Daily Dose: Tommy John surgery for Nady

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Xavier Nady felt a “sharp pain” in his elbow on April 14 and reports
immediately surfaced that he’d need surgery. He opted instead to rehab
the injury and looked to be making good progress, but suffered a
setback during a minor-league game last week and the Yankees confirmed
Thursday that he’ll undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery.

A fluky .330 batting average had Nady’s value at an all-time high
when New York acquired him last July, but he was a career
.272/.327/.441 hitter heading into the season and hit a nearly
identical .270/.319/.469 in 66 post-trade games. Damaso Marte was
included in the deal along with Nady and has been awful since, so the
Yankees got little value for Jose Tabata, Ross Ohlendorf, and Jeff
Karstens.

Nady faces 9-12 months on the sidelines and is an impending free
agent, so he’s unlikely to re-sign with the Yankees and may have
trouble securing more than an incentive-laden deal on the open market.
Tabata was the centerpiece of the deal and has struggled at Double-A,
but he’s still just 20 years old and Pittsburgh has already gotten 238
innings of 4.57 ERA pitching from Ohlendorf and Karstens.

While the Nady trade looks a whole lot different now than it did at the time, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* If you watched the World Baseball Classic the name Aroldis Chapman
should ring a bell, as the 21-year-old southpaw flashed a high-90s
fastball while pitching for Cuba. Earlier this week he defected while
the Cuban national team was in the Netherlands for a tournament.
Chapman explained afterward that he just walked right out of the team
hotel and hopped into a waiting car.

“Now the plan is to sign with a major-league team,” Chapman said.
Seven years ago Jose Contreras defected in a very similar manner before
signing a four-year, $32 million contract with the Yankees. Contreras
was already 30 years old at the time and the consensus has Chapman as a
vastly superior talent, so speculation is that he could command upwards
of $60 million in a bidding war.

Chapman should be targeted heavily in any keeper league where he’s
available, because after watching him in the WBC there’s no doubt that
his raw stuff is elite and has the potential to make him an ace.
However, even with a 100-mph heater and promising off-speed pitches
he’s far from ready to thrive at the age of 21. He had a 5.68 ERA
during the WBC and a 4.03 ERA in Cuba last season.

* Perhaps regretting their decision to trade Mark DeRosa in
December, the Cubs traded for a poor man’s version Thursday by getting
Jeff Baker from the Rockies. Baker isn’t as versatile defensively or as
potent offensively, but can play second base, third base, and the
outfield corners while hitting .257/.313/.458. Of course, he’s batted
just .205/.266/.343 away from Coors Field, so don’t expect too much.

AL Quick Hits: CC Sabathia allowed six runs on 10 hits in 5.2
innings Thursday, giving up more than four runs for the first time
since mid-April … Despite his 7-1 record, Matt Palmer has been demoted
to the Angels’ bullpen to make room for Ervin Santana (triceps) in the
rotation … Vicente Padilla’s next outing has been pushed back to
Tuesday because of shoulder soreness … Mark Buehrle took a shutout into
the ninth inning Thursday while improving to 8-2 … Alexei Ramirez sat
out Thursday’s game after bruising his finger the night before … Tampa
Bay added former top prospect John Meloan to the bullpen mix Thursday,
hoping that the 25-year-old can rediscover his once dominant stuff …
Ichiro Suzuki swiped a base and doubled twice Thursday, boosting his
batting average to .370 … After never playing an inning at the position
prior to this year, Ty Wigginton appeared at shortstop Thursday for the
fifth time this season.

NL Quick Hits: Raul Ibanez (groin) has had his rehab assignment
pushed back twice, so he won’t be rejoining the Phillies until at least
next week … Joey Votto went 4-for-6 with a walk-off single Thursday and
is 15-for-38 (.395) since coming off the disabled list … Tim Redding
allowed five runs while recording seven outs Thursday, as his ERA rose
to 6.99 … Alfonso Soriano was a healthy scratch for the second straight
game Thursday, with Sam Fuld starting in his place … About one month
removed from hip surgery, Brett Myers will begin a throwing program
next week … Derrek Lee went deep twice and drove in a career-high seven
runs Thursday … Matt Diaz had another strong game Thursday, going
3-for-4 with a double and a steal … Doug Davis got stuck with a
no-decision for seven innings of one-run ball Thursday, making him 3-8
despite a 3.15 ERA … Mark DeRosa (wrist) is unlikely to start again
until Tuesday, according to Tony La Russa.

Willie Mays gets a cable car named after him

Major League Baseball hall of famer  Willie Mays, who spent the majority of his career as a center fielder with the New York and San Francisco Giants, smiles as President Barack Obama honors the 2012 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants baseball team, Monday, July 29, 2013, during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. The team beat the Detroit Tigers in the 2012 World Series, their second championship since the franchise moved to San Francisco from New York in 1958. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
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This is not exactly stunning news, but it’s Willie Mays’ 85th birthday today and any excuse to talk about Willie Mays is a good one. Happy Birthday, Willie!

The pretext is a story in the San Francisco Chronicle about how The Greatest Baseball Player of All Time (my view anyway) is getting an iconic cable car named after him. An icon named after an icon, I guess. The cable car is, appropriately, number 24.

Next month I’m taking my kids on vacation to California and we’re spending a few days in San Francisco. It’ll be a shame when I tell them we have to cancel half of a day’s plans while I make them wait for one particular cable car to come by so they can take my picture with it, but that’s just what they have to deal with given that I’m their dad.

Carlos Gomez calls out a hit piece-writing columnist

Houston Astros' Carlos Gomez (30) reacts after hitting a double in the second inning of a baseball game against the Minnesota Twins, Tuesday, May 3, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
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Yesterday I wrote about a column written by Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle. It was about Astros outfielder Carlos Gomez, who has had a poor start to the year.

The column, as I noted, was a hatchet job, blaming Gomez for the Astros’ problems despite the fact that Gomez is by far from the biggest of the Astros’ problems. It was particularly bad in that it presented an unedited bit of broken English from Gomez which seemed calculated to cast Gomez in a bad light. Many journalists were critical of Smith in this regard, noting that he could’ve used a translator, could have paraphrased or could’ve done some mild correction via brackets, as is often done with quotes from non-native English speakers.

Last night Gomez took to Twitter to call out Smith himself:

It’s possible to write a column about how a player hasn’t lived up to expectations without being an insensitive jackass. It’s possible to do so even in the sharpest of ways. Smith didn’t do that, however, and didn’t make an effort to try, it seems. Gomez is right to take issue with it. And I suspect that Gomez’s teammates and organization take issue with it too. Which likely doesn’t bode well for Smith getting cooperation from others in the Astros family.

Reminder: athletes are not heroes

Zack Greinke
Associated Press
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This is something of a “greatest hits” piece and it’s topic I’ve talked about here before, but I’m reminded of it again because of Facebook’s memories thing which tells me I wrote about it seven years ago today back when I was still doing stuff at my old Shysterball blog at the Hardball Times.

The topic: ballplayers as heroes. The subject of the 2009 post on the matter was Zack Greinke, who was then beginning his breakout year with the Kansas City Royals. A columnist talked about how uplifting Greinke’s story was, what with him having overcome some struggles with anxiety disorder which had caused him to leave the game for a brief period. In early 2009 he was back, baby, and better than ever and many wanted to turn him into something larger than just a ballplayer excelling at his craft.

In the post I wrote about how, while such an impulse was understandable, it was a dangerous one as athletes have been made into heroes for years and years and, so often, they end up disappointing. Because we built them up so high, however, we don’t see such instances as the mere exhibition of human fallibility. We see them as some greater failure or even a betrayal, which is both ridiculous and unfair to these men and women, even if they have failed in certain ways. They have worked hard all of their lives to be good at a particular sport. They did not promise us glory or inspiration, yet we assume that they owe us those things. Their failures, however they are manifested, are matched by our failures at expectation management.

But it’s even more pernicious than that. Because, as I wrote at the time, when we create heroes, we necessarily create the need for villains and we will go out of our way to find those too, justified or otherwise:

“Hero” is too strong and baggage-laden a word anyway. As [Bill] James notes, it places a heavy burden on young men, and these guys are under such scrutiny day-in and day-out that they really don’t need it. What’s more, the term hero it necessarily assumes its opposite — villain — and demands that we search them out too. You know, to restore balance to the universe and everything. Often — as in the case of A-Rod and Gooden and Bonds and all of the others — they’re the same people, just older . . . Hero creation, worship, and subsequently, destruction has long been a part of baseball. But it’s not an essential part, and in my mind not a desirable part.

Seven years later we’re still doing this. As Bill James noted in his “Historical Baseball Abstract,” “When a young player comes to the major leagues and has success right away, writers will almost always write about what a fine young man he is as well as a supreme talent.” Many of them, like Zack Greinke, will prove to continue to be fine older men, just as they were fine young men. Some will not. Would it not be better if we didn’t get so invested in how fine a young man any one of them is? Or, short of that, if we didn’t act so betrayed and victimized if they turn out not to be such a fine young man?

I like to hear a good story about a baseball player who, by all outward appearances, seems like a good person. But I’m content to give such a story a smile and leave it at that. If we require heroism, there are people who do truly heroic things in the world beyond throw baseballs.

Andrew McCutchen apologies to an official scorer he said should be fired

Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen (22) watches from the dugout during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday, April 13, 2016, in Pittsburgh. Detroit won 7-3.(AP Photo/Don Wright)
Associated Press
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Andrew McCutchen made an error on Wednesday night. He thought he shouldn’t have been charged with one on the play, however, and afterward said “whoever scored that an error should be fired. That’s unbelievable. I did everything I could to catch it.”

It was a dumb comment for two reasons. First, a player “doing everything he can” on a play doesn’t make a misplay not a misplay. The “e” ain’t about effort, man. I realize scoring has gotten somewhat lax in recent years and players are routinely not given errors if it looks like they really, really tried, but there is not an intent element to the crime of making errors on the playing field. If you muff one, you muff one.

It was a dumb comment for another reason, and that’s that it was just not very nice. As we noted when David Ortiz or some others have made publicly disparaging comments about official scorers, it’s the ultimate punching down. These are people who have other jobs, aren’t public figures, don’t get paid a lot and really, really don’t have it in for anyone. Publicly criticizing them is bad enough, publicly demanding their jobs is pretty low.

Thankfully, with a day’s worth of reflection, McCutchen realized that this was the case and apologized. There aren’t public words from McCutchen available, but the club said that he reached out to the scorer and personally apologized. As he should’ve.