Daily Dose: Johnson wins No. 300

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Randy Johnson became the 24th member of the 300-win club Thursday,
tossing six innings of one-run ball against Washington. It wasn’t
exactly vintage Big Unit, as Johnson managed only two strikeouts and
threw just 78 pitches one day after his start was delayed by rain, but
with just two hits and two walks he was plenty effective and the lone
run was unearned.

At 45 he’s the second-oldest pitcher to reach 300 wins, behind only
46-year-old Phil Niekro, and Johnson joins Warren Spahn, Steve Carlton,
Eddie Plank, Lefty Grove, and Tom Glavine as the 300-win southpaws. And
while it might not have registered with most people thanks to the name
change from Expos to Nationals, Johnson won No. 300 against the
franchise that he debuted with back in 1988.

While media members with zero sense of history misguidedly proclaim
Johnson the last 300-game winner, here are some other notes from around
baseball …

* Dontrelle Willis fared reasonably well in his first four starts
and cruised through the first two innings Thursday, but unraveled in
the third inning by hitting a batter and walking four, including the
last two with the bases loaded. His five runs tied for the most allowed
without giving up a hit during the last 55 years, joining Mark Fidrych,
Sandy Koufax, Mitch Williams, Pat Combs, and Mark Hutton.

* Andrew McCutchen had a nice MLB debut Thursday, going 2-for-4 with
a walk, a stolen base, and three runs while leading off and taking over
for Nate McLouth in center field. Gordon Beckham’s debut didn’t go
quite so well, as he was hitless in three at-bats. Beckham batted
eighth, played third base, and as Ozzie Guillen put it “had a bad day
just like everyone else” as the White Sox were shut out.

* Chien-Ming Wang’s return to the rotation was a mixed bag Thursday
afternoon, as five runs in 4.2 innings isn’t as bad as it looks against
a strong Texas lineup in a good ballpark for hitting. It certainly
wasn’t an impressive start, but he showed good velocity while inducing
eight ground-ball outs and struck out five versus just one walk.
Unfortunately for Wang, he has no time to settle in with Boston next.

* Cole Hamels’ year began with injuries and ineffectiveness, but
that now seems like a distant memory following his complete-game
shutout Thursday against the Dodgers. He needed just 97 pitches to
record 27 outs, striking out five, walking zero, and allowing five
hits. And since giving up a dozen runs through two starts, Hamels is
4-0 with a 2.84 ERA and 44/8 K/BB ratio in 44.1 innings.

* Miguel Cabrera left Thursday’s game with a hamstring injury, but
not before the Tigers oddly allowed him limp home from second base on a
Brandon Inge double after being looked at by trainers prior to the
at-bat. Cabrera somehow avoided an immediate removal despite being in
obvious pain and then could barely walk/jog the 180 feet to the plate,
at which point he was pulled in favor of Jeff Larish.

AL Quick Hits: Adam Lind went 5-for-5 with three doubles
Thursday and now has hits in a team-record eight straight at-bats …
David Ortiz said Thursday that he’s considering getting his eyes
“checked out” … James Shields threw eight innings of two-run ball
Thursday and J.P. Howell closed out his win … Scott Baker struck out 10
while dropping his ERA below 6.00 for the first time Thursday … Fausto
Carmona kept struggling Thursday, coughing up seven runs as his ERA
climbed to 7.42 … Mike Aviles’ rehab has been shut down for two weeks
as he attempts to come back from a forearm strain … John Lackey allowed
two runs over seven innings Thursday, but the bullpen cost him a win …
Jason Kubel smacked a pair of three-run homers Thursday … Brett
Anderson tossed seven scoreless innings Thursday after posting a 6.38
ERA in May … Travis Hafner (shoulder) is due off the disabled list
Friday, but is unlikely to get everyday playing time initially.

NL Quick Hits: Garrett Atkins hadn’t homered since April 27, but
went deep twice Thursday … Chris Carpenter needed just 95 pitches for a
complete-game victory Thursday, allowing one run on three hits … Anibal
Sanchez is reportedly headed right back to the disabled list after
aggravating his shoulder injury … Brett Myers underwent hip surgery
Thursday and will likely miss the rest of the year … Kyle Lohse looks
destined for another DL stint after tweaking his forearm injury … J.J.
Putz will have his sore elbow examined Friday and might need surgery …
Wandy Rodriguez was knocked around again Thursday and has now allowed
18 runs in his last three starts … Mike Pelfrey’s streak of five
straight Quality Starts ended with nine runs Thursday … Josh Johnson
tossed 7.2 innings of two-run ball and hit a three-run homer Thursday …
Shane Victorino missed Thursday with a sore hip … Andy LaRoche left
Thursday’s game after being plunked on the knee.

White Sox acquire right-hander Tommy Kahnle from Rockies

Tommy Kahnle
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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According to the official Twitter account of the Chicago White Sox, the club acquired right-hander Tommy Kahnle from the Rockies on Tuesday evening in exchange for minor league pitcher Yency Almonte.

Kahnle was designated for assignment by the Rockies last week in a flurry of moves made in preparation of next month’s Rule 5 Draft. The 26-year-old former fifth-round pick posted an ugly 4.86 ERA, 1.77 WHIP, and 39/28 K/BB ratio in 33 1/3 innings this past season for Colorado and he wasn’t much better at Triple-A Albuquerque.

Almonte, 21, had a 3.41 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 110/38 K/BB ratio in 137 1/3 innings this past season between Low-A Kannapolis and High-A Winston-Salem.

It’s a straight one-for-one deal of two non-prospects, and the timing of it — in the evening, with Thanksgiving approaching — has our Craig Calcaterra wondering whether an executive was just trying to get out of some family responsibilities …

Mark McGwire to become the Padres bench coach

Los Angeles Dodgers batting coach Mark McGwire roams the field during practice for the National League baseball championship series Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013, in St. Louis. The Dodgers are scheduled to play the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 of the NLCS on Friday in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

The other day Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the Padres were in discussions with former Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire about their bench coach job. Today Jon Heyman reports that the deal is done and will soon be announced.

McGwire has been the hitting coach for Los Angeles for the past three seasons. When his contract was not renewed following the end of 2015 he was rumored to be up for the Diamondbacks’ hitting coach job. He likely view staying in Southern California to be a plus, as he makes his home in Irvine, which is around 90 miles from Petco Park. That’s a long commute, but Mac can afford the gas, I guess.

How to talk to your family about the designated hitter at Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Dinner

While political topics are normally the subject of awkward conversation at the Thanksgiving dinner table, hardcore baseball fans know that it can be just as awkward to talk about the game with relatives.

They don’t know baseball as well as you do — not by a long shot — but for some reason everyone thinks they have the God-given right not only to offer their baseball opinions but to demand acknowledgement that those opinions are correct. Baseball may be dying, you guys, but it’s vestigial status as our National Pastime makes everyone think they’re an expert by simple virtue of being an American. It’s maddening.

I can’t tell you how to keep your family away from sensitive topics, but here are brief answers to some frequently asked questions about the state of the game, and how you can defuse combustible conversations:

Will the National League adopt the designated hitter?

Despite the fact that the DH has been around four 43 seasons, your relatives — even those far younger than 43 — will loudly proclaim it to be a new-fangled abomination as they pass the sweet potatoes. While the best way to avoid conflict here is to say something like “I think the differences between the leagues are special and should be preserved” and try to quickly move on to something else, we don’t progress as a civilization by indulging foolishness in the name of peace. Tell your relatives that pitchers batting is dumb and that the DH should be universal. And then tell them to get their own sweet potatoes. You’re trying to eat here for cryin’ out loud.

Where will the big free agents go? Don’t the Yankees spend all of their big money and buy championships anyway?

My god, your uncle/cousin/sister’s boyfriend who probably shouldn’t be piping up about ANYTHING right now given that none of you really like him and it’s not going to last anyway is out of touch when it comes to such things. Tell them that the Yankees haven’t won jack since the first year of Obama’s first term and that even when they were winning the World Series all the time they did so on the back of homegrown talent, savvily-developed. Indeed, they STOPPED winning championships once they went huge on free agency and jacked up payroll and, despite the fact that they still owe a lot of old guys money, they are back to developing talent again and are way less likely to spend stupid money in free agency than they used to be. Careful here, though: people have strong feelings about the Yankees regardless of their ignorance and will likely fight back on this point. Maybe it’s safer just to discuss Obama. Here’s an idea to that end: how — as your drunk uncle claims — can Obama simultaneously be the least effective president ever AND a total dictator? Maybe Obama is one of those two things, but my drunk uncle has never given me a satisfactory answer to how he can be both.

Why doesn’t baseball have a salary cap? The players make too much money.

The idea of a salary cap in baseball is dead. Deader than vaudeville. It blew up the game in 1994-95, and the owners blinked rather than try it again in 2002.  Since then the money has been flowing, competitive balance has been better than most people will admit, and the owners seem to have very little desire to fight that fight again.  It’s not going to happen. Yet, for some reason — likely the Football Industrial Complex’s propaganda machine — every sports dilettante thinks that baseball not only needs a salary cap but that it’s actually something that could happen, even though it isn’t.

Here some ju-jitsu is in order. Rather than bog things down with facts which show that there is no need for a salary cap, turn the question around on them and ask them when the billionaires who own baseball teams will accept a cap on how much they should earn for their “labor.” When they spout off about how owners built the business themselves and are entitled to whatever they can get, ask them which of the current owners, who form a veritable Who’s-Who of Paper Movers, Genetic Lottery Winners and Men Who Were Born on Third Base Yet Think They Hit a Triple, built a dang thing. Peter Angelos, maybe. Just don’t tell them that he’s a rich plaintiff’s lawyer who had the union’s back during the 1994-95 strike.

What’s wrong with young players today? Why don’t they act professionally and respect the game? 

By this time your uncle may be so drunk on the Beaujolais Nouveau that he may actually slip and say “Latin players” instead of “young players,” and that’s assuming he’s polite enough to use words like “Latin” to refer to people from the Caribbean, Central and South America. If so, skip the lecture about how arguments regarding baseball decorum and “playing the game the right way” are really just proxies for cultural anxiety and creeping xenophobia and go directly to the inevitable conversation about immigration, refugees and Donald Trump. It’ll save you time and make everyone angrier way, way faster. And this is a wonderful thing.

Or, at least it is for me. I’m hosting Thanksgiving this year and the quicker people get to open warfare the quicker I can kick everyone out, bringing some peace and quiet back to my house. Plus: more pie for me.


(with both thanks and apologies to Brendan Nyhan of the New York Times)

Jerry Dipoto refutes the notion that Robinson Cano is unhappy

Robinson Cano

Yesterday John Harper of the Daily News reported that, according to a friend of Robinson Cano‘s, Cano is unhappy in Seattle and would like to go back to New York. Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto responded to that report, saying that it’s totally false based on his conversations with Cano and his agent:

“[Cano’s agent] reached out to let me know that did not come from Robbie and that’s not at all reflective of how he felt,” said Dipoto, who replaced former GM Jack Zduriencik two months ago. “Shortly after the season ended, I sat down with Robinson in my office for two hours and we had a great talk and I think we left with a very clear understanding of who one another might be.

There are official lines and things one says to one’s friends. Then again, there are also friends who know things and “friends” who assume things thought by others and then talk to newspapers about it too. Where all of this falls on the truth/knowledge spectrum is something none of us can ever know.

What can be known for sure is that (a) Cano had a rough season from both a health and baseball perspective; (b) Cano is a professional who knows that there is zero upside to communicating displeasure with one’s current team to the press, either directly or through surrogates; and (c) when one is productive and one’s team is winning, one feels very differently about life than if one is not productive and not winning.

In short: there could very well be truth from both sides of this little happening.