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October 3, 2005

Assembling a Postseason Roster
by Sean McNally

The Yanks are undoubtedly en route to somewhere in Southern California to play the Angels on Tuesday, giving Joe Torre and the rest of the Yankee braintrust time to assemble a 25-man roster for the first round of the American League Championship Tournament™.

Parts of this are going to be very, very easy - for example, here are the no doubters on the roster.

Pitchers: Randy Johnson, Mike Mussina, Chien-Ming Wang, Shawn Chacon, Tanyon Sturtze, Tom Gordon and Mariano Rivera.

Position players: Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, John Flaherty, Jason Giambi, Derek Jeter, Hideki Matsui, Tino Martinez, Jorge Posada, Gary Sheffield and Bernie Williams.

That's 16 players right there that are a mortal lock to make the postseason roster, leaving Joe Torre me nine players to play with.

Starting with the pitching staff, I'd take Aaron Small and his magical pixie dust first and foremost, leaving space for at most three more pitchers. Scott Proctor and Felix Rodriguez are probably locked up in a head-to-head battle for the all-important role of third righthander out of the pen. Since F-Raud's talent has atrophied to the point of disutility, it-d probably be wise to bring Proctor and his electric stuff.

That gives New York a nine-man staff so far, and leaving two openings, both of which I plan to fill with lefties - which is more a function of the crap at the ass-end of the Yankee bullpen than anything else.

Alan Embree gets the call as the primary lefty setup guy, not on merit, just because he is better than Wayne Franklin and has some experience in the post season.

So the Yanks rotation, in my head, looks like this:

SP - Mussina
SP - Johnson
SP - Wang
SP - Chacon

RHRP - Proctor, Small, Sturtze
LHRP - Embree

SU - Gordon
CL - Rivera

The notable omission is Jaret Wright. Aside from being a magnet for flying objects of late, Jaret has not been right of late. His command has been off, he's been hit hard (which does not distinguish his most recent starts from any start in his Yankee career). He's probably been dinged enough by all the body blows to allow Joe to drop him from the rotation without having to do too much damage control.

Now with 11 spots filled by pitchers, and nine spots taken up by mortal lock position players, that gives us five spots to play with for the bench.

This is where I think my list and Joe's list will differ most significantly. As part of the nine players we have already, there is a backup first baseman and a backup catcher, so we do not need to worry about those parts.

What we do need is an outfielder or two. I'll take Bubba Crosby, presumably to start in centerfield which allows Bernie to DH.

Now I do not expect the Yankees will do a lot of in-game substitutions, aside from defensive subs at first and perhaps center when Bernie plays the field. So I'll take Tony Womack and Matt Lawton.

That leaves two spots for infielders, and I'll use those spots on Mark Bellhorn and Andy Phillips.

The guy left out in the cold in all this is Ruben Sierra. So why no big Rube?

Well, Ruben can't play defense, so his value comes completely down to his offense.

Against lefties, Phillips is hitting .150/.190/.350 with one homer in 20 ABs.
Against righties, Lawton is hitting .274/.378/.429 with nine homers in 354 ABs.

Against lefties, Sierra is hitting .221/.277/.390 with two homers in 77 ABs.
Against righties, Sierra is hitting .247/.266/.371 with two homers in 89 ABs.

So "Andy Lawton" gives us comparable offense to Sierra, marginally better defense, and more flexibility – since "he" could also play first if needed.

As for the other nagging question you must have: Why Womack? Well, its simple. In the postseason teams do not use their bench all that much, and the Yankees are so top-heavy in their lineup, having a number of interchangeable parts is superfluous. Womack is on the roster for one reason and one reason only – run his ass off if needed after the seventh inning.

He won’t touch a glove. He won't swing a bat. He'll be the Yankees' Lola and just run.

So concluding, if I were in charge of the world, the Yanks' Game One lineup card would look like this...

SS - Jeter, D.
3B - Rodriguez, A.
1B - Giambi, J.
RF - Sheffield, G.
LF - Matsui, H.
CA - Posada, J.
2B - Cano, R.
DH - Williams, B.
CF - Crosby, B.

SP - Mussina, M.

Bench: INF - Bellhorn, M., Phillips, A., Martinez, T.
OF - Lawton, M., Womack, T.
CA - Flaherty, J.
Bullpen: RH - Proctor, S., Small, A., Sturtze, T.
LH - Embree, A.
SU - Gordon, T.
CL - Rivera, M.

ST - Johnson, R., Wang, C., Chacon, S.

But it probably won't.

Eds. Note: Yes, I left ARod out of the original list of position players, mostly because I am a moron. To make up for it, I am giving Al Leiter the Stalin treatment and erasing him from existance - giving the Yanks 10 pitchers and 15 position players.

Yes, I also know this will never happen. It should, but it won't.