Welcome to this week’s edition of the Triple Play. This time around, we look at the Tigers’ hottest hitter (who, shockingly, is not named Miguel Cabrera), an outfielder whose star might be fading, and more, including the latest reason why David Ortiz needs to just shut up. Off we go:
J.D. Martinez, Detroit Tigers
Usually if a Detroit player has been listed in this section in the past couple years, it’s been Miguel Cabrera or Max Scherzer. Heck, when you see the last name “Martinez”, most people would probably guess Victor. But it’s the outfielder who has been so vital in lifting the Tigers out of the early June slump that saw Kansas City dump them out of first place for three days. In the past two weeks, Martinez is sporting a .377/.386/.830 slash line, with six home runs, 17 RBI, and nine runs scored. His scorching bat has helped make up for Torii Hunter’s lack of production this season, and the recent struggles of Cabrera and Victor Martinez (a combined 1-for-25 in the weekend series against Houston). Is this really the same player on whom the Astros gave up? Well, in short, yes. J.D. Martinez is nowhere near as good as this hot streak indicates? At the same time, is it possible that Houston gave up on him too soon? Yes. He is only 26, so it is certainly possible that he is enjoying a breakout season that will result in him being an everyday major leaguer. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle; Martinez isn’t going to sustain this type of pace all season. However, he has torched right-handed pitching this season, hitting .388/.400/.735 against them. Those stats would be part of a highly effective platoon. There is certainly a place for that on a major league team, no?
Carlos Beltran, New York Yankees
– There are some hitters who seem like they could put up a .300-20-80-80 season in their sleep. Harold Baines. Edgar Martinez. Until this season, I would have put Carlos Beltran in that same class. But the former Royal, Astro, Met, Giant and Cardinal has been a shell of his former self in 2014. Beltran has hit .209/.267/.388 with just seven homers, 23 RBI and 20 runs scored. Granted, Beltran hasn’t been able to stay as healthy as he did in St. Louis, but even when healthy, Beltran hasn’t resembled a middle-of-the-order force who notched an OPS+ of at least 127 each year since 2011. As he has moved deeper into his 30s, Beltran has had to be carefully managed in order to keep his knees healthy. The Cardinals handled that expertly, but he has developed major elbow problems this year and has been forbidden from throwing in an effort to keep the elbow from getting worse. It seems reasonable to think the bad arm is preventing Beltran from swinging the bat as well as he would if healthy. Incidentally, the Cardinals seem to have a knack for knowing when to let players go at exactly the right time, don’t they? Albert Pujols has been on a steady decline since leaving the Cardinals after the 2011 World Series. Beltran is just the latest example. While it’s possible Beltran will rebound, it appears less likely than when he was recovering from his knee injuries.
Playing the Name Game
Player A: .268/.339/.377, 4 HR, 27 RBI, 44 runs, 2 SB, 100 OPS+
Player B: .311/.351./485, 6 HR, 27 RBI, 34 runs, 4 SB, 131 OPS+
The stats for these two players are remarkably similar. Well, except for the OPS+. Player A has been considered one of the best second basemen in baseball for several years now. However, as the stats above illustrate, he is nothing more now than an average player. The OPS+ number (adjusted for ballpark factors) is the very definition of league-average. That’s not to say he is a bad player; just no longer worth all the hype that gets heaped on him, mostly due to the city in which he plays. His self-given nickname just sounds silly now.
Not much was expected from Player B, but he took advantage of his situation and seized control of his team’s second base job. He is part of a team that is still outperforming expectations as we creep up on the All-Star Break. The best part for his team (and fantasy owners) is that he is just 24 and keeps improving in all facets of his game. He has shown surprising pop this season, leading to hope that he might develop 20-homer power in the next couple of years. While it’s possible he and his team will fade as the summer wears on, he has flashed enough potential to think that he could become of the best in his league at his spot.
Player A is Boston’s Dustin Pedroia, who doesn’t hit many lasers anymore. Player B is Scooter Gennett of the Brewers.
— In this week’s edition of “Would David Ortiz Just Shut Up,” we find our anti-hero whining about the Red Sox having to play to – GASP! – play 20 games in 20 days and – DOUBLE GASP! – take a long plane ride from one city to another. Um, Papi, this is something all teams have to do and it’s been this way for, well, YEARS. A sometimes difficult travel schedule is nothing new. You are making $15 million dollars this year as a designated hitter, which means you get to spend 75-80% of the game sitting on your keester in the dugout. So, please, just shut up.
— Wasn’t it just about a year ago that Jason Grilli was the talk of Pittsburgh as a 36-year-old former journeyman-turned-shutdown closer? Now he’s back to being a journeyman, having been traded to Anaheim away for fellow journeyman Ernesto Frieri.
— Fickle game, this baseball.
— Since getting knocked out of first place by the Royals for two days, the Tigers have gone 9-1 and dumped the Royals back into second place.
— The Dodgers-Cardinals game Thursday night featuring Josh Beckett and Adam Wainwright lasted only two hours and thirty-two minutes. That might be more noteworthy than Beckett’s no-hitter. Okay, that might be an exaggeration.
— But only a slight one.
— Oh, and don’t look now, but the Dodgers are essentially in a tie for first place with the Giants in the NL West. They vanquished a 9 1/2-game deficit in three weeks. At this rate, the division race will be over with a month from now.
— News: Nationals’ outfielder Bryce Harper hammers three home runs in his final minor-league tune up. Views: Yeah, I’d say he’s ready to come back.
— Atlanta and Washington entered Sunday tied for the NL East lead. Yet, it feels like the division is Washington’s to lose. Is it the looming return of Harper? Is it the Nats’ deep pitching, combined with the Braves’ long list of injured hurlers? Maybe a mixture? In any case, it seems like Atlanta needs to do something to shore up their staff. Jeff Samardzjia? David Price?
— The asking price for those two in the next month is going to be fascinating. If the Cubs are hoping to get more for their current ace than they got for Matt Garza, they might be dreaming. That trade seems more and more like a fluke (not to mention horrendous judgment by the Rangers).
— Speaking of the Rangers, they entered Sunday’s games only two games ahead of the Astros in the NL West. That’s how bad it’s been for Texas this year; the team expected by many to be the worst in baseball for the third year in a row is one good series away from leapfrogging their in-state and division rival.
— Remember Rachel Phelps, the Cleveland Indians’ owner in Major League? This sounds like something she would have done to her team: Thursday night’s Pacific Coast League game between Tacoma and El Paso was postponed because Alaska Airlines (aka Phelps Airways) LOST the Rainiers’ equipment. No uniforms, no bats, no gloves, nothing. The game had to be rescheduled as part of a doubleheader Saturday. In case you were wondering, the two teams split the twin bill.
— So the A’s ownership signed a 10-year lease to stay in the dump known as the Oakland Coliseum. Word has it that the local plumbers and electricians unions are ecstatic.
— Last week, we have kudos to Padres reliever Alex Torres for wearing the new padded cap while pitching, thus becoming the first major leaguer to do so. This week, we give a big, fat Bronx salute to commentator Keith Hernandez for illustrating why other pitchers are probably reluctant to follow Torres’ lead. The former Cardinal/Met, no stranger to making himself look like an idiot on air, openly mocked Torres during a broadcast last week, saying he looked “absurd” and said “if you’re scared, get a dog.” I wonder if he thinks that braying asses should get a muzzle. If so, he should buy one today.
– Mike Tyson, er, Miguel Olivo has signed with Tijuana in the Mexican League. Would love to see him try to bite someone ear off in that league. He’d be liable to get shot in the parking lot after the game.
— Incidentally, Olivo’s victim, Dodgers prospect Alex Guerrero, has yet to resume baseball activities after getting part of his ear bitten off. Mexican League or not, it just doesn’t seem fair that Olivo gets to play before Guerrero.
— Finally, we end with what might be the single greatest baseball quote/burn I’ve ever heard. As reported by MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince last week, Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski absolutely slammed home plate umpire Quinn Wolcott, without using profanity or insulting any family members. After Cleveland’s Asdrubal Cabrera walked, Pierzynski asked for a new ball, saying: “Give me a new ball. One you can see.”
BOOM! Wolcott ejected him for that bit of brilliance. A better umpire (read: less egotistical) would have recognized the hilarity.
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