Pitcher Abuse

Yankee general manager Brian Cashman made some (minor) waves by saying publicly that Pedro Feliciano, on the DL with shoulder problems, was "abused" by the crosstown New York Mets. I think it's easy to look at Feliciano's work load — at least 78 games every year since 2007, including league-leading totals in three consecutive seasons, none fewer than 86 games and an incredible 92 games last season — and conclude that Cashman is correct. 

Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen took exception to that characterization, however:

"They didn't know that when they signed him? … He volunteered for the baseball every day. He was asked whether he was able to pitch. He said 'yes' every day — every day — and wanted to pitch more than we even pitched him." 

Regarding Cashman's comments, Warthen said: "I feel badly that someone feels that way. That was part of the reason we decided to not re-sign him — because we knew we had used him 270-some times in the last three years." 

There's a lot of weirdness in this situation.

First of all, as Warthen notes, Feliciano's heavy workload did not just come to light, so for the Yankees to complain about it now seems odd. When a pitcher has appeared in more than half of his team's past 648 games, the buyer should most definitely beware. If the Yankees' assessment of Feliciano was that his arm could withstand the usage (and apparently it was, otherwise they would not have given him two guaranteed seasons), then signing him is, to an extent, an implicit endorsement of that use. No one signs ballplayers they expect were harmed by abusive usage patterns to guaranteed major league contracts. Well, I guess not exactly "no one."

What's even weirder, however, is Warthen's characterization of Feliciano's usage. It amounts to, "Sure, we abused him, but he asked us to!" This is the Grady Little school of pitcher abuse: If the pitcher says yes, then go for it. Because a highly competitive person would never gloss over soreness or weakness that might portend an injury in order to help win ballgames, right? Under this theory, Pedro Martinez should have been left on the mound in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS because he said he was fine, even though it was clear he wasn't. And Pedro Feliciano apparently should have pitched an unhealthy number of innings because he said "'yes' every day" he was asked. If I were a young pitcher in the Mets system, I'd be leery of that kind of attitude.

5 comments… add one

  • Well, Mets pitchers know something about self-abuse, but that’s another story.
    http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/sports/features/2138/index1.html

    SF April 5, 2011, 2:49 pm
  • I love the new Brian Cashman. Seriously, and not meant as a dig at all. I like a guy that speaks what he’s thinking.

    Brad April 5, 2011, 3:17 pm
  • Cash seems to have erased the memory of Scott Proctor’s 2006 season from his hard drive.
    83 games, 102 IP. Had a great season that year, but never really been the same pitcher since. Missed a season to injury and just got sent down to AAA by Atlanta.

    nettles April 5, 2011, 3:53 pm
  • In Cash’s defense, I don’t think he’d defend the usage of Proctor. He objected to Torre’s over-reliance on a couple arms. His objections eventually led to the much publicized “Joba rules”, which were more telling re: Cashman-Torre than about Joba. Torre was a master-abuser of the few arms he trusted. And how on earth Mariano emerged from that to have this long of a career – and a superlative one at that – is one of about 50 things I’ll never know and always admire about number 42.

    IronHorse (YF) April 6, 2011, 1:34 am
  • “…signing him is, to an extent, an implicit endorsement of that use….”
    not necessarily an endorsement, but certainly the yankees were well aware of his workload before they acquired him, and yet they signed him anyway…i don’t think cash was doing anything more than stating the facts…nothing sinister here…just like colon and garcia the yanks took a calculated risk on this guy…2 yrs/8 mil is a bit more of a risk though…

    dc April 6, 2011, 12:12 pm

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