- Know your situation and don't be a hero:
The two things you cannot do against that Phillies lineup is walk them and give them extra outs; but the latter is exactly what Nationals catcher Ivan Rodriguez did yesterday when he inexplicably tried to force the lead runner out at second base in the bottom of the fifth inning.
With the Nationals leading 4-2, Shane Victorino led off the inning with a strikeout; Carlos Ruiz then singled to left bringing up pitcher Cole Hamels; Hamels bunted in front of the plate and Rodriguez threw wildly to second base trying to force Ruiz. Both runners were safe and the floodgates were open.
As is customary in such circumstances, the Phillies took hold of the opportunity and scored five runs to take a 7-4 lead. This mistake by Rodriguez would've been fine-worthy and demotion-inducing had it been a rookie catcher; but for it to be made by a player who was specifically brought in to Washington to teach the Nationals how to play the game correctly----despite having little left in the tank----is inexcusable.
Rodriguez has to know the situation; he has to know that the out at first base (with Juan Castro batting next instead of the injured Jimmy Rollins) is more important; and that the Phillies have a tendency for punishing teams that make such a mistake. There was no reason for Rodriguez's gaffe aside from not thinking and/or trying to be a hero.
Naturally, there's every possibility that the Phillies were going to start mashing the Nationals suspect pitching later in the game----it was Jason Marquis they were facing, not exactly Tim Lincecum----but why give them the break? Get the out. A "savvy" veteran should've known better.
Another note about the Phillies, just as the teams off to a slow start need to remember it's early, it also has to be remembered on the other side of the coin that it's: A) early for the teams that have started off hot as well; and B) the schedule has favored them----the Phillies have beaten up on the Nationals and Astros.
They don't make the schedule, but those are two teams that aren't very good. At all.
- Milton Bradley, Milton Bradley, Milton Bradley:
The Mariners knew the risks when taking on Milton Bradley and the nine suitcases of baggage he toted with him; getting Carlos Silva's contract off the books and bringing in a player that could be a huge win if he behaved and hit was worth Bradley, good or bad.
One thing about Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik is that he's a gambler. People who have the slightest baseball knowledge will tell you that the Mariners roster in 2008 was nowhere near bad enough to lose 100 games; if they had the tiniest bit of luck and didn't experience the "everything that could go wrong did go wrong" disaster from 2008, they were going to be somewhere around 75-80 wins in 2009. In fact, the season went far better than even the most enthusiastic observers could've anticipated.
Then came the winter of 2009-2010 when the Mariners went for defense, dice-shooting and sentimentality rather than getting a legitimate big power bat.
Despite the misapplied and far-too-early label of "genius", Zduriencik was right in dealing Silva for Bradley. It may still work, but already, Bradley has had several incidents having to do with his prodigious temper and persecution complex (some of it justified); the biggest problem of all for the Mariners is that Bradley hasn't hit.
Batting .045 after 28 plate appearances with one hit (it was a homer) and 9 strikeouts is about what I'd hit if the Mariners stuck me in the middle of their lineup (and they'd only get 63% of the Bradley psycohpathy/paranoia). I truly believe that Bradley is trying to stay out of trouble, but fans and even umpires seem eager to provoke him to elicit a reaction, and given his history, they're going to get it.
This wouldn't be as big an issue if he started to hit and after last year with the Cubs, it's a viable question as to whether or not that's going to happen.
- Speaking of the Mariners:
I was thinking about Cliff Lee and his upcoming free agency and it occurred to me that he may find himself in a Jason Bay-type situation in the winter of 2010-2011 if he wants to get the big money that he evidently seeks.
Which teams are going to: A) have the money to pay him? and B) have the willingness to pay him?
The Red Sox were widely expected to be major suitors for Lee, but with the signing of Josh Beckett; the long term commitments to Jon Lester and John Lackey, along with the albatross of Daisuke Matsuzaka, they're not going to go crazy ($100 million) for Lee.
The Yankees? They look like they have their sights set on Carl Crawford and are going to move forward with C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, (possibly) Andy Pettitte, plus Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain in the rotation; they're not getting into another $100 million starter.
Without the two bigger spenders in the American League, where does that leave Lee? The Dodgers have the money, but who knows where they'll be with the divorce proceedings of the McCourts?
He's not going to Baltimore. The Cubs are in flux with their entire top-to-bottom operation. And the White Sox don't spend that lavishly. That will dwindle the number of teams that are willing to pay Lee to the Angels and the Mets.
The Angels swoop in and snatch players in quick-strike fashion and focus on pitching; but they also have a loaded starting rotation and no room for Lee unless they deal one of their young pitchers.
That leaves the Mets.
There are a few reasons to look at this is Lee's likely destination. One, they'll pay him. If things go badly this year----and it's teetering----a big splash will be coming and the biggest splash is Lee. Two, GM Omar Minaya is in love with Cliff Lee; he tried to get him every year he's been the Mets GM and won't have to surrender anything other than money for him this time. Three, Lee is a relentless, vindictive and mean competitor (a Stone Cold Killer) who would like nothing more than to shove it to the Phillies for trading him and making him look greedy by suggesting he wasn't willing to negotiate on a long-term contract.
Lee's hurt now, but he'll be back; and if he's healthy, he's one of the top ten pitchers in baseball who's performed in the playoffs. His free agency isn't something to ignore for 2011. It's something to keep an eye on. Now.
- Nothing to worry about with Jair Jurrjens:
Braves starter Jair Jurrjens has been the subject of endless concern since his shoulder was barking in the spring. I had Jurrjens as my Cy Young Award pick in the National League before said shoulder issues and switched to Clayton Kershaw, but that doesn't mean Jurrjens won't contend for the award if he's healthy.
Trying to find solace in the beating the Braves took yesterday at the hands of the Padres (17-2? That wasn't a baseball game, it was two Philip Rivers touchdown passes.) Finding comfort in Jurrjens's line of 8 earned runs in 3 1/3 innings is like dressing up the grade of "F" by putting a plus next to it. It's a pat on the head for showing up at all. That said, Jurrjens was a little wild, but he's always been a little wild. His result looks awful----he wasn't fooling anyone; but the majority of the damage came from walks and because he gave up a dunking hit to the opposing pitcher.
Apart from that, his health has been the main issue. In that respect, Jurrjens looked fine. His motion was free and easy and his velocity was where it should be at around 91-92 after he got loose. The Braves have plenty to worry about, notably their offense, but Jurrjens should be well down on the list of concerns. The biggest problems, already, are Troy Glaus----historically a quick starter----who's looked atrocious with a slow bat and zero extra base hits in 29 plate appearances; and that Chipper Jones is already hurt.
Pitching isn't the Braves problem and Jurrjens will be okay.
- Viewer Mail 4.13.2010:
Joe Campise writes RE Joe Girardi:
I agree with your take on Joe Girardi. I was at the game in St. Pete and if Girardi pulled CC with a No-No still intact, I would hated him forever. Also Tampa fans were leaving the game in the Top of the 8th inning during the nohitter. I was shocked. That brings to my question, Would you leave a game early if your team was getting no-hit. (I honestly believe Tampa fans had no clue a no-hitter was going on.)
Here's what I don't understand: Why....announce....it?
Let's say hypothetically that Girardi really would've done it (and I'm not convinced he would've), why place himself in the center of the story in such a way? All he's done is to take the focus on where it should've been----C.C. Sabathia.
Just as players dislike having the manager insinuate himself into history by sabotaging their hard work with misapplication of statistics, they hate having their glory diminished by a manager's attempts to exert his authority; and that's what Girardi seems to be doing. It's as if he's pulling a power play on his players and it's not necessary with a veteran, self-policing clubhouse.
He's jumping up-and-down and screaming for attention and the players don't forget that stuff.
As for the Tampa fans? I have to shrug. Florida has two exciting young teams and the fans appear passionately disinterested. I'm all for beating traffic, but I'd never leave if a no-hitter was intact on either end.
Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE managerial changes:
I would think it's way too early to fire a manager - unless the team is playing with the same lack of fire or plan or discipline as the year before. Trembly does fit that profile. I wouldn't be shocked to see him go.
I would've made a change after last year if I was Andy MacPhail. The Orioles are going to have a different manager when they take the next step, so why not do it now? It's close between Dave Trembley and Ken Macha to see which one goes first.
For different reasons, neither the Orioles or Brewers are going to mess around. The Orioles are expecting improvement and I can't blame Peter Angelos this time if he orders a change; and MacPhail wouldn't fight him. The Brewers are expecting to compete and are going to be better off with Willie Randolph running things anyway.
Jeff (Acting Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE the firing line and the Mariners and Athletics:
By the way, been watching a lot of the A's and M's this season so far... if they only play each other all year the A's might be considered a powerhouse. Talk about boring offensive games... but the pitching is great.
Much like the context needed in looking at the Phillies hot start against bad teams, it's hard to judge the Athletics when they're dominating a team that literally cannot hit in the Mariners. The Athletics are getting great starting pitching though.
My book is still available and there are projections therein that are already making me look remarkably clever a week into the season. See what all the fuss is about!