Half the American League might have regrets every time they check an A's box score these days.
Danny Valencia made his major-league debut in 2010, joining the Twins as a 25-year-old former 19th-round draft pick with a modest minor-league track record. He hit .311/.351/.448 in 85 games as a rookie to force his way into Minnesota’s plans, at which point he was handed the Opening Day job in 2011 and remained the starting third baseman all season. He quickly turned back into a pumpkin and by mid-2012 the Twins had tired of him on and off the field.
They traded Valencia to the Red Sox for a non-prospect and three months later the Red Sox sold him to the Orioles, who kept him for a year before sending him to the Royals for little in return. Six months later Valencia was traded from the Royals to the Blue Jays in a low-wattage swap and he was placed on waivers a year after that, when the A’s claimed him. Valencia changed teams five times in less than three years while spending much of that stretch in the minors.
He looked like the epitome of a replacement-level player. Not capable enough defensively to be trusted at third base, but not good enough offensively versus right-handers to warrant a full-time job at first base or designated hitter. Valencia was a 31-year-old platoon corner infielder with a reputation for too much … well, let’s call it swag. If anything, hanging around for as long as he did without being a former top prospect was a victory in itself. But then, just as it looked like Valencia might be running out of stops to make, he started crushing the ball.
On the most interesting success story in baseball.
Rich Hill's latest major-league opportunity relied upon a batting practice flyball striking Steven Wright in the head along the warning track at Marlins Park last August. Two days later, the Red Sox signed Hill off the roster of the Atlantic League's Long Island Ducks, and a day after that, he made his first (non-rehab) start in affiliated ball in six years.
The A's ace adjusts but struggles again, the Yankees hit bombs, Corey Kluber bombs, and the best Bad-Braves Fun Fact we heard yesterday.
The Monday Takeaway
When this season began, Sonny Gray was Sonny Gray. Seven innings of one-run work on Opening Day paved the way for three more quality efforts, amounting to a 2.73 ERA four starts into his 2016 campaign. Then, on April 27th, the Tigers sent Gray to the showers after just two-plus innings. And while the right-hander bounced back to log seven innings six days later, the Mariners tagged him for 11 hits and seven runs during his time on the hill.
On replay reviews, genies out of bottles, and our nitpicky natures.
Early last week, Yonder Alonso was called out trying to steal second in the top of the second inning. He was initially called safe, but forensic replaying showed he came off the bag just a little bit for just a little bit. The Blue Jays challenged, and Alonso was called out. And then some folks got a little bit grumpy.
Testing the belief that ninth-inning losses hurt more.
There’s nothing more thrilling in baseball than a ninth-inning comeback. Unless, of course, it’s your team being victimized by the comeback. Then, there’s nothing worse. To have fought for eight innings and held the lead, only to have the game snatched away in the ninth. It might leave the other team breathless, but it will leave you with a nasty scar.
The Brewers look to settle the battle for center field, while Eric Sogaard might be facing Triple-A.
Keon Broxton emerging as possible center-field favorite in Brewers camp
The Brew Crew arrived in Arizona with a vacancy in center field, where Carlos Gomez once roamed before then-general manager Doug Melvin shipped him to the Astros at the 2015 trade deadline. At the time, now-GM David Stearns was in Houston, but since the Brewers hired him away in late September, it was Stearns’ job to fill the void created by his predecessor. And if Milwaukee Journal Sentinel beat writer Tom Haudricourt is reading the situation correctly, Stearns may have done so in a relatively nondescript December trade.
As Christmas approached, the Brewers struck a deal with the Pirates, sending first baseman Jason Rogers to Pittsburgh in exchange for two minor-leaguers: right-hander Trey Supak and outfielder Keon Broxton. The latter hit .273/.357/.438 in 133 plate appearances split between Double-A and Triple-A last year and has the athleticism to play up the middle, but with his 26th birthday looming in May, Broxton was running out of time to prove his major-league value. Now, his chance seems to have arrived.
The depressing corollary of each optimistic spring.
Across much of baseball, spring is a time of jubilation. White balls with flashing red seams zip smartly across cerulean southern skies. Dark leather scrapes lightly against soft dirt as young men prepare again to play the summer game. In the backfields, round bat collides brutally with round ball. And we as fans rejoice, because for us these are the unmistakeable signs of winter drawing to a close.
No, really: Sonny Gray is probably getting traded.
The A’s never conform to expectations. With most teams, that statement would mean they never play like PECOTA predicts. While that’s true here—PECOTA has pegged them as an 82-to-84-win team in four of the last five seasons, the exception being the year it had them down for 72 wins (they won 94 and the division)—it’s a part of the larger mystique borne from their off-the-field unpredictability. Asserting that a team goes against the grain means there’s a clear pattern in play—a counterculture pattern, but still a pattern. Here? There isn’t one; the A’s zig and zag and cut and curve and perform unnamed movements around expectations, based on either their past or the league as a whole. If it all makes sense to anyone, it’s them and them alone.
On Effectively Wild the other day, I attempted to find the worst pinch-runner of all-time. This is not to be confused with Michael Baumann’s search for the worst runners who made pinch-running appearances. Rather, I sought the worst pinch-runner of the subset of players who pinch-ran often enough that we’d consider pinch-running to be part of their value to a team, one of the skills listed on their resumes. Specifically, players in the top 500 all-time in pinch-running appearances.
According to John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group, extension talks with Reddick will commence shortly, and at the very least, there appears to be mutual interest in a long-term relationship. At the club’s weekend Fan Fest, Reddick told John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle that he was “thrilled” to hear the A’s wanted to keep him in Oakland beyond the 2016 season, his final year of arbitration. The question now is whether the sides can agree on dollars and years.