Report: Kazmir will go to Angels in waiver deal

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A deal rumored in July was surprisingly near completion Friday, as the Angels reportedly acquired Scott Kazmir from the Rays for prospects Alex Torres and Matt Sweeney.
As a 25-year-old lefty with a 55-44 record, a 3.92 ERA and 874 strikeouts in 834 innings, Kazmir hardly seemed to be a likely candidate to be part of a waiver deal. However, since it was the Angels picking him up, he only needed to get through 11 American League teams. That meant no interference from the Yankees. The Red Sox, Tigers and Rangers all could have thrown a monkey wrench into the Angels’ plans, but the price tag scared them all off.
That is the problem here. Kazmir isn’t currently the same pitcher he was two years ago, and he’s owed $8 million next year, $12 million in 2001 and either $13.5 million or a $2.5 million in 2012. This could turn out as badly as the Dontrelle Willis acquisition and signing (more so the signing) did for Detroit.
When Kazmir was at his best in 2006, he averaged 92 mph with his fastball, 84 mph with his slider and 82 mph with his changeup. These days he’s at 90.7 with his fastball, 81 mph with his slider and 79 with his changeup. The slider just doesn’t have the same snap it used to, and he’s never developed better command to help make up for the diminished stuff.
It’s very possible that Kazmir will be an injury-prone No. 3 or No. 4 starter going forward. The Rays couldn’t take that risk when he’s due so much cash, so shedding his contract was the right move. It’s the timing that’s questionable, as the club is still just 3 1/2 games back in the wild card chase. However, Andy Sonnanstine is ready to move back into the rotation and Wade Davis is deserving of an opportunity. The Rays may well be better off without him.
At the same time, it’s hard to blame the Angels for making the move. They’ve needed another starter since way back in spring training, and while the lousy bottom of the rotation hasn’t prevented them from compiling the AL’s second-best record, it could kill them come playoff time. Now they have choices. They won’t necessarily have to stick Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana in their postseason rotation if they struggle next month. And if either Saunders or Santana goes down again, they won’t have to face the scary possibility of making Trevor Bell or Sean O’Sullivan their fourth starter in the postseason.
In order to acquire Kazmir, the Angels parted with a couple of prospects who ranked between fifth and 10th in their system. Torres, a 21-year-old southpaw, has helped his stock a bunch by going 13-4 with a 2.74 ERA, 116 H and 149/80 K/BB in 147 1/3 IP between Single- and Double-A this year. He projected as a reliever going into this year, but he’s now a very intriguing rotation possibility. Sweeney has power potential, but he’s been held back by injuries and he’s not going to last at third base. The 21-year-old has hit .299/.379/.517 in 211 at-bats for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga this season. There’s a chance that he’ll make it as a starting first baseman someday.
Neither prospect is on the 40-man roster, so waiver rules won’t apply in this case.
The Rays may well be blasted for making this trade while still in contention, but in the end, they’ll probably be better off for it. Losing Kazmir doesn’t necessarily hurt their playoff chances at all, and by dumping his salary, they’re giving themselves greater flexibility for next year. Perhaps that means Carl Crawford will stick around after all.

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.