The "fasten seatbelts" sign comes on. Trays are in their upright position. The plane starts to roll away from the gate. Then the thoughts come, completely unsolicited. "Did I leave the stove on? And the door unlocked? Wait, did I leave my pile of oily rags on top of the stove that's on?"
As we creep towards the season, everything seems peaceful. Then one night you wake up in tears, mumbling something about Jeff Fassero. It was a transaction that was easy to forget. An offhand mention re-entered it into my consciousness. Does he really have a chance to make the team? Letting a chance to mock that idea slip by would be like leaving the oven on.
Fassero might be a good coach someday. But in his age 40- and 41-year old seasons, he sported an ERA of over 5.50. Granted, he played in Colorado last season, and that destroyed his ERA. His road ERA was a very nice 3.23. Wait a minute, his road ERA was 3.23? Maybe the guy has something left. Must...fight... urge...to...be... distastefully...cynical....
With Scott Eyre and Jason Christiansen having guaranteed contracts, there really isn't a spot for Fassero. There should be a spot for a long-reliever/spot starter, with Jesse Foppert, Kevin Correia, and Brad Hennessey waiting to claim it. If a third lefty is needed for some bizarre reason, you could always send Wayne Franklin some chalky, heart-shaped candies reading, "You aren't a terrible option!" Sabean just wants to see which Fassero is real: Colorado Fassero or Travelin' Fassero. With an impressive spring, maybe there's a way to wedge him in. That's the problem.
Fassero has had an interesting career. He went from good lefty starter prospect, to mediocre reliever prospect, to bad starter prospect. Then he was a good major league reliever, then a great swingman/spot starter, and then an excellent starter. He kept that run up for five years, before 1999, where he had one of the worst seasons organized baseball had ever seen. He tried to get his career back in an awful place, Arlington Stadium, and had predictable results.
Boston was a little bit kinder, especially considering the ballpark, but not that kind. Fassero scored a prominent spot in the Cubs bullpen, which seemed goofy at the time, but the Cubs were rewarded with an excellent season.
Since then, he has been the sulphur in the phone booth. His renaissance with the Cubs is three years removed, and he's going to be 42. Sabean isn't really taking a risk with a minor-league deal, and Fassero did do well away from Coors last year, but his upside is not higher than Franklin's. Researchers at U.C. Berkeley are working long hours trying to develop an electron microscope able to view Franklin's upside, so that isn't lavish praise for Fassero.
The small, but very real, risk of inviting Fassero to camp, is that he could have a deceptively good spring. Sabean is not a stats guy, so he isn't going to be swayed by some superficially solid innings. He could, however, be convinced with a spring-fresh arm. If Fassero's arm took well to the offseason rest, he could look like a decent pitcher for a month in March. Then the music would cue, the camera would zoom in on his beady little eyes, and then you'd know he was the mole. It isn't a likely scenario, but it outweighs the upside.
How does Fassero make the team?
This poll is closed
Injury to one lefty
Injury to two lefties
Poor springs by Foppert/Hennessey/Correia
He's the favorite right now
Over my dead body. Also, the bodies of several others.