Saturday, November 12, 2005

Don’t Believe the Hype
By Ben Valentine

There are many things in New York I love. My teams for one, Lucia’s Pizza on Roosevelt Avenue in Flushing, NYU and the NYU crew, the weather for the most part, and of course, the relativly liberal political nature of the area. But there are things here I can’t stand. The Yankees, the Knicks, pizza that’s not from Lucia’s, and the media.

The New York media could be the best in the world. It is so large and expansive that the variety of opinions and the free exchange of ideas should be endless. There are many journalists in this city, and some have at least half a brain. A select few even possess an entire one. That’s what makes me so frustrated by most of the mainstream media in this town. It could be phenomenal, but instead it comes off as sensationalist, underperforming, egotistical and just plain lazy. You know, like the Knicks on any given game day.

I’ve written about things like this before. The NY media believes A-Rod to be a choker, when the evidence clearly shows otherwise. Columnists write the Jets quit, when there is nothing at all to back that statement up. And now, in a beautiful fit of inconsistancy, the NY media is demanding the Mets give up anyone and anything for Manny Ramirez, while also demanding the Yankees refuse to trade any of their “top prospects.” In other words, Aaron Heilman, Lastings Milledge and Yusmeiro Petit could and should be traded because the Mets are a New York team that should spend big bucks, while the Yankees can’t trade Robinson Cano, Chien Ming Wang and Eric Duncan because they’re the future of an aging Yankee team.

Here’s of course where the laziness comes in. If the media bothered to look at the statistics, they’d see the Yankees players aren’t particularly good, while the Mets prospects have a lot of value. Now again they’re prospects, but if the Yankees can’t deal Eric Duncan who struggled at AA last year, why should the Mets be willing to deal Petit or Milledge, who excelled? Furthermore, why should the Mets even fathom about dealing Heilman, when his numbers are far and away better than anything Cano or Wang put up last season? But then don’t take my word for it. Here’s the stats:

Cano: 2003: High A: 366 AB, .276/.313/.377/.690, 16 2B, 5 Hrs

AA: 164 AB, .280/.341/.366/.707, 9 2B, 1 Hr

2004: AA: 292 AB, .301/.356/.497/.853, 20 2B, 7 Hrs

AAA: 216 AB, .259/.316/.403/.719, 9 2B, 6 Hrs

2005: AAA: 108 AB, .333/.368/.574/.942, 8 2B, 3 Hrs

Yankees: 522 AB, .297/.320/.458/.778, 34 2B, 14 Hrs

I included the doubles and home runs as an indication of power. Cano basically has been an above average player offensively for the last year. He was solid but not great with mediocre power at AA, and then terrible at AAA. He had a great start to this season and then put up a good average, but a miserable on-base and mediocre slugging for the big team. His 32 doubles suggest one day he might hit somewhere around 25 home runs, but that’s iffy. And he plays awful defense. Overall, his minor league numbers don’t suggest he’s a great hitter by any stretch of the imagination, so he may not get all that better from this season. I’m not quite what in his numbers suggests he’s “going to win a batting crown” as a local radio host said earlier this year. Well maybe that’s understandable because at least Cano has a chance to be an average major league player. On the other hand, there may not be a more overrated player in New York than Chien Ming Wang:

2003: AA: 7-6, 4.65 ERA, 122 IP, 1.43 WHIP, 6.20 K/9, 2.43 BB/9, 2.63 K/BB, .52 Hr/9

2004: AA: 6-5, 4.05 ERA, 109 IP, 1.27 WHIP, 7.43 K/9, 2.15 BB/9, 3.46 K/BB, .50 Hr/9

AAA: 5-1, 2.01 ERA, 40.1 IP. .97 WHIP, 7.81 K/9, 1.79 BB/9, 4.38 K/BB, .69 Hr/9

2005: AAA: 2-1, 4.24 ERA, 34 IP, 1.35 WHIP, 5.56 K/9, 1.59 BB/9, 3.5 K/BB, 1.06

Yankees: 8-5, 4.02 ERA, 116.1 IP, 1.25 WHIP, 3.64 K/9, 2.48 BB/9, 1.46 K/BB, .70 Hr/9

Meet the most overrated player in New York.

Read that again. 3.64 K/9 this season. You’ve got to be kidding me. He makes Aaron Small look like Johan Santana. Yet somehow people believe this guy was the Yankees’ best pitcher this season. He was in fact, their worst. You could have thrown Al Leiter out there for 30 starts and he would have put up as good, if not better, numbers. If the Yankees could get a third starter for Wang, they should do it. Hell a fourth starter with potential would be a steal. The Yankees won’t deal Wang because I can’t see any GM in baseball being stupid enough to trade anything of value for this guy, who not only doesn’t strike anyone out, but also is going to be 26 next year and has a history of arm problems. Read my lips Yankee fans. He stinks. And just for a comparison, let’s see what the guy who everyone is so eager to deal around here, Aaron Heilman, did last year:

Heilman: 5-3, 3.17 ERA, 108 IP, 1.15 WHIP, 8.83 K/9, 3.08 BB/9, 2.86 K/BB .50 Hr/9

See why I hate the NY media sometimes? They should be screaming for the Mets to give this guy a bigger role, not trade him. By the way, he’s just one year older than Wang. Why is he a busted prospect while Wang is the savior of the Yankees rotation? Perception, perception, perception. Meanwhile, another guy rumored to be sent away in the Manny trade would be Yusmeiro Petit.

2004: High A: 2-3, 1.22 ERA, 44.1 IP, .92 WHIP, 12.59 K/9, 2.84 BB/9, 4.43 K/BB, 0.00 Hr/9

2005: AA: 9-3, 2.91 ERA, 117.2 IP, .92 WHIP, 9.94 K/9, 1.38 BB/9, 7.22 K/BB, 1.15 Hr/9

AAA: 0-3, 9.20 ERA, 14.2 IP, 2.05 WHIP, 8.59 K/9, 3.68 BB/9, 2.33 K/BB, 3.07 Hr/9

Yeah he got shelled in AAA, but it was just 14 innings and remember, he’s just 20 years old (he turns 21 this month). I didn’t put on his low A numbers but he struck out over 11 batters an inning at each of his stops. Bottom line, the guy has ace potential, even if there are questions about his stuff. The numbers are just too good to overlook. It’s more likely he becomes a solid number #3 guy, but again, his upside is far greater than Wang’s. So why is he so much more tradable? Is it because Wang put up terrible peripherals on a major league team this year, because there’s no reason to think Petit couldn’t outpitch Wang in 2006, even with his awful start at AAA. Man, the fact the Mets might have to give him, Mike Cameron, Milledge and Heilman up for Ramirez just makes it seem all the more ridiculous. Meanwhile, since I already posted Milledge’s numbers on my previous post, I’ll leave them off and just bring you the final great Yankee prospect: 19 year old third baseman Eric Duncan.

2004: High A: 173 AB, .254/.366/.462/.828, 20 2B, 4 Hrs

2005: AA: 451 AB, .235/.326/.408/.734, 15 2B, 19 Hrs

AFL: 94 AB, .362/.423/.734/1.157, 9 2B, 8 Hrs

I apologize for an error I made in my Milledge post. I said he was the youngest player in the AFL. However, I am almost certain Duncan is youngest player at the age of 19. Of the three listed prospects, he has by far the highest upside as his ridiculous performance in the AFL shows. Which is why the Yankees should look to trade him now. Look at his AA. It was terrible. His high A? Also not too good. Yes, he was amazing this fall, but it was only in 94 AB. Unlike Milledge, who had a very good season and then exploded in the AFL, Duncan had a downright awful year that was saved by his AFL campaign. A good prospect? Sure. But a great one? Not at all. And with A-Rod at 3B for the foreseeable future, there isn’t any place for the guy to play anyway until the Yankees finally move Jeter from short. But then where will Cano play? Of course that’s all moot because the Yankees won’t move their captain.

Bottom line, the Yankees have a bunch of mediocre young players on their hands. None of these guys could fetch a Ramirez, Barry Zito over even a Jason Schmidt. At best, they’ll become above average players judging by their numbers and that’s pushing it. Duncan does have decent upside, but he’s also the most raw. Another campaign like that at AA (the Yankees would be morons to promote him) and his prospect status will be hurt severely. If the Yankees could package these three for a good player, then youth be damned, they should do it. If the Dodgers called and offered Milton Bradley for them, Brian Cashman should be fired on the spot if he didn’t say yes immediately. Any of these guys would be lucky to produce for the Yankees what Bradley could give them over the next three to four years.

Meanwhile, the Mets should be looking to do the opposite. Milledge, Heilman and Petit are part of a core that could be something special. While Manny Ramirez would most likely be more valuable than those three next year, by 2007-2008 the Mets would be better off with their kids. With Tom Glavine most likely gone after this season and mediocre Kris Benson, Heilman and Petit would fit nicely into their 2007 rotation. And you guys already know what I think about Milledge.

Of course I’m in the minority. But that’s fine with me. I was with Vinny Testaverde too. And when I said Larry Brown couldn’t save the Knicks. Even if the media here in New York is aggravating, it gets me talking, writing and posting. Hey, it’s fun to argue with it.

Guess that’s something else I love about New York.


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