December 19, 2006

Roster Dilemmas And A Fan's Devotion

Weeks ago I offered up a scenario where the Yankees could keep both Bernie Williams and Melky Cabrera by training Melky to be a first baseman. While it is easier to move from the infield to the outfield, Melky is young enough and talented enough to make the switch. Also, after the Yankees were willing to train Gary Sheffield to cover first, in the post season no less, the move isn't outrageous. In fact, it makes good sense.

Instead of trading young Melky, who filled in Hideki Matsui's big shoes admirably while Hideki was on the D.L., the switch to first keeps a young player who is already productive, makes big plays, hits in the clutch, and fits in well in the clubhouse. The Yankees are interested in a setup man for Mariano, and Melky is the best trading chip they have. After such a frugal winter (for the Yankees, anyway) the Yankees should merely write a check to get a setup man. Keep the talented Cabrera who has proved he can play in pinstripes. The move to first also makes sense because the Yankees won't have to spend money on Doug Mientkiewicz, a player they have interest in a platoon situation with either Andy Philips or Josh Phelps (Newsday).

Aren't we Yankee fans tired of a platoon at first? We've had an unofficial "platoon" at first base ever since Jason Giambi started to self destruct. Melky deserves a shot at a full time position and first base is open. It's a safe bet that he'd learn quickly. If such a move were made, this would allow veteran and fan favorite Bernie Williams to return for another year as a Yankee. In this Yankee fan's humble opinion, that's worth it.

As a fan, it is tough to see your favorite players leave. Bernie, if he is indeed not signed by the Yankees again, can leave on a high note. He was treated like royalty by appreciative fan's whenever he appeared either on the field or in the batter's box last season. He will be missed if he doesn't return; but if he does, his presence will loom large, and such a player is a factor on a winning team even if his production is down, his arm a little weaker, and his speed is diminished.

Getting to know young Melky has been a pleasure. Since he stumbled onto Yankee Stadium's field (after a couple of mis-plays) he picked himself up, dusted himself off, and became a very good player who will be a star one day. This Yankee fan is hooked. To see him go will be a shame as it will be hard to root for Doug Mientkiewicz or Josh Phelps instead of Melky.

Of course, Melky is not going to play first base next year. My attempts at being an amateur GM not withstanding, it is still a good idea. We fans can get used to Doug Mientkiewicz (assuming the Yankees sign him) and Josh Phelps, especially if they do well. We can say farewell to Bernie and still wear jerseys and tee shirts with his name and number emblazoned on them. We will cheer Melky as the Yankees visit the stadium of the team they traded him to and he belts a home run off of Randy Johnson. Players like Bernie and Melky, if they are not Yankees next year, will be sorely missed. Players come and go; and as frustrating as that is, that's just the business of baseball.

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