Welcome to this week’s Triple Play. In this installment, we look at Scherzer’s red-hot streak, the latest black eye for the Hit King, the latest member of the 3,000 hit club, and more. Off we go:
Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals
Lost in all the hubbub about his lost perfect game (more on that below), Scherzer still fired a no-hitter at the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday. And his past two starts have been nothing short of sensational: two complete-game shutouts, 1 hit allowed, 1 walk, 26 strikeouts. For the season, Scherzer is 8-5, with a sparking 1.76 ERA and 0.80 WHIP (both of which lead the National League). He leads the NL in other categories too: innings pitched (102 1/3), strikeouts (123), FIP (1.96), H/9 (6.0), K/BB ratio (8.79/1), and ERA+ 220. In other words, Scherzer has been, hands down, the best pitcher in the NL this season. His W-L record speaks to the inconsistent Washington lineup, otherwise he would likely have at least 11 wins by now. He has allowed two earned runs or less in 11 of his 14 starts, while fanning eight or more hitters in nine starts. He’s an ace by any definition. If anyone questioned why Washington signed him to that 7-year, $210 million contract, consider this: according to Fangraphs valuation, Scherzer’s masterful pitching has already been worth $32.1 million this season – and we aren’t even to the All-Star break. The Nationals have actually gotten a BARGAIN on their investment. Mercy.
Pete Rose, all time hit king and delusional liar
Monday’s report confirms that Rose remains a liar and carpetbagger of the first order. After years of swearing that he never bet on baseball as a player, evidence emerged Monday that Rose in fact did exactly that. However, Rose swore as recently as two months ago that he NEVER gambled on baseball as a player. Documents published by ESPN indicate that he gambled on the Cincinnati Reds, for which he served as player/manager in 1986, thereby proving two points: 1) that John Dowd’s previous statements that he believed Rose gambled while he played were true; and 2) Rose is still as detached from reality as ever. Perhaps this is why he rarely appeared sincere while professing his regret for gambling as manager of the Reds – he knew he was guilty of even more than that to which he confessed. As manager, Rose could manipulate his players to affect the game. As a player, he could directly impact a game’s result all by himself. And does anyone think that he just randomly started gambling in 1986? Or had he been doing that for far longer than anyone (except Rose himself) knows? It’s worth wondering, but, ultimately, what does it mean? After all, Rose is already permanently banned from the game he has always professed to love. It’s not like he can be banned again. How about this, though? With the All-Star Game in Cincinnati next month, Rose had been given permission by new commissioner Rob Manfred to take part in the festivities. He has also been lobbying hard for Manfred to review his case and reconsider his ban. So the timing of this revelation is horrible, to say the least. Instead of being able to celebrate Rose inclusion in the All-Star activities, baseball fans will be treated to a new dose of Rose’s gambling, compulsive dishonesty and false contrition. It’s a black eye for the game, the Reds and for the fans who were hoping that Rose might be reinstated sooner rather than later. It should be no surprise if Manfred changes his mind and doesn’t allow Rose to be part of the All-Star Game after all. And, frankly, it would serve him right. He just ruined any goodwill he may have built up over the past few years.
Playing the Name Game
- Ichiro Suzuki (Age 41) – 2,886 hits. The most likely of the bunch. As Ichiro has accepted a part-time role, he has lengthened his career and still has the ability to spot start and rap out 2-3 hits on any given night.
- Adrian Beltre (36) – 2,657. Beltre is losing the durability that marked his career peak, but he has developed into a consistently effective hitter. If he can stay healthy, he has a reasonable chance.
- Albert Pujols (35) – 2,587. Over the past month, Pujols has slugged as well as any stage of his career. But the ability to hit to all fields and reach base over 40% of the time over an entire season is fading. Since he has several years left on his contract, Pujols has a decent chance of reaching 3,000. But it’s not as likely as it once seemed.
- Miguel Tejada (41) – 2,407. Zero chance. Didn’t even realize he was still playing.
- Torii Hunter (39) – 2,386. Zero chance. Too far away, too close to the end of his career.
- Carlos Beltran (38) – 2,373. Same as Hunter.
- Jimmy Rollins (36) – 2,353. The rate he’s playing this year, Rollins may not even reach 2,500.
- Miguel Cabrera (32) – 2,268. Given health, Cabrera is the best bet of the bunch. But it’s too early to tell. I’m copping out on this one.
- Aramis Ramirez (37) – 2,230. The most surprising name on the list. Underrated. Same as Hunter and Beltran.
Clearing the Bases
- One final note on Scherzer’s no-hitter Saturday: Jose Tabata (not so much that he’s been playing badly, but he sure has taken a ton of flak for “intentionally” getting hit in the elbow Saturday to spoil Scherzer’s perfect game. I have a hard time finding fault with him trying to get on base by any means necessary though. It isn’t his obligation to give away a plate appearance so an opponent can complete a perfect game. If you want to fault anyone, look to the gutless umpire who refused to disallow the hit-by-pitch and call the pitch a ball. That would have run the count full and set the stage either for Scherzer to get his perfecto or Tabata to spoil it.
- Tons of words have been written about the Cardinals’ unlawful entry into the Houston Astros’ database, some of it reasoned, much of it hysterical blather. A prime example of that is the column that Los Angeles-based Bill Plaschke belched out last week. His column in which he indirectly accuses the Cardinals of cheating in order to beat Clayton Kershaw in the 2013-14 postseason was mind-numbingly idiotic. In light of that article, let’s take a look at Kershaw’s postseason stats, shall we? Eleven appearances, eight starts, 5.12 ERA, 1.235 WHIP, 1-5 record. While Kershaw did implode in each of the past two NLCS against St. Louis, his worst postseason occurred in 2009 against Philadelphia. But sure, let’s go ahead and make an asinine statement not based in reality. Plaschke is an embarrassment to sportswriting.
- Much of the baseball blogosphere is hammering Arizona GM Dave Stewart for that trade over the weekend in which Atlanta essentially bought 19-year-old prospect Touki Toussaint. On the surface, it is a short-sighted decision. We don’t know the mechanics of what prompted the move, whether it was a mandate from ownership to save money or it is a precursor to a larger move. But it baffles me why people are so convinced that Toussaint is such a sure thing to become a front-line pitcher. Does he have potential? Sure. Could it end up being a horrible deal that haunts the Diamondbacks for years? Absolutely. However, the odds are that it just ends up being a head-scratching move that doesn’t really affect either team significantly.
- Having said that, some of the justifications from Diamondback supporters are really bizarre. One article suggested that Arizona was clearing salary so it could absorb Johnny Cueto’s salary in trade. What sense does that make? The Diamondbacks are not as awful as many pundits expected before the season, but they are hardly a legitimate postseason contender. Giving up MORE young talent to rent Cueto for 2-3 months and then watch him sign with a big-market team makes even less sense than the Arroyo/Toussaint move. It’s a possibility, sure, but highly improbable.
- More reasons why David Ortiz Should Just Shut Up: he says he would not accept a trade and will finish his career in Boston. The better question is who in their right mind would actually give up something of value for an overpaid designated hitter who doesn’t barely hits anymore. Hey, Papi, just shut up!
- And another thing: the fact that Ortiz just passed guys like Stan Musial and Willie Stargell on the all-time home run list saddens me just a little.
- News: Seattle hires Edgar Martinez, quite possibly the greatest designated hitter of all time, as its new hitting coach. Views: talk about trying to make chicken salad out of a big heap of chicken sh-ahem, well, you get the idea.
- When Adam Morgan (who?) outpitched Michael Wacha on Sunday, it was the first time that a Phillies starter had been credited with a win in game since May 23. Then again, the Phillies have only won five games in that time, so maybe that’s not really saying a whole lot.
- We close this week on a sad note: former major-leaguer Darryl Hamilton was shot to death over the weekend in an alleged murder-suicide in Texas. Hamilton played for the Brewers, Rangers, Giants, Rockies and Mets (with whom he reached the 2000 World Series) in his career. According to the Houston Chronicle, Hamilton was in the home of a woman with whom he had a 14-month-old son, who was in the house during the incident, but was unharmed. Accounts I read of the man indicate he was a good teammate, a superior defensive outfielder (14 career errors in 13 seasons), and will forever have a small footnote in baseball history as the first player to notch a base hit in a regular-season interleague game (in 1997). A Twitter posting attributed to Hamilton said this: “Baseball made me very happy. It was what I loved to do, play this great game.”
Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10