Mailbag: Is Manny the answer?
Yankees beat reporter Bryan Hoch answers fans' questions
It frustrated me when the Yankees just couldn't get that one clutch hit this year. If Bobby Abreu is gone, bringing Manny Ramirez aboard seems like a great move. I'll deal with the circus for a clutch talent and feared bat like Ramirez batting behind Alex Rodriguez. Do you think the risk would be worth the possible reward?
-- Vinny M., Providence, RI
Assuming the Dodgers do not retain Ramirez -- and they plan to talk dollars this week -- it surely could be, based on statistics alone. What Ramirez accomplished in Los Angeles bordered on historic, and for years to follow -- when people talk about blockbuster midseason acquisitions -- they'll point to the deal the Dodgers pulled off.
With that said, Ramirez doesn't get general manager Brian Cashman any closer to what he's been saying about getting younger and payroll flexibility, and it's important to remember just why Ramirez suddenly became available on the trade front, with two contractual option years with the Red Sox just vanishing. All of the details of what happened in Boston still may not even be out there, but Yankees fans had a front-row seat to some of the theatrics.
Remember July 6, when manager Terry Francona sent Ramirez up as a ninth-inning pinch-hitter in a tie game at Yankee Stadium? With the go-ahead run 90 feet away, Ramirez decided not to swing the bat. Strike one, strike two, strike three, sit down. The Yankees won the game in 10 innings on Brett Gardner's infield hit, and even closer Mariano Rivera later said, "I was kind of surprised, definitely, that he never took the bat off his shoulder. I don't know what he was thinking. That's Manny."
Moments like that are just part of the daily fare with Ramirez. If the Yankees are going to seriously investigate putting Ramirez into pinstripes, they'll need to look thoroughly at what happened in Boston and not just at his gaudy numbers like .396 and 1.232 -- Ramirez's batting average and OPS in Los Angeles, respectively.
When properly motivated, Ramirez is a force unlike anything the Yankees have seen in recent years. He's a Hall of Fame-caliber player who can hit in the American League East, and Ramirez's career numbers with runners in scoring position (.329 BA, 1.061 OPS) would have helped a ton with the Yankees' 2008 struggles. On paper, having that kind of bat would only enhance what A-Rod can do. But the Yankees need to proceed cautiously and try and take in the whole picture.
What's the deal with Hideki Matsui? The only thing I hear about him is that he's probably going to be a designated hitter. This just leaves me to believe that he hasn't recovered well from his injury. With the abundance of outfield options the Yankees have, will they try to trade him? If not, will he be the full-time left fielder?
-- Hythem S., Dayton, Ohio
Matsui had essentially the same arthroscopic procedure on his left knee in September, one year after having his right knee cleaned out. He was set to return to Japan while being considered on target to be healthy in time for Spring Training, barring any setbacks.
Now, the fact is the Yankees have a 34-year-old player with two surgically repaired knees. Until he proves otherwise, the Yankees are looking at Matsui as a DH, since having him move around in left field could be a defensive liability. There was some interest last winter on the trade front for Matsui -- the Giants were heavily rumored -- and there's no reason to rule anything out.
Aside from Abreu, what other potential free agents would the Yankees receive Draft compensation for?
-- Fred R., Bayside, N.Y.
Reliever Damaso Marte is a Type A free agent, so if the Yankees offered him arbitration, they would get two compensatory Draft picks if he signed elsewhere -- same with Abreu. Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina are also Type A players, but both say they'll only pitch for the Yankees, if at all. Ivan Rodriguez is a Type B, which would entitle the Yankees to one Draft pick if he is offered arbitration.
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I don't like the idea of Jorge Posada catching 120 games. I think it would be good for the Yankees and Posada if he moved to first base and caught occasionally. With the reduced stress on his body, his offensive numbers would climb.
-- Scott F., Upper Nyack, N.Y.
Posada would meet that suggestion with an angry scowl. The topic has been brought up many times already directly to Posada, and if he doesn't come back strong from surgery, first base is looming right there. It will probably happen eventually, but until all options are exhausted, Posada said that he is a catcher and does not want to play first base.
There are so many mixed feelings about Joba Chamberlain as a starter or reliever. How does Chamberlain feel about being a starter or reliever?
-- John N., Levittown, N.Y.
If only it were up to the player himself, then the long debate would end. For the record, Chamberlain prefers to be a starter and has made that known to the Yankees' front office. Also, to answer another question sent into the mailbag this week, his legal troubles have no bearing on the starter-reliever argument.
Why not sign Rocco Baldelli? He's a right-handed bat who could (and actually has to) platoon with a Gardner-type player. He's an All-Star-caliber player who would not be averse to sharing time because of his medical condition. Where is the downside?
-- John D., Brooklyn, N.Y.
Only if Baldelli's mitochondrial disorder prevented him from playing. His story is truly inspiring, and the Rays managed Baldelli's energy level well. Seeing Baldelli beam after finally playing nine full innings -- in the American League Championship Series, no less -- was one of the most heartwarming moments of the postseason. That said, the Rays like Baldelli and have first dibs as a free agent.
This question might be out of left field. The Yankees drafted ambidextrous pitcher Pat Venditte in 2007, and I was wondering if he is allowed to switch from one side of the mound to the other in mid-at-bat. I know he can wait to pick which side he starts from until after the batter has declared, but what about two pitches from the left and one from the right?
-- Keith C., Plainview, N.Y.
Interesting question. The Professional Baseball Umpire Corporation instituted a rule specifically dealing with switch-pitchers this season. To answer your question, the pitcher and the hitter are allowed to switch once per at-bat. The pitcher must throw one pitch to the batter before any switch is allowed, so Venditte actually would be able to proceed in your scenario. He just couldn't go back to the left hand in that at-bat.
With the World Baseball Classic in few months, do we have any idea if any Yankees players are going to participate in it?
-- Steve Z., Phoenix
Not officially, though we made an informal canvas of the Yankees' clubhouse during the final week of the season. Johnny Damon said that he had already filed his paperwork to play again, while A-Rod and Derek Jeter enjoyed their experiences in 2006 and said they'd play in the Classic again. Chamberlain, Abreu (Venezuela), Robinson Cano (Dominican Republic) and Ivan Rodriguez (Puerto Rico) also showed interest.
Any information about when the Yankees will be selling Yankee Stadium seats and other relics?
-- Rob L., New York
Not just yet. It appears that the Yankees are still working on an agreement with the City of New York for selling parts of the stadium, and all 50,000-plus blue seats are still installed. In fact, if there had to be a game played this afternoon at Yankee Stadium, they could probably pull it off.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.