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This was originally a 2,000-word column, but with the profanity
snipped, it’s
down to about 1,000.

Friday, the Yankees traded for Ruben
Sierra
, perhaps because it worked out so well the first time.
Don’t
remember that? The Yanks swapped headaches with the A’s in 1995,
sending Danny
Tartabull
to the A’s for the outfielder Tony La Russa dubbed “the
village idiot.” Sierra spent about a year with the Yankees and hit
.259/.325/.410 before being dumped on the Tigers in the middle of 1996
for Cecil
Fielder
. At the time Sierra remarked, “all they care about
is
winning,” apparently believing that to be an insult to the
Yankees.

Now the Yankees have brought Sierra back. He’s no better a player than
he was
then–he can’t hit and he can’t field–and judging from his reaction to
the
trade, he hasn’t quite grasped the team concept, either. Sierra blasted
Buck
Showalter and John Hart, complained that he’d been looking forward to a
road
trip to Puerto Rico (where his family is), and, buried in all that,
grudgingly
conceded that he’d be going from last place to first place.

Setting all that aside…Ruben Sierra sucks. He’s hitting
.263/.333/.398 (.256 EqA) this year after a .270/.319/.418 (.271 EqA) season in 2002, poor
numbers that were themselves inflated by a monster April. He’s not an adequate
DH. The
idea that he’s going to provide the Yankees some help from the left
side is a
joke: he’s at .257/.330/.386 against righties this year, and has always
been a better hitter from the right side of the plate.

What’s most frustrating is that the Yankees could have improved their
team by simply calling up Fernando
Seguignol
. Seguignol, a switch-hitter hitting .303/.391/.592 at
Columbus, would be a clear improvement on the Yankees’ current DH
situation.
He can’t play the outfield, but then again, neither can Sierra at this
point.
In four seasons and 359 at-bats, Seguignol has career numbers of
.251/.305/.457. He’d be a much better gamble than Sierra, much less
likely to
be disruptive, and a lot easier to walk away from if he didn’t pan out.

It’s no secret that this isn’t Brian Cashman’s deal, and you have to
give
Cashman credit for not giving up much (Marcus
Thames
, .279/.332/.407 at Columbus this year, is a
non-prospect). This
is George Steinbrenner’s trade, another indication of his increasing
influence
on a roster that had its best run while he was keeping his mouth shut
and
cashing checks. It doesn’t make the Yankees better, but it adds a
familiar
name and gives the impression of addressing problems. (Visions of Steve
Trout
, and of Steinbrenner gloating to Lou Piniella, “I
just won
you the pennant,” haunt my memory.)

Let’s not forget John Hart in all this. By dumping Sierra on the
Yankees, he
cleared a nasty roster logjam and created more at-bats for Mark
Teixeira
, who has been mashing the ball for five weeks now.
Teixeira
and Buck Showalter are the big winners in this deal.

George, please, commit a felony. Pay a weasel for damaging information
about a
ballplayer. Do something before you condemn the Yankees to relive the
1980s.

Misuse of Assets

Watching the Yankees and Cubs yesterday, I noticed that Mark
Guthrie

has thrown 14 innings in 22 appearances, facing 57 batters all season
long.

Why?

Guthrie has rarely had a big platoon split (45 points of OPS from
2000-2002),
he keeps the ball in the park (18 home runs in 171 2/3 innings the last
three
seasons), and he has the ability to throw multiple innings (the A’s
considered
returning him to the rotation as recently as 2001). If there’s one role
he’s
particularly NOT suited for, it’s lefty specialist. He doesn’t have the
nasty
breaking pitch or great heat that causes left-handed batters trouble,
and he
doesn’t hold lefties to particularly low numbers at the plate
(.244/.330/.329 from 2000-2002).

The Cubs actually have two guys like this in Guthrie and Mike
Remlinger
. Remlinger is averaging less than an inning per
appearance as
well, despite an even better track record against right-handed batters.

It’s not just that Baker is using his left-handers less often than he
could.
The three effective righties in the pen are also right around an inning
per
appearance (Joe Borowski, 27 IP in 26 games, Kyle
Farnsworth
, 28
IP in 27 games, and Antonio Alfonseca, 16 1/3 IP in 16 games).
Meanwhile, Cubs starters are throwing 104.6 pitches per start, with
22-year-olds Mark Prior and Carlos Zambrano up around 110
pitches per start.

Baker could increase the Cubs’ chances of getting through the long
summer by
transferring some of the workload from his rotation to his bullpen. He
has
relievers who can take on an increased role, and who in fact might be
more
effective if used in longer outings. The right arms of Prior and
Zambrano
would benefit by being spared an inning here or there, and it’s hard to
argue
that the Cubs would be that much worse off having a fresh Remlinger
(3.16
ERA), Guthrie (3.21 ERA) or Farnsworth (2.25 ERA) picking up a bit
earlier
from a tiring starter.

This is a clear case where a manager can help his team win games this
year and
increase their chances of winning them into the future. How Baker
handles his
pitching staff may well make the difference in the NL Central this
season.

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