By Jason Keidel
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I was not among the masses who assumed that we traded Johnny Bench for Michael Pineda. And it’s fair to reason that it’s harder to find a 23-year-old pitcher with an All-Star appearance under his belt than a 22-year-old catcher who could be an All-Star, maybe, someday, if things eventually worked out.
But now it’s time to officially ponder –- if not pummel –- the trade that sent Jesus Montero to Seattle and brought Pineda to, well, rehab. All the signs point toward Ollie Perez Avenue. Or, worse … Carl Pavano.
Pineda showed up carefree and corpulent, his work ethic and physique on par with Eddy Curry. Then he blows out his shoulder, which could be in direct correlation to his weight and work ethic. Then he gets popped this week for a DUI. What’s next? He refuses to stand for “God Bless America?” He’ll refuse to visit our wounded heroes at Walter Reed?
It’s times like these when we miss Old Man Steinbrenner. There hasn’t been a more appropriate moment for Big George to unleash one of his Hideki Irabu “Fat Toad” semantic spasms.
This isn’t a cultural thing, a language thing or a New York City thing. Perhaps Pineda is privileged beyond his capacity to comprehend, savor or salvage. A lot of careers are truncated by injury or apathy, or both. Pineda doesn’t realize how close he is to blowing an epic opportunity in the Bronx.
A funny thing happened on the Yankees’ moonwalk to the pennant. Just a month ago, you needed a telescope to see the second-place club in the AL East. I even heard WFAN’s Jerry Recco say that the Yanks had a ’98 feel, which is quite a blessing or blasphemous, depending on your take. He said it presumably because the Yankees shared a certain, special quality with the ’98 iteration: pitching, a conveyor belt of blessed arms.
Now, with Pineda and Andy Pettitte hurt, Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes weakening, New York’s regal rotation is thinner than Kate Moss. They plunge perilously close to the Wild Card, losing to losing teams and seeing cleat marks from Baltimore and Tampa.
I respect the impulse and instinct to keep our own, to spawn the next dynasty the way we did the last, through a fertile farm system and dabbing the free-agent market. The Evil Empire way of business — harpooning every big free-agent fish who comes up for air — hasn’t been exemplary, keeping Pavano in mind. If the Yankees haven’t been proof positive that you can’t purchase World Series rings, just look west, young man, toward the Tigers and Angels.
But if Montero were so sure to succeed, why did the Yanks jettison him so swiftly? And if Joe Girardi, a man who knows something about catching, thought so much of Montero, then why was he shipped to Seattle after batting .300 in 18 games last year? And while Montero hasn’t exactly reminded anyone of Yogi Berra, batting .258 with 14 homers and 51 RBIs isn’t too bad for a fledgling not named Mike Trout. And at least he’s playing — which means he can improve — which means that the Yankees (and I) look silly right now. I rubberstamped the trade the second it happened.
So, would you too take Montero back? Is this trade already a bust? Have the Bombers already bombed on this deal? Perhaps it’s too early to put a post-mortem on the trade, but the early returns are woeful, if not awful, because there have been no returns.
Yankees fans, can you officially declare the Pineda-Montero trade a bust? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…