The Mets face the World Series champs again, but their starter gets knocked out by a line drive in the first. Meanwhile, Belt whiffs against a position player pitching, and an inside-the-parker that technically wasn't.
The Tuesday Takeaway
The very first plate appearance of Tuesday night’s World Series rematch didn’t bode well for the Mets. Whit Merrifield led off with a comebacker to the mound that struck Bartolo Colon’s thumb, and after just four pitches, New York’s starter was out for the night.
The last piece of the Cueto deal to make the bigs might end up being the real prize.
The Situation:When Alfredo Simon pitching every five days is Plan A, virtually any other pitcher is an upgrade. Simon lost his rotation spot, Daniel Wright stepped in and now the Reds will summon Reed to pitch Saturday after the latter was optioned to Triple-A Louisville. Reed had to play the waiting game to avoid reaching Super Two status and should be in Cincinnati for the long haul now that the deadline has passed.
Background:Drafted out of Northwest Mississippi Community College with the Royals’ second-round pick in 2013, Reed stalled in his first two pro seasons as he fought his command. But after finding a more repeatable delivery, he was able to reverse his control issues and pound the strike zone. The Reds flipped Johnny Cueto for Reed, Brandon Finnegan and John Lamb at the trade deadline last summer; coincidentally, all three will start for Cincinnati against Houston this weekend. Reed put up gaudy numbers in the Southern League, capping a breakout season with a career-best 10.87 K/9 in eight starts for Double-A Pensacola. He kept a similarly impressive pace in five spring training games, joining the Louisville rotation after the Reds’ last round of cuts and averaging just under a strikeout per inning.
Manny Machado and Yordano Ventura take swings, Adam Duvall takes bigger swings, and Julio Urias finally does okay.
The Tuesday Takeaway
Trying to come up with a lede for a section about Tuesday night’s fracas between Manny Machado and Yordano Ventura is like trying to herd angry wolverines. Any attempt at humor will fall flat. What’s important is that what happened in Baltimore was stupid. Flat-out stupid.
Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain would be the biggest gets on this summer's market. Would a cold streak get the Royals there--and would the Royals plausibly be better off?
The Royals couldn’t have had much worse a weekend. The Indians stole the first game of the four-game set played between the primary contestants (for the moment) in the fight for the AL Central, scoring once in the eighth and once in the ninth to walk off with a 5-4 win against a Wade Davis-less Kansas City bullpen. Then, from Friday on, Cleveland made a much more forceful statement, completing the sweep by outscoring the defending champs 20-2 in three more games. The Royals woke up Monday morning in Baltimore more or less where they’ve been for the last few weeks: sitting in second place, among a cluster of four deeply flawed teams vying for the AL Central title. The only things that have changed over those few weeks are the identity of the team they’re chasing (the Indians’ rise has coincided with the White Sox’s fall), the quality of their competition (Michael Fulmer has established himself in the Tigers’ rotation, and perhaps stabilized it in the process, and the Sox just traded for James Shields to fortify their staff), and the length of their injury report.
That last one—Mike Moustakas hitting the DL for the rest of the season with a torn ACL—has me wondering a little bit. It’s too early to have this conversation, because right now, the Royals remain above .500, and in this American League landscape, even a team sitting squarely at .500 would have a fair chance to reach the playoffs. It’s not too early to have the conversation about having the conversation, though, so let’s have that once-removed conversation: If the next few weeks go one direction instead of the other, should the Royals explore trading one or both of Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer?
Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time, who never loses any.
In one way, it’s depressing that Salvador Perez has become a much better hitter this season. It’s depressing, because he’s done it in the most conventional and unoriginal way possible. Baseball is a pretty rich tapestry of unique approaches and adjustments and mechanics, really, and for people like us (who spend so much time with the sport, who look at it and see some oblique reflections of our own lives, our own approaches and adjustments and mechanics), there’s great joy in every discovery of another new way in which someone out there is succeeding. It’s probably particularly satisfying for those of us still lost in our mid-20s, to see people develop new skills, carve their own niche, blaze a new trail, and on, and on. If one reason we watch this game is to find hope that our seemingly narrow or rocky path to whatever we call happiness is ultimately a viable one, there are plenty of stories that affirm that.
Salvador Perez’s story isn’t one of them, though. The Royals’ gigantic catcher burst onto the scene in 2011, a mostly unheralded prospect in the most famous farm system ever, and spent his first two-plus seasons in the big leagues showing off a plus hit tool and enough power to more than make it play at catcher—not to mention a great arm and solid defensive reputation. Precisely as his team has ascended, though, Perez has declined. His aggressiveness at the plate morphed slowly from an asset into a liability, as huge innings totals behind the plate took a toll on his body, slowed him down, thickened him, stiffened his swing, took the sting out of his contact. He managed to crack enough extra-base hits to maintain some offensive value over the last two years, but just barely. Coupled with miserable framing numbers, his regression at the plate made him hardly more than a replacement-level player and a reputation for leadership.
On Josh Donaldson, Wade Davis, the Chicago Cubs, and the beautiful regenerative power of mistakes.
I’ve been living in Chicago since 2010, so when people ask me about the Cubs’ current run of success, it’s less because I’m a baseball fan and more because I’m the closest they have to an on-the-ground correspondent. It’s as if Anderson Cooper is breathlessly questioning me about The Baseball Spring: “After all this time, can it be true? Is the old regime truly gone? Can you comment on the peoples’ reactions to this new dawn?”
And while the Cardinals and Pirates wait in the wings to potentially shock this triumphant narrative back into the dreary everyday, they're a healthy 8 1/2 and nine games back, and there is a level of palpable optimism and confidence that I’ll admit I didn’t see for five years living, say, a block and a half from Wrigley. So when people ask, I tell them, yeah—people are really, really excited. It’s been a long time coming.
The long time coming, not the Cubs, is what I want to interrogate a bit today. Because throughout the long rebuilding process in Chicago, Cubs fans often loathed that long time and questioned it, Moses in the Desert style. It’s no fun to wander for 40 days and 40 nights, especially if that involves watching blowouts in the 42 degree Chicago spring. People on the radio questioned Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer—“I thought this was supposed to be a three-year process!” “Theo’s plan makes it a 10-year process, we’re never gonna see a pennant!”—and around, say, 2013, there was widespread pessimism. How long, the average fan asked, can I handle a 65-win team?
The answer to that question is a bit murky, if only because it’s beyond my pay grade to psychoanalyze the thousands of Cubs fans I waded through to get to my apartment or the El. But a related question we might more fruitfully pose is how many 65-win seasons can a team, or a player handle? In the era of the pre-planned tank in baseball, this is a fairly crucial question boiling down to, if you are an owner, the calculus of balancing your diminishing on-field returns with your financial bottom line. How bad, in other words, is too bad? When does failure start to cost more than it’s worth?
It seems to me there are two ways to look at this: practically and theoretically. The practical side of things is a little difficult. We all know that the “player who doesn’t have the fire of the postseason” cliché about young players on losing teams is silly. Starlin Castro has played just fine in New York; Felix Hernandez, despite being on a perpetually snakebitten M’s team remains sublime; I’m sure if Sam Miller put his prodigious play indexing abilities to work, he could find a number of tremendous, high WARP players who never had a shot on a winning team. Good players play well regardless of locale.
It also is true, at least anecdotally, that losing streaks rarely prompt the dissolution or relocation of an entire team. The Montreal Expos were, yes, abysmal through much of their later pre-Nationals tenure, but two of the three seasons prior to the move (2002 and 2003), they were above 500 and would’ve probably been in the hunt in the two-wild-card era. And many teams have suffered through monstrous losing streaks, from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays first 10 years to the 20 years of losing baseball that are finally in the Pirates’ rearview mirror, and while they have led to firings, they have rarely prompted total organizational failure. Without being able to see the actual books of MLB teams, we may never know if losing streaks really truly do put teams in jeopardy of going belly up, but my guess is that, no, simply losing for a while cannot destroy a franchise.
Danny Duffy has been a promising prospect, a tantalizing but frustrating starter and an effective reliever. With injuries to the Royals' rotation, he aspires to remove "but frustrating" from that resume.
Kansas City's slow start, plus: Yes to Trayce Thompson, yay J.A. Happ, and way to be Dae-Ho Lee
The Tuesday Takeaway Close your eyes and think of the Royals. There has perhaps been no more unique team over the past two years. They’ve won in a way that was at first foreign, and—seemingly, at times—illogical. The long ball isn’t the weapon of choice here; rather, they wield defense, a never-ending procession of elite relievers, and Ned Yost’s gut. Close your eyes and think of the Royals. You see Wade Davis. You see Alcides Escobar and his sub-.300 OBP leading off. You see Salvador Perez poking the ball under Josh Donaldson’s glove down the left field line. You see Omar Infante running rampant in the All-Star voting. It feels unconventional, but it feels right. There’s something magical about what they have done and what they have been. Something that makes the corners of your mouth curl up and forces a chuckle out of your throat.