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Named Billy Eppler general manager. [10/5]

On the surface, the Angels' GM job appears to be one of the most attractive in the sport. Whoever holds the reins inherits the best player in baseball, a prideful owner willing to spend enormous amounts of money to win, an iconic manager with a championship ring, and a roster that fell just short of the postseason. How often do jobs with those qualities become available? Not often enough, as far as GM hopefuls are concerned. Yet there was a reason, two actually, why many around the game considered the Anaheim job to be less desirable than the one in Philadelphia: Mike Scioscia and Arte Moreno.

Every GM is in for a headache whenever his owner and manager are too intrusive for their own good (as above, so below). Perhaps it's by design then that the Angels settled on a former Yankees exec to referee the never-ending strategical tug of war. After all, who would know better about managing and resolving conflict than someone who served as Brian Cashman's top assistant the past four years? The hope is that Eppler's varied evaluative talents—he's a former collegiate pitcher who is known to dabble into analytics—and personality will mesh better with Scioscia and Moreno than Jerry Dipoto's did. (One presumes he'd be wise to avoid mentioning how the Angels picked Dipoto over him in 2011.)

Provided Eppler does prove to be a better fit, the Angels have a chance to build an interesting team. He'll need to figure out what to do behind the plate, at the hot corner, and with the pitching staff before spring arrives. If Eppler can find the right answers to those questions, the Angels will find themselves playing important games all the way up to the last series of next season, too—and perhaps beyond.

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Re-signed OF-L Ichiro Suzuki to a one-year deal worth $2 million with a $2 million club option. [10/6]

What a week for Ichiro. Days following his pitching debut, he signs a new contract worth the same as his previous pact—this after a season in which he hit like, well, a pitcher.

There are two ways to view this deal. From a baseball perspective, it's rotten. This is Wade Boggs with the Devil Rays all over again, to the extent that you wonder if the Marlins intend to retire his number sometime after he collects his 3,000th hit. There's nothing wrong with teams co-opting or embracing milestone chases, but there has to be a facade of prioritizing winning; otherwise it comes across as a cheap PR stunt, as this signing does. It doesn't help that the Marlins have earned a bad reputation over the years on these things, nor that Ichiro ended the season with the sixth-highest salary on the roster.

The second-best defense of this contract is that the Marlins moved as quickly after the 2013 season to lock in Greg Dobbs. You could conclude the Fish might just have a thing for veteran pinch-hitter types. Alas, Dobbs a) outhit Ichiro (by nearly 20 points of True Average) in the preceding season and b) didn't receive $2 million or a club option, thus rendering the deals almost incomparable.

What's then is the best defense of this deal? That, from a fan's perspective, it's cool. Terms like one of a kind are used too often to sustain meaning, but Ichiro is one of a kind. His uniqueness has gifted baseball fans with countless amounts of joy and entertainment over the past decade and a half, so if he wants to hang on for another season (or two) to conquer some big, round number then why should we object—because he could lower his career rate statistics? Please. Besides, Ichiro didn't force the Marlins to pay him, nor will he force them to play him. He's doing what anyone in his predicament would have done—heck, at this very second Johnny Damon is probably searching for Jeffrey Loria's number.

If you find yourself in the first camp, you have every right to see this as a transparent merchandise and advertising cash grab. If you find yourself in the second camp, you still see it that way—you can just forgive it since it makes Ichiro happy. And hey, maybe he'll find a way to summon that old magic and make us happy a few more times before he retires.

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Fired manager Matt Williams. [10/5]

Why do managers of winning teams get fired? More often than not, the dismissal stems from their teams failing to meet expectations, which, in turn, begets talk about how they lost their clubhouses. Both statements apply to Williams, but he did one better by allowing his franchise player to get choked in broad view without handing down an immediate and meaningful punishment to the choker.

This much is certain: Williams' Nationals failed to deliver on their preseason-favorite status. They never led the division by more than five games, and they never regained the lead after losing it in early August. Soon thereafter, reports began to surface that Williams had indeed lost the clubhouse. If it wasn't a foregone conclusion by then that he was a goner at season's end, it became one after Jonathan Papelbon placed his hands on Bryce Harper's throat before later entering the game. To think, we haven't even addressed how Williams' role in the Drew Storen mess, or his at-times odd tactical decisions. Oof.

Perhaps Williams is meant to serve as a cautionary tale for contenders considering hiring first-time managers—not every transition goes as well as Mike Matheny's did in St. Louis. Based on the trend of teams hiring the opposite of their previous skipper, you have to assume the Nationals won't make the same mistake again, and will instead select someone with previous experience. For Mike Rizzo's sake, you hope Bud Black is open to spending his summers on the east coast.

As for Williams, he's likely to land on another team's coaching staff. Failure is the world's greatest teacher, and he has plenty to study and learn from his D.C. tenure. The good news for Williams is the list of skippers who did better on their second try is longer than the list of those who nailed it on their first. The bad news is his next managing opportunity might be a few years away.

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Heck, somebody's got to defend Papelbon. If Harper had got on Papelbon for some faux pas (say, leaving the mound before the manager actually got there to take him out), Paps had replied 'wanna fight?' and Harper had then grabbed him by the throat, you all would be blaming Papelbon for the 'wanna fight?' part. You all just love/like/are at least OK with Harper, and hate Papelbon's guts.

Players are supposed to police each other in terms of hustling and whatnot. If Paps overdid it there (yeah, I think so too), it was only slightly so. Harper then escalated it bigtime. You challenge a guy in a baseball clubhouse/dugout to fight, you give him no choice but to advance in some fashion.
Attempting to strangle another human being in no way constitutes "only slightly" overdoing it.
Getting on Harper for not running out the popup was "slightly ... overdoing it".
Then it's official... I disagree with everything you said, not just some of it.
Lets break this down piece by piece.

"If Harper had got on Papelbon for some faux pas (say, leaving the mound before the manager actually got there to take him out),"

Is there any proof of this whatsoever? A cursory google news search says no. So right off the bat we are dealing with a hypothetical situation. Lets continue.

"Paps had replied 'wanna fight?' and Harper had then grabbed him by the throat, you all would be blaming Papelbon for the 'wanna fight?' part."

So again in this absurd hypothetical Papelbon has already made, what is in your opinion, a faux pas for leaving the mound early. He then compounds this mistake by immediately challenging the teams best player to a fight. Lets break down the final sentence.

"Players are supposed to police each other in terms of hustling and whatnot. If Paps overdid it there (yeah, I think so too), it was only slightly so. Harper then escalated it bigtime."

So Papelbon in your estimation, slightly over does it by first breaking some unwritten baseball law and then challenging Harper to a fight. Harper is at fault for escalating it "bigtime". Yet your very next sentence says:
"You challenge a guy in a baseball clubhouse/dugout to fight, you give him no choice but to advance in some fashion."

So by your completely idiotic asinine rules Harper had no choice but to escalate it "bigtime". He's at fault both for not standing calmly while Papelbon slowly chokes the life out of him and for advancing the fight? Perhaps he should fight the long term battle and allow himself to be choked out hoping he passes out, falls and suffers a concussion, which leads to a longer suspension for Papelbon and ridding the team of a cancerous personality. That is truly the mark of a player with the will to win.
Is that true? DOES somebody have to defend Papelbon? I mean, why does somebody have to defend someone who willingly assaults somebody in a very public space?

Can't we all just unanimously agree that Papelbon was wrong and that he could have handled this in the clubhouse after the game, in a more civil manner?
Even assuming that Papelbon chose the right time and place to confront Harper, he had the option of responding "No, I don't want to fight, I want to see you respect the game" or something.

We have no idea what precipitated all this behind the scenes, so we can never sort out who was out of line in what they said. Maybe Papelbon had been an ass for so many consecutive days that Harper finally ran out of patience then and there. Or maybe Papelbon _had_ addressed Harper's nonchalance behind the scenes at a bunch of appropriate moments, and _he_ finally ran out of patience. All of this is speculative. But for me, it's an absolute that you can't physically attack your teammate during the game.
You said "You challenge a guy in a baseball clubhouse/dugout to fight, you give him no choice but to advance in some fashion."
Or, you know, he could try being an adult, and saying "I'm not going to fight in the middle of a baseball game. Let's try to win this one" or something along those lines. I realize that a baseball clubhouse is full of young men steeped in a macho culture, but they are still adults, and they can still make a conscious choice to not do something stupid. Let's not pretend that Papelbon had "no choice." Also, your hypothetical is pretty silly, in that I think 99% of people would, in fact, blame the guy with hands around the other guys throat, regardless of who it was. People are just less surprised by it being Papelbon than if it were, say, Billy Butler.
One problem with the Ichiro! thing is the lies that will now follow for the next year. For political reasons they can't just 'fess up it's for $$$ reasons. So they'll instead go on and on about what a great leader Ichiro is. Rather than merely a 25th man who's bringing in way more money than 25th men otherwise do.

I mean, I am in favor of doing it that way when you can. So long as the guy's like Aaron was in Milwaukee way back when, rather than Griffey sleeping through his final half-year in Seattle. But the accompanying 'clubhouse star' BS gets irritating.