Sunday, May 2, 2010
No Returns: Yankees Stuck With Vazquez and Johnson
May 2, 2010
By Anthony Tripicchio
If Yankees' GM Brian Cashman purchased Nick Johnson and Javier Vazquez at a department store, he would be frantically searching for his receipt right now. Sorry, no returns.
As the calendar turned to May, Vazquez continued to display the same ineptitude he showed in April as the right-hander was destroyed by a weak-hitting White Sox team Saturday afternoon. Vazquez allowed 11 baserunners in three plus innings and five earned runs, including three homeruns. His ERA on the season now stands higher than the Empire State Building at 9.78.
Clearly, Vazquez's second tour of duty in New York is beginning to look like another wretched ordeal. He's not locating his fastball, he's hanging off-speed pitches, and his head is a mess.
There are five months left in the season, but the litany of failures Vazquez has previously suffered in the AL along with his visibly fragile temperament all suggest that this experiment is the same lost cause it was the first time around.
I'll reiterate that my stance on Vazquez is not merely based on his disgraceful tenure in pinstripes. I cited a myriad of factors here over two months ago, including his AL nightmares and his incompatibility with the dimensions of Yankee Stadium. While many supported the move to reacquire him at the time, that bandwagon is looking awfully light right now as exemplified by the boos that cascaded down on him upon his premature exit Saturday in the new cathedral.
According to Michael Kay, Vazquez did a disappearing act for the media prior to Saturday's game and that is as inexcusable as his performance thus far. If your play is terrible, you need to be accountable and if that is too much to ask in May, then I don't see how you can make it through September. New York is an impossible place to play for those with skin thinner than Kate Moss.
Vazquez's next turn in the rotation is slated for Friday in Fenway Park and there has already been discussion over whether he will make that start since the Yankees can skip him due to their off day on Thursday. Although the Red Sox lineup is not as intimidating as it once was, putting Vazquez in that chaotic environment would be like throwing him to the wolves.
On the last year of his contract, Vazquez will see his future play out elsewhere. The only question is how soon that will occur. Since Vazquez has a history of success in the NL, he may actually be movable despite his miserable start to 2010 if the Yankees are willing to eat a portion of his $11.5 million salary.
Brad Penny, John Smoltz, and Vicente Padilla all resurrected their careers to some extent last year after their respective defections to the NL (Penny continues to thrive in St. Louis this year, Padilla was the Dodgers' opening day starter before subsequently landing on the disabled list, while Smoltz is in quasi retirement). The three noted above were unceremoniously released by their AL clubs, but Vazquez should be better than all of them at this stage of his career and proved as much last season in Atlanta.
Look for NL contenders to inquire about Vazquez prior to the trade deadline. Ironically, if the Mets are still in the mix in July, Vazquez would be a good fit for them in their gargantuan ballpark.
Johnson, meanwhile, was 0-1 in a pinch hitting appearance which dropped his batting average to an embarrassing .136. Johnson is buoyed by his .378 OBP, but that and his expiring contract are the only redeeming qualities about him at this point.
His predecessors Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui continue to excel in their new locales. Damon, who is on fire, hit a walk-off homer Saturday in Detroit and raised his average to .344 accompanied by a .439 OBP and .511 slugging percentage. Incidentally, he's also been lauded for contributing to the rapid development of former Yankee farmhand and the early favorite for AL Rookie of the Year Austin Jackson.
Curtis Granderson, the big name who Detroit traded for Jackson among others, strained his groin running the bases Saturday and was immediately placed on the disabled list. Struggling while Jackson, Ian Kennedy and Phil Coke contribute in Detroit and Arizona, Granderson has yet to find himself as a Yankee.
Lefties still give Granderson fits as he bats .172 against them in 2010 and just .215 with a .303 OBP overall.
In spite of his slow start, he's a Yankee for the long haul and will be given every opportunity to succeed once he's healthy because, unlike Vazquez and Johnson, the Yankees have simply sacrificed too much for Granderson to allow him to flop.