Welcome to the Triple Play. In this week’s edition, we look at the hottest pitcher in baseball, the player most named in trade rumors (who happens to be one and the same), and more, including a brief review of the latest baseball book by John Feinstein. We also examine one of the more idiotic baseball ideas to be suggested in my lifetime.
David Price, Tampa Bay Rays
You know, Price would be a great pickup for a team in need of a starter. Has anyone mentioned this in the past couple weeks? No, I didn’t think so. In his past seven starts (totaling 56 innings), the ace lefty has allowed a total of nine earned runs. It’s a win-win for Tampa Bay, because if they keep Price and the Rays keep winning, they have a real shot at winning the AL East. But if they elect to trade him (which, as I wrote last week, I do not see happening), he has maximized his value about as much as possible. For the season, Price is 11-7 with a 3.08 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and a dazzling 183/21 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He will be a race-changer either way.
Colorado Rockies bullpen (along with the rest of the team)
It’s gotten ridiculous in Denver. Rockies’ relievers have surrendered runs in 21 of their last 23 games, good for an ERA over 6.00. Saturday night, it was someone called Brooks Brown. Sunday afternoon, it was Chad Bettis and Rex Brothers throwing kerosene on the fire. And this doesn’t even address the botched rundown that ended with catcher Wilin Rosario falling down while trying to catch Pittsburgh’s speedy Josh Harrison. When anyone other than Jorge De La Rosa pitches, the bullpen is virtually guaranteed to be out on the mound for at least four innings a night. When you can’t count on your starters to provide a quality start (at least 6 IP, 3 ER or less), or your bullpen to shut down the opposition, it makes for a mighty long season. Which, coincidentally, is what the Rockies (and their fans) are enduring yet again. A symbol of their all-encompassing incompetence was on display Saturday night: the Troy Tulowitzki “shirsey” given to the first 15,000 fans HAD HIS NAME MISSPELLED. Perhaps Dick Monfort should worry more about things like that rather than getting into petty email exchanges with dissatisfied customers. I know, I know, silly me.
Playing the Name Game
— John Feinstein’s latest book “Where Nobody Knows Your Name” is about several characters associated with Triple-A baseball. I had high hopes for it, and indeed, it has all the usual human touches of a Feinstein book. Yet, it’s rather dull. It’s not that it only has to do with minor-league life. There have been plenty of books about that side of baseball, and they have been interesting. This one just felt devoid of any drama or suspense. Maybe that’s part of the point, that minor-league life is largely unsatisfying. I felt like he really reached to make some of the “main” characters interesting enough (especially Scott Podsednik, who comes off like an entitled jerk), while some of the others (Nate McLouth, minor league umpire Mark Lollo) didn’t get the attention they deserved. Not a must-add to the baseball library. Perhaps it’s just that Dirk Hayhurst did such a magnificent job of chronicling life in the minors that any new attempts to do so are bound to disappoint.
— By now, you have probably heard or read about Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci and his suggestion that baseball consider instituting an “illegal defense” rule to stop the exaggerated infield shifts that have become so prevalent. This is one of the dumbest sports-related ideas I can recall in my entire life. Because a few dead-pull hitters (such as that crybaby David Ortiz; more on him below) have seen their batting averages take a nosedive due to their inability to hit the ball to the opposite field, Verducci wants to make a radical change to how a team deploys its defense. Seriously? Let’s take just a moment to dismantle this bit of idiocy (because that it’s really all it would take). As NBC Sports’ Craig Calcaterra wisely noted last week, trends in baseball change all the time. The Dead Ball Era. The hitting explosion in the 1930s. The speed game that spanned from the 1960s through the 80s. The crazy pinball-steroid era of the 90s. Well, now it’s pitching that is dominating. It’s staggering to me that Verducci completely discounts this factor. And there’s this fact: the shifts aren’t radically transforming the game. They are stopping dead-pull hitters like David Ortiz and Chris Davis from hitting SINGLES. They don’t stop doubles, triples or home runs. All hitters have to do to beat the shift is take the ball the other way. Make like Tony Gwynn and slap the ball to the opposite field and make the shifting team look stupid. Simple. The fact that hitters are slow to make this adjustment is THEIR problem. History has shown that eventually, they will. Then the shifts will cease and all this will fade away. However, if Verducci’s endless self-promotion over his flawed “Verducci Effect” theory is any indication, he will continue to bang this illegal defense drum for quite some time. I hope that’s not the case. You’re better than that, Mr. Verducci.
— AJ Pierzynski as a Cardinal. Can you imagine Pierzynski playing in St. Louis when Tony LaRussa was there? Oh, that could have been some must-see TV right there.
— Speaking of the Cardinals, that breeze you felt was Cardinal Nation breathing a collective sigh of relief that they passed on Jake Peavy for the second year in a row. They might trade for a pitcher in the next few days, but it won’t be for the rapidly declining righty.
— The Indians’ Carlos Santana blasted five home runs over the weekend in Kansas City. The Royals, as a team, hit four.
— Ryan Raburn, Santana’s teammate, also hit a home run Sunday. That does not excuse his relay throw from left field last week. That was the single worst throw I’ve seen from a major leaguer. Ever.
— Jeff Francoeur being called back up to the majors by San Diego as a pitcher/outfielder reminds me a little of when former pitcher Rick Ankiel made it back to the Cardinals as an outfielder in 2007 (yes, I realize that Ankiel never pitched again). Why do I think this won’t have the same made-for-Hollywood script that Ankiel enjoyed?
— I wonder if Francoeur will think that home runs still kill rallies when he surrenders them on the mound.
— In this week’s latest “Will David Ortiz Just Shut Up” moment, we have ourselves a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. After Rays pitcher Chris Archer expressed his displeasure with the loudmouthed Red Sox DH taking a bit too long to admire a home run, Ortiz actually had the gall to say “Players today are too sensitive. I’ll leave it at that.” Isn’t that rich, coming from a guy who whined and cried for days over an official scorer’s decision. But does anyone dare point out that inconsistency to the hyper-sensitive Ortiz? Of course not. Wouldn’t want to make the big baby sniffle some more. Well, I have no such reservations. Hey, Papi, for the 48th time this season, how about you just shut up!
— We conclude this week by offering sincere congratulations to LaRussa, Bobby Cox, Joe Torre, Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux on their inductions into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Those six greats mark the largest class of living inductees in 43 years. I would also submit that this was one of the most accomplished Cooperstown classes in recent memory. Next year at this time, here’s hoping that we are celebrating the inductions of Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz.
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