Game 137: A-Rod’s back, again

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

After missing all that time with the knee injury and then all that extra time with the thumb injury, Alex Rodriguez is back in the lineup and playing third base today. Oh, he’s also batting third for the first time since September 4th, 2008. Look who batted cleanup that day. Ay caramba. Here’s the lineup…

Brett Gardner, LF
Curtis Granderson, CF
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, 1B
Andruw Jones, RF
Jesus Montero, DH
Eduardo Nunez, SS
Frankie Cervelli, C

Bartolo Colon, SP

The game will start a little after 1pm ET, and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.

The Miguel Cabrera Comp

When the news arrived that Jesus Montero would be called up to the big-league squad, Joel Sherman was on hand with a typically well-sourced article providing insight into the organization’s thinking about Montero’s role this season. Sherman noted that Montero would become the regular designated hitter against left-handed pitching, meaning that the team would like platoon Gardner and Jones in left field or simply give Jones fewer at-bats. He also suggested that Montero could eventually hit his way into the regular designated hitter slot, against righties and lefties alike. The money quote came from one of Sherman’s usual “sources within the Yankee organization”: “One Yankees official acknowledged Montero is coming with a chance to win a significant job and another member of the organization said definitively, “By the playoffs, he will be our best DH option.””

Another interesting part of the column came when Sherman brought up Miguel Cabrera as a comparison for Montero. This comparison has been bandied about elsewhere before, and in fact Brian Cashman himself mentioned Cabrera when talking about Montero’s future upside to ESPN’s Ian O’Connor: “In terms of hitting ability, Montero can be a Manny Ramirez or a Miguel Cabrera…He has a chance to bat third or fourth. He has the potential to be a beast in the middle of our lineup.”

The Cabrera comparison is an intriguing one, to be sure, and there are a few interesting parallels between the start of each player’s respective career. Despite the fact that Miguel Cabrera was well-regarded as a very talented prospect, he had a far less impressive minor league track record than Montero. As a teenager, Cabrera never put together an OPS higher than .754 at any level of minor league competition. The Marlins stayed confident in his skill though, and moved him to Double-A to start the 2003 season. It was there that the light went on, that his talent took over, that he finally got it, however you’d like to frame it, and Cabrera started raking. In a half season of baseball he hit .365/.429/.609 in 303 plate appearances. That June, the Marlins called Cabrera up directly from Double-A.

He began his career in an interleague matchup with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, in a game managed by Jack McKeon (FLA) and Lou Piniella (TBR), one in which a 21 year-old Carl Crawford tripled. Still wet behind the ears, Cabrera nevertheless homered in his first game, a walkoff shot in the bottom of the 11th. It wasn’t too shabby of a start for the kid. It wasn’t all walkoffs and heroics from there on out, of course. Cabrera struggled for the rest of June and ended the month with an OPS of only .542. Over the next few months, Cabrera would go alternatingly hot and cold, flashing a load of power but not a ton of on-base skill. A quick breakdown of his OPS by month shows a streaky hitter finding his way around major league pitching:

June: .542

July: .991

August: .640

September: .875

By October the Marlins were in the playoffs, and they brought the youngster along for the ride. While he still wasn’t walking a ton, he managed to club four home runs, one off Roger Clemens in the World Series. Along with Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell, Brad Penny, Carl Pavano and Dontrelle Willis, Miggy hoisted his first and only World Series trophy that fall as the Marlins defeated the Yankees. The team became history fast, broken up by an owner not willing to pay the players commensurate with their market values. Cabrera was the last rat off the sinking ship, sent to Detroit in the winter of 2007-2008, where he’s flourished as a perennial MVP candidate ever since.

There’s always a danger in making a comparison to a big leaguer, successful or otherwise. No two players are alike. Yet as long as the comparisons are couched in a healthy dose of realism, I don’t necessarily see the problem in throwing up this comp as an example of what once happened when a much-hyped prospect with talent oozing out of his ears got called up for a pennant race. At the end of the day, a comp is just an analogy, or a metaphor. I’m not a neuroscientist and I’m not an expert on how the brain develops, but in my experience telling a 10 year-old “These Doritos are dynamite” would cause him to ask for one, not run in fear. Hopefully fans can be similarly discerning. Kevin Long’s message about the Cabrera comparison is probably the perfect mix of recognizing Jesus’ insane talent level and hedging it with all the necessary qualifications:

“It is fair [because of his talent] to say he can do it [be like Cabrera],” Long said. “But there are so many intangibles that go along with success here. So do I expect that kind of impact? No. Can it happen? Yes. But it is unfair to put expectations on someone who has not done it. But this is someone with as much hitting upside as anyone in the minors.”

Jesus Montero isn’t Miguel Cabrera. Sure, they’re both right-handed Venezuelan bonus babies with similar body type, batting swings, and prodigious power, but of course they’re two different people. They will have different career paths. Yet, the start of their careers looks just similar enough to merit mentioning, and perhaps provides a guideline for expectations as the team chugs towards the playoffs. Perhaps Montero will exceed expectations and be Miggy in July and September of 2003; perhaps he’ll flounder and be the Miggy of June and August; perhaps he’ll be a little of both. Perhaps he’ll homer off Doc Halladay and help the Yankees take home another World Series crown, or maybe he’ll miss the postseason roster. Isn’t that tension really what it’s all about, though? Is there anything more exciting than hoping that the best-case scenario will actually play out and get realized in dramatic, awesome fashion? And isn’t that why we keep coming back for more, even when those hopes are dashed and expectations aren’t met, and the game breaks our heart?

Yanks take over first place with win over Jays

Friday’s game sure was a bit more mellow after those three games in Boston, eh? I can’t remember the last time I felt so relaxed in a one-run game. Let’s recap…

  • The first inning was a bit shaky for Ivan Nova, but he got out of the frame after allowing just two runs because Brett Gardner was beast modin’ it in left. He made a nice sliding snow cone catch on Edwin Encarnacion’s line drive and was able to catch Jose Bautista wondering too far off first rather easily to end the inning. Outfield defense was actually a pretty common theme on the night, with Curtis Granderson and Andruw Jones also making nice catches at the wall.
  • After the first inning, in which he allowed the two runs on a walk and two hits, Nova cruised right along and did not allowed a baserunner until a sixth inning double by Eric Thames. In fact, the only baserunners he allowed after the first were the double, an intentional walk to Bautista, and on an error.  Nova struck out four, but uncharacteristically allowed eight air outs compared to just seven on the ground. Either way, he was fantastic.
  • Gardner’s not just about defense, you know. He planted a two run-homer into the right field seats in the third inning, tying the game at two. Brandon Morrow always seems to be tough on the Yankees with that high octane fastball/slider combo, but he hung one to Brett and paid for it.
  • The third (and game-winning) run came in a nice little two-out rally in the fifth, when Robinson Cano singled in Derek Jeter following a single and a Granderson walk. Robbie was hacking away at Morrow’s slider down-and-in all night, but the Toronto right-hander left one up and Cano knocked it to shallow-ish center. The Yankees only had four hits in the game (Gardner, Jeter, Cano, and Jones) and none after Cano’s single in the fifth.
  • David Robertson was unavailable because he was “a little stiff,” but Rafael Soriano stepped in and fired a scoreless eighth before Mariano Rivera closed things out with a 1-2-3 ninth. It was his 37th save of the season and number 596 of his career, so he’s got a very legit chance at 600 as well as Trevor Hoffman’s career record (601) this year. Anyway, Robertson will be available on Saturday but Soriano and Mo will not because of their recent workloads.
  • The Red Sox got completely wrecked by the Rangers, so the Yankees moved into sole possession of first place in the AL East by half-a-game and one game in the loss column. The Rays also lost to the Orioles, so the lead in the wildcard race is up to 9.5. The magic number to clinch a playoff spot is 17, jumpin’ Jerry Hairston Jr. in the sidebar. Here is the box score, the FanGraphs stats, and the standings.

Game two of this three-game set will be played on Saturday afternoon at 1pm ET, when Bartolo Colon matches up against Ricky Romero. If you’re heading up to the Bronx to catch the game, RAB Tickets can help get you in dirt cheap.

David Robertson out Friday with stiffness

David Robertson was unavailable Friday because he was “a little stiff,” but don’t freak out, he will be available tomorrow. Robertson threw a ton of pitches in Thursday’s game and also pitched on Tuesday. It’s a good thing he’ll be available, because both Mariano Rivera and Rafael Soriano will be off limits tomorrow due to their recent workloads. No big deal until further notice.

SWB knocked out of postseason contention

Manny Banuelos was named the ninth hottest prospect in the minors in the final Prospect Hot Sheet of the season. Dante Bichette Jr. got some love in the In The Team Photo section. Meanwhile, both P.J. Pilittere and Eric Wordekemper were activated off the phantom DL to fill some of the roster spots at Triple-A Scranton that have been vacated by various call-ups.

Triple-A Scranton (4-3 loss to Pawtucket) even if they’d won, they still would have been eliminated from the wildcard race because Lehigh Valley won their game … no Triple-A playoffs this year, sadly
Kevin Russo, 3B: 2 for 5, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 SB – led the game off with a homer
Ramiro Pena, SS: 1 for 4, 1 K – they moved his rehab up here just so he wouldn’t have to travel with Trenton
Mike Lamb, DH: 2 for 3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 BB – modest nine game hitting streak
Jorge Vazquez, 1B & Ray Kruml, LF: both 1 for 4, 1 K – JoVa scored a run, Kruml drove one in … Kruml stole a base and threw a runner out at home
Austin Romine, C: 1 for 4, 2 K – at long last, he’s finally in Triple-A
Jordan Parraz, RF: 1 for 3, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K
Greg Golson, CF: 0 for 3, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 SB
Doug Bernier, 2B: 0 for 1, 3 BB
Adam Warren, RHP: 6 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 6-4 GB/FB – 66 of 104 pitches were strikes (63.5%)
Andrew Brackman, RHP: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 0 K, 1-1 GB/FB - just ten of 25 pitches were strikes
Logan Kensing, RHP: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 1-0 GB/FB -11 of 20 pitches were strikes (55%)

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