive during batting practice. Berkman’s two months on the Yanks resembled something out of the Murphy’s Law Handbook to Baseball.

Yet, with four at-bats on Thursday, Lance put the bad will behind him. He went 2 for 4 with a double and a home run and two runs batted in. His fifth inning home run put the Yanks up 2-1, and his seventh inning double put the Yanks on top for good as Jorge Posada scored from first. A week ago, Lance was an after-thought. Today, we love him.

With Lance’s bat providing the offensive thunder, Kerry Wood’s once-golden right arm has given the Yanks a solid set-up option in front of Mariano Rivera. We all know the Kerry Wood story — 20 strike outs at age 21, an arm injury, some good years a starter, overuse, more injuries, a move to the bullpen. After burning out in Chicago, Wood found success in the pen, but he seemed to flounder in Cleveland.

Dealing with some minor injuries, Wood’s first 23 appearances this year were less than impressive. As the trade deadline rolled around, Kerry was 1-4 with a 6.30 ERA, but he had 18 strike outs in 20 innings. Yankee scouts liked what they saw, and for cash, the Yanks got Kerry.

Since arriving in the Bronx, Wood has been revelation. He walks too many guys — 6.2 per 9 innings in 26 innings — but he’s striking out over 10 per 9 IP. His ERA in the Bronx was, with a little bit of luck, a minuscule 0.69. He’s inherited the role left, with little confidence, to Joba Chamberlain, and he came through in a big spot on Thursday. With the Yanks up 4-2, the Twins sent up J.J. Hardy, Denard Span and Orlando Hudson in the 8th. To strike out Hardy, Wood threw a literal knee-buckling breaking pitch. Span grounded back to Wood, and Hudson struck out on pure heat.

Wood and Berkman are the ideal deadline pick-ups for the Yanks. They’re veteran players with playoff experience and success who were toiling away on bad teams. For dollars, the Yanks could augment their roster and build up a bullpen and a bench. That’s how Brian Cashman, with the Yanks’ deep pockets at his disposal, should run his team.

The future for these two current playoff heroes remains hazy. Lance Berkman says he wants to play everyday next year. “I don’t like to platoon,” he said. “If I was the manager I would platoon me because I’ve been so bad righthanded this year. But I don’t think that’s a permanent problem. I like to play every day. The DH role is great but I also like to play the field. I feel like I’ve got something to offer still defensively.”

Kerry Wood’s deal features a club option for $11 million in 2011. That’s closer money, and unless Mariano Rivera unexpectedly retires, Wood will seek employment elsewhere. He has the mentality for the 9th inning and indications are that he wants to close. He and Berkman will be just a pair of rent-a-Yankees.

The Yankees certainly know that Wood and Berkman probably won’t return. They know that these two key cogs are fleeting, and they’re going to ride them for all they can. Girardi will give Wood the ball for the 8th, and he’ll let Berkman take his hacks against right-handers. Bring in the mercenaries with money, push them for the playoffs, and ride their coattails to victory. So far, it’s a winning formula.

Categories : Musings
  • SodaPopinski

    Thanks guys! (And you’re welcome to stick around next year if you’d like.)

    • Poopy Pants

      Not Berkman, though. Both sides agree he won’t be back.

  • Carlosologist

    I really want Wood to come back, but some team hunting for a closer will overpay for him.

    • http://twitter.com/firstheart42 seimiya

      Yeah, this.

  • Esteban

    I’m happy that I was wrong about being unimpressed when the Wood trade went down.

  • Crosetti32

    I wish the Yanks were playing a day game. I’m ready now!

  • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

    Austin Kearns sheds a single tear.

    Hey, two outta three ain’t bad in this game.

    • Poopy Pants

      I appreciate how much Kearns is contributing by not being in the lineup.

      • http://twitter.com/#!/iiKeane JobaWockeeZ

        That.

  • http://twitter.com/#!/iiKeane JobaWockeeZ

    Well I hope the Yanks offer arb to Berkman. If he wants to not DH and not to be a platoon player then the Yanks is probably a no go.

    • candyforstalin

      i laughed.

      • Gonzo

        I cried.

  • Betty Lizard

    At age 34, his health is failing him

    Do you know something we don’t know, Ben?
    Is it consumption? Do we need to move his piano downstairs?

    /Little Women’d

    (Nice article for us Berkman lovers at LoHud, with the quote from Alex Rodriguez:
    “You know these games are important,” Alex Rodriguez said. “I actually saw him in the weight room a couple of days ago. I almost had a heart attack.”)

    http://yankees.lhblogs.com/201.....r-berkman/

  • S.King

    so what is going on with Joba, anyway? where does he fit in the postseason? will we see him at all?

    • http://www.or.ly JM

      Better question: Do we WANT to see him at all?

      • http://dontbringinthelefty.blogspot.com Lucas AA, aka don’t_bring_in_the_lefty

        Yes

    • Januz

      Trust me we will see Joba at some point. Girardi will continue to go with Wood until either he fails, or he needs a day off.

      • http://twitter.com/dpatrickg Dirty Pena

        He shan’t need a day off in the playoffs.

    • steve (different one)

      we will see him tonight when Hughes only goes 6. Joba and Logan will team for the 7th and Wood will pitch the 8th.

      If your starter is going to go 7, might as well go right to Woodmo.

  • Jerome S.

    Wood is actually only 33. Which is unfortunate cause he seems a lot older with the way his career has gone and all. Anyway, I know that Wood would be in demand by other teams next year, but why can’t the Yankees be one of those teams? He’s kicked butt from the pen, how far would Cashman go to try and re-sign him?

    • Sweet Dick Willie

      Fact: Closers earn more money than set-up men.

      Fact: Wood wants to be a closer, and has demonstrated that he
      has what it takes to close.

      Fact: Brian Cashman isn’t about to pick up Wood’s $11 mil option
      to have him pitch the 8th inning.
      Conclusion: Kerry Wood will not be pitching for the Yanks in 2011.

      • ZZ

        What teams that need a closer next year would be interested in Wood to close and have the money to pay him to do so?

        • steve (different one)

          the Mets? lol.

        • http://twitter.com/dpatrickg Dirty Pena

          Teams (stupidly) find ways to pay for closers. See: Kerry Wood’s previous team.

          • http://twitter.com/dpatrickg Dirty Pena

            So I’d say White Sox if they non-tender Jenks, Angels, Mariners, Rangers if they want Feliz to start, Nationals, Braves, Cardinals, Astros, and Brewers are all possibilities.

  • Jon in CUO

    There was a huge Berkman fan contingent sitting near me at one of the Rangers games in Texas last month. Every time Lance came to the plate, the whole row erupted with “Puma” and “Fat Elvis” chants.

    Apparently, it was a group of Astros fans that had driven up to Arlington from Houston (a pretty significant trip) just to see Berkman. They had no particular affection for the Yankees, but it was hard not to like them based on their unconditional love for Berkman. It’s easy to see why he was/is such a popular guy in Houston, and I’m really glad Cashman made the move for him.

  • Al in denver

    “That’s closer money, and unless Mariano Rivera unexpectedly retires, Wood will seek employment elsewhere.”

    I hope that if Mo retires, that we go after Soriano. If Wood wants to close next year, there is no room for him on this team anyway. Wood>Mo or Wood>Soriano would be sick, but $11m is about $7m more than ideal. Mo should be back next year though, with DRob setting it up.

    • steve (different one)

      Soriano is going to get a 3 year deal from someone in the $8-10M range. And will cost your 1st rounder.

      So…GOD FORBID…if Mo were to retire, there *is* a very strong argument for just picking up Wood’s option.

  • Another Bronx Dynasty

    I actually have a plan for the Yankees to balance the Yankees budget while RECREATING THE DYNASTY THE YANKEES HAD BACK IN THE 50’S.

    First resign Jeter & than back load $10M from Jeter & renegotiate A-Rod’s contract to back load another $10M their. You now have $20M plus the $7M for Vazquez & the $5M for Johnson. Thats $32M available.

    Step 1.) Sign Cliff Lee to put behing CC giving us two true twin Aces
    2.) Resign Woodas the 8th inning man
    3.) Put a package together that includes Joba, Nova, Romaine to Florida for Josh Johnson,
    4.)Bring Montero up to be the DH
    5.) Sign Soriano to eventually replace Mo.

    Are starters become CC, Lee, Johnson, Hughes, Petite, Put AJ in the pen to straighten him & let him combine with wood on the right side to throw it 98MPH & nasty.

    Value of team jumps from $1.5B to $2B.

    • Jerome S.

      Hold on… two posts in a row saying that we go after Soriano? Mike, is that feasible?

      • http://twitter.com/firstheart42 seimiya

        Why not? Soriano will be a free agent. His numbers this year were ASTOUNDING – I would say easily one of the best in the game – and his past couple of years have all been pretty good. While I don’t know what kind of money/contract he’d ask for (Boras represents him), I find it unlikely to believe that money would be an option if he’s the guy we want, given we’re the Motherfucking New York Yankees.

        • http://twitter.com/dpatrickg Dirty Pena

          As said above, he’ll want multiple years and much money and will cost a draft pick. He just hired Boras like two weeks ago, so that much is obvious. He’s pitched 23 or less innings in three of the past seven years, his K rate dropped from 12.1 per 9 to 8.0 per 9 this year, and he’ll soon be 31. While the Yankees have a high budget, it’s a budget nonetheless, and that money would be much better served elsewhere. To me, Soriano’s a definite pass.

    • Richard Iurilli

      Why haven’t the Yankees signed you to replace Cashman yet?

    • Gonzo

      Ok, so Josh Johnson could be had for Joba, Nova, “Romaine?”
      You do realize this not a video game, right? Add Montero to that package, and the Marlins probably still hang up.

      Also you want to spend ~$20mm a year on Wood and Soriano for the bullpen? Seriousy?

      Also renegotiating contracts in the MLB is damn near impossible because of the MLBPA. Yes, I do realize it’s happened before, but they were extremely special circumstances or buyouts.

      • Jon in CUO

        Sanity FTW.

    • vin

      “Value of team jumps from $1.5B to $2B.”

      Forbes? Is that you?

    • steve (different one)

      Not to pile on, but that Josh Johnson trade proposal is nutso. Appreciate the enthusiasm and effort, but that trade is completely unrealistic.

  • nsalem

    Yankee fans grew to despise Berkman??? Must have missed that one.
    I can’t understand how someone can intelligently dismiss such a
    great career and come to that conclusion based on a mere 39 at bats
    and one bad defensive performance. That would be the epitome of short sightedness. I also don’t totally buy the notion that Berkman is not as good as he once was. His ’08 and ’09 numbers were still very good.
    His performance this year can be written of to injury or the weariness of playing for one of the worst teams in baseball. There still may very well be some great years ahead (especially with a contending team)
    for Lance Berkman.

  • Jerome S.

    Hey guys, remember when Austin Kearns had that eleven game hit streak and that homer and we were like “ZOMG yeah he’s way better than Berkman!”? I do.

    • Ralph

      Kearns sucks.

      • steve (different one)

        No, just as Kearns wasn’t better than Lance while he was hot, nor does he suck when he cooled down.

        He doesn’t suck. But he IS a 4th OFer. When Swisher and Gardner were hurt, he was playing everyday and he was stretched. That’s not his role and it’s not really his fault.

        He’s a solid bench player. Nothing more, but nothing less.

    • Al in denver

      I hear you. But it is cool how everyone plays their roll at certain times. I refuse to believe that there are true baseball fans who thought Berkman wasnt bringing a huge upside to this team. Just to have the luxury to platoon him is amazing. Puma>Nick Johnson full time dh i think any day. Cash had the foresight, and true fans knew that Berkman was a beast. I think his contributions during reg season were adequate as well. Where is Cashman appreciation thread guys?

      • Jerome S.

        Kearns will hit the walk-off HR in game seven of the WS, just you wait.

  • dkidd in sunny los angeles

    TWSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    /saw the word “ride” and a picture of wood’d

  • http://theyankeeu.com Matt Imbrogno

    So this increases the chance at offering Berkman arbitration, no?

    • Gonzo

      Not gonna happen. Like less than a 1% chance that happens.

      • http://theyankeeu.com Matt Imbrogno

        I agree that it’s not likely, but I think there’s a bigger chance than you’re giving it.

        • Gonzo

          No way. Who has Cash offered arb to recently? All the players he didn’t offer arb to recently were better than Berkman (Abreu, Damon, even Pudge and others). The guy didn’t even offer Andy arb last year. No way he offers a platoon DH arb in the event you get stuck with $16mm one year deal. He’s definitely going to need that money freed up to go after big game like Lee.

          Now that I think about it, I would say it’s almost a 0% chance they offer arb. Not to be a d*ck, but there is no way I can see it happening. I could be wrong, but I feel strongly about this one.

          • http://twitter.com/dpatrickg Dirty Pena

            You’re severely underrating how good Berkman is, and Berkman has specifically stated he didn’t want his option picked up (which to him is exactly the same as accepting arbitration) and that he’d prefer not to DH or platoon, meaning there’s a good chance he’d turn it down. I agree the odds are against it being offered, but way higher than 0-1%.

            • Gonzo

              What wold Berkman get in the open market? $5mm? Why would he not accept for $10mm more? It’s just not Cash’s MO. He likes to have serious money cleared when negotiating with Free Agents.

              • http://twitter.com/dpatrickg Dirty Pena

                Berkman will definitely get more than $5 million, and multiple years, otherwise why would he openly state that he doesn’t want his option picked up? He can play the field and has a .403 career wOBA. Again, you are severely underrating him.

                • Gonzo

                  Ok, put yourself in Cashman’s shoes. You have a guy that is in decline, couldn’t hit lefties, and won’t play the field for your team. You also have a very important offseason coming up. You would like to sign Mo, Jeter, and Cliff Lee. You think you can sign all three for roughly $50mm committed for 2011. However, you would jeopardize signing Cliff Lee (because Hal & Hank are not going to let Jeter and Mo go elsewhere) by offering arb to a Yankee bench player? I think that would be tough to justify for only draft picks as compensation.

                  I can’t see Cash doing it, and it has nothing to do with underestimating Berkman. It has everything to do with the fact that it doesn’t fit with their long-term goals and he wouldn’t be much more than a DH/bench player.

                  I forgot about Andy if he wants to come back too.

                  • http://twitter.com/dpatrickg Dirty Pena

                    This is useless to debate, because I pretty much agree. It’s just my opinion that the odds are greater than 1%.

                    • Gonzo

                      Ok, let me be clear on this one from my view. The only way Cash offers arb is if they have an illegal gentleman’s agreement that he will turn it down. I guess that may be more than 1%. However, I don’t believe that there is a snowball’s chance in hell they offer without that agreement.

                      Also, the OP thought that Berkman’s good showing thus far increased the odds of an arb offer. I don’t think that is the case either.

  • http://twitter.com/firstheart42 seimiya

    I loved Lance Berkman the minute he got Alex Rodriguez rolling on the floor in agony.

    Wait, is it still cool to hate A-Rod?

    • nsalem

      Hating A-Rod has not been cool since February 15, 2004.

      • http://theyankeeu.com Matt Imbrogno

        Joe Torre never got that memo.

        • http://twitter.com/dpatrickg Dirty Pena

          Nor did any beat writer.

  • mustang

    “He has the mentality for the 9th inning and indications are that he wants to close.”

    Mentality for the 9th inning ? But any pitcher can close that’s just ridiculous.

    • nsalem

      Wood has not exactly excelled as a closer in his 2 1/2 years as a closer with the Cubs and the Indians. I have strong doubts that he will receive offers above 6 or 7 million as a closer for 2011.

      • http://twitter.com/dpatrickg Dirty Pena

        Two things:

        1) Kerry Wood DID excel in 2008 with the Cubs.
        2) Brandon Lyon is getting paid $5 million per year for three years. Something tells me Kerry can get more than 1-2 million above that.

        • Accent Shallow

          Whoa whoa whoa, you can’t cite any middle reliever signed by Ed Wade as precedent. No other GM functions like that.

        • nsalem

          Yes you are right. He was pretty good in ’08, but his year and a half in Cleveland was pretty poor. What he gets next year may depend on his performance over the next couple of weeks.

  • Another Bronx Dynasty

    The Marlins team payroll is at $55M & is in the top 5 cheapest payrolls. Translation – team is cheap & makes the Rays look like the Yankees.
    Josh Johnson is their Ace & has anoher 3 more yrs left on the contract he signed this winter at $10M per. I say the right package will make the Marlins have to consider to pull the trigger & dump their Ace. My package woud start with Joba, Nova, Montero & Miranda.

    For the deal breaker I throw in Girardi.

    • Gonzo

      Now you’re just having fun with us. Throwing in Girardi? To the Marlins? The same club that he got sh*t-canned from because of a rift with the owner?

      I love your gusto if you are serious, but I think other teams could, and would, top that offer in a second.

    • Hughesus Christo

      I would never trade all of that for Josh Johnson (injuries), and it would be stupid to trade Josh Johnson for that (value)

      Conundrum’d

  • xray

    I really don’t think Yankees fans understand what they have in Lance Berkman. Berkman is hands down one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball. The guy had an off year, mainly because of injuries and the fact the he played for one of the worst teams in baseball. He’s 34, he’s got at least 3 years of big time numbers left in him. The whole time that he’s been doing this silly platooning/DH thing I’ve been telling people – “Wait until the playoffs.” The guy is clutch. Enjoy him while you’ve got him.

  • Another Bronx Dynasty

    Hey Vin are you telling me another decade of World Series visits by the Bombers won’t increase their value by $500M? If so than you have no idea what your talking about.

    • http://twitter.com/dpatrickg Dirty Pena

      There’s a reply button for this.

  • Another Bronx Dynasty

    Gonzo…the Girardi thing was a joke.

    But why not get creative and take that core of players & meybe trade to Piittsburgh or KC for their rookies & prospects & than packageit together to the Marlins.

    • Gonzo

      I got it, I thought so. I agree, in a previous thread, I said kick the tires on the Greinke’s of the world. Throw the Killer B’s and Montero around and see what happens. I just think Josh Johnson would need a hefty, hefty haul.

      Why wouldn’t the Cards throw in Rasmus, Shelby Miller and otehrs to get Josh Johnson?

  • Another Bronx Dynasty

    1B is locked up or yrs with Teixara there.
    Unless Berkman wants to DH, he is not going to play a position.

  • Another Bronx Dynasty

    ok got some time to kill before the Rays Rangers game so lets have some fun with this.

    Lets say the yanks land Lee & than put a package together for Johnson, Imagine this rotation & Pen:
    CC, Lee, Johnson, Petitte, AJ

    Sign Soriano

    Put Hughes back in the BP.

    Closers – Mo / Soriano (reminisant of Sparky & Goose)
    8th inning – Hughes, Wood, D-Rob
    Long Men – Ace, Mosley, Sanchez, Logan,

    • SF Yanks

      You can go ahead and quit while you’re behind anytime now.

      • Hughesus Christo

        We should trade Montero, Nova, Cevelli, Pena, and 2 of the 3 Bs (your choice!) for Straburg, Bryce Harper, the rights to Adam Dunn, Ryan Zimmerman (can he play SS?????) and the U.S. Capitol Building.

        • Rob

          I only do that if you throw in the U.S. Treasury, so we can print $ to complete all these ridiculous deals proposed above..and if need be we can sweeten the deal by including the 8th floor of the Empire State Building..but that’s it.

    • http://www.twitter.com/tomzig Tom Zig

      Please stop, you’re hurting my head.