Part one in a division-by-division dialogue leading up to Opening Day.
In the week leading up to Opening Day, Baseball Prospectus is conducting a division-by-division dialogue, asking and answering five questions about each team. Today Sam Miller and Will Woods kick things off with the National League East.
How Kiner endeared himself to fans long after his career was cut short.
The sad news about Ralph Kiner’s passing on Thursday, as with anything about Ralph Kiner, brought to mind one of my very favorite jokes. It happened during a Dodgers-Mets game on May 18, 2001; Eric Karros had just doubled off Al Leiter, and Kiner took to the microphone.
I Love Good, Bad Baseball
When I used to play summer ball during college, August was the time of year when we collectively picked our heads up and said, “Um, this is our third straight Saturday playing a doubleheader in 95-degree weather for no apparent reason—why are we still doing this?” Well, most of my teammates were speaking Spanish, but I think that’s what they were saying. And every August the quality of play got even lower than you’d think a game involving a Div. III third-string catcher could get.
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In what must have felt like a rehab assignment to a man of his powers, Clayton Kershaw traveled to Florida and eviscerated a bunch of—you know what? Kershaw is good. You know this. Let’s do something else…
Braun Comes Clean
Last night, disgraced Brewers slugger Ryan Braunreleased a statement admitting he’d taken performance-enhancing drugs and apologizing for having done so. It wasn’t the apology we’re used to—a vague, cryptic, “I’m sorry for things in my past,” like someone talking to his grandchildren from his deathbed—and it includes the uncomfortably identifiable psychological process wherein he convinces himself he’d done nothing wrong.
Don Mattingly's message to the Dodgers yesterday might have fired his team up for a victory over the Brewers. Tonight, Ervin Santana matches up against the Angels.
The Dodgers are underperforming, and Don Mattingly blames a lack of #want. Currently helming the cellar dwellers of the NL West, Mattingly laid into the team’s work ethic yesterday, and the quotes are dripping with vitriol and tobacco.
“We got to find a team with talent that will fight and compete like a club that doesn't have talent,” he said before his suddenly inspired club walloped the Brewers, 9-2, on Wednesday afternoon. “There has to be a mixture of competitiveness,” Mattingly said. “It's not, ‘Let's put an All-Star team together and the All-Star team wins.’”
As this weekend demonstrated, the Blue Jays can't get by on power alone. Tonight, the Dodgers will pin their hopes on Josh Beckett as they face Bryce Harper and the Nationals.
Well, my Little League coach was right: You can’t win games just trying to hit home runs. The Blue Jays did rout the Red Sox Sunday with five bombs, including two from Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion’s league-leading 11th, and now lead the majors with 51 long balls in 39 games. But despite the power, Toronto sits 24th in baseball with just 3.74 runs per game, and has only three regulars with an OBP over .340.
Obviously, Jose Reyes’ injury has derailed the Blue Jay offense on every level—although his replacement, Munenori Kawasaki, is one of those three regulars getting on base—but the team has been working under the “swing hard in case you hit it” philosophy for years, dating back to the JP Ricciardi era. (For some reason, I always associate it with Aaron Hill.) In fact, going back to 2006, the Blue Jays have failed to rank higher in the AL in runs scored than they did in homers. Ricciardi took office in Toronto prior to the 2002 season, so this trend began about when his draft classes really started to impact the major-league level.
Last night, Jake Westbrook pulled another Houdini act. Tonight, David Ortiz is set to tango with Texas' Derek Holland.
The Jake Westbrook bubble will not burst. The Cardinals righty once again clogged the bases but kept his opponents mostly off the scoreboard last night, surrendering one run on six hits with three walks as his ERA ballooned to 1.07. Westbrook has all but ditched the cutter this season and essentially become a two-pitch pitcher, attacking both lefties and righties with a sinker/changeup arsenal that hasn’t kept runners off base but has gotten the job done.
He has walked 17 in 33.2 IP. He has just 18 strikeouts so far, marking his lowest K rate since his first big league season. And when I said, “two-pitch pitcher,” that really only applies to lefties; righties know that sinker is coming and still can’t make solid contact. (Although Westbrook did an excellent job of surprising the Brewers’ righties with the curveball the second time through the order.) Can this continue?
The Dodgers may have a packed rotation, but it's a different story in their infield. It also looks like Aroldis Chapman's days as a starter are over.
Happy March Madness, everybody! It’s the only tournament we’re actually less excited for as it moves along, and somehow everyone’s okay with that. No matter—we’ve got baseball news: The Dodgers are juggling their infield, the Yankees are looking “fill vacancies at Scranton,” and The Man is holding down Aroldis Chapman (and he likes it that way).
Hanley out eight weeks; Dodgers look inward
Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez will have surgery today to repair a torn tendon in his left thumb. Ramirez sustained the injury diving for a ball in the World Baseball Classic final, when he could have been sitting in a protective formaldehyde tank like every other baseball player does at this time of year.
The Yankees lack options at first and third base, and the Cardinals are now down a shortstop, but the Dodgers could soon be wheeling and dealing.
This morning’s top story is no rumor: 2013 will be Mariano Rivera’s final season. Will they be doing a farewell tour where all the clubs bring gifts? If so, the Diamondbacks should present Mo with a 2001 World Series championship ring, in a box that can’t quite be opened. Can someone make that happen? Tony Womack, maybe? Anyway, here’s to an incredible career. Now to the rumors, where we’ve got two teams beset by injury but filling the holes in different ways, plus the next chapter in the Dodgers’ quest to pare down their starting rotation.
Furcal likely to miss all of 2013, Cardinals trying to fill position internally
Yesterday, word came down that shortstop Rafael Furcal is set to miss the entire season following Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow. Furcal’s absence leaves Pete Kozma and Ronny Cedeño as the Cardinals’ only options at shortstop, and according to general manager John Mozeliak, that’s good enough for the time being. Mozeliak, per MLBTR:
The Yankees are down a starter and a center fielder, while the Red Sox might be down a third baseman. The Dodgers happen to have a surplus of starters, though.
Welcome one and all to my first Mets-less iteration of the Rumor Roundup! Today we’ve got two injuries that illuminate each team’s lack of depth, one starter that may be on the move, and a heartwarming return to the mound to top it all off. Onward…
Phil Hughes Could Miss the Start of the Season; Damon Rebuffed by Yankees
Phil Hughes was shut down February 18 with a bulging disc, and according to manager Joe Girardi, the righty is still about two weeks away from making his spring debut. Needing at least four starts to be ready for the start of the season, Hughes would have to meet that two-week deadline to make his first start on time.
Felix Hernandez's megadeal might be off the table, but Michael Bourn is still attempting to woo someone toward his table.
In Friday’s Roundup, regular rumor rounder-upper Daniel Rathman noted the Mariners’ recent Felix Hernandez extension might impact negotiations for Clayton Kershaw, with a trickle-down effect on other starting pitchers looking for a new contract. Well, Kershaw may want to slowly back his way out of the war room, because it appears that Hernandez’s megadeal—which would have made him the richest pitcher ever and set a high bar for Kershaw’s inevitable extension—appears to be as tenuous as the right elbow that’s currently holding it up.
Hernandez deal in jeopardy? Buster Olney had the story Sunday evening, with one source saying a possible elbow problem is “an issue” that might prevent the deal from being signed. No matter where you look on this story, the language is vague, and it almost sounds like there isn’t a medical condition at all but rather the promise that fatigue may cause one down the line. Hernandez apparently took a physical with the Mariners on Thursday (per Jon Morosi), and if it had revealed an immediate medical concern, you’d think we’d have heard about it and the deal would be either all the way on or all the way off. Instead we’ve got a lot of hemming and hawing as the media try to figure out just what’s going on, and both Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik and Hernandez’s camp have been tight-lipped about the proceedings.