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A Farewell to El Ma?ati

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We wake up this morning, with more uncertainty hovering over our rotation. How silly of me, when creating the poll about what to do with Hernandez, to forget the option, "Trade him to the Mets for a flaky, occasionally effective reliever." This is, at least in part, a salary dump. Hernandez earns $4.5m base, plus up to $2.5m in incentives; Julio only $2.525m. Given Hernandez's performances thus far have tended to be barely over replacement player level, it makes sense to use the replacement player, and save yourself all the money. It also goes for youth over experience, since Julio is twenty-seven and Hernandez thirty-something - the "something" there, might be anywhere from six to thirteen.

The deal naturally leads to two big questions. Firstly, who's going to replace him in the rotation? And secondly, is this a trade in isolation, or simply clearing a spot for another name? The replacement question comes down, it would appear, to many of the same names tossed around when Ortiz was sent down: Nippert, the E.Gonzales boys and Kevin Jarvis. The last-named would seem the most likely, since he's already on the roster: he'd simply slide into the rotation, with Julio hitting the bullpen.

This does negate the point of bringing Jarvis up - to act as long relief in case of a short outing by a starter. However, we still have Grimsley as mop-up man, and the removal of Hernandez [averaging barely five innings per outing] will hopefully alleviate the problem. In the end, however, it's really not that important: we're talking about replacing someone with a 6.11 ERA, against whom the opposition has batted .291. It's not pushing the boat out to expect that whoever pitches in El Ma?ati's spot, will do better. I may be the only person mourning the departure of Hernandez, as it means I'll no longer get to use that ?.

More interesting, really, is the question of whether this is the precursor to another move, bringing in a starter. Paolo Boivin is back on the stick in today's Republic, with this quote from Ken Kendrick - which, in typical Boivin style, I had to read three times before it made any sense:

"If we find that one of a couple of those guys - that might be given the opportunity - can perform, we'd be less inclined to make a move later," Kendrick said. "Now if we're watching these young guys come to the majors and maybe they wouldn't perform, that might make us more apt to make a deal."

According to Boivin, don't hold your breath though. "The message is out that most of the farm system prot?g?es are untouchable. Kendrick wouldn't say never but he did say dealing one of them is unlikely. If a deal does happen, it likely wouldn't be immediately. Many teams aren't in a position yet to trade a front-line pitcher but may be more willing closer to the middle of the season." Well, duh. The official line is still, "Willis is not available". That may or may not remain the case, but the crucial question is going to be less what we're willing to offer, than what anyone else might be...

In a response to my comments regarding the idiots waving at the TV cameras from behind home plate, Stephen said:

So. . . what, those fans in the cheap outfield bleachers who start the freaking WAVE are what you consider "real" baseball fans? It occurs to me that there are idiots sitting all over the ballpark. (especially at BOB/Chase) The price of the seats has nothing to do with their baseball acumen. I sit nine rows up behind home plate and I am in the middle of a wonderful group of about a dozen folk who understand baseball and look with disdain upon the kind of cell phone holding, TV camera waving you describe, Jim. In fact, most of the seats around me are NOT held by corporate wankers. Most of the folks around me are regular baseball fans, friends and family of the organization, or scouts (dozens of those in the section next to me). The corporates are generally holed up in the suites.

Ah, "wankers" - another fine British word. :-) Of course, there are idiots everywhere: the wave is definitely a pet peeve. However, those behind home plate are the most obvious ones. It's the only spot where you are guaranteed to be on TV so, naturally, attracts the kind of idiots who think that this makes them look cool. You can't even get into that section without a ticket, specifically for it. In the bleachers, you do have an excuse: you're so far from the game, you pretty much need to make your own entertainment.

The weird thing is, if I got into those seats, I would be utterly focused on the game, cellphone firmly OFF. I'm guessing - the prices for the Lexus Batter's Box, etc. don't seem posted anywhere online - that we're talking $150-200 per ticket, which would seem to put them out of the range of just about every fan [even if they were available on a per-game basis, which they don't seem to be]. Spending that kind of money, if they are indeed not on corporate freebies, and not fixating on the game, is like buying an expensive bottle of wine and using it to make punch.

Perhaps it's my Scottish heritage coming out, but there just isn't the same sense of waste seeing someone goof off in a $10 outfield seat, as when someone acts like an imbecile in the most expensive, hard-to-get sections. It provokes much the same reaction as watching Paris Hilton in The Simple Life, "playing" at being a real person: distaste, and a slight feeling of nausea, at the flaunting of privilege, without any of the associated sense of responsibility. Anyway, we move on... :-)

Heroes and Zeroes
Series 16: vs. Pirates, at home

Hernandez: 7 IP, 6 H, 3 BB, 9 K, 1 ER
Vargas: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 5 K, 2 ER
Hudson: 5-for-10, 2 RBI
----------------------------
Valverde: 2 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 2 K, 4 ER

A sweep over the Pirates completes a very satisfactory home stand at 7-2, keeping us on top of the NL West. Not much to complain about, surely? Well, not really. However, not too much to applaud, either, since the Pirates' sloppy defense (seven errors) was probably the biggest cause of the sweep, especially in two one-run games. Most of our stars were given a day off somewhere in the set too. Just four players managed more than eight at-bats, and only Byrnes had more than five bases over the series: he went 4-for-14, which is really "honourary mention" level.

Hudson's four-hit game yesterday does deserve mention, and we can only hope that it jump-starts what has been a very lacklustre season with the bat. I'm thinking the next watch might be the middle infield HR one - that now stands at 306 at-bats combined for Counsell and Hudson, without a single four-bagger. Let's give El Ma?ati Pequeno - and that ? - a farewell gift, to take with him to New York, since his start was the best one of the series. Though more comforting in the long term, perhaps, was the solid outing by Vargas.

On the downside, despite the sweep, Valverde's performances were about as poor as possible, without actually blowing either of the save opportunities. He seems to have fallen in love with his fastball: it's still his best pitch, sure, but if that's all he's going to use, hitters can simply wait for it to be left over the plate, something that happened too often this series. I vaguely remember Papa Grande had a slider, but it didn't make much of an appearance here. Pitching coach Bryan Price should have a word before the next outing.