Brian Dozier is still in Minnesota, but maybe the Dodgers and the Twins were right to balk at a deal.
Last week I attended SportCon, a day-long convention on analytics in sports put on by an organization called MinneAnalytics. There were six seminar sessions throughout the day at the enclosed downtown campus of St. Thomas University in Minneapolis. I was sitting in an auditorium/lecture hall early in the afternoon, waiting for new Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey to walk in for a panel on how teams use analytical information in coaching and advance scouting, when Ken Rosenthal’s Twitter feed told me what business Falvey had concluded prior to making the short trip from Target Field to the conference: The Dodgers and Twins had reached a semi-official impasse, and Brian Dozier was (however flimsily) assured of remaining in Minnesota for a while.
That "news" is sorry succor for the news-starved fans of the baseball offseason and it rippled through the room like word that the keg has run dry at a wedding reception. If the convention were at Loyola Marymount instead of St. Thomas, it’s fair to guess that the tone would have been the same. Twins fans have wanted this deal for most of the winter. Dodgers fans have approached it cautiously, hugging their prospects tightly but with a measure of anticipation, too. Neither front office will endear themselves to large swaths of their fan base by walking away from the bargaining table. The Twins are still likely to be a losing team in 2017 and the aggressive rebuild Falvey and general manager Thad Levine have hinted at seems on hold until Dozier is dealt.
What happens to Clayton Kershaw's shaky playoff reputation if we give him the benefit of the doubt (and better bullpen support)?
One can state that Clayton Kershaw is the most dominant pitcher of his era without receiving much pushback. He’s won three Cy Young awards (and that number could easily be five); he’s led the league in strikeouts three times; in ERA four times; and he’s never posted an ERA higher than 2.91 in a full season. He was said to be the next Sandy Koufax and he has somehow, some way, surpassed that albatross of an expectation.
It’s been about eleven months since the Dodgers plunked eight figures into Diaz’s then-19-year-old lap, and by season’s end things were really starting to come together for the kid. That signing bonus represented the third-largest ever given to a Cuban player subject to pool restrictions, and it paired him with right-hander Yadier Alvarez as the faces of Los Angeles’ massive international outlay during the 2015 signing period. Come spring time, the club made an aggressive decision to assign him to High-A after the briefest of cameos in Arizona. He spent the entire remainder of the season as the second-youngest regular in the California League.
That’s a lot to handle for any young player, let alone a kid coming to America for the first time and trying to learn a brand new language and set of cultural norms. The challenges he’d face certainly weren’t lost on those in the organization charged with helping him navigate them. “Baseball is all interconnected,” philosophizes Drew Saylor, Diaz’s precocious first-year manager at Rancho Cucamonga. “What we do off the field affects what we do on the field, and vice-a-versa. The primary growth opportunity at the beginning of the season was for him to get to be comfortable inside and out of the clubhouse.”
It took Theo Epstein and company exactly five years to rebuild the Cubs into the best team in baseball.
On October 22, 2011, the Chicago Cubs announced the hiring of Theo Epstein as president of baseball operations. Epstein, only 37 years old at the time, was already considered one of the greatest baseball executives in recent history and a potential future Hall of Famer. Five days later, the Cubs hired away Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod from San Diego as Epstein’s top lieutenants.
Clayton Kershaw threw seven shutout, two-hit innings against the Cubs in Game 2 of the NLCS, which combined with his starter/closer act in the NLDS convinced even the most stubborn holdouts that his poor postseason reputation was overblown and perhaps just flat out erased. And now, less than a week later, he'll take the mound at Wrigley Field against a 103-win team with the Dodgers' season on the line in an elimination game. Something tells me Kershaw's playoff rep isn't set in stone quite yet.
Chicago breaks through against Los Angeles' bullpen, taking a 3-2 lead back to Wrigley Field.
The Cubs have had a not-so-quiet concern this postseason, an unsure refrain that has been repeated by analysts, fans, and (we can only assume) the team itself, an anxiety to characterize the flipside of baseball’s best regular-season team--namely, what if they can’t hit good pitching?
Chicago finally broke through offensively, evening the NLCS at 2-2.
The Chicago Cubs, facing a potential 3-1 hole against a team with the best pitcher on the planet still in play for one more game, finally drew breath in Los Angeles. For 21 straight innings the Cubs' offense was suffocated by Rich Hill, Clayton Kershaw, and the rest of the Dodgers' pitching staff. Then a few soft hits found holes before Addison Russell, who entered the game with a batting average that started with a zero, pierced through the Los Angeles marine layer and Dodgers pitching with one swing. The Cubs would follow with one run in the fifth and five more in the sixth, putting the game out of reach in the series’ first true laugher.
Ryan Merritt vs. Marco Estrada in Toronto and John Lackey vs. Julio Urias in Los Angeles.
Corey Kluber wasn't at his best on short rest Tuesday, but by going five relatively effective innings he did allow the Indians' bullpen to catch its collective breath a bit after Trevor Bauer's abbreviated, blood-filled Game 3 start. Andrew Miller and Cody Allen are both rested and presumably able to combine for at least three innings today, and even Dan Otero and Bryan Shaw had light Game 4 workloads. All of which is good, important news for Cleveland, because Ryan Merritt is making just his second career big-league start after logging a grand total of 11 innings for the Indians. Any left-handed pitcher facing the Blue Jays' righty-packed lineup is in a very tough spot, but what Merritt is being asked to do is on a whole different level.