By Jason Keidel
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It looks wretched right now.
But just a year ago, New York City was split on the Michael Pineda-Jesus Montero trade. Then, like those who witnessed Howard Dean’s rabid, spastic monologue on the campaign trail, the Pineda votes have vaporized, casting a Vernon Gholstonian pall upon the deal.
Michael Pineda, former Mariners All-Star, landed in New York not like the meteor many expected, but like a whale heaved upon the Hudson’s flank. He seems to be an amalgam of the worst deals of the last decade, equal parts Pavano and Ollie Perez. Pineda now has his mailed forwarded to the DL, where he starts this season, just like last season. Just like next season?
New Yorkers accept injury, not apathy. We accept that he’s fragile, not fat. And if nothing else, Pineda has given the pro-Montero people more ammo than they can fire.
Is it too early to brand the trade a bust? Mike Francesa and Evan Roberts said the trade’s true virtues can only be measured in years, not days, weeks, or months. But you can’t have one player playing every day while Pineda has literally flatlined for the Yanks. He hasn’t thrown one pitch in the Bronx.
You can respect a New Yorker’s impulse to protect a prospect like Montero, who had so many stars next to his name and plays such a precarious position (catcher), where the Yankees haven’t fielded a Hall-of-Famer in half a century (Yogi Berra).
New Yorkers know that a championship baseball club is spawned by the farm and then sprinkled with proper parts from free agency. It was the blueprint behind the Joe Torre dynasty, and departing from that formula is what kept them at arm’s length from more championships. Indeed, the Yankees have won just one title since 2000, since Larry Lucchino famously branded the Bombers “The Evil Empire.”
In fairness, Montero hasn’t exactly morphed into Johnny Bench, batting .260 last year with a malnourished .298 on-base percentage and 100 strikeouts during his first full season in Seattle (135 games). But when you consider that Jorge Posada was on his way out, Francisco Cervelli’s bat hasn’t blossomed, and Russell Martin was let go because – well, we don’t really know why – the Yanks have dug a deep chasm at catcher, making Montero rather appetizing right now.
Even the most rabid pinstriped apologists realize that the only way the Yankees can march to the AL East title is on the arms of their rotation. Between age, wage, and injury, even a staff as strong as New York’s will need help at some point this season. Brian Cashman, whose record with picking top pitching is dubious at best, doesn’t want to add Pineda to the phalanx of failures under his watch.
Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes were supposed to usher the Yankees into the 21st Century. Joba’s brain was inexorably scrambled by baffling pitch counts and role changes; Hughes has yet to show the shine we were promised; and Ivan Nova has been enigmatic, at best.
Now it’s time for Michael Pineda to show us what he’s got, unless we’ve already seen it. In Seattle.
Is it too early to brand Michael Pineda a bust? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below…