Sosa buries baseball in avalanche of non-surprise

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Judging by reaction around baseball, Sammy Sosa testing positive for steroids
(just a report at this point, mind you) is akin to saying the Yankees
have a big payroll. Is anyone surprised? Ummm … that would be a big fat
no.

In fact, surprise was the word of the day. A sampling …

  • Lance Berkman is not at all surprised:
    “That’s not that surprising at all. There are just certain guys that
    you pretty much know without coming out and making an out and out
    accusation, but it does not surprise me, not even a little bit.”

  • Don’t even try to throw a surprise party for Aramis Ramirez:
    “Nothing surprises me anymore. Everybody talked about it, but I played
    with him for two years here and I never saw him do anything wrong.”

  • Joe Torre is surprised when his own player gets caught, but not
    by anyone else: “As far as being surprised, I was surprised with Manny.
    And after that, I mean, how can you be surprised anymore? After Manny,
    how can you be surprised?”

  • Lou Piniella is surprised you would even ask him about it:
    “I don’t know that much about it. Maybe if managers had been trained a
    little more in these areas, I could answer better, but I don’t know. I
    wouldn’t know a steroid from a reefer.”

  • After dealing with A-Rod and now Sosa, Rangers GM Jon Daniels seems to wish he could be surprised:
    “But it’s the same reaction as I had with Alex [Rodriguez]. You hope
    it’s not true. But, unfortunately, nothing would surprise all of us at
    this point.”

  • Don Mattingly hopes these non-surprise surprises are going to soon come to an end:
    “I don’t think it surprises anybody any more. I think it’s good that
    we’ve got a policy in place. … “Obviously, there’s a lot of guys. I’d
    just go ahead — if there’s 103 guys, let’s get ’em all out. We’ll know
    who’s who and go from there. We’ll get it over with.”

  • White Sox broadcaster Steve Stone is surprised that Sosa drew attention to himself:
    “I’m kind of surprised that he came out for an official retirement,
    because sometimes when you do that and make a comment as he made, it
    has ramifications that you can’t foresee and in this case, these are
    some of the ramifications.”

  • And perhaps most surprising is the reaction of Angels reliever Darren Oliver:
    “Better him than me. He’s the one who has to deal with it. It seems
    like if you are caught with this, you can kiss the Hall of Fame
    goodbye.”

    You want a surprise? Oliver might now have a better chance than Sosa
    at the Hall of Fame. I don’t think anyone would have expected something
    like that.

  • Justin Turner is a postseason monster

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    A not-insignificant amount of the Dodgers’ success in recent years has to do with the emergence of Justin Turner. In his first five seasons with the Orioles and Mets, he was a forgettable infielder who had versatility, but no power. The Mets non-tendered him after the 2013 season, a move they now really regret.

    In four regular seasons since, as a Dodger, Turner has hit an aggregate .303/.378/.502. His 162-game averages over those four seasons: 23 home runs, 36 doubles, 83 RBI, 80 runs scored. And he’s also a pretty good third baseman, it turns out. The Dodgers have averaged 95 wins per season over the past four years.

    Turner, 32, has gotten better and better with each passing year. This year, he drew more walks (59) than strikeouts (56), a club only five other players (min. 300 PA) belonged to, and he trailed only Joey Votto (1.61) in BB/K ratio (1.05). He zoomed past his previous career-high in OPS, finishing at .945. His .415 on-base percentage was fourth-best in baseball. His batting average was fifth-best and only nine points behind NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon.

    It doesn’t seem possible, but Turner has been even better in the postseason. He exemplified that with his walk-off home run to win Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Overall, entering Wednesday night’s action, he was batting .363/.474/.613 in 97 postseason plate appearances. In Game 4, he went 2-for-2 with two walks, a single, and a solo home run. That increases his postseason slash line to .378/.495/.659, now across 101 plate appearances. That’s a 1.154 OPS. The career-high regular season OPS for future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was 1.114 in 2008, when he won his third career MVP Award. Statistically, in the postseason, Turner hits slightly better than Pujols did in the prime of his career. Of course, we should adjust for leagues and parks and all that, but to even be in that neighborhood is incredible.

    In the age of stats, the concept of “clutch” has rightfully eroded. We don’t really allow players to ascend to godlike levels anymore like the way we did Derek Jeter, for instance. (Jeter’s career OPS in the playoffs, by the way, was a comparatively pitiful .838.) Turner isn’t clutch; he’s just a damn good hitter whose careful approach at the plate has allowed him to shine in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t imagine life without him.