Wednesday, November 16, 2011

More Montero Please

The enlightened male is a myth. Try as this thinking man might, the sight of a pretty girl changes breathing patterns and messes up normal ways of thinking. Is there anything less wholesome than a man around a comely female? It does little to soothe the ego that scientists have confirmed that female attractiveness changes physiologically in men on sight. It's a DNA thing. To somehow get this post back on track for its intended purpose, the opening sets up what it's like hoping for a prospect to break into the line up or rotation. 

The metaphor goes like this: You are waiting in line behind twenty people for service. Handling the service are three guys, an old woman and a comely female. All the while the line in front of you is getting shorter and you are doing mental calculations on your odds of getting waited on by the fab female. Finally, your turn is next and both a male and the pretty girl are just wrapping up their last transactions. You start to fidget and the nerves are kicking in to see if who you will get. The girl finishes first and you do this inward huzzah kind of thing. And then...and then...she puts her "on break" sign, smiles at her coworkers and heads away from the counter. Nooooooo!!!

Yes, that's the metaphor of waiting for a prospect to get his chance. No, he's not as pretty as the girl. But the anticipation is just the same. Especially if he is Jesus Montero, the hottest Yankee prospect in a gazillion years. Montero came to Spring Training last season. Russell Martin had been signed, which was a surprise. Jorge Posada was told he was done catching. That wasn't a surprise. But Martin had trouble with his knees following an off season surgery and Francisco Cervelli was hurt too. Montero got lots of playing time along with Austin Romine. Joe Girardi said nice things about Montero. Could it be? Can we get the pretty girl in the line? Nope. The season broke and Martin and Cervelli went north and Jesus Montero headed to the minor league camp.

Montero said all the right things. He needed to work on some things and would wait his turn. Except that it didn't appear that his actions held up what he was saying. He started slowly in Triple A. He looked like he was regressing. There were whispers that he was bored. His normal good patience at the plate evaporated. Crap. The pretty girl went on break.

Thankfully, about mid-year, Jesus Montero started looking like a prospect again and came out of his funk. He did enough to warrant a September call up. We all salivated. No more freakin' Cervelli, we thought. The problem was (and is) that Joe Girardi and his bench coach, Tony Pena, are old school catchers. They were the prototypical, "good defense, little offense" type of catchers. What matters is calling games and receiving the ball properly behind the plate. It was more than ironic that Jorge Posada's career came to an end under Girardi after Posada won the job over his manager as a great hitting, weak defense catcher back in the glory days of Yankee championships. By the fourth championship in 2000, it was Girardi who was out and Posada who was it. So that makes it doubly hard for a weak defensive catcher to crack the line up no matter how good he hit.

And make no mistake about it. Jesus Montero can hit! His September was amazing. In 69 plate appearances, Montero put up a .328/.406/.590 slash line. But he didn't catch. Well, he caught three games and he DHed the other fourteen. Austin Romine, on the other hand, caught eight games in September. He's more of an old school catcher like Girardi and Pena. He could be trusted. Not Montero. But at least we got a taste. Then we hoped he would get on the post season roster. He was. Super! But then he didn't play. Well, he did get two at bats...and got two hits. Meanwhile, Russell Martin went 3 for 17 in the series against the Tigers. You can't fault the decision to DH Posada. The old catcher had a fabulous last hurrah. But it wasn't enough because Montero wasn't to be trusted. The Yankees scored nine runs in their three losses. And as good as Martin might be behind the plate, he didn't really help C.C. Sabathia and Ivan Nova in those last two losses, did he?

So now we head into 2012. Martin will be resigned before he's offered arbitration or perhaps after. But he will be the starting catcher. Posada is gone to either retirement or banishment. God love him, Cervelli will probably be back though shouldn't be. And what of Montero? Well, the Yankees need a DH. And when Girardi wants fifty games to rest regulars, Montero will probably sit. It won't matter if he's hitting like .350 or something know...he ain't that good a catcher.

In this author's perfect world, that girl would not have gone on break. Jesus Montero would catch two days a week and DH the other five. He would bat in 162 games and put up a .900 OPS and hit his fair share of opposite field homers into the right field bleachers.  But this perfect world will never happen because his team is managed by a no-hit, good glove catcher who has a no-hit, good glove bench coach. Montero might get 300 plate appearances. Or he might be traded once the Yankees panic when they are six games behind the Bay Rays. When it comes to Montero, this author becomes some kind of Dickens character: "May I have some more please?"

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