Under the radar (cont.)
Posted: Friday March 23, 2007 12:25PM; Updated: Friday March 23, 2007 12:54PM
Guillen is underappreciated by his own team, which hasn't gotten serious about re-signing him at a time when Michael Young just got $80 million over five years from the Rangers. And Young posted a lower OPS (.815) than Guillen last season despite playing his home games in a hitter's haven.
It's as if folks can't accept what kind of player Guillen has become after a couple seasons in Seattle that bore no resemblance to what he's produced lately. According to Larry Stone of the Seattle Times, one of the first recommendations some Mariners people made to then-incoming GM Bill Bavasi was to replace Guillen. Bavasi agreed, sending him to Detroit for Ramon Santiago and Juan Gonzalez (no, not that Juan Gonzalez).
Runner-up Infielder: Robinson Cano, Yankees.
Jason Bay, Pirates.
Trust me, this is a career path that will never be repeated. After playing for Team Canada in the Little League World Series, Bay went under the radar first at the College of Southern Idaho (yes, everyone's under the radar there), then Gonzaga, then as a 22nd-round draft choice by Jim Beattie of the Montreal Expos. Bay was quickly traded three times, then became the first Rookie of the Year winner to have been traded so often.
"The guy's got almost everything you're looking for," says Pirates GM Dave Littlefield, the one who acquired Bay last. "His game is very well-rounded. He's a solid defender, he gets on base, he hits homers." Yes, all that, plus, "He's a great guy," says Littlefield.
Bay has consistently put up All-Star numbers in Pittsburgh. He and teammate Freddy Sanchez had their moment in the sun when they played in the All-Star Game last summer at PNC Park. But outside the Steel City, folks don't realize how good Bay is. In 2005, he became the first Pirate to hit .300 and have 40 doubles, 30 homers, 100 RBIs, 100 runs and 20 stolen bases (he was 21 for 22 in that department), and last year, despite battling knee trouble that resulted in offseason surgery, he set career highs with 35 home runs and 109 RBIs.
"He continues to get better," Littlefield said. "And he's done all this in a lineup that's been a challenge." Which explains why he's walked 197 times over the last two years. Bay and Sanchez are being brought back cautiously because of knee concerns, and Xavier Nady suffered a stomach infection early in spring. But once all three return to full health and can combine with new acquisition Adam LaRoche, Bay should have his most productive year to date.
Runner-up Outfielder: Matt Holiday, Rockies.
Jorge Posada, Yankees.
Posada's made a career of being overshadowed, if not overlooked. It's hard to grab the attention when you're on a team of superstars and frequently bat seventh or even eighth.
Posada's hitting exploits are still fairly well-known. As Pat Borzi in the New York Times recently pointed out, Posada's 603 RBIs since 2000 is by far the most by a catcher (by comparison, Hall-of-Famer-to-be Ivan Rodriguez has 498 in that span.) But it's his defensive efforts in 2006 that didn't get the notice they warranted until recent days. When a lot of folks were wondering whether he was slipping, Posada turned in his best year defensively, improving his throwing at age 35. Posada threw out an excellent 37.3 percent of would-be basestealers last year, the second best mark in his career.
Runner-up catcher: Ramon Hernandez, Orioles
Around the camps
Andruw Jones has mentioned how he'd like to stay with the Braves, but the consensus around baseball is that the new ownership group, Liberty Media, bought the team with an eye on finances, not winning, and that Jones is as good as gone. The Red Sox and White Sox have been rumored, but one former teammate of Jones said if Jones has his choice, he'd like to avoid a cold-weather climate. That friend sees the Angels as a definite possibility.
Keeping up with the Joneses dept.: Scouts and coaches in Florida have been impressed by yet another Jones in Braves camp. Young outfielder Brandon Jones has four hits in 11 at-bats, including two doubles and a home run
Freddy Garcia's checkup went so well the doctor didn't recommend an MRI, a major relief to the Phillies and the player who's free-agent eligible at year's end. There was concern after Garcia threw in the low 80s and got roughed up the other day.
The Yankees' will be surprised to find that Doug Mientkiewicz's all-world defensive reputation is overdone, according to one National League scout. "He had the yips in 2005 with the Mets. He couldn't turn the 3-6-3 double play, and he wouldn't ever throw home," the scout said.
From the standpoint of the team, moving Jonathan Papelbon back to closer was the only solution that made sense for the Red Sox. There just wasn't a reliable closer to be had on the trade market, not unless they were willing to surrender their first born.
The great thing about spring injury updates is that no one is hurt or in pain. They are only "experiencing tightness" or "irritated."
From here, baseball's decision to abandon cable for the dish looks like a short-sighted money grab.