TIGERS SWEET ON JACKSON

By Murray Chass

May 9, 2010

A story was circulating last week that the Yankees traded Austin Jackson to the Tigers for Curtis Granderson because they had soured on the minor league outfielder. Mike Francessa, the WFAN all-everything expert, probably gave the story its widest circulation.

Brian Cashman, the Yankees’ general manager, said he had heard the story. Cashman also said it’s not true.

“How can you sour on a guy who’s progressing each year?” Cashman said. “No Yankees people are saying that. I told Jim Leyland in spring training that this guy is going to hit. We just don’t know about his power.”Austin Jackson 225

Leyland, the Detroit manager, has found Cashman to be a man of his word.

Before Sunday’s games, the rookie center fielder was hitting .370, second in the American League; was leading with 47 hits and 15 multi-hit games, was tied for third with 24 runs scored, was sixth in on-base percentage with .420 and was tied for the lead in triples with three.

“We projected him as an everyday player in the big leagues,” Cashman said, “We projected him to be a right-handed bat and an above average hitter. We didn’t project power. He’s an above average defender and he can steal bases.”

Soured on Jackson?

“They were not eager to trade him,” Dave Dombrowski, the Tigers’ general manager, said, “but they knew they had to give up some talent.”

Jackson was selected by the Yankees out of a Texas high school in the eighth round of the 2005 draft. He made progress in each of four subsequent seasons in the minors, but he became expendable, like so many minor leaguers before him, when the Yankees decided they needed a left-handed hitting center fielder. That would be Granderson.

“Two young outfielders, one right-handed’ one left-handed, one with power, one with undetermined power,” Cashman said of Jackson, 23, and Granderson, 29. “We prefer the left-handed power.”

The Yankees, though, would have preferred not trading Jackson.

Was he reluctant to give the Tigers Jackson? “Of course,” Cashman said.

Did he have to give Jackson to get Granderson? “Yes. They were trying to find a cheaper replacement. The Red Sox were interested in Granderson, but they didn’t have a center fielder to give as we did.”

In the earlier years of George Steinbrenner’s ownership, the Yankees always seemed to be sacrificing their good young talent for veteran players. However, when Steinbrenner was serving a suspension in the early 1990s, Gene Michael, the general manager, halted the practice, and that’s how the “core four” resulted.

Had Commissioner Fay Vincent not suspended Steinbrenner for his use of Howard Spira to try to “get” Dave Winfield, some or all of the group of Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte would not be with the Yankees today.

The trade of Jackson, Phil Coke and Ian Kennedy for Granderson is reminiscent of the raging Steinbrenner years, but Granderson is younger than most of the players the Yankees got in those years.

Jackson was the linchpin of the trade for the Tigers and thus for the three-team deal, which also included the Diamondbacks.

“We liked him as a player, as an all-around player,” Dombrowski said. “We liked his bat. We just didn’t know how quickly it would produce as a major league regular.”

The Tigers, however quickly anointed Jackson a major league regular and they are finding out he is up to the assignment.

“He’s done very well for us.” Dombrowski said. “One thing he’s done more quickly than we might have expected is he’s in position where he’s swinging the bat well for us and has done a good job for us.”

Miguel Cabrera4 225The rookie has teamed with Miguel Cabrera to give the Tigers a potent one-two punch. Before Sunday’s games, they were literally one-two: Cabrera was No. 1 in hitting (.371) and Jackson No. 2 (.370), and Jackson was No. 1 in hits (47) and Cabrera No. 2 (43).

Cabrera also led the league with 32 runs batted in and with a .500. average with runners in scoring position. He was also second in on-base percentage (.455), third in total bases (75), tied for third in extra-base hits (18) and fifth in slugging (.647).

If it’s possible, Cabrera is redeeming himself from the way he finished last season. With the Tigers trying desperately to hold off the Twins on the final weekend, Cabrera spent Friday night drinking with friends, had a fight with his wife and landed in jail overnight with a blood-alcohol reading that was over the legal limit.

Dombrowski picked him up at the jail in the morning, he went hitless the last two games and the Tigers lost a playoff game to the Twins for the division title. Could that experience have motivated Cabrera for the outstanding start he has had this season?

“I don’t know if that has served as motivation for him,” Dombrowski said, “but he has always worked hard as he has this season.”

 

ANOTHER TWINS CATCHER WHO HITS

When 22-year-old Wilson Ramos squatted behind the plate for the Twins as the replacement for the injured Joe Mauer (bruised heel), he had an auspicious debut, stroking four hits in his first game. Just as Mauer Wilson Ramos2 225was the first catcher in major league history to win three league batting titles, Ramos was the first catcher in history to get four hits in his first game.

The last player to collect four hits in his first major league game, according to Major League Baseball, was Derrick Gibson for the Rockies in 1998. Gibson, an outfielder, had only 5 more hits in 6 games that season and a total of 10 more hits in 16 games the rest of his career, which lasted only into the following season.

When Ramos rapped three more hits in his second game, he was only the third player since 1938 to get at least three hits in each of his first two games. The others were Doug Dascenzo for the Cubs in 1988 and Preston Wilson for the Mets in 1998.

In 1938, on the same days, April 19 and 20, two players turned the three-hit trick. One was Coaker Triplett, an outfielder, who had seven hits in those first two games but had only two more hits in 10 other games that season. He went on to bat .256 in his career, which also included sporadic duty in five World War II seasons.

The other player, also an outfielder, was Enos Slaughter, who got six hits in those two April games and went on to be elected to the Hall of Fame.

 

ANDRE’S A GIANT IN THE CLUTCH

Andre Ethier 225Andre Ethier had a week any player would love to have or any team would love one of its players to have. The Dodgers’ right fielder has established a penchant for driving in key runs, and that knack was on display in a seven-game span from April 30 through May 7.

  • April 30: two-run home run in first inning puts Dodgers ahead, 2-1, en route to a 6-2 victory.
  • May 1: three-run homer in third inning puts Dodgers ahead, 3-1, and propels them to 5-1 victory.
  • May 2: two homers, single and four runs batted in power Dodgers to 9-3 win.
  • May 6: grand slam in ninth gives Dodgers 7-3 win.
  • May 7: third-inning single puts Dodgers ahead, 2-1; fifth-inning double gives Dodgers a 3-3 tie in game they win, 6-5.

Ethier has not driven in the most runs in the last three seasons – he is 23rd on the list – but he has driven in the greatest percentage of runs that have won games, put a team ahead or tied a game. Ethier has produced 58.7 percent of his r.b.i. in those instances.

Adrian Gonzalez of San Diego, who is eighth on the 2008-2010 r.b.i. list, has the next highest percentage, 55.3.

For his career, which began in 2006, Ethier has produced 49.4 percent of his r.b.i. in those situations (20 game-ending hits, 112 go-ahead r.b.i. and 32-game tying r.b.I.).

The left-handed hitter leads the majors with 11 walk-off hits since the start of the 2008 season, and last year he became the third player in history (Jimmie Foxx in 1940 and Roy Sievers in 1957 were the others) to slug four walk-off home runs in a season.

In yet another measurement of Ethier’s clutch hitting, baseball-reference.com has determined that since the start of the 2008 season he has the majors’ most walk-off hits, 11, more than twice the next number, 5 each for Kurt Suzuki and Miguel Tejada.

The 28-year-old does not limit his hitting to clutch situations. He began Sunday’s game as the best hitter in the National League, leading in the triple crown categories of hitting (.394), home runs (10, tied) and runs batted in (32). He was also first in total bases (77) and slugging (.740).

 

MEET DALLAS BRADEN

Now Alex Rodriguez knows who Dallas Braden is.Dallas Braden2 225

Braden was the Oakland pitcher who last month took exception to the route Rodriguez took returning to first base after a foul ball in an Athletics game against the Yankees. Rodriguez ran across the mound, and Braden let him know that he had trespassed on his territory. They exchanged words but nothing else.

“He’s a tremendous player and a tremendous talent, and I don’t care if I’m Cy Young or the 25th man on a roster,” Braden told reporters after the game. “If I’ve got the ball in my hand and I’m out there on that mound, that’s not your mound. You want to run across the mound? Go run laps in the bullpen. That’s my mound.”

Rodriguez didn’t seem to take the matter seriously. “I didn’t know he was talking to me, to be honest with you,” Rodriguez said. “I thought it was pretty funny, actually.”

The Yankees’ third baseman said he didn’t know who Braden was, but the 26-year-old left-hander introduced himself long distance Sunday. He pitched a perfect game against Tampa Bay, the team that is ahead of the Yankees in the American League East.

 

FOR GREINKE A STATISTIC OF ZERO

Zack Greinke LosesThe stats freaks who never saw a decimal point they didn’t worship were ecstatic last year when Zack Greinke won the American League Cy Young award while winning only 16 games.

Felix Hernandez, who won 19 and whose 2.49 earned run average was second to Greinke’s 2.16, would have been my choice, but the stats guys “proved” that Greinke was the correct choice because of his statistical standing in formulaic concoctions in which we mere mortals do not imbibe.

I can’t wait to see what they will do with Greinke’s record this year. He has started seven games and has won none of them. He has lost four. He has a respectable e.r.a. of 2.51, but he is the first returning Cy Young winner, Elias Sports Bureau says, to fail to win any of his first seven starts since Frank Viola in 1989.

In Greinke’s April 27 start against Seattle, he allowed no runs in seven innings and left with a 2-0 lead, but the Mariners scored three runs in the eighth against Josh Rupe and won, 3-2.

In his next start, against Tampa Bay, Greinke gave up only one run in eight innings, but it was an Evan Longoria home run and it was the only run of the game.

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