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I’ve been thinking a little more about the Bryce Harper-Hunter Strickland to-do, along with Buster Posey’s decision to remain ringside, along with all the other players’ decisions to ram recklessly into each other, along with what MLB should do about these 25-on-25 mound-side affairs.
Beyond the notion baseball players dedicate far too much brain space worrying about who is conducting themselves properly and not, and then about where one ought to be bruised as a result, a full-on Black Friday, food-court riot just looks bad. Sure, there’s the risk of injury. But these are grown men making the semi-grown decision to hurl themselves straight into a “Kill Bill” saloon fight. They’re free to wager their careers on that and most do, either out of anger or peer pressure.
So, let’s do this: Third man into the fight gets suspended. So do the next 47. The two who fight can have at it, one on one. Leave the dugout, that’s five games. Or 10. Leave your position, same. Leave the bullpen, same.
If that means Triple-A rosters for a week and a half, and it ruins your season, then that’ll show the next guys who feel the need to hustle in from the bullpen to say hello to their friends from another city who share an agent. Or stagger the suspensions, two or three at a time.
The offended batter might think twice about rushing the mound when there’ll be no cavalry. The pitcher comforted by never having to step in a batter’s box might rethink a beanball if his catcher is staked behind the plate. Do you really want to be the guy who starts the brawl that wrecks a summer? Do you really want to stand out there by yourself getting your butt whipped?
C’mon now, this ain’t no food court.
***Shawn Green recalled being, like, oh for his previous 18 in the middle of May 2002. He felt as if the season were slipping away.
“The coldest hitter in the league,” he said.
The year before he’d hit 49 home runs and batted .297. And now he had three home runs through a quarter of the season and was hitting .230.
Having tried all the usual methods to retake his swing and save his season, Green on a Saturday afternoon visited a Los Angeles area energy healer. He practiced qi gong for 30 minutes. He did not play that night against the Montreal Expos.
On Sunday, Green struck out in his first at-bat, walked in the third inning, struck out again and then grounded out to first base. His energy was, perhaps, healed, but his swing was the same. Then, in his final at-bat, Green rifled a double off the right center-field fence.
OK, he thought. Progress.
The Dodgers traveled to Milwaukee. On Tuesday, Green hit two home runs. On Wednesday, he tripled. And on Thursday, a get-away day game, Green was six for six, and became the 14th player to hit four home runs in a game.
When he arrived in the dugout after his last home run, and his teammates were looking at him with wide eyes, Green exclaimed, “It’s not me, it’s the energy healer!”
He finished 2002 with 42 home runs, a .285 batting average and a great story.
If it seems like there are an awful lot of bad bullpens out there and they’re only getting worse, well, maybe. Here’s a 2017 sampling of bullpen numbers: 4.09 ERA, .242 batting average against, 65.02 save percentage, 9.03 strikeouts per nine, 2.60 strikeouts per walk. And, from 2016: 3.93 ERA, .246 batting average against, 8.71 strikeouts per nine, 2.58 strikeouts per walk.
For as good as the Washington Nationals are, or can be, or should be, the bullpen can’t be allowed to go on this way. They’ve lost five games they’ve led after eight innings, one more than they lost last season, when the bullpen was thought to be suspect. If they have to overpay this time of the season for an arm – or two or three – they must. Otherwise, it’s borderline malpractice. Also, these are not the sorts of inefficiencies that go unnoticed in a veteran clubhouse that has a right to expect better from its front office. Dusty Baker following Monday night’s meltdown: “We need some help. We need some help big time.” One of those veteran players before that: “It gets tiresome.”
Of all the things that have gone right for the New York Yankees en route to a fairly surprising first place in the AL East, the emergence of Aaron Hicks as their second-best player ranks right up there. Two winters ago the Yankees got him from Minnesota straight up for John Ryan Murphy, who batted .146 in limited at-bats in 2016, and the trade seemed about fair for everybody. But, young men blossom when they blossom, and here’s Hicks as of Tuesday afternoon: .313 batting average, .424 on-base percentage, 10 homers, 36 RBI, a reasonable claim to being one of the better center fielders in the American League and the reason the Yankees don’t really miss Jacoby Ellsbury. He’s third – behind Aaron Judge and Mike Trout – in AL WAR. Regular at-bats and smarter at-bats would appear to be the difference.
The Pablo Sandoval thing remains a bit wobbly in Boston. He’s a .211 hitter with a .258 on-base percentage while possibly, maybe, I guess there’s a chance, somewhat healthy. He’s also not the Red Sox’s best option at third base if they’re trying to win baseball games, which they are. He’s got about $46 million coming over the next 2 ½ seasons.
Speaking before Tuesday night’s game against the Yankees, Mike Trout said he’d not ruled out a return before the All-Star Game, which would seem to put him in play for the game itself, in Miami. As for the MVP chants at Angel Stadium this week directed toward not him but Aaron Judge, Trout laughed and said, “Yeah, well, it’s good for him. He’s having a great year.”
The Minnesota Twins, as a whole, and until Tuesday night, are not particularly good at scoring runs. They do not, generally, pitch at a high level. That would seem to leave a lot of credit for their defense, which appears to be the best in the American League, but that’s not all of it. There’s room at the top of the AL Central for a team that finds ways to win, that is 9-4 in one-run games, that is 20-9 on the road, that bucks its Pythagorean expectation by five games.
Meanwhile, everyone waits on the Cleveland Indians to show up and be the charismatic ballclub they figured on, and, first off, hit like they were supposed to. On the other hand, they’re a game or two out of first place anyway, with four games at Target Field over the weekend. The Indians will miss Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios. The Twins miss Corey Kluber.
Friday: Carlos Carrasco vs. Nik Turley
Saturday: Ryan Merritt vs. Adalberto Mejia
Saturday: Mike Clevinger vs. Tyler Duffey
Sunday: Trevor Bauer vs. Kyle Gibson
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