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May 16, 2012

What You Need to Know

Wednesday, May 16

by Daniel Rathman

The Tuesday Takeaway
Brett Lawrie can hit, and the 22-year-old is rapidly learning how to pick it at the hot corner. But the questions about his makeup that led the Brewers to ship him to the Blue Jays in a one-for-one deal that brought back Shaun Marcum reared their ugly heads again last night in an incident that is likely to result in a suspension.

At the plate with nobody on and one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, with Toronto trailing Tampa Bay 4-3, Lawrie worked the count to 3-1. Then, home plate umpire Bill Miller clearly gipped him of a walk, calling a Fernando Rodney fastball that crossed the plate at least four inches outside a strike. The payoff pitch was a changeup that threatened the upper fringe of the zone but stayed an inch or so too high. Miller rang Lawrie up, and—moments later—the young third baseman seemed ready to ring the ump’s bell.

Lawrie had every right to be miffed about the outcome of the at-bat. He should have walked, but instead he was called out on strikes with his team down to its last two outs.  He could have said a few words to Miller and returned to the dugout with a point made. He could have let manager John Farrell take the dive. He could have done anything, really, except what he did.

By firing his helmet at Miller’s foot, Lawrie crossed the line between competitiveness and violence—and Farrell deserves credit for preventing the situation from escalating further by sprinting from the dugout to get between his player and the umpire. Whether Lawrie was arguing the obvious ball four-turned-strike two or the borderline pitch that ended the at-bat is irrelevant. He had a legitimate gripe, but Lawrie’s actions gave Miller and Major League Baseball an immeasurably larger issue to take up with him.

Now Lawrie figures to face a ban, one that could range from only a few contests if the league is sympathetic to his cause to more than a month if it feels the helmet toss is comparable to Delmon Young’s bat-throwing incident, which cost the then-hotshot prospect 50 International League games. And the Blue Jays are back to wondering how to ensure that Lawrie’s iffy makeup won’t prevent him from becoming a star.

Meanwhile, if the fiery finish in Toronto wasn’t crazy enough for you, well, God bless the pitchers in the California League.

What to Watch for on Wednesday

  • After an impressive start to the season, Kyle Drabek has faded in his last two outings, allowing five runs in five innings to the Angels on May 5 and three runs in 4 1/3 innings to the Twins on May 11. He issued nine walks and struck out only five batters over those two starts, suddenly exhibiting the same inabilities to find the zone and miss bats that plagued the 24-year-old last year. Things won’t get any easier tonight (7:07 p.m. ET), with the Yankees coming to town, so Drabek needs to sort out this May malaise quickly.
  • Few players can claim to have solved Felix Hernandez, but Indians outfielder Johnny Damon might be on that list. The 38-year-old Damon, who is just 7-for-44 since joining the Tribe on May 2, boasts an 11-for-22 mark against King Felix, with four doubles and a home run. The 2010 AL Cy Young award winner is hardly an ideal slumpbuster, but perhaps he’s just the challenge Damon needs to get going.
  • Looking for a fun home-road split? Look no further than A’s rookie Tommy Milone, who is 3-0 with a 0.39 ERA at the Coliseum in Oakland and 2-2 with a 7.84 ERA on the road. Rangers Ballpark might top the list of stadiums for which Milone’s high-contact, fly ball-oriented is a poor fit, so tonight’s matchup with Yu Darvish in Arlington could get ugly for the young southpaw (8:05 p.m. ET). Pro tip: Get Nelson Cruz—who homered in consecutive games before taking last night off—into your fantasy lineup.
  • Wednesday’s White Sox starter Gavin Floyd has notched four straight quality starts, holding opponents to two runs or fewer in each of those games, but the Angels have a secret weapon—a new hitting coach. Mickey Hatcher is out, and former Triple-A instructor Jim Eppard is coming up to take his place. So, Albert Pujols is now magically going to go 4-for-4 with four home runs, and Vernon Wells will immediately revert back to his 2006 form … or something. Tune in to find out.

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

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