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March 08, 2007

Phelps' Mission Impossible?

From Tyler Kepner -

The Yankees’ record is 6-1-1 after their 5-3 victory over the Braves today. Josh Phelps is batting .600 (6 for 10), and he drove in two runs today.

On the other hand, Doug Mientkiewicz is 0 for 12. “We just have to get Mientkiewicz a base hit,” Manager Joe Torre said, “before he jumps off a building.”

When the Yankees picked up Josh Phelps, I thought it was a potential sleeper pick by them. So, I can understand where some people now, seeing his numbers to date this spring, are jumping on the Phelps-should-make-the-team-bandwagon.

However, consider this: In the last two-and-a-half years, Josh Phelps had the Blue Jays, Indians, Devil-Rays and Tigers give up on him. Also, the Orioles did not think enough of him to protect him just a month after they signed him. That's five teams in two-and-a-half years who had Phelps and who allowed him to move on for just about nothing.

Can a guy who has been passed around more often than a funny cigarette during a party at Snoop Dogg's house all of a sudden become a player who can help the New York Yankees?

At times like these, I often think of what Bill James wrote about Jose Mesa in "The Baseball Book 1991" -

Can he pitch in the major leagues? Can a bear perform heart surgery? I guess you never know unless you give him a scalpel and stand back.

Funny, I would have sworn that James said "Can he pitch in the major leagues? Can a bear perform heart surgery? I guess you never know unless you give him a scalpel. But, I would hate to be the guy they find out on." Going back and checking the book now, I see that the correct quote did not include what I thought was the closing remark.

In any event, this is sort of where I am with Josh Phelps. Could a guy who one-sixth of the teams in the league have already passed on, in less than three years, suddenly turn into a useful player? Maybe, but, I would hate to be the team that is used to find out on....

Maybe Phelps is just taking advantage of pitchers being about five MPH slower than normal and not throwing many breaking pitches at this stage of Spring Training? That could be possible.

Then again, maybe this is another Mike Stanley story - where a guy joins the Yankees at age 29, with a so-so resume, and he becomes a silver slugger?

It's probably best to give him some more At Bats this spring and stand back (for now).

Posted by Steve Lombardi at March 8, 2007 10:07 PM


Regardless, Phelps HAS to be better than MCI

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 8, 2007 11:30 PM

While 4 teams have given up on Phelps, the Twins, Red Sox, Mets, and Royals have also not kept Mientkiewicz during the same period.

Posted by: RICH [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 9, 2007 05:44 AM

Wasn't the Twins and Sox call on him money driven?

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 9, 2007 09:10 AM

Yeah, I think the Twins & Sox were upset that they had to pay Mink-- money for him to play for them. So who's a better glove -- Phelps or Rico?

Posted by: rbj [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 9, 2007 09:24 AM

Rico, by far. Phelps is a DH who plays 1B, at best.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 9, 2007 11:01 AM

Well, if the team is moving Jason off the bag due to his glovework, then wouldn't it make sense to replace him with a good defender? Otherwise I don't see much to be gained by replacing a monster bat/bad defense with a replacement level bat (possibly that high?) / weak defender. Plus, if Giambi plays first then the DH slot is a nice half day off for the OF'ers with Melky getting playing time. (And a good glove will help with throws coming from the left side of the infield.)

Not sure if what I'm thinking is coming through correctly. Must be a keyboard error.

Posted by: rbj [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 9, 2007 11:14 AM

The point is, Phelps is better offensively than both in-house options (Phillips and Rico), which is, admittedly, not saying much. As far as Giambi playing first, I have to believe that injuries are more of a concern than his defensive prowess. If he weren't so injury prone, the Yanks would tolerate his horrendous defense.

Posted by: brockdc [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 9, 2007 07:36 PM