The Astros plan on being buyers for some reason

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Following yesterday’s news that the White Sox were scouting Roy Oswalt — and that he was having none of it — comes two hope-springs-eternal stories from Houston.

First comes all sorts of optimistic rumblings from the Astros over at MLB.com:

As the Astros head into June on the heels of an 11-15 May, the
scuffling team conjures up memories of 2004, when Houston sat 20 1/2
games back on August 22. Or perhaps this year’s slow start is more
equatable to the 2005 squad, which went 19-32 out of the gate. Both of
those Astros teams dug themselves out of the hole — posting respective
runs of 36-10 and 74-33 — to punch a playoff ticket in the seasons’
final days. And while this year’s beleaguered squad has been beset with
injury and has underperformed, the Astros aren’t counting on their
history of second-half surges to guarantee October baseball.

Second, ESPN’s Bruce Levine quotes an anonymous insider who claims that that Astros’ owner Drayton McClane would rather add than subtract:

According to one of the top executives and most respected men in
baseball, the Astros are not in the mode to trade any of their players,
most notably Roy Oswalt. “The Astros owner, Drayton McLane, has always
been steadfast on his direction of the Astros,” the executive told me.
“Mr. McLane will be more prone to adding to his team rather than
trading his present players away.”

I’m of two minds here. I’m 85% that the Astros actually adding players
to make a run is lunacy. They’re eight games out and in last place
already, and that’s with Miguel Tejada playing way over his head, and
Carlos Lee, Ivan Rodriguez and Hunter Pence playing about as well as
they can expect to play. Lance Berkman could certainly do better than
he is, but even if he picks it up, those gains will likely be offset by
the losses when those other guys fall back to Earth. Same goes for the
pitching. Roy Oswalt is better than he has shown thus far, but Wandy
Rodriguez is probably not a 2.26 ERA pitcher. The rest of the rotation
is pretty much what one would expect them to be. The upshot is that
there isn’t any real upside to this team in 2009, and short of adding
several top players — which Houston couldn’t do even if it wanted to
given the poor state of its farm system — there can’t be any serious
expectation of competitiveness this year, can there?

The other 15% of my mind thinks like this: Lee, Berkman, Oswalt,
Tejada and Rodriguez are either old or getting there quickly. There is
nothing to replace them on the farm. In light of that, once the Astros
give up on the current core and actually try and rebuild, the fallow
period is going to be an extended one. So, if McClane doesn’t mind
wasting a bunch of money, why not trade whatever dreck can be scrounged
up for guys with big, unwieldy contracts and see if they can’t catch
lightning in a bottle? Odds of success if such a path were taken: very,
very low, though probably not technically zero. And unless you’re an
Astros fan, it would be really, really fun to watch, wouldn’t it?

The spectacle, I mean, not the actual baseball.

Chris Sale called “a competitor” for stuff that gets most guys called “head cases”

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 12:  Chris Sale #49 of the Chicago White Sox reacts during the 87th Annual MLB All-Star Game at PETCO Park on July 12, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Chris Sale has had an eventful week.

On Saturday he was scratched from his start and subsequently suspended for five games for cutting up the 1976 throwback uniforms the team was scheduled to wear, making them unusable. That cost the team over $12,000 and cost the Sox their best pitcher hours before game time.

On Monday Sale gave an interview to Scott Merkin in which he apologized to fans and teammates and explained his rationale for the uniform shredding. Even if his act was over the top, there was a core of understandable motivation at least: Sale said he voiced his displeasure with the untucked jersey months ago and asked to not pitch on a night they’d have to wear them because he believed it would mess with his mechanics and/or mental state. The Sox didn’t heed his request and Sale took issue, as many probably would, with what he felt was the business of throwback jerseys taking precedence over on-the-field stuff.

Of course, there are still some pretty big problems here. Mostly having to do with the facts that (a) the Sox have people on staff who could’ve optimize his jersey any way he needed it to be optimized if he had asked; (b) ballplayers have been wearing throwbacks for a long time now and, even if they don’t like them, they tend to endure them; and (c) he’s a ballplayer who needs to suck things up sometimes like every single ballplayer ever has done. There are a ton of things ballplayers are expected to do which are insisted upon by the business folks. It’s part of the gig.

A little more seriously than that is the fact that Sale pretty publicly threw his manager, Robin Ventura, under the bus :

“Robin is the one who has to fight for us in that department,” Sale said. “If the players don’t feel comfortable 100 percent about what we are doing to win the game, and we have an easy fix — it was as easy as hanging up another jersey and everyone was fine. For them to put business first over winning, that’s when I lost it.”

An undercurrent to all of this is Sale being fairly obvious in voicing his desire to be traded.

Today Bob Nightengale of USA Today has a story about Sale’s week. It’s sourced largely by Sale’s friend Adam Eaton who defends Sale as a passionate competitor who just wants to win and how all of this stuff of the past week was about his desire to do so. The headline of the story buys in to all of that:

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We heard much the same along these lines when Sale blasted Sox brass following the Drake LaRoche stuff during spring training, going on an expletive-filled rant in a meeting behind closed doors but then bringing the same noise, albeit cleaned up, in front of reporters after it all became public.

Chris Sale is who he is, of course, and I’m not going to too harshly judge who he is. He’s an amazing pitcher and, as most athletes will tell you, the mental part of the game is almost as important or, maybe, even more important than the physical part. Asking Sale to be who he isn’t would probably be counterproductive in the long term.

But I am fascinated with the way in which someone who has behaved like Sale has behaved is described. He’s a “competitor” whose objectively disruptive and literally destructive behavior is explained away as merely a function of his desire to win. His friends on the team, like Eaton, are sought out for damage control and spin and his detractors, which there are likely some, aren’t quoted, even anonymously. He has publicly called out his manager as not wanting to win as much as he wants to please his bosses and he has likewise called out his manager’s bosses and has welcomed a trade, yet we aren’t seeing stories about how that’s a bad thing for the Sox’ clubhouse.

I don’t much care for that sort of stuff, actually, as I suspect most clubhouse controversy stories are somewhat overblown and overly dramatized. But those stories have been go-to tropes of sports writers for decades, and I am trying to imagine this sort of story about players who aren’t Chris Sale. Players who don’t have as friendly a relationship with the media as he has or who don’t have clubhouse allies who do. I feel like, most of the time, a story about a guy who who has done the odd things Sale has done both this week and last March would play a hell of a lot differently.

How does this all play of it’s Yordano Ventura? Or Yasiel Puig? Or Jose Fernandez? How does this play if it took place in the NBA and it was Kevin Durant who shredded up a bunch of short-shorts on 80s throwback night? How does it play if it’s Cam Newton?

I bet it plays differently.

Mike Scioscia and the Angels played yesterday’s game under protest

KANSAS CITY, MO - JULY 27: Matt Shoemaker #52 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim throws to first as he tries to get the out on Raul Mondesi's #27 of the Kansas City Royals bunt in the seventh inning at Kauffman Stadium on July 27, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. Shoemaker's throwing error lead to Mondesi advancing to third and Alex Gordon and Paulo Orlando scoring.  (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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The Royals beat the Angels last night, but Mike Scioscia is hoping Joe Torre and the Commissioner’s Office gives him a do-over.

The Angels played the game in protest following what they believe to be a rules misinterpretation following a base running incident in the seventh inning. That’s when Raul Mondesi reached on a bunt single which scored two runs following a throwing error from Angels pitcher Matt Shoemaker, whose attempt to put out Modesi sailed into right field. Watch the play:

Mike Scioscia came out claiming interference, arguing that Mondesi was not running within the baseline. The play was reviewed for over six minutes but the call — everyone’s safe and two runs scored — was upheld. After that Scioscia indicated tht he was playing under protest.

The thing about protests, though, is that they cannot be based on judgment calls. Rather, they have to be based on misapplication of rules by the umpires. Running outside of the baseline is a judgment call, though, right? So how can Scioscia protest it? Here’s his explanation:

“It’s not a judgement call. I would not have protested if I was not 100 percent correct on this. This is a misinterpretation of a rule. It was very clear. Phil Cuzzi, the home plate umpire, had Mondesi running inside the line in jeopardy the whole way, and stated that it’s okay because he was stepping back toward the bag, which is wrong.”

For his part, Royals manager Ned Yost believed it was a judgment call. For everyone’s part, protests are almost never upheld in baseball and, despite Scioscia’s comments, baseline calls are generally considered judgement calls.

If Scioscia is right, the game will be replayed, resuming with one out in the seventh inning and the runners where they started. But don’t hold your breath.