Betancourt benched for cause

June, 10, 2009
6/10/09
12:59
PM ET
It's now been a week since Yuniesky Betancourt has played. And, no, he's not hurt. As Larry LaRue writes, Betancourt has simply been benched for cause ...
    What must Betancourt do to get back in the lineup?

    "He has to show he's prepared to play," [manager Don] Wakamatsu said.

    Betancourt, who has had meetings with his manager and coaches all season, insists he's doing nothing different now than ever.

    "I've been doing the same routine for years," Betancourt said. "I can't control the lineup. I'm doing whatever I've done in the past."

    That, of course, may well be the issue. Betancourt has never been a hard worker, and the past four days have not served him well.

    Since being out of the lineup, his teammates say, Betancourt has not taken a single ground ball.

    And Monday, when 12 position players showed up for early batting practice, Betancourt was not among them.

    "I was asleep on the plane when they announced that," Betancourt said.

    Clearly, this management group -- from general manager Jack Zduriencik to Wakamatsu and his coaches -- have had enough of half-assed workouts and a failure to adjust.

    The simple truth is, Betancourt has minor league options left, and one plan is to send him down and tell him he won't be back until he shows his work ethic has changed.

    "You can't play a guy who doesn't work hard on a team where everyone else busts their ass," one Mariner said. "I don't know why this never happened before, but no one in this clubhouse has any doubts about why it's happened now."

    Well, no one but Yuni.

As you might recall, Betancourt was benched for a couple of games in the middle of May. Upon his return, he walked three times in his first two games ... and has walked exactly three times in the 15 games since. Which is probably something close to his natural ability. Or his physical aptitude, or whatever you want to call it. I believe that Betancourt can draw 30-40 walks per season if he wants to.

And if he does that and plays reasonably well in the field, he's good enough to play.

Last year, Betancourt played poorly in the field.

This year, he's been worse.

It's one thing to have a guy who's not playing well, but a rebuilding organization simply can't tolerate a subpar player who can't be bothered to improve himself. Or at least try.*

* By the way, does anyone else find it strange that an infielder can choose whether to practice fielding ground balls? Isn't that part of the job anymore? Have we really reached the point where a manager can't simply tell someone to work? And all this time, I've been thinking that all the talk about players not taking infield these days was just a bunch of hooey ...

I can think of only two reasons for not just releasing Betancourt right now.

One, he's only 27 and theoretically is just now peaking. And two, they still owe him roughly $10 million on a contract that runs through 2011 (with an option for 2012, hey-o).

But that $10 million is a sunk cost that can easily be blamed on the fired general manager, and Betancourt's from Cuba so we have to regard his listed age as a vague approximation, right?

I suspect that we've seen his best already, and that was two years ago. It's time to move on, and the M's might as well just rip off the bandage quickly.

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