Daily Dose: Halladay and Downs go down

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Already wrecked by injuries, the Blue Jays’ pitching staff will likely
add two more big names to the disabled list. Roy Halladay experienced a
setback with his groin injury during a bullpen session Wednesday and is
headed for the shelf, but noted that he “absolutely” expects to rejoin
the rotation when eligible on June 28. Brett Cecil seems like the best
candidate to fill-in after holding his own in his debut.

Halladay could pitch again this month, but Toronto will probably be
without Scott Downs for quite a bit longer after he sprained a toe
while hitting Tuesday. Downs has done a great job since taking over
closer duties from B.J. Ryan, saving eight games with a 1.98 ERA and
28/4 K/BB ratio, but Ryan may get a second chance after eight straight
scoreless appearances. Jason Frasor is the other option.

While the Blue Jays try to stay above .500 with approximately 50
pitchers on the DL, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* Pedro Martinez has reportedly been working out five days per week
recently in the Dominican Republic and said Wednesday that he’s close
to signing with an undisclosed team. “There’s a good chance I’ll be
signing soon, but there still isn’t anything firm,” Martinez said. He
listed the Cubs and Rays as the two teams that “have shown the most
interest” before adding that “we’re negotiating with them.”

* It took 14 games and 50 plate appearances, but Matt Wieters hit
his first career homer Wednesday against Tim Redding. Wieters is
batting .240/.283/.380 with a 12/3 K/BB ratio and four extra-base hits
overall, which clearly isn’t the production that owners had in mind
when he was called up amid crazy hype last month, but he’s 10-for-35
(.286) over the past 10 games and will get on track soon enough.

* Erik Bedard was placed on the disabled list Wednesday and will
have his sore shoulder examined by Dr. James Andrews next week, which
could ruin whatever plans the Mariners had of cashing in the impending
free agent before the July 31 trading deadline. Bedard is 5-2 with a
2.47 ERA and 65/22 K/BB ratio through 66 innings, so if healthy he
would have been very attractive to contending teams.

* John Smoltz made his final minor-league rehab start Wednesday,
giving up one run in four innings at Triple-A. He threw just 60 pitches
in preparation for his Red Sox debut next week, striking out three,
walking one, and allowing three hits. His first matchup will be next
Thursday against the Nationals, but mixed leaguers will likely want to
take a wait-and-see approach initially.

AL Quick Hits: Brad Penny picked up his 100th career win by
allowing one run in five innings Wednesday … Scott Kazmir (quadriceps)
tossed 4.2 shutout innings in his first rehab start Wednesday at
Single-A … Torii Hunter (ribs) came off the bench Wednesday, going
1-for-2 while playing center field … Derek Jeter (ankle) sat out
Wednesday’s game, but an MRI exam revealed no big damage … Dustin
Pedroia was 3-for-5 with three RBIs and two steals Wednesday … Carl
Pavano’s next start has been pushed back four days due to a sore
shoulder … Pat Burrell played the outfield Wednesday for the first time
with the Rays … Scott Richmond had a career-high 11 strikeouts over
eight innings of one-run ball Wednesday for his first win since May 3 …
Chien-Ming Wang fell to 0-5 with a 12.65 ERA, giving up three runs over
five innings Wednesday as Phil Hughes relieved him with two shutout
frames … Zack Greinke allowed six runs Wednesday for his worst start.

NL Quick Hits: Micah Owings tossed six innings of two-run ball
Wednesday and smacked a three-run homer in a 4-3 win … Gary Sheffield
homered Wednesday for the third time in five games, quieting concerns
about his knee injury … Pablo Sandoval started at third base Wednesday
for the first time this month and went 0-for-3 … Ryan Braun left
Wednesday’s game with lower back tightness … Jerry Manuel said
Wednesday that Jose Reyes (calf) is at least a week from beginning a
rehab stint … Tim Lincecum allowed four runs in eight innings Wednesday
for his first loss since April 12 … Alfonso Soriano continued to
struggle Wednesday by going 0-for-4 with his sixth error … John Lannan
held the Yankees to a pair of runs in 8.1 innings Wednesday before Mike
MacDougal got the final two outs for a save … Joey Votto took batting
practice Wednesday and is close to beginning a rehab assignment …
Jonathan Broxton (toe) was unavailable Wednesday.

CC Sabathia won’t visit the White House if the Yankees win the World Series

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Over the past couple of days the subject of athlete activism, always present to some degree in American sports, but recently revived by Colin Kaepernick and a few other football players in the form of silent protests during the National Anthem, exploded into a headline dominating news story. Lighting the fuse: President Trump directly inserting himself into the controversy.

He did so during a speech on Friday night and during a series of tweets Saturday and continuing into this morning in which he urged NFL owners to “fire” or suspend players who do not stand for the national anthem. He also attempted to disinvite the NBA champion Golden State Warriors from their traditional White House visit because of their star player Stephen Curry’s public opposition to him, though Curry had already said he wouldn’t go.

As Ashley wrote last night, the silent anthem protests have now come to baseball, with A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell becoming the fist player to kneel during the National Anthem. Before that, at least one baseball executive, Orioles Vice President John P. Angelos, came out strongly on the side of players and against Trump. Joe Maddon said some less-than-enlightened words on the matter. Major League Baseball issued a statement on the matter. It was, not surprisingly, somewhat empty, taking something of a both-sides-have-good-points tack. It’s understandable, I suppose. I suspect Major League Baseball and its owners would prefer to not have to comment on this at all. The league does not do this sort of controversy well.

Ballplayers, however, will likely continue to speak up. The latest: Yankees starter CC Sabathia, who was asked yesterday whether he would visit the White House if the playoff-bound Yankees won the World Series. From the Daily News:

“Never. I just don’t believe in anything that is Trump. So there wouldn’t be any reason for me to go at all. I just think it’s stupid. I just think it’s dumb that he’s addressing players and stuff that he shouldn’t be. But it is what it is, and that’s the country we live in these days . . . I’m proud of the way that everybody has Steph’s back and just athletes in general these days, the way everybody has been stepping up has been great.”

Baseball players, as we’ve noted many times over the years, tend to be a more conservative bunch than football or basketball players. There are a lot more white players and a lot more players from southern, suburban and exurban areas. A significant number of racial-ethnic minority players were not born in the United States, so U.S. politics may not necessarily preoccupy them the way it may players from the United States. As such, political protest like we’ve seen in the NFL and NBA was never going to start in baseball in 2017.

But that does not mean that it was not going to come to baseball. Contrary to what so many fans seem to think, sports do not exist inside some bubble into which the real world does not intrude. Athletes are citizens just like you and me with social, political and personal concerns just like you and me. And, at the moment, a government official is demanding that they lose their jobs because he does not agree with their political views and the manner in which they are expressed. I suspect most of us would get upset by that if it happened to us. Certainly a lot of people I know on the conservative side of the political expression worried about government overreach and freedom of speech. At least before January of this year.

So I am not at all surprised that baseball players like Sabathia are beginning to speak out. He will not be the last. Others will join him. Others, as is their right, will push back and say they disagree with him. If and when people feel inspired to tell them to “stick to sports,” or “stay in their lane,” perhaps they should ask why the President of the United States decided not to do so himself. And ask why he thinks it’s appropriate for athletes to lose their jobs for their political views and why private entities like the NFL should be patriotic institutions rather than businesses which put on sporting events.

 

Bruce Maxwell first MLB player to kneel during National Anthem

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Athletics’ rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell did not stand for the National Anthem on Saturday night. He’s the first MLB player to do so and, like other professional athletes before him, used the moment to send a message — not just to shed light on the lack of racial equality in the United States, but to specifically protest President Donald Trump’s suggestion that NFL owners fire any of their players who elect to protest the anthem by sitting or kneeling.

“Bruce’s father is a proud military lifer. Anyone who knows Bruce or his parents is well aware that the Maxwells’ love and appreciation for our country is indisputable,” Maxwell’s agent, Matt Sosnick, relayed to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser on Friday. He continued:

Bruce has made it clear that he is taking a stand about what he perceives as racial injustices in this country, and his personal disappointment with President Trump’s response to a number of professional athletes’ totally peaceful, non-violent protests.

Bruce has shared with both me and his teammates that his feelings have nothing to do with a lack of patriotism or a hatred of any man, but rather everything to do with equality for men, women and children regardless of race or religion.

While Maxwell didn’t make his own statement to the media, he took to Instagram earlier in the day to express his frustration against the recent opposition to the protests, criticizing the President for endorsing “division of man and rights.”

Despite Trump’s profanity-laced directive to NFL owners on Friday, however, it’s clear the Athletics don’t share his sentiments. “The Oakland A’s pride ourselves on being inclusive,” the team said in a statement released after Maxwell’s demonstration. “We respect and support all of our players’ constitutional rights and freedom of expression.”

Whatever the fallout, kudos to Maxwell for taking a stand. He may be the first to do so in this particular arena, but he likely won’t be the last.