A Notes Column: Delmon Young, Carlos Zambrano, Michael Bourn, Bryan LaHair
It’s another long night, and if I even finish writing this without slip-sliding into incoherence, it will be a minor miracle. No long and well-organized thoughts tonight. Just some thoughts:
-The Philadelphia Phillies signed Delmon Young, and GM Ruben Amaro said Young will be their right fielder (“ideally”). Oh, boy. With Delmon and Michael Young, plus Ben Revere (who cost them part of their starting rotation and a solid prospect, to boot), added to their offense, the Phillies have gotten deeper (of Darin Ruf, John Mayberry, Jr. and Domonic Brown, only one can start if Delmon plays every day), but little or no better. Mike Adams was a fine addition, but Jason Grilli might have been a better one for this team. With both Youngs, Ruf and Ryan Howard penciled in for the four corner positions, anything not hit up the middle of the diamond in 2013 is going to have a chance to be a double for opponents. The starting rotation will carry this team as far as it will go.
-Michael Bourn’s back is not against the wall, though it may be in a week if he can’t generate some interest by then. Prince Fielder got his nine-year, $214-million deal from the Tigers last year on January 26, meaning Bourn hasn’t yet pressed his luck too hard. On the other hand, there’s so much more uncertainty and (real or imagined) penalty involved in signing Bourn, that it all feels very different. The Braves are now conclusively out. There will be no pillow contract. This nonsense proposal Boras has whispered into the Mets’ ear, whereby everyone looks the other way about the fact that the Mets would need to surrender their first-round pick to sign Bourn, is not going anywhere. It’s down, for my money, to the Mariners, Rangers and Cubs, in that order, and I imagine the total value of the deal will fall in the range of what Nick Swisher got – four years, $56 million.
-Speaking of that nonsense, if that shady deal were to somehow get done, I’d be offended and angered. Apparently, the players’ union and the owners are all for capping the earning potential of poor, uneducated Venezuelans, and of capping the same for high schoolers, but only so long as it doesn’t inconvenience them to do so. They will go ahead and manipulate the rules around those caps as they see fit. This, I hope, is not true, but if the exception is made, I guess it is true.
-Carlos Zambrano has whined and raged his way all but out of baseball. Delmon Young has signed for a measly $750,000. Nyjer Morgan has been banished to Japan. Zambrano, who threw a minor fit when Ozzie Guillen demoted him to the bullpen last summer and finished with a 4.49 ERA that might have overstated his true value, is in danger of being forced to sign a minor-league deal or stay home in Venezuela come spring. What a shame. If the guy would just embrace a bullpen role, there remains enough life in his arm that he should be able to dominate in a setup role. If he would condition himself better and make certain concessions to age and loss of velocity, he could revive his starting career. Sadly, he has shown no interest in either. At 31, he might be done. You can be bad in baseball, or you can be self-centered and angry. You don’t survive long being both. Zambrano’s image problem began as a ‘them’ thing, the Chicago media and some unduly impatient fans riding him with insufficient cause. It has long since become a ‘him’ thing. Again, sad. Few guys were more fun to watch, back when he was having some fine himself.
-I’ll be writing about my experience of it at some point, but I just wanted to point this out: Bryan LaHair signed a deal to go play in Japan in 2013. This all but ensures that he has played in the U.S. for the last time, and if that be true, his last game included a long opposite-field home run, and a walk-off single. He’s one Cubs fans will tell fond stories of someday, despite the crash and burn that was his second half last year, and despite the team’s 101 losses.
-On a lark, I started scribbling down some names, trying to figure out who has the best bullpen in baseball. Here’s my top ten:
2. Tampa Bay
3. Kansas City
4. San Francisco
Not married to it. Just throwing it out there for now.
-Twins GM Terry Ryan said Aaron Hicks will have first crack at the starting center field job to open the season. If it comes to pass, Hicks would be ascending with 2,110 minor-league plate appearances, 815 of them in the Low-A Midwest League, none at Triple-A. This strikes me as bizarre, but I might be wrong. That could be perfectly common. He’s certainly spent more time in the Midwest League than most any prospect of his stature usually would, but it’s fairly common to skip Triple-A these days. I love Hicks’s patient approach, and have heard stories about his arm. I live in the Twin Cities metro area; I very much hope to get to see Hicks play at Target Field this spring.
-I’ve been thinking about something, but now that it has formed in my head enough to publish it, it feels painfully obvious. Hence, I’m dumping it here, at the end of a notes piece:
Nearly all pulled home runs fly far beyond the outfield wall. This isn’t always true, of course, but in general, I would guess the average pulled fly ball travels as much as 7-10 percent (25 or more feet, on flies that matter) farther than the average opposite-field fly off the same hitter’s bat. I would guess most hitters (exceptions that spring to mind are high-fly right-handed yankers like Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes, Cody Ross and Scott Hairston) look more at how far away the fence is in the opposite power alley than at their pull gap when sizing up a homer opportunity.