Monday, March 26, 2007

This is Why You Stockpile Pitchers

Remember Jeff Karsten's big shot at the Opening Day roster, his chance to get a start or two in during Wang's absence, and maybe be this year's surprising success story? Uh, not so fast. Karstens had to leave his start early on Sunday, suffering from a "stiff elbow." Reader Matty Matty got this one on to the blog before I did--although, in my defense, I did say that Sunday's start was huge for Karstens. It's a shame.

In Karsten's absence, Darrell Rasner--who, might as well be Karsten's professional twin with the Yanks--could pick up that slot. Unless something else goes wrong, that is. That's why the somewhat absurd level of righthanded depth the Yankees acquired this winter makes sense. Mike Mussina's old, and likely to need a breather this season; Andy Pettitte's no spring chicken, and he, too, has been known to break down; Kei Igawa is an unknown quantity, but he throws a ton of pitches, which suggests he might not give the team a titanic number of innings; Can't Play Carl Pavano...well, the name says it all. In the bullpen, Mariano Rivera's up there in years, and coming off an injury that kept him out the last month or so of the regular season; Kyle Farnsworth's a hothouse flower, the days he's not in the trainers room are more remarkable than those when he is dealing with a nagging something-or-other; Scott Proctor pitched a ton of innings last season--his entrance music should be a ticking-clock sound, maybe the effect used in 24. Wang was really the rock of this pitching staff, and he's the guy who got injured first. So while it may be disappointing for a Chris Britton (who had a good season for Baltimore last year) or a Phil Hughes (who many feel has nothing left to prove in the minors) not to break camp with the big club, the advice is "Patience. Your time will come, likely sooner than you think."


Other members of the AL East have rosters in flux, too. The Red Sox have reversed their decision to put Jonathan ("Don't Call Me Jon") Papelbon in the starting rotation. The story wasn't that unpredictable, given that the Red Sox closer candidates were Mike Timlin and Joel Piniero. The excuse for keeping Papelbon out of the rotation was that he was "medically not cleared" to close. Suddenly, when no new reliever stepped up to the role, Papelbon apparently got cured. Miraculous!

I also smell a rat in Bill Madden's Daily News column today. As most of you must have heard, Tony LaRussa was busted on a DUI, found unconscious in a car where the engine was running and the car was in gear. Of this incident, Madden says:
As for La Russa, his arrest after being discovered asleep at the wheel of his car while stopped at an intersection around midnight on Thursday was not only unfortunate but totally out of character. Anyone who knows the Cardinals' manager knows he's anything but a big drinker - more like a two-glasses-of-wine-a-night guy, if that. Nor is he one to be out and about in the late night. According to sources close to La Russa, the world championship has resulted in his having to spend a lot more time at dinners and functions this spring and he's tried to accommodate everyone. While it was fortunate he had his foot on the brake pedal and not the gas pedal when he conked out, the fact that his .093 blood alcohol was only a shade above the legal .08 limit suggests he was more exhausted than intoxicated.
What Madden fails to mention is that LaRussa's .093 blood alcohol level was measured about two hours after his arrest, so that was likely not his alcohol level at the time he passed out behind the wheel of his car, endangering himself and the public at large. Madden, who's a hardass about players behaving badly--regardless of whether anyone but the player himself was endangered--is now an apologist for a guy who could have injured a number of people if his foot had slipped off the brake pedal. Nice. I'm not the type to demonize LaRussa for his behavior, but I certainly don't think it's right to bend over backwards to excuse what he did, either, particularly when I've never heard a member of the press concoct a "shades over the legal limit" excuse or a "he must be exhausted from all the dinners and functions he's attended" excuse for any player accused of this crime. At best, LaRussa was irresponsible in getting behind the wheel when he was in no condition to drive; at worst, the police gave LaRussa a break by giving him two hours to sober up before breathalyzing him. But if you're going to simply absolve LaRussa for this, I don't ever want to hear you talk about personal responsibility, ever again.

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