Friday, April 18, 2008

It's about time

By John Gottlieb
The Phanatic Magazine

Kyle Farnsworth has always been a confusing case around baseball circles. Whenever a power-arm like that can reach the mid-90s and also has a better-than-average slider scouts, media and fans alike will be left scratching their heads when he can’t consistently get out batters. What’s even more confusing is that he hasn’t seemed to lose confidence from either of his two managers with the Yankees or the general manager that signed him.

A guy with stuff like Farnsworth should have more than 26 saves…but then look at his save opportunities. He’s had 54 chances and converted less than half. He bankrolled a good season in 2005 split between Atlanta and Detroit to sign a three-year. $17 million deal.

Maybe it is his aloofness that makes Farnsworth an unlikable character. He knows that he is persona-non-grata in New York but that doesn’t seem to bother him. He can be booed and booed but it doesn’t seem to affect him and that angers fans even more. I wonder if he got a little bit of satisfaction after LaTroy Hawkins was booed almost as vociferously and he hadn’t even thrown a pitch in a Yankee uniform yet.

But maybe he turned the page last night. For years and years Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter have been sitting ducks when they come to the plate. Pitchers have no fear about pitching inside and taking a pound of flesh because their teammates are safe. For some reason the Bombers don’t like to unleash BBs at their opponents even though their compatriots are clearly being thrown at.

Does anyone remember Pedro Martinez taking out the top of the Yankee lineup after plunking Alfonso Soriano and Derek Jeter in 2003? And what repercussions where repaid to the Red Sox? Nothing.

Torre never enforced and when Joe Girardi was hired fans could only hope that the tide was changing…especially with a manager more fiery than Cool Hand Joe. Things seemed to be different after Shelly Duncan created some fireworks after his retaliation for Francisco Cervelli’s injury against the Rays. (I guess you’re not really supposed to play baseball in Florida in March.)

The Yankees have been Manny Ramirez’s batting practice for years, and Farnsworth wasn’t going to let Manny be Manny to the Bombers for a third time on Thursday. Not only that but A-Rod was hit the night before by David Aardsma. Manny single-handedly won the game last Saturday and also went 2-for-3 with two runs scored and an RBI the following day. He opened this brief two-game series with a trio of hits and in the finale hit two bombs before coming to the plate in the seventh inning.

Farnsworth did what deserved to be done a long time ago…send a message. And this was not only to the Red Sox but to the fans as well. The time for the Yankees to wear targets is over. You want to hit Jeter and A-Rod then we’ll see how you like a 95-mph fastball up and in.

Farnsworth must’ve thought he was in an opposing stadium because cheers for him at The House that Ruth built are few and far between. Kudos to the 32-year-old for making a stand. Not only has it bought him some love from the fans, but I'm sure it helped his status in that locker room as well.

Finally, the Kansas native has differentiated himself from the American Idle, Carl Pavano. Much like Pavano the hard-throwing righty has never ingratiated himself to the Bronx. And that was never more evident than on Opening Day when he was showered with boos from 55,000-plus on the final season-opener in Yankee Stadium history.

Farnsworth could do no right. If he was pitching well then Yankee fans were waiting for the shoe to drop. If he was pitching poorly (which is pretty much always) then fans expected it and were happy to have a punching bag.

Hopefully, this will light a fire under his butt. He’s playing for a new contract and he needs to have a good season to sign another big deal. Temporarily he has the fans on his side. Take that emotion and run with it. The Yankees need some help now that Joba Chamberlain is tending to his sick father. This is Farnsworth’s chance to show that $17 million he’ll collect wasn’t completely wasted.

No comments: