1. Should red-hot Franklin Gutierrez hit third instead of fifth? No, but he should hit cleanup. Baseball sense would dictate that you leave a thriving young hitter in the spot in the order where he's thriving, but the M's anemic, Beltre-free lineup dictates that Ken Griffey Jr. is currently the cleanup hitter -- and that's just not an acceptable solution. Moving the Gute (whose bobblehead, which looks nothing like him, is pictured at left) up one spot in the order would be far less jarring than the pressure of knowing he'll have to bat every first inning.
2. Should Yuniesky Betancourt start at shortstop once he's fully healed? Abso-fucking-lutely. Ronny Cedeno might be more reliable defensively, but he and his .156 average combine to form the easiest out in the majors (don't let his semi-hot -- for him -- numbers of late fool you, folks), and Betancourt's not as bad in the field as his detractors make him out to be. What he is -- and what the team needs most -- is a consistent threat with the stick. If Don Wakamatsu has made one mistake this season -- and he hasn't made many more than one -- it's been the lack of effort he's made to coax Betancourt out of his doghouse. Now'd be a nice time to do that, in light of Beltre's injury and the following recommendation...
3. Should Rob Johnson be the everyday catcher? Definitely. There's ample statistical evidence to suggest that his defense more than makes up for his offense. But if you're going to have a .195 hitter in the lineup, you can't also have a .156 hitter in the lineup -- which is why Betancourt needs to be given the nod at short after the All-Star Break.
4. Okay, but if you do that, what do you do with Kenji Joh-gina? Fuck, good question. The aging catcher had two good years offensively, has sucked since, is widely considered a defensive liability, and signed an ill-advised contract last season that should make him impossible to trade unless someone gets Tom Hicks drunk and hands him a phone. With Sweeney out for a spell and Griffey still struggling, maybe you run Joh-gina in at DH to spot Junior or Langerhans (with Griffey then moving to left), whom we're not yet sold on as an everyday solution in the outfield. Otherwise, Joh-gina is a pretty decent, albeit ridiculously overpriced, backup catcher.
5. Should the M's trade Erik Bedard?
5. Should the M's trade Erik Bedard?Yeah, irrespective of whether they're in the playoff chase or not. Good as he can be, he's still hurt all the time, and when he does pitch, he's so inefficient -- never mind last nght's four-inning, 72-pitch effort; only once this year has he lasted a full seven innings -- that he's no better than Brandon Morrow. It's not ideal, but letting Olson, Vargas, and Rowland-Smith duke it out for the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation is hardly a terrible option. In fact, it's worked out rather well for the team so far -- and that's without Rowland-Smith in the equation. Whether Bedard is dealt for a veteran bat or farm talent will depend on whether the M's are still in contention at the trading deadline. But he should absolutely be dealt either way; he's just too big a gamble health-wise to invest in long-term at season's end.