Sunday, April 18, 2010

Starting the Season In a Slump Can Ruin Your Career

These three players must be feeling awful today:

One of the toughest decisions for a manager is when to start taking at-bats away from a veteran hitter, particularly when that player is pulling down serious coin. It still may be very early in the season, but it's not too early to foresee painful calls that will have to be made by Terry Francona in Boston, Lou Piniella in Chicago and Joe Maddon in Tampa Bay. Their problems, respectively, are what to do about David Ortiz, Alfonso Soriano and Pat Burrell -- three former sluggers, born 11 months apart, making $39.5 million combined, who are off to miserable starts on the heels of a poor season last year...

Again, it's too early to make a definitive call on any of them, but the warning signs are ominous. Ortiz, 34, hit .238 last year. Soriano, 34, hit .241 and has missed almost 100 games combined over the past two seasons. Burrell, 33, hit .221 last year. All of them are smack in the crosshairs of the two fastest-growing influences these days in how players are quickly devalued: age and lack of defensive skills.

Of those three, I would say that David Ortiz is probably finished. Didn't he have these issues last season? If Ortiz was only hitting .238 last season, then how can you justify the money he's being paid and the at-bats he's getting? Especially if he's a player who is a liability on defense. Soriano, at least, can play a position, albeit not that great sometimes. Burrell might be the first one to go to the minors, however.

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