Chan vs. Chad

It’s Chan Ho Park vs. Chad Gaudin in a battle to be the 12th man in the bullpen of the best team in baseball. The winner gets to be the mop-up man for the Yankees. The loser gets to pack his bags and wait for some National League team to sign him to a minor league deal. It’s the showdown Yankees fans have been waiting for because it means one of these right-handed relievers won’t be a Yankee anymore, and it’s happening this weekend.

When Sergio Mitre is activated off the disabled list to join the roster and rotation in place of Andy Pettitte, someone must go and it will most definitely be one of these two men. The reason I say most definitely is because it’s not like Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi haven’t made crazier roster decisions in the past (like adding Freddy Guzman to the ALCS roster), so I can’t say that it’s a 100-percent guarantee that it will be Chan or Chad.

I have written a lot of bad things about both pitchers, but hopefully after this weekend I won’t have to write anything more about at least one of them. If it all goes according to plan, one pitcher won’t be a Yankee and the other will start to get to his act together since he will now be the last man on the staff and possibly the last man on the rotation. Then I can save all of my negativity for Boone Logan, “the lefty specialist.”

If it were up to me, the decision would be easy: I would get rid of both Park and Gaudin. Unfortunately, it’s not my call, and all I can do is share my opinion and hope the decision makers agree.

So, let’s make a case for both and figure out who gets to stay for the time being.

Chan Ho Park
If Boone Logan never put on pinstripes, A.J. Burnett didn’t go 0-5 in June and I didn’t have to catch Nick Johnson sitting on the bench during camera shots of the dugout recently, I probably would have written about Chan Ho Park a lot more.

Since Opening Night, I knew the Chan Ho Park experiment wasn’t going to work out. He entered the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry by letting Dustin Pedroia crush a two-run bomb off the roof of the Cask and Flagon, and then he told reporters he had diarrhea (Look at Mariano in the background of that video looking at Park with the “Is this guy serious?” face). If he had diarrhea on Opening Night, that’s one thing, but what’s his excuse for the other three months?

Three nights after the diarrhea incident, Joe Girardi went with Park again to keep the game tied at 1 until the Yankees could take the lead against the Red Sox, and Park ended up pitching three innings in what was statistically his best performance of the season (3 IP, 1 H, 0 ER). The only problem is that your basic box score doesn’t tell the story behind how Park was able to get nine outs before giving up a run.

Baseball Reference says four of the six fly balls hit off Park were hit “deep” in the outfield, and I remember everyone at Fenway Park standing up and raising their arms into the Boston night at the sight of moon shots that looked like highlights from a 1998 baseball DVD during the height of the steroid era. With each pitch Park threw, I just knew one of them would eventually find the Mass. Turnpike or the bullpens, but magically and miraculously none of the shots off Park cleared the fence. If Opening Night wasn’t enough proof that Park wasn’t going to be able to hack it in the American League, his second outing sealed the deal.

I am really struggling here trying to find good things about Chan Ho Park. I am struggling like in high school when I couldn’t meet the page requirement for a paper about the themes and motifs in The Catcher in the Rye or Lord of the Flies, so I would move in the margins or take the last sentence of every page and move it down to the next page. It’s one thing to struggle like that when you are trying to write a six-page paper about a book you read on SparkNotes, but you shouldn’t have to struggle like that to think of reasons why a pitcher should still be on your team.

Let me put it as nicely as I can: Chan Ho Park has done nothing to deserve a spot on this team. He didn’t deserve the $2 million contract or the guaranteed roster spot off of his 2009 numbers because his 2009 numbers weren’t very telling, as I have talked about with Sweeny Murti.

I have tried to run every incompetent reliever out of town, and Sweeny has had to talk me off of the ledge on several occasions when it comes to the bullpen. But even he said last week, “I’m about ready to give up on Park too. What the Yankees saw in him just hasn’t happened, and he’s been given plenty of opportunities.”

Well said, Sweeny.

Chad Gaudin
Do you remember when people actually thought Chad Gaudin should start Game 5 of the World Series in order to save Burnett for Game 6 and Andy Pettitte for Game 7? If Joe Girardi had done that, the World Series would have gone seven games without a doubt.

I’m not going to lie; I was excited when the Yankees picked up Chad Gaudin last season. Even though he wasn’t exactly stellar during his time with the Padres at the beginning of 2009, I remembered him for the success he had during his time with the A’s. But it didn’t take long to realize why the Padres let Gaudin get away, and why the Yankees let him go at the beginning of this year and then why the A’s let him go again after the Yankees did.

Chad Gaudin has become part of the Insurance Run Brigade for the Yankees that also includes Park, Boone Logan and part-time member Joba Chamberlain. No lead is safe and no deficit will remain where it is when someone from the Brigade is on the mound.

The only thing I can say about Gaudin is that he has the ability to serve as a starter, long reliever and middle reliever. I’m not saying he is good at any of those things, but he is capable of being used in any of those roles. If for some reason one of the starters goes down (knock on wood), Gaudin could slip into the rotation to fill a hole. That is something that Chan Ho Park can’t do, and it’s something I’m glad he can’t do.

The Verdict

Back in early February, I talked about the Yankees bullpen and the expectations entering 2010, and I said:

“No bullpen is perfect and no bullpen is unbeatable. There is usually a Kyle Farnsworth or a Scott Proctor on every club. There will always be a game where a three-run lead turns into a two-run deficit, but as currently constructed it’s hard to pick out who will be this season’s LaTroy Hawkins. For the first time in a while, there might not be one.”

That paragraph seems ridiculous now, but it was also written 11 days before Chan Ho Park signed with the Yankees. And yes, in my mind, Chan Ho Park should take the fall when Mitre is activated.

If you’re Chad Gaudin, you can be happy that you are still on a major league roster and still part of the best team in baseball. But you shouldn’t be happy in knowing that it was between you and Park to be given the boot. Basically, Chad, you won by default.

No more Chan Ho Park will mean one less unreliable reliever for Joe Girardi to signal for, and that means the team is one step closer to cleaning up the bullpen.