Daily Dose: Cliff Lee can't buy a win

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Cliff Lee’s win-loss record has suffered from a lack of lineup and
bullpen support all season and that continued Thursday night, as he got
stuck with a no-decision despite tossing seven innings of two-run ball
against the Pirates. Lee has thrown a Quality Start in 12 of his last
13 outings, with a 2.20 ERA and 69/21 K/BB ratio during that time, yet
has just a 4-4 record to show for it.

He’s just 4-6 overall despite a 2.92 ERA after going 22-3 with a
2.54 ERA on the way to the AL Cy Young last year. With the Indians
falling to 30-44 and a dozen games back in the AL Central rumors are
starting to swirl that Lee may be on the trading block. General manager
Mark Shapiro is believed to be holding out for an elite pitching
prospect, but Lee’s poor record likely hurts his perceived value.

While the misleading nature of individual win-loss records displays
itself perfectly in Lee, here are some other notes from around baseball

* John Smoltz made his Red Sox debut Thursday night, allowing four
first-inning runs before holding the Nationals to one run over his
final four frames. Losing his first start in more than a year clearly
isn’t good news, but Smoltz retired the final eight hitters he faced
and struck out the side in his last inning. It wasn’t the debut that
Boston fans were hoping for, but he looked good enough to be an asset.

* Eric Byrnes is expected to miss 4-8 weeks with a fractured left
hand after Scott Feldman plunked him with a pitch Thursday. Byrnes is
hitting .216/.260/.361 this season after batting .209/.272/.369 last
year, so his absence obviously isn’t a big blow to the Diamondbacks and
basically just guarantees that Gerardo Parra will continue to play
regularly once Chris Young returns from a groin injury.

* Josh Hamilton has begun swinging a bat following June 9 surgery on
a partially torn abdominal muscle and general manager Jon Daniels
revealed Thursday that “there’s a reasonable chance” he’ll be able to
return from the disabled list before the All-Star break. Hamilton has
indicated that he’ll probably skip the Home Run Derby, but he’s also
third in the fan voting for a starting spot in the outfield.

* Despite general manager Neal Huntington announcing earlier this
week that he would remain in the rotation for at least one more start,
Ian Snell was demoted to the minors Thursday and the move apparently
came at his request. Snell is 9-20 with a 5.40 ERA in 46 starts since
the beginning of last year, but Pittsburgh has turned down trade offers
and resisted what may be a smart move to the bullpen.

AL Quick Hits: Frank Thomas said Thursday that he’s close to
retiring, but is “still in shape, ready to go if anything happens” …
Kenji Johjima (toe) is set to return from the disabled list Friday and
will resume starting … Armando Galarraga gave up four runs in six
innings Thursday, but won for the first time since April … If his
bullpen session goes well Friday, Roy Halladay (groin) should be
cleared to start Monday … Evan Longoria sat out Thursday’s game, but
his hamstring injury isn’t considered serious … Ichiro Suzuki went
4-for-5 with a homer Thursday and now has a career-high .901 OPS …
Denard Span returned from the DL with a triple and three walks Thursday
… Yuniesky Betancourt’s hamstring injury sent him to the shelf
Thursday, which is addition by subtraction for the Mariners … Asdrubal
Cabrera (shoulder) may come off the DL as soon as Friday … Aaron Poreda
picked up his first career win Thursday by pitching a scoreless 13th
inning.

NL Quick Hits: Brandon Webb will be examined by three more
specialists before making a decision on his shoulder injury … Homer
Bailey will start Saturday and should get a chance to stick in the
rotation if he can throw strikes for once … Not willing to wait for
Milton Bradley’s next injury, manager Lou Piniella has benched him for
a couple games … Antonio Bastardo exited Thursday’s start in the fourth
inning with a strained shoulder … After losing three of his past four
starts, Johan Santana tossed seven innings of two-run ball Thursday for
win No. 9 … Kenshin Kawakami isn’t expected to miss a start despite
being hit on the neck by a liner Wednesday … Jake Fox went 3-for-4 with
his first homer Thursday … Hitting just .214 overall and .125 since
being dropped to sixth in the lineup, Jimmy Rollins has been benched
for two games … Reed Johnson (back) went on the disabled list Thursday,
so the Cubs replaced him with Ryan Freel … Geovany Soto tested positive
for marijuana during the WBC, but called it “an isolated incident.”

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.