Yesterday, Rob Neyer had a few things to say about the Yankees’ handling of Pat Venditte. Venditte, as you know, is the ambidextrous pitcher twice drafted by the Yankees. After dominating A-ball hitters, he was recently promoted to Double A Trenton. Venditte is 25 years old and rarely cracks 90 mph on his fastball when he’s throwing from the right side. When he pitches lefty, his fastball sits in the mid-80s. He has gotten good results thus far, but it’s clear that the Yankees don’t regard him as anything more than an organizational arm. Yet, Rob Neyer sees something sinister with the way the Yankees are treating Venditte.
Still … I suppose I shouldn’t be terribly shocked that Venditte has just made his Double-A debut, but I haven’t checked in a while and I am shocked. If the Yankees aren’t going to give the guy a chance, you’d wish they would just release him. But of course they won’t do that, because if they release him and he winds up reaching the majors and pitching well, Brian Cashman looks like an idiot. So instead they just string him along, waiting for him to finally fail (while the rest of us hope he doesn’t hurt one of his pitching arms).
Look, I’ve written about Venditte many times, and I’m fairly sure I’m on record saying he’s very unlikely to pitch effectively in the majors. We know he doesn’t throw even reasonably hard for a non-knuckleballer, and we also know the Yankees generally know what they’re doing.
But professional sports are supposed to be a meritocracy. Pat Venditte turned 25 in June, and spent four months this season in Class A, posting a 1.73 ERA and a 6.07 strikeout-to-walk ratio. You believe, I believe, and the New York Yankees believe that his stuff won’t play at higher levels. That’s fine. But for gosh sakes, give him a chance to prove it before he’s got crow’s feet and liver spots.
Let me guess, Rob, the Yankees also have a cure for cancer but aren’t sharing until they can get it patented and sell it for 1000 times cost, right? Aren’t they just so mean?
In all seriousness, there’s a lot wrong with Neyer’s take. To start, Brian Cashman doesn’t make the decisions about who gets promoted and when. As a very well-compensated member of the national media, Neyer should know this. More to the point though, this is a ridiculously cynical interpretation. As TYU-regular The Honorable Congressman Mondesi put it, “Considering Cashman drafted Venditte twice, Neyer must think he’s incredibly cynical if he believes all that stuff re Venditte. I mean, if Neyer’s opinion was accurate, that would basically make Cashman a monster. It’s ridiculous.” The Congressman is right. If Neyer is correct, then Cashman is holding Venditte back in order to make himself look good. That’s a serious allegation. As a general manager, putting your own interests and personal image ahead of the organizational benefit and the development of your players would represent some sort of professional misconduct.
But that’s not what the Yankees are doing. When Neyer says that “professional sports are supposed to be a meritocracy”, he’s arguing that, on the merits, Venditte deserves more than the Yankees have given him. Results matter, it’s true. But those results, and the accompanying statistics (including the K/BB ratio that he seems so fixated on) aren’t the only factor in player development and organizational advancement. As Moshe said, how you go about accumulating those statistics matters a great deal. Sure, Venditte can dominate High A batters. But he’s a 25 year-old former college pitcher who lacks the ability to crack 90 mph on the radar gun. That profile isn’t one that you find very often on the major league level, which is why Venditte is low on the organization pecking order. There are more talented pitchers with higher upside that the Yankees should look at first. In a way, it’s a lot like arguing that successful college quarterbacks like Colt Brennan or Chase Daniel should get more opportunities at the NFL level while ignoring their obvious shortcomings. There’s a reason those guys are 4th on the depth chart, and it’s not because the general managers are trying to make themselves look good.
But Neyer knows that Venditte doesn’t have much of a future at the MLB level and he admits as much, which makes his imputation of a sinister anti-Venditte conspiracy to Brian Cashman more than odd. Don’t you think Brian Cashman wants to maximize his assets? Don’t you think Cashman would swap Pat Venditte for another useful part if there was another interested organization? Obviously he would, so why Neyer imagines that another organization would aggressively handle and promote Venditte, or even be interested in him, is a mystery.
Pat Venditte is an organizational arm with no long-term professional upside, and the Yankees aren’t obligated to promote him to Triple A or MLB simply to satiate the curiosity of professional writers. I would certainly love to see Venditte and his freak show make the bigs one day. It’s a cool story, and it’s fun to think about. But it’s not more than that, and implying otherwise is just irresponsible and petty. As I said when I first read his comments, “Go nitpick someone else’s A-ball roster management”.
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