Thursday, July 31, 2008


PUDGE RODRIGUEZ for Kyle Farnsworth? A year ago, this trade would have been a no-brainer for the New York Yankees.

But, right now, some fans are questioning the merits of the latest move by Yanks’ general manager Brian Cashman – and understandably so.

Farnsworth was the man Yankees fans used to love to hate. But in this “what have you done for me lately” sport, the Professor’s stock has never been higher.

The 6ft 4in gentle giant deserves credit for turning things around in the city with the harshest critics in baseball.

After two pretty ordinary years for the Yanks, he is actually their most-used reliever this season, giving up 43 hits and just 18 runs in 44.1 innings for a very respectable ERA of 3.65.

Farnsworth responded to the faith placed in him by Girardi, his former Chicago Clubs catcher, to become the go-to guy in the eighth inning when Joba Chamberlain was switched to the starting rotation.

That’s why both men had a tear in their eye yesterday when the surprise trade with the Detroit Tigers was confirmed.

But let’s keep it real. That Farnsworth had become more reliable was beyond question.

Not so reliable, however, that Girardi would leave him in with two men on and one out against the Boston Red Sox last week. 

Girardi had to call on Mariano Rivera for a five-out save and the nagging doubt about Farnsworth remained. Could he really get the best hitters out with the game hanging in the balance?

Need for a hitting catcher outweighed Farnsworth's improved form

In the end, Cashman and Girardi both felt the sacrifice was worth making to sign an All-Star catcher, even if it is only for two or three months. Like Rodriguez, Farnsworth is a free agent at the end of the season.

At 36 years of age, Pudge is not quite the force of old, but he’s still hitting .295 with 32 RBIs and five home runs.

That’s a lot better than José Molina (.226), signed as a back-up catcher by the Yanks but pressed into regular action to the season-ending shoulder injury to Jorge Posada.

Despite his defensive strengths and ability to throw runners out, Molina is hardly a finely tuned athlete. Cashman and Girardi clearly feel he is not up to the task of playing every day, especially down the stretch in a pennant race. No. 3 Chad Moeller can’t hit either.

The Yanks are now just one game behind the Boston Red Sox in the Wild Card standings, but they look to have by far the hardest schedule over the last two months.

No fewer than 10 of their remaining 55 games are against the Los Angeles Angels (67-40), currently the best team in baseball.

The Red Sox have lost their last eight games against the Angels but the good news for Terry Francona is that they don’t have to play them again in the regular season.

The Yanks have some tough road trips to come and with major question marks over their starting pitching, the one thing they’re going to have to do is hit from one through nine.

With Brian Bruney ready to return to a bullpen boosted by much-improved performers such as Edwar Ramirez and Jose Veras, the Yanks feel they can cope without Farnsworth.

That’s why it took less than six hours for Cashman to agree to send him back to Detroit. At least he can leave New York with his head held high.

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