Mailbag: Why Sexson and not Bonds?
Beat reporter Bryan Hoch answers Yankees fans' questions
Why would the Yankees sign Richie Sexson? He strikes out too much and they could have brought in other players. Why not go after Barry Bonds? He would have been a real improvement in the lineup -- imagine him using the short porch in right field. Bonds could play left field or be a designated hitter. Why not?
-- Rich P., New York, N.Y.
There are two questions there, so let's get to Sexson first. The move made sense to Brian Cashman because it's a low-risk addition, assuming that Sexson is able to keep up the splits in 2008 against left-handed pitching -- through Sunday, Sexson was hitting .338 (22-for-65) against southpaws. It's not exactly on par with his career, so who knows?
But the Yankees have wanted a right-handed bat to platoon with Giambi at first base all season, and neither Shelley Duncan nor Morgan Ensberg worked out. Though Wilson Betemit has played a part this year, the fact that they'd jump at Sexson shouldn't be surprising. Sexson was once a good enough player that the Mariners spent $50 million on him over four seasons; the Yankees are getting to see if he can return to that for a fraction. If not, then they cut him loose. It seems like a decent gamble.
As for Bonds, it was apparent early that the Yankees had little to no interest in bringing him in; Bonds' agent, Jeff Borris, was making the rounds at the All-Star press events in New York and said he was not optimistic any club would offer Bonds a contract -- if it hasn't happened by now, it probably won't.
Given enough time to get himself into game shape, I have no doubt that Bonds could still lend a presence to a Major League lineup, though his skills have deteriorated to the point where it's not reasonable to suggest he should play left field. At the end of the discussion, it seems that teams just don't want to deal with the other issues that come along with having Barry Bonds under employment in 2008.
When are the Yankees going to do something about Jorge Posada? This guy is clearly not right; he has to still be hurt. His average has gone down since he came back from the DL and he's hitting for zero power. If he's still injured he needs to go back on the DL.
-- Steve C., Miami
Posada is hurting, there's no doubt about it. He keeps the right shoulder heavily wrapped in ice most of the time that he's in the clubhouse and you're seeing Jose Molina log a lot of innings behind the plate. Posada has admitted that his shoulder is probably going to have to be cut open after the season, but if he has any surgery now, it wipes him out for the rest of the campaign.
Posada decided to play through it and do what he can, and he referenced his new contract as one reason why he feels that responsibility. It's apparent that Posada is not going to replicate his 2007 numbers, so you can't expect that. The lineup still takes on a different personality with Posada's switch-hitting bat in there instead of Molina or Chad Moeller, so they're going to try to make the best of a bad situation.
How do you think the Yankees will approach next season with Andy Pettitte's contract expiring and Mike Mussina possibly leaving as well? Will they try to re-sign either of them? Also, how soon do you think we may see Andrew Brackman?
-- Sean M., Weddington, N.C.
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Pettitte has strongly hinted that he would like to pitch in the new Yankee Stadium, so chances seem pretty good that he would be interested in returning if he remains healthy. The decision for Pettitte to return in '08 was generally considered a two-year commitment for that reason, though he's only signed through this year. Mussina has had a renaissance year here at age 39, but the Yankees may not be inclined to try their luck again. No one really seemed sure what to expect from Mussina in '08 -- himself included -- and the Yankees hit the jackpot with his 12 wins so far.
Brackman will not pitch in a professional game until the Minor League season opens next year, so projecting a rotation spot seems a bit much to ask right now. If everything goes terrific and he hits all of his checkpoints, a big league debut sometime after the All-Star break doesn't seem completely out of the question. He's a big investment and the Yankees expect good returns in the next few years.
Recently, the Yankees haven't been making good acquisitions in the pitching department (Esteban Loaiza and Al Leiter in 2005, Roger Clemens in 2007, etc.). Now they are reportedly considering Victor Zambrano? Is this the best they can do? Why can't they make a deal for better players instead of the mediocre?
-- Jon A., Jersey City, N.J.
Cashman would tell you that the Yankees are trying to get away from the old ways that they conducted business, but in fairness, let's remember that the Clemens signing was wildly celebrated in May of last season before injuries caught up to the Rocket. The Yankees' stance is to find answers from within before going outside, but they were caught flat-footed by the struggles and injuries that both Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy suffered.
Surely the plan was that at least one of those pitchers would be in the rotation at this time and one would at least have won a game. As for Zambrano, it doesn't hurt to work him out and take a look, as the Yankees have. Sidney Ponson came off baseball's scrap heap and is making regular turns in the rotation, and has not been a problem in the clubhouse as some suspected he might.
Mariano Rivera has been lights out in save situations, yet I panic when he is put in while a tie game is intact. He has given up all but one of his earned runs in tie games. Why can't Rivera pull it together when the game is still in the grasps of both teams?
-- Sean C., Pennington, N.J.
If someone had the answer to that, I'm sure the Yankees would be interested to find out. Isn't that a strange anomaly? You'd think Rivera would be more likely to produce completely different results in, say, a situation where he's just getting work in during blowout games, rather than tie games where the outcome is still undecided, but that hasn't been the case. Still, after Saturday's game, Girardi said he won't shy away from using Rivera in tie game situations: "I'll take my chances, every time," he said.
Why don't the Yanks just give LaTroy Hawkins' roster spot to anyone healthy enough to pitch? Is there some contractual problem with dropping him? Seems to me that this would be one of those cases of addition by subtraction.
-- Steve G., Greensboro, N.C.
Certainly a mop-up relief role is not what Hawkins thought he was getting into when he signed his one-year deal with the Yankees. With pitchers like Dave Robertson and Jose Veras making impacts and more on the way in arms like J.B. Cox and Mark Melancon, Hawkins' tenure in New York appears as though it will be brief. It would not be shocking to see him designated for assignment since they do not appear to have plans toward returning him to the setup innings.
I know that the new Yankee Stadium is going to be state-of-the-art, but are they going to keep the same dimensions as the old stadium? Is there still going to be the short porch in right and death valley in left?
-- Michael M., New York, N.Y.
The new facility will have the same field dimensions as Yankee Stadium, circa 2008.
With the Yankees in third place in their division at this time of the year, I find myself in panic mode. And I'm sure the Yankees feel the same way. Do you think the Yankees miss Joe Torre and his ability to calm things down?
-- Ray G., Manahawkin, N.J.
I don't sense that the Yankees wander the clubhouse aimlessly waiting for Torre to smooth everything out, if that's what you're asking. What Torre did better than perhaps any manager in recent memory was to insulate his players from the distractions that New York creates. Certainly some players miss Torre as a person, but he's just a telephone call away. With more than half the season completed, they have made the adjustment to the reality that Girardi is in charge.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.