Thursday, May 14, 2009

Feel Victor's Wrath

Unfortunately, it's a pretty common occurrence for a young superstar to struggle through a season of nagging injuries, unwilling to believe that a sore forearm or tight oblique could cause them to lose their superior ability.  It's also quite common for a player of that mold to let the failure send his career down a 4 year spiral.  Such does not appear to be the case in Cleveland, where Catcher/First baseman Victor Martinez has put a stinker of a 2008 season beyond the rear view.  Martinez is batting a ridiculous .385 through his first 35 games of the '09 season, and perhaps more impressive, Victor has walked 23 times to just 13 strikeouts.  I will admit, he is just the type of high-value player I would have avoided in the draft due to last season's injuries/slump, but Victor has stuffed a metaphorical sock in my yapper over the initial month-plus.

What fun would this column be, though, if I didn't get to deliver a verbal bludgeoning to somebody famous, or trying to become famous.  Today, I think it's time to lay the beatdown on the Arizona Diamondbacks.  An organization that has done a very nice job in the draft recently made a few trades to acquire Dan Haren, and it's tough to complain about a guy who competes for the Cy Young year in and year out.  If Brandon Webb could get healthy, this team would have a chance to win most games (assuming they ever manage to score more than 3 runs).  Every conceivable strikeout cliche has already been used by the broadcasters calling the game, which makes my life a little more difficult.

To a certain extent, I actually feel bad for the D'backs.  Every time they get a runner on base (which, more often than not, is Justin Upton, the only player doing anything at the plate), the next 3 batters strike out.  Mark Reynolds has flailed at more breaking balls a foot off the plate in the season's first month than most big-leaguers do in their entire careers.  Conor Jackson gets jammed 3 out of every 4 at-bats.  Eric Byrnes had a few multi-hit games in a row, but he's still batting near .200.  Chad Tracy is playing regularly!?  And poor Bob Melvin lost his job.  I guess they had to try something, but I hardly see how this was Melvin's fault.  He made the right moves with the bat-waving chumps he was given, and the Director of Player Development is managing the team now.  I can almost make sense of the logic -- you have a Major League team made up of mostly ultra-talented guys that belong in Triple-A, why not make their every-day manager the guy that shuttled them through the Minors?  All I can say is "yikes!"

NICK JOHNSON - Washington is actually starting to score a few runs, and Johnson is in one of the very few enviable spaces in the lineups, batting second behind Christian Guzman and ahead of Ryan Zimmerman.  Johnson's average will likely take at least a slight dip at some point from its current perch at .333, but he walks a fair amount, and has scored and driven in ~20.  It's about that time to start benching underperforming big names and waiting out their slumps with guys like Johnson keeping you afloat.

KIP WELLS/JOEL HANRAHAN - It seems the closer committee for Washington is just going to be these two guys, as both Joel Beimel and Julian Tavarez were downright terrible in their brief runs.  After Beimel and Tavarez soiled the pitcher's mound, Wells has been serviceable, and Hanrahan doesn't look quite as bad.

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