A Bit of a Rant About Yuniesky Betancourt

Or, if you want the title to be more positive, Why Ronny Cedeno Should Start At Shortstop.

When Betancourt come up in 2005, watching him field was a revelation. I've seen bad shortstops and good ones, but I've never been quite so entranced just by watching a guy pick the ball off the ground and throwing to first. It wasn't just that he had a tonne of range, or a cannon arm - there was something else to his play. 2005 Betancourt was as smooth a defensive player as I'd ever seen. He was almost languorous in making plays - something that would have been detrimental were he the type who didn't have the physical talent to make the insanely difficult routine. Watching him make not a single motion that didn't help get the ball off the ground and into the first baseman's glove was amazing, and I used to try to get to Safeco Field as early as possible just to see him field the ball. His beautiful defence helped to make up for the frustration of watching him hit, too.

Those days are long gone. Since his arrival in the US, Betancourt has gone from a stick thin kid to a full grown Yuniesky. The added pounds have sapped his agility and range, and the astonishing efficiency has turned into laziness. Normally you expect a guy to defend worse with age, but to my eyes, Betancourt went from being one of the great defensive shortstops to a complete catastrophe within the span of three years.

All of this might have been mitigated by his development at the plate, but the added weight didn't really give him any power, and the added experience didn't teach him to wait for a pitch to hit rather than swinging wildly at whatever's near the plate. Being chewed out for it in spring training didn't change a damn thing. As a batter, Betancourt's in that horrible limbo in that he's just talented enough to squeak by without knowing what he's doing but not talented enough to avoid being a liability. He'll have his hot streaks here and there (including to start the season), but we've never been the sorts of people who like results based analysis anyway, so that shouldn't factor in.

Enter Ronny Cedeno.

A former top Cubs prospect, Cedeno was part of the return for Aaron Heilman, basically making him a part of the JJ Putz trade by extension. Some of you have not been lucky enough to see him play this year, but he's been quite clearly the best defensive middle infielder on the team. There was a great example of that today, when he started at second base - he made a Boone-esque dash to pick up a ball way over to his left and threw the runner out, making the whole thing look easy. Jose Lopez would have merely frowned gently at the ball as it trickled into right field. Betancourt, on the other hand, made two lazy errors that ended up blowing the game completely open in the seventh, failing to convert a medium-difficult chance at a double play, and then bobbling a ball that was hit straight at him in the next at-bat. I can excuse the occasional error, but Yuni failed to record one out of a possible four outs, and it looked like he was just indifferent to the whole thing. It's pretty safe to say that Cedeno's defence kicks Betancourts's ass.

I'd also make the argument that Cedeno is a far better hitter than Yuni, and probably on par with Jose Lopez. The results haven't been there, but unlike the double play twins, he always shows some sort of plan at the plate. He takes balls and waits for strikes, and he generally hits the ball pretty hard with a nice little line drive swing. When was the last time you remember Lopez or Yuni homering when down 1-2? And considering his success at AAA, I'll take the sort of player who knows to not swing at balls in the dirt or over his head over Yuniesky ****ing Betancourt, who couldn't learn plate discipline to save his life.

Either Yuni is too stupid to realise that he's playing terribly and needs to improve, or he's too secure in his starting gig to care. In the first case, he's irredeemable and doesn't deserve to be on a MLB team, let alone one that may well contend for a divisional title. In the second, he needs a wakeup call.

It's time to send a message. Ronny Cedeno should start every game of the Rays series at shortstop.

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