Buy a Clue, Hank

I wanted to comment on this earlier, but have been so swamped with grading that I wanted to wait until I had a free moment, if not any appreciable amount of sleep, to discuss it. Hank the Crank was back to his not-so-old but hackneyed tricks over the weekend, caterwauling to The New York Times that Joba should be in the rotation right away. “I want him as a starter and so does everyone else, including him, and that is what we are working toward and we need him there now,” Steinbrenner told the newspaper. “There is no question about it, you don’t have a guy with a 100-mile-per-hour fastball and keep him as a setup guy. You just don’t do that. You have to be an idiot to do that.”

Apparently Brian Cashman is just that idiot, for he responded that Joba would stay in the bullpen as the setup man for the near future. “Joba’s staying in the bullpen right now,” Cashman told Newsday. “That’s where we’re at. [Putting him in the rotation is] not something that’s going to happen here early on, and [Hank] knows that. We’ve talked about it. I don’t know what set him off.” Hank was apparently under the erroneous impression that Joba ended up in the bullpen last season by mistake, chattering “The mistake was already made last year switching him to the bullpen out of panic or whatever. I had no say in it last year and I wouldn’t have allowed it. That was done last year, so now we have to catch up. It has to be done on a schedule so we don’t rush him.”

Afterwards, Hank reversed course somewhat, telling The New York Daily News, “It’s all of our intention to try to get him back into the rotation by the end of the year. I’ve addressed it many times, as did Joe [Girardi] and [GM Brian] Cashman. I’m just saying it would be nice to have him there right now. He’s going to be great anywhere we have him but, my preference is as a starter and that’s everybody else’s preference, too.” Clearly Hank’s been reined in with reminders of the plan for Joba, and a fresh wind of common sense.

A couple things seem clear to me about this. The first is that Hank didn’t know what on earth he was talking about when he spouted off to the NYT Sunday. His terminology reflected impatience at best with Joba’s still being in the bullpen, as well as being fundamentally clueless about how Joba ended up in the pen last season. He seems to lack the ability to shut his mouth about things, perhaps blinded by temper to convince himself that opinion equals knowledge.

The other point that emerges from this nonsensical non-spat is that for all Hank’s prodigious bluster, Brian Cashman seems to still exercise a significant amount of control over the operations and direction of the team, thankfully. I say that not only because I’ve long said that Joba should be in the pen to stabilize it, nor only because it would take appreciable time to stretch him out to start thereby depriving both the rotation and the bullpen of his abilities. I also say that because Brian Cashman has a very good head on his shoulders, and he appears to know the players and the game very well. He’s no dummy. He and others know just what they have in Joba–and the other kids in The Bronx and the minors for that matter–and he won’t screw that up with hasty, knee-jerk calls from Hank the Crank or Hank my neighbor to hastily insert Joba into the rotation. They put Joba in the bullpen to start the year for the sake of the bullpen and therefore the team, and to cap his innings so they wouldn’t have to either shut him down or hold their collective breath every appearance for fear of injury come early September. Additionally, while no one in or rooting for the organization is pleased that the team is 10-10, it’s early, people. Hughes, Kennedy, and Mussina might continue to struggle. They might improve soon. I don’t know. Either way, the team will hit, and has done better the last week. They’re 10-10 with staff struggles and half the lineup hitting. They can call up Darrell Rasner, Dan McCutchen, or [gulp] Igawa or even Chase Wright if need be, and faster than moving Joba into the rotation–which would, again, drastically increase his innings very early. The team has some short-term options. Plus, Hank, what about the gaping hole in the bullpen–still uncertain even if improved–that Joba’s departure would bring?

Relax, George–er, Hank. Go back to the frat house and let the adults run the baseball operations from now on.

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Published in: on April 22, 2008 at 10:49 am  Leave a Comment  

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