Trades are baseball. It's one of the ways that baseball involves the fan more than (arguably) any other sport. Between salary caps, early deadlines, and roster structure, few professional sports have the trade possibilities that baseball does. Well, hockey did, but I'm starting to forget what hockey is anyway.
So often, trades are of the "veteran for prospects" variety, where one team offers some of their farm system's best players in order to get established major league players from a team that either has a surplus, or finds the upside to be too good to pass up. We got one of those last night, when the Kansas City Royals sent their #1 prospect (and potential #1 overall prospect in baseball) Wil Myers, along with pitcher Jake Odorizzi (himself a top 100 prospect) and two other minor league players to the Tampa Bay Rays for starter James Shields and Wade Davis. Shields, a year removed from an All-Star game appearance and coming in 3rd in the AL Cy Young balloting, is the obvious jewel of the deal for Kansas City, the established workhorse starter the Royals didn't have. Davis, who had been in the starting rotation for the Rays the previous two seasons, worked solely out of the bullpen for the Rays last season and had a career year, giving up only a little over six hits per nine innings pitched, while striking out over 11 per nine. Whether Kansas City plans to put Davis into the rotation or keep him in a relief role is unknown at this time.
Some time when most of the country was sleeping, the Tampa Bay Rays were trolling Craigslist for team spare parts and found this:
Starting shortstop - like new cond (Miami)
Found this in a box of stuff we picked up from up north last month. Seems to have all parts and is in working condition. Would keep but received newer model in the box as well and dont need 2. Had some markings below eyes but removed them so should be good as new.
Will be in Nashville this week if you want to pick up or else will leave on curb when we get back to Miami. FREE OBO
- Location: Miami
- it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
So now Yunel Escobar is on his way to Tampa
Evan Longoria, potential 2016-17 free agent, signed a six year, $100 million contract extension with the Tampa Bay Rays which keeps him under contract through 2022, with a team option for 2023. As with any kind of pro sports contract signing, this is news and causing some controversy surrounding the player signing the contract.
The thing is - Longoria's motives are getting questioned, but in the opposite way that most fans are used to. While most players get ripped for deserting their team and leaving for the highest possible salary (see Pujols, Albert) or for causing their own team to sign a contract they can't afford and crippling their financial flexibility (see Mauer, Joe), Longoria's contract is reasonable, around (or below) market value, and allows the team to continue on without handcuffing them too badly. Yet - he's getting dumped on.
I thought I'd try to take a look at this coming offseason with free agency and potential player movement, and there's generally two ways to do that - by team and by position. Since it would end up being longer to do it by team (and you know my attention span), I figured we'd do it by position. Today's position (my personal favorite) - catchers.
Yeah, I'm kinda ripping off Craig Calcaterra here, but I like the concept of the column and I think it's a better chance for me to write in the style that more people seem to like, since I tend to get very "facty" when I write the baseball stuff. Doesn't mean I won't write about baseball here - just sayin'.
Who would win in a fight - Bobby Knight or Woody Hayes?
Bobby Knight, because Woody Hayes is dead.
Assuming the two were alive though (and ignoring the age difference), I'm still going with Knight. I think Hayes would start well early, but then Knight would turn the tables with a low blow then start to dominate, busting Hayes open. Hayes would eventually charge back, appear to have the match won, but then Brutus Buckeye (at ringside to support Hayes) would jump on the apron (distracting the referee), allowing Bo Schembechler to run to ringside, throw Knight a chair, which Knight would use to clock Hayes and get the three count. Knight, Schembechler, and Brutus would celebrate over the fallen Hayes, with Brutus removing his head to reveal - ART SCHLICHTER.
At least that's how I'd book it.
What would you have done with Joe Mauer if you had run the Twins back when they drafted him? Would you have kept him at catcher, or moved him to another position?
I'm touchy on the catching subject since catcher was the position I played through most of my childhood through high school. The feeling is that if you have a very good player who catches, a team might be willing to convert him to another position in order to lengthen his career, due to the higher injury risk for catchers than at any other position.
I think if I were Minnesota, I would have probably done the same exact thing. I think catcher can be a throwaway position offensively as long as the catcher fields his position well and can call a good game. Catchers are often a second manager on the field, and it helps the team more to have a catcher who knows the game and makes the rest of his team better than to have a player who hits well but brings nothing else to the table catching just because is capable of doing it and has done it in the past. That said, I think taking Mauer out from behind the plate depreciates his value as a player; he plays the position well, calls a good game, and is a team leader, AND manages to be one of the best hitters in baseball. Putting him at first base or right field might extend his career a few more seasons, but injuries happen there too, and you take away part of what makes him a total package player by moving him.
Would the Carolinas be a better home for the Rays or A's if new stadium deals can't be reached?
Right now I think just about anywhere would be a better home for the Rays, including Tampa (instead of St. Pete where they are now, locked into their lease until forever). While I could potentially see the Rays moving to Charlotte (although it appears Charlotte doesn't actually want a major league team - the minor league Charlotte Knights don't even play in Charlotte), I wouldn't want to see the team move to the Raleigh/Durham area. It's not really a baseball area (sports radio focus is on college sports first, Hurricanes hockey second, all other crap third), and I think they have a great thing going in Durham with the Bulls.
As for Oakland, I don't know if Raleigh or Charlotte is the answer for them. Tampa I think would do well because the fanbase is already somewhat established with their Triple-A team being a Tampa affiliate for the last 10+ years. The A's I think would be best suited to stay on the West Coast if they can't get something in the Oakland area, say to Portland or Sacramento.
Is He-Man the most homoerotic cartoon from the 80s?
Despite the episode of G.I. Joe where Snake Eyes & Shipwreck the sailor dance in a kickline and have to wear dresses, I'm going to have to say yes. VERY MUCH YES.
Best video game out there right now?
Fire Pro Wrestling S: 6 Men Scramble, followed by Baseball Stars and NHL '95. What? I'm sure you could get a modded Sega Saturn around somewhere.
On a scale from 1 (rips tags off of mattresses) to 10 (rips facial hair off of prison guards), where does Ozzie Guillen rank?
3.87. But hearing that he was looking forward to joining the Marlins increases that number greatly.
Should I buy a Mac or a Windows machine?
If you are cheap, afraid of change, work with them for a living, or a masochist, go with a Windows machine.
If you have money to blow, have never used a computer before, are scared of technology, or like feeling self important, go with a Mac.
If you want to surf the net, check your email, and play games, buy an iPad.
In reality, 80% of people who feel they need one of the first two things only need the third thing. But that doesn't stop people from buying Corvettes and massive pickup trucks to drive 6 miles to work (at 35mph) each day, does it?
Runners are on first and third. First pitch, runner on first breaks for second. What should the catcher do?
Assuming the runner doesn't have a tremendous jump, he guns it to second. The pitcher needs to be aware of the guy on third though and be prepared to snag the throw as it's coming past him. If the guy on third isn't paying attention, he can get nailed in a rundown. If the runner is paying attention, that extra half second of hesitation he makes making sure it doesn't get cut off may give him a bad jump and cause him to get nailed at the plate.
How old is Andruw Jones anyway?
Andruw Jones had come out of retirement to fight Rocky Marciano the minute he was 76 years old. Andruw Jones was always lying about his age. He lied about his age all the time. One time Bobby Cox came in here and sat in this chair. I said Bobby 'you hang out with Andruw Jones, just between me and you, how old is Andruw Jones?' You know what Bobby told me, he said "Hey, Andruw Jones is 137 years old." A hundred and thirty-seven years old!
Did Girardi handcuff himself by seemingly not mapping his rotation leading up to the playoffs?
(I got this before the playoffs started) He didn't really handcuff himself, because he was shooting darts like the rest of us were coming into the final week. Outside of CC, it was a crapshoot as to who the #2 or #3 really should have been. I don't think Girardi wanted to lean on Nova, but he's been the most consistent (well, the most consistently "not bad") starter he's had this season outside of Sabathia. I think he would have liked to go with Colon, but Colon looks like he's out of gas. Girardi had to play the hot hand, and the only way to do that was to put those guys out there and see who earned the spot. I think if Dellin Betances hadn't done his best Nuke LaLoosh impersonation in his debut, Girardi would have seriously considered going the Matt Moore route (not that Betances is anywhere near as ready as Moore is.)
Is Rex Ryan's ego too big for the Jets own good?
The Jets should be 1-3 right now, Dallas collapse aside. I don't watch enough Jets games (or football in general) to criticize Ryan's playcalling or coaching style, but he seems like a perfect fit for the Jets, at least from a marketing standpoint. Ryan fits in wonderfully with New York, who know Rex will provide them with quotes and brash predictions and be back page material. From someone trying to sell the team where the #1 team in town has always been the Giants, he's a godsend, and in the years that he's been there he's managed to make the Jets the #1 team in town, bumping the Giants off the back page.
The key problem with this is that while it may be an "image" and not necessarily reflect Ryan in reality, the combination of love from the media (at least going into this season) and his recent success may end up being his (and the team's) downfall. He was given a pretty loaded team that should have made the playoffs the season before he took over, fell into the playoffs his first season (thanks to wins against against the Colts and Bengals who had both benched their starters), then had a good season last year - albeit one that was expected due to a loaded roster. It'll be interesting to see what happens when Ryan faces some real challenges (and criticism from the local media).
Did DC Comics sell out to 13-year-old boys instead of their regular audience?
I didn't read Red Hood & The Outlaws #1, which is the main issue of the "New 52" that triggers this "DC hates women" argument, but I know the controversy, especially when someone lets a seven-year-old read it. In short, they made her 95% naked and 125% horny.
The issue I have with the "repackaging" of Starfire (and Amanda Waller, and to a lesser extent Harley Quinn) is not necessarily her outfit or the image that's "portraying", but more that it almost seems - from what we've seen of the first issue - that Kori/Starfire has lost any character depth she's developed in the 30+ years the character has existed. The fact is that she's never been a conservative dresser by any stretch of the imagination, and always this kind of character that treated sex and relationships differently than humans. But instead of being different and forcing us to look at love and relationships and sex from a different perspective, Kori comes off like an emotionless Barney Stinson, which makes her character come off like it was written by a fanfic hack instead of a paid professional.
Sure, it might be all an "angle" where we learn that that's not really how Starfire is (whether it was planned that way or we get a quick rewrite based on reaction), but when it comes back to the reasoning for the "reboot" in the first place - which is to bring in new readers and introduce them to a product without necessarily knowing any backstory - you have one chance to make a first impression, and that's a hell of an impression you're making with Starfire, and that comic in general.
That's it for this week - hopefully I'll get some more feedback and questions and I'll try to knock out another one of these next week.
FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal called it the "best night of regular season baseball [he] has seen", and I have trouble disagreeing with him.
As I mentioned yesterday, the last day of the baseball regular season was going to have some drama involved, as both Boston and Atlanta were on the brink of huge collapses and giving up playoff spots that were all but guaranteed when the month started. Both did, in varying levels of drama, as a result of four games.
Game one was the least dramatic, and probably the most predictable. St. Louis made short (and quick - two hours, twenty minutes) work of Houston, scoring five in the first and having Chris Carpenter pitch like he had to catch a plane. Carpenter pitched a complete game two hit shutout, giving up a hit only to J.B. Shuck and Jose Altuve, who were in Triple A and Single A respectively when the season started. Thanks for trying, Houston - your 106 losses were the most by a team in six years, and you let a 90-loss team come in two places ahead of you in the division.
Game two saw Atlanta go up on Philadelphia 3-1 early, then give up a run in the seventh, another run in the ninth, then finally (as is the case with these games most times), a fluke broken bat hit to drive in the eventual winning run in the 13th inning. It seemed appropriate that Dan Uggla was involved in all three of the most memorable offensive moments for the Braves in this game, since he was the "impact player" Atlanta picked up during the offseason that was going to put them over the top. Uggla would hit the home run that put the Braves on top early, get thrown out at the plate to turn the tide of the game, and be part of the double play that ended the game. There's your impact.
Really, though - it was games three and four that put the night over the top. On one side, Tampa and the Yankees, and on the other, Boston and Baltimore. At one time during the evening, with Tampa down 7-0 and Boston up on Baltimore 3-2 in the middle of a rain delay, I joked with someone that if the Red Sox didn't clinch tonight the Yankees and God were plotting against them.
Turns out they were - Tampa comes back to put it at 7-6 before Dan Johnson delivers a pinch-hit home run in the bottom of the 9th to tie the game at 7, Baltimore scores two runs in the bottom of the 9th - all with two outs - in their game to beat Boston, then Tampa's Evan Longoria hits a solo home run in the bottom of the 12th to give Tampa the win, shutting the Red Sox out of the playoffs.
In a night filled with excitement and the emotional highs and lows for the various teams' fanbases, things start to get picked apart and analyzed, if just for the varying randomness that you get from baseball and few other sports.
- On September 3rd, the Boston Red Sox stood a half-game behind the New York Yankees for the best record in the American League and nine games ahead of Tampa Bay for the AL Wild Card lead with 24 games left to play. At that time, the Red Sox stood a 99.6% chance of making the playoffs, the highest point they would achieve during the season, while Tampa's chances stood at 0.5%. Tampa would go 16-8 over the rest of the season, while Boston would go 6-18.
- Boston's collapse is all the more dramatic just because of how dominant they were early in the season. On July 9th, Boston's playoff chances cracked the 90% barrier with a 54-35 record, best in the American League. On that same date, Detroit stood at 39.9% (a half-game behind Cleveland in the AL Central), Milwaukee stood at only 24.6% (tied for the NL Central with St. Louis and only a game above Pittsburgh), and Arizona was at 41.3%, two games behind NL West leading San Francisco. Detroit, Milwaukee, and Arizona would all make the playoffs. In contrast, Atlanta - themselves the victim of a playoff run collapse, didn't break the 90% barrier until August 19th, and cracked 80% only one time before then - on July 9th.
- Dan Johnson, who hit the game-tying home run for Tampa, was batting .108 at the time he came to the plate against the Yankees in the bottom of the 9th with two outs. He had not played in six games, and his last major league hit had come more than five months earlier, on April 27th.
- Johnson had spent most of the season with the Rays Triple-A affiliate Durham Bulls, where he hit 13 home runs - down from 30 the previous season. His .459 slugging percentage was the worst of his minor league career. Johnson's teammate for about two weeks when he was sent down to Durham? Cory Wade, who served up the solo shot to him.
- When Boone Logan struck out Russ Canzler in the bottom of the 7th, the Rays statistically had less than a 1% chance of winning the game.
- Jonathan Papelbon blew only three save opportunities during the 2011 season; two were against Baltimore within the span of eight days, including the final game of the season, where Papelbon received his only loss.
- Papelbon struck out the first two batters of the inning before facing Chris Davis. Davis in September had 25 strikeouts in 84 plate appearances, including a rare 5 strikeout game three weeks earlier, and struck out 30% of time he made a plate appearance with the Orioles, second highest among team regulars. He had faced Papelbon six times before that at-bat, going 0-6 with three strikeouts. Davis doubled into right field.
- Nolan Reimold, the Orioles #9 batter, had one hit in seven previous plate appearances against Papelbon. Reimold hit a ground-rule double, tying the score.
- Remember how I mentioned Papelbon blew two saves against Baltimore? The player who drove in the game winning runs against Papelbon in that game was Robert Andino, who batted after Reimold and drove him in with the game-winning base hit.
I could go on and on with this type of stuff, but since this is already what - 3 days late? - we'll end it here.
Those who like drama (or watching trainwrecks), you've got your wish.
The Red Sox, after failing to contact Vaughn Eshelman and Joe Hesketh, had Terry Francona close his eyes, spin around, and point to Erik Bedard, who went out and almost got through the fourth inning before having to be rescued by Alfredo Aceves, who probably should have started one of the recent games, but then he couldn't have pitched 6 1/3 innings over the last three games back-to-back-to-back. Daniel Bard decided to be September Daniel Bard (0-4, 11.70 ERA) and even Jonathan Papelbon decided to make it interesting by putting the tying run on second base before recording the final out in an 8-7 victory over Baltimore.
Tampa, facing a Yankees B-squad lineup that featured Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark Teixeira, found themselves with runners on second and third, no outs, and down 3-2 in the top of the 6th at the Trop. Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson intentionally walks Jorge Posada to load the bases surely in an effort to get Russell Martin to ground into a triple play. Martin did (STRATEGY!), Matt Joyce hits a three-run homer off of former Rays closer Rafael Soriano, and Tampa remains tied with Boston for the AL Wild Card with a 5-3 win thanks to a sequence that had it taken place in Moneyball everyone in the theater would have rolled their eyes at the same time.
Over in the National League, the Cardinals tied for the NL Wild Card lead by going all CPU cheat on Houston, coming back from 5-0 and 6-5 deficits to win 13-6. During the game, Cards manager Tony LaRussa managed to use nearly every player on his 40-man roster, so it's quite possible St. Louis had 11 or 12 players on the field during the game. Memo to Tony - you can't have this kind of fun in the American League.
Meanwhile, the Phillies beat the Braves again, 7-1, after knocking around Braves starter Derek Lowe for five earned runs and six hits in four innings of work. I know Lowe hasn't exactly been great this season, but his 0-5 record and 8.75 ERA in 5 September starts makes it seem like he thinks he's still in Boston. Not Lowe's fault (entirely, at least): Atlanta only managed four hits all game, and their lone run came from a Martin Prado solo shot off Kyle Kendrick in garbage time in the 9th.
So here's what we've got.
- Same matchups as last night; Boston's in Baltimore, Tampa hosts the Yankees, the Phillies are in Atlanta, and St. Louis takes on the Astros in Houston.
- According to coolstandings.com, Boston stands a 59.1% chance of coming out of this with the AL Wild Card over Tampa, while St. Louis now is 61.3% likely to take the NL Wild Card over Atlanta. No other team is playoff eligible - the Angels and Giants were disposed of a few days ago.
- Boston has a rare moment of pitching relief with Jon Lester going tonight, however Lester is coming off his worst start of the season (2.2 IP, 8 ER vs. NY) and has lost three straight. Baltimore counters with Alfredo Simon, which sounds like a bad pasta dish at a cheap Italian place.
- The Rays throw David Price at the Yanks, who counter with Dellin Betances. Price hasn't been dominant in September, but he did pitch well the last time he pitched against the Bombers (8 IP, 1 ER on August 12th). Betances pitched most of this season in AA, and is one of the top pitching prospects in their system. He struggled a bit in four starts at the AAA level (0-3, 5.14 ERA, 15 BB in 21 IP), and in his only major league appearance (against Tampa, in mop-up duty) faced seven batters, walking four of them and hitting one.
- Atlanta will at least have their best veteran starter going for them tonight as Tim Hudson faces Philadelphia. Atlanta is 3-8 in their last 11 games, but Hudson has two of those wins. The Phils are starting Joe Blanton in his first start since going on the DL in May. While it might seem like Philadelphia is layoff off of the Braves, they do have something still to play for - if the Phillies win tonight it will be their 102nd win, a franchise record.
- In contrast, Houston - in route to their worst record in franchise history - sends ex-Phil Brett Myers to the mound to face St. Louis and Chris Carpenter. While Myers' numbers don't look good this season, he's probably the best starter Braves fans could hope for the Cardinals to face, going 4-0 with a 1.23 ERA his last four starts. Carpenter started off a little rough but has been better in the second half.
- In the AL, the Yankees are the #1 seed, but that's the only thing that is set in stone. Texas is a game up for the #2 seed, but Detroit holds the tiebreaker so if they won and Texas lost, Detroit would be the #2 seed and host Tampa/Boston, with Texas visiting the Bronx. If Texas wins tonight, they host Boston/Tampa, and Detroit visits New York. Despite the wild card team having the weakest record of the four AL playoff teams, the #1 seed Yankees wouldn't play them because both Tampa and Boston are in the AL East and MLB rules prevent teams from the same division playing in the divisional series.
- It's even more complex in the NL. Philadelphia, like the Yankees, have the #1 seed set. Milwaukee has a one-game lead over Arizona for the #2, but Arizona holds the tiebreaker so if they win and Milwaukee loses, Arizona will host their NLDS series. Who they would host depends on who wins the wild card. If St. Louis wins it, they play Philadelphia and Milwaukee and Arizona play each other. However, if Atlanta wins it, Philly would host the #3 seed and Atlanta would travel to the #2 seed due to the "same division" rule mentioned earlier.
Of course, it's a little anti-climatic to have playoff hopes hinge on the performance of teams with nothing to play for. In an ideal world (at least from a baseball fan's perspective), all four teams would win (or lose), and we'd have two one-game playoffs, head-to-head, for the right to move on. If that happens, we'll discuss that tomorrow.
With Boston splitting their doubleheader yesterday with Baltimore (wasting their week's allotment of runs in the second game, dropping 18 runs and giving Brian Matusz the worst ERA for a starter since fellow scrub Roy Halladay - wait, what?), the Sox remain two games up on Tampa for the AL Wild Card with 10 (8 for Boston) games left to play. Seven of the ten games Tampa has left are against the AL East leading Yankees, including a four game series in the Bronx tonight. The Yanks are five games ahead of Boston and seven ahead of Tampa.
So with the Yankees taking two of four from Tampa, they're in the playoffs. That being said... do you take it easy on Tampa just to ensure Boston doesn't make the playoffs? I mean, you can get away with not playing your best team (a major injury before the playoffs would be killer), just to ensure that your biggest rival completes one of the most dramatic regular season collapses in baseball history?
Me - I'd love to see Boston fail, but there's the other side of this coin too. Tampa has been one of the best teams in baseball during September, while Boston has been one of the worst. While having Boston collapse might seem fun, having them limp into the playoffs would seem to help the Yankees in their drive for another championship better than allowing one of the hottest teams in MLB in would. Expect the Yankees to play like they (or any other team) normally would in late September with the playoffs almost in the bag, regardless of opponent.