Monday, October 11, 2010

Ex-Twins watch: Orlando Cabrera (playoff edition)

Orlando Cabrera played 59 regular season games for the Twins in 2009, during which Bert Blyleven probably told his television audience 58 times that the shortstop "wants to be in the lineup every day." As if this makes Cabrera unique.

Orlando Cabrera aggravated
his late-season injury on this
fourth-inning double play Friday.
Cabrera spent this season with Cincinnati. The Reds are his eighth team since Opening Day 2004; in those seven nomadic seasons, he has missed the playoffs just once. He's needed a couple of mid-season trades to get there,  but in each of those cases (Boston in 2004, the Twins in 2009) he was a significant reason his new team won. This kind of thing gets a player a reputation as a winner.

In that respect, 2010 was a success for the O-Cab. Few expected much of the Reds this year, but they won the National League Central title comfortably over the favored Cardinals and Cubs. Statistically, however, this was probably the worst season of the 35-year-old's 14-year career.

Cabrera spent almost a month on the disabled list  and hit .263/.303/.354 in 123 games, a dropoff of almost 50 points of OPS from 2009 — this despite playing in the weaker league and in a better hitters park. His backup, Paul Janish, hit .260/.338/.385, and may well be Cabrera's defensive superior at this point in their careers.

But Dusty Baker, the Cincinnati manager, loves his veterans, and it is true that the Reds were 68-51 with Cabrera in the starting lineup but just 26-25 with Janish starting. So when the NLDS opened, Cabrera was the Reds shortstop.

He went hitless in the opener, as did the rest of the Cincy lineup; Roy Halladay was incredibly good, and almost everybody acknowledged that. Cabrera did not: "He and the umpire pitched a no-hitter. He gave him every pitch. Basically, we had no chance."

In Game Two, he was 1-for-2 before injuring a muscle in his left side and leaving the game. The Reds led 4-0 when Janish took over at short; the Phillies won 7-4 with the aid of five unearned runs on four Cincinnati errors.

The presumption before Game Three was that Cabrera would not play, but after batting practice Baker took Janish out of his lineup and inserted Cabrera. Cabrera's first-inning throwing error allowed the Phillies' first run, and he was 0-for-3 at the plate.

Wanting to be in the lineup and actually helping the team are not necessarily the same thing.

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