Thoughts from Tuesday's games

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Twitter is broken for me and a bunch of other new users, so let’s post some quick notes here:

– Hopefully, Tuesday’s ninth inning will bring an end to manager Terry
Francona’s attempts to keep Nick Green in the shortstop mix for the Red
Sox. Green did better than expected as a stopgap in place of an injured
Jed Lowrie and a gimpy Julio Lugo, but he doesn’t get on base, he
doesn’t have much range and he’s just not a very smart ballplayer. Two
ugly plays led to two runs against Jonathan Papelbon tonight, allowing
the A’s to tie it up.

Lowrie needs to play regularly for the next few weeks, allowing the
Red Sox to see whether they truly need an upgrade at short for
September and the postseason. Green should be thought of strictly as a
utilityman.

– MVP candidate Jason Bartlett hit ninth for the Rays tonight.
Against a left-hander. Against an ace left-hander he’s actually slugged
.483 against in his career. Bartlett is hitting .333/.386/.511 this
season. He’s hit .328/.381/.464 against southpaws in his career. He was
9-for-29 against CC Sabathia. And the Rays arranged it so that he would
potentially get one less at-bat than Pat Burrell, Gabe Kapler or Dioner
Navarro.

For the record, leadoff hitter B.J. Upton was batting .184/.311/.254 against lefties this season.

– Ross Gload walkoff blast against Rafael Soriano in the bottom of
the ninth Tuesday was his fourth homer for Florida in 134 at-bats this
season. He hit three homers in 388 at-bats for Kansas City last year.
Sadly, the Royals may well have been better off with him instead of
Mike Jacobs. They’re still paying most of Gload’s salary, and the
pitcher they gave to the Marlins for Jacobs, Leo Nunez, got the win in
relief tonight.

– Poor Scott Downs. Battles back from bases loaded with no outs in a
tie game against the Mariners by getting a 5-2 groundout and a
strikeout and then gets 0-2 on Ichiro Suzuki with a chance to send the
game into extra innings. He throws a perfect breaking ball off the
plate and barely off the ground and Ichiro somehow bloops perfectly in
between the shortstop and center fielder, ending the game. No one else
in baseball gets that pitch in the air.

Downs now has three losses and an additional blown save in his last five appearances.

He wouldn’t have even had to face Ichiro tonight if the defense had
done a better job on the 6-2 groundout. It was just to the right of
third base, and Scott Rolen could have touched third and still had
plenty of time to throw home, with the caveat being that the runner
would have been in his throwing lane. When he fired home instead, the
Jays still might have had a chance for the double play at third base,
except the shortstop was late getting over to cover the bag.

The deeper implications of the A.J. Ellis trade

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 17:  Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers heads to the dugout at the end of the first inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Dodger Stadium on May 17, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The trade of a light-hitting backup catcher is normally about as inconsequential as it gets. The trade of A.J. Ellis by the Dodgers to the Phillies, however, is anything but that. Indeed, it may be the public manifestation of long-simmering, well, maybe “feud” is too strong a word, but a definite butting of heads between the team’s front office and its best player.

While almost all of the clubhouse drama in Los Angeles has surrounded a talented but aggravating corner outfielder currently toiling in the minors, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times wrote last night that the Ellis trade could very well be seen as the front office’s shot across Clayton Kershaw‘s bow:

Kershaw’s preference of Ellis was the subject of a longstanding tug-of-war between Kershaw and the front office, which wanted Yasmani Grandal behind the plate as much as possible . . . Some players interpreted the trade as a message from the front office.

This isn’t Kershaw’s team. It’s not Corey Seager’s team or Adrian Gonzalez’s, either.

It’s Friedman’s.

The notion that Kershaw likes to pitch to Ellis is pretty well-known, but the idea that it was so strong a preference that it created a dispute as to whether he has final say over a roster spot is news, at least to people who aren’t around the Dodgers all the time. Hernandez is a good columnist and is particularly well-plugged in to the Dodgers after many years of being their beat writer for the Times. He wouldn’t throw the notion of there being something of a power struggle in this regard out there all willy-nilly in order to stir the pot or something. I don’t doubt for a second that something bigger than most of us have seen is going on here.

As for the trade itself: yeah, it’s pretty debatable as to whether it makes any kind of sense. Carlos Ruiz is likely an upgrade over Ellis, but it’s a pretty marginal upgrade when you consider how few plate appearances the Dodgers backup catcher will make for the rest of the year. It’s especially marginal if you assume, as Hernandez and others assume, likely with reason, that the loss of Ellis is going to harm morale. At least in the short term before they get to know Ruiz well (worth noting, though, that he comes pretty highly recommended from Kershaw-caliber aces for all the same reasons Ellis does). I can see a lot of reasons not to make that deal even for an extra hit or two a week that Ruiz may give you over Ellis.

All of which speaks to what we don’t know. What we don’t know about the mind of Andrew Friedman and whether or not there is something more going on here than is immediately apparent. About the relationship between him and Kershaw and, for that matter, him and the rest of the team that would cause him to make a deal that plays as poorly with his own players as this one does. It could be something about Ellis. It could be something about Friedman’s relationship with Kershaw. It could be something totally unrelated to any of that, such as offseason plans and the roster in 2017 (Ruiz has a team option for next year, Ellis is a pending free agent). Unless or until Friedman speaks or a reporter gets someone to shed more light on this, there will continue to be questions.

In the meantime, I’ll grant that there are certainly different rules which apply to superstars than mere mortals, but veto power over a trade and/or playing time for other players isn’t typically one of them. If, as Hernandez suggests, there was a sense that Kershaw and Friedman didn’t see eye-to-eye on that and it wasn’t otherwise being resolved, it makes Friedman’s move somewhat more understandable.

World Baseball Classic pools, venues announced

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - MARCH 10:  Miguel Cabrera #24 of Venezuela gets a hit and drives in a run against Spain during the first round of the World Baseball Classic at Hiram Bithorn Stadium on March 10, 2013 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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Yesterday the folks who run the World Baseball Classic (i.e. the Rand Corporation, in conjunction with the saucer people, under the supervision of the reverse vampires, the Illuminati and the Trilateral Commission) announced the groupings and venues for next springs’s tournament. It breaks down thusly:

  • Pool A will play in Tokyo, featuring Australia, China, Cuba, and Japan;
  • Pool B will play in Seoul, featuring Chinese Taipei, Korea, the Netherlands, and either Brazil, Israel, Great Britain, or Pakistan (final participant to be determined at a qualifying tournament in New York next month);
  • Pool C will play in Miami, featuring Canada, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, and the United States;
  • Pool D will play in Guadalajara, featuring Italy, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela.

A winner and a runner-up will advance from each pool following a round-robin competition. That will result in a second round robin made up of Pool A and B — which will be called Pool E, because it HAS to be complicated — and which will be played in Tokyo. Meanwhile, Pool C and D’s representatives will make up Pool F, who will play in San Diego at Petco Park.

The winner of Pool F will then take on the runner-up of Pool E in a semifinal at Dodger Stadium, while the winner of Pool E will face Pool F’s runner-up there as well. The winners of those matches will play in the WBC final, also at Dodger Stadium.

Got it? Good.

Now we wait. And listen to people tell us how much we should care about the World Baseball Classic between now and March.