Friday’s Child: A Full Plate

No shortage of what I’m serving today:

• Over at the Pinstriped Bible, I’ve got a look at a reliever who could help the Yankees in September, Jonathan Albaladejo, and an update of last month’s silliness regarding the possibility of Joe Girardi bolting the Bronx for the Cubs’ managerial job. The Albaladejo piece was a riff on BP colleague Kevin Goldstein including him in a list of 10 relievers who could help contenders out of the bullpen in their September callups. Knocked around during spring training, the 27-year-old ne’er-do-well scrapped his sinker for a heater which sits in the mid-90s, via which he’s set an International League record for saves:

In five Grapefruit League appearances, the hapless hurler yielded 16 hits, two walks and 10 earned runs while retiring just eight hitters, good for a 33.75 ERA — numbers that might have led to a pink slip from a less forgiving organization. But Albaladejo’s done a fine job of straightening himself out; not only has the control of his four-seamer improved, his curveball has become a useful weapon to keep hitters off balance as well. Batters are hitting just .168/.231/.241 against him, with 37 hits and 18 walks in 62 innings.

You’d think such work would be rewarded with a long look in a big league bullpen, particularly one that struggled so mightily during the first half of the season, but Albaladejo has just two appearances with the Yankees this year; he was up for all of three days in July, bridging the gap between DL moves involving Andy Pettitte and Sergio Mitre, then forgotten about once the Yankees ditched Chan Ho Park and traded for Kerry Wood. By all accounts, the pitcher hasn’t pouted about not getting his turn; last month, he told LoHud’s Chad Jennings, “I just want to do my job in Triple-A. And whenever they decide they need me, I’ll be ready.”

The Girardi piece is an updated take on the idle patter which immediately followed Piniella’s retirement announcement. With the Yankees marching into Chicago, Girardi feels he’s got to address such rumors, presumably with as much enthusiasm and candor as Derek Jeter detailing his dating life. Other than the reasons I already enumerated regarding Yankee managers not walking away under their own power, there’s this:

Looking into my crystal ball, I can tell you that the short answer is fuhgeddaboutit. Even with Girardi’s ties to the area — he’s a Peoria native and a Northwestern University alumnus who did two tours of duty with the Cubs as a player, essentially bookending his career save for a slight return in St. Louis — and the fact that his Yankees contract is up at the end of this season, it’s not happening.

For one thing, the Cubs are in rough shape, particularly compared to the Yanks. If you think the pressure to win the World Series every year while in pinstripes is something, imagine being on the spot at the helm of a team that’s gone 102 years without winning. The pressure broke Piniella, though he’s admittedly a much older man. It wasn’t kind to Dusty Baker, who got them within five outs of their first pennant since the early days of the Truman administration. It’s a job that’s eaten up and spit out men in more violent and disgusting ways than Piranha 3D. Take Lee Elia, please (warning: NSFW).

While the word around the game may be that the Ricketts family, the franchise’s relatively new owners, intends to spend big dollars, they can’t compete with the Yankees on that level. Bob Dylan wasn’t writing directly about the Bronx Bombers when he penned “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”“Buy me some rings and a gun that sings / A flute that toots and a bee that stings / A sky that cries and a bird that flies / A fish that walks and a dog that talks” — but their winter shopping lists can go a long way towards keeping a manager in the Bronx.

Furthermore, the Cubs have some crippling contracts on the books in Alfonso Soriano (owed $72 million through 2014), Carlos Zambrano (just shy of $38 million through 2012), Aramis Ramirez ($16.6 million through 2012), Kosuke Fukudome ($14.5 million for next year), and Ryan Dempster ($28.5 million through 2012). Aside from Demptster, those players have been worth just 5.0 WARP this year for $68.6 million, which explains why a team with the majors’ seventh-highest Opening Day payroll is currently 20 games under .500 and 19 1/2 games out of first place before September. While their farm system is on the way up relative to a year ago, and while they’ve added three twenty-somethings to the starting lineup over the course of the year, the expensive regulars above average 33 years old, with a chance to be 34 next year.

It ain’t happening.

• At Baseball Prospectus, the NL and AL Hit Lists are up. A few swatches:

[#8 Dodgers[ Coming and Going: Having fallen further from first place after taking on former Royals and Cubs, the Dodgers attempt the coup de grâce by adding a Met: Rod Barajas, who arrives via waivers to patch their catching position in the absence of Russell Martin. A Dodger fan in his youth, Barajas makes a strong first impression with two doubles and a three-run homer in his first three at-bats, nearly equaling his output since June 1 (.163/.223/.221 with three doubles, a homer and four RBI in 113 PA). Meanwhile, Manny Ramirez hits the waiver wire, as do Casey Blake, Scott Podsednik and Jay Gibbons. The White Sox are supposedly warm for the dreadlocked slugger, who’s hit .313/.407/.513 with eight homers in 231 PA in between three trips to the disabled list; his .322 TAv would rank fifth in the league given enough playing time to qualify. The Dodgers are 32-22 with him in the lineup, 33-40 when he sits or is DLed.

[#10 Mets] Keystone Light: Luis Castillo’s walkoff single sends the Mets past the Marlins, giving the sputtering offense (2.8 runs per game this month) the rare highlight. It’s just Castillo’s second hit since August 4; he’s just 2-for-18 since then while starting five of 18 games, hitting .237/.337/.275 overall. As bad as that line is, it dwarfs the .167/.264/.203 performance of rookie Ruben Tejada, who’s usurped Castillo’s playing time because, you know, “youth movement.” Throw in the mercifully released Alex Cora and you’ve got an execrable .218/.299/.269 performance from the team’s second basemen, good for an OPS 55 points lower than that of any other major-league team. Castillo has still got one year at $6 million remaining on his deal; he’s compiled all of 3.3 WARP through the first three years of his deal ($19 million).

[#1 Yankees] Stepping Up: With Alex Rodriguez hitting the disabled list due to a calf strain, Robinson Cano takes over the cleanup spot and, well, cleans up. After homering in three conseuctive games, he adds his fourth in a six-game span via a grand slam against the Mariners. He’s hitting .324/.439/.765 through nine games in the No. 4 spot (an idea suggested by one wag just a couple weeks back). Cano is hitting .322/.387/.563 overall and starting to earn a spot in AL MVP discussions; he ranks fifth in the league in WARP with 6.2, 1.2 behind Josh Hamilton.

• In the wake of my trip to Target Field, I didn’t get to write of my venture to Coney Island to see the Cyclones on Wednesday night with a great bunch of folks, but it’s been well-documented nonetheless. Joe Sheehan wrote about it at his BP blog, and Derek Jacques took some photos, though unfortunately no group shot. It’s the second time this month I’ve been to MCU Park; the first time was in the service of snagging an Ike Davis Upside-Down Bobblehead:

I Like Ike

That’s the free t-shirt I caught as well. It’s always a good time out at that ballpark.

Speaking of minor league baseball, I’m headed to Salt Lake City next week and will finally avail myself of the chance to check out at least two of the three ballparks in the area. I haven’t been to a game in Salt Lake since 1987 or 1988, and since then they’ve built a new park, and I’ve never seen a game in either Ogden or Provo. With my dad on the disabled list due to back surgery, thus preventing us from our near-annual backpacking expedition, we’re going to play things a bit more low-key.

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