Link-O-Rama: Pirates have mastered losing in Milwaukee

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* Yesterday the Pirates lost in Milwaukee for the 21st straight time, which as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes is the the fifth-longest streak in baseball history for one team losing in a road city.
As manager John Russell put it: “I don’t have an answer for that. It’s a lot of games.” The amazing thing is that the Brewers are 21-0 against the Pirates at Miller Park, but just 216-217 in all other games since 2007.
* Written off by the Cubs after struggling in limited playing time through the age of 23, Felix Pie is now showing that his strong minor-league track record is no fluke by hitting .272/.335/.457 with very good defense for the Orioles. Yet another reason why the future is looking pretty bright in Baltimore finally.
* passes along an interesting stat: Of the 20 active players who have the most career plate appearances without a homer, 19 of them are pitchers and one is … Angels outfielder Reggie Willits. In fact, Willits sits atop the list with 785 homerless trips to the plate, although he has managed to post a strong .365 on-base percentage while swiping 37 bases. You need some serious plate discipline to draw 103 walks without homering even once.
* Like me, Phil Mushnick of the New York Post can’t help but watch the Dodgers whenever the legendary Vin Scully is announcing the game. How often is an 81-year-old still at the very top of his profession?
* Not only are the Royals extending general manager Dayton Moore’s contract, they’re extending it through 2014. Good luck with that. And as a fan of one of the other AL Central teams, thanks.

Nationals fire reigning Manager of the Year Matt Williams

Washington Nationals' manager Matt Williams looks on from the dugout during a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Friday, May 2, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)

Matt Williams was voted the National League Manager of the Year on November 11, 2014, receiving 18 of 30 first-place votes from Baseball Writers Association of America members.

Today the Nationals fired him following a season full of disappointment, reports of clubhouse discontent, and Jonathan Papelbon choking Bryce Harper in the dugout.

Williams went 179-145 (.552) in two seasons in Washington, which is an excellent winning percentage, but when you take over a stacked team the expectations are extremely high and there was seemingly nothing anyone could point to about his actual managing that suggested he was doing a good job.

His in-game tactics and particularly his rigid bullpen usage patterns infuriated fans. His dealings with the local media became increasingly antagonistic. And even setting aside two players literally fighting in the dugout there’s ample evidence that Williams lost the clubhouse a long time ago.

Williams was far from the only thing wrong with the Nationals this season and he’s hardly the primary person to blame for their disappointing record, but it’s also hard to make a strong case for his sticking around–meaningless, beat writer-voted award or not–and general manager Mike Rizzo predictably acted quickly to move on.

Now we’ll see who gets to take the next crack at managing the Nationals to play up to expectations.

Dan Haren plans to retire after the playoffs are over

Dan Haren
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Dan Haren, who said two months ago that he was leaning toward retiring after the season, reiterated those plans following the Cubs’ regular season finale Sunday.

At age 34 he started 32 games for the Marlins and Cubs with a 3.60 ERA and 132/38 K/BB ratio in 187 innings, so Haren would have no problem finding work and a solid paycheck for 2016.

However, he’s not expected to part of the Cubs’ playoff roster and told Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago:

That was it for me. If I have to pitch in the postseason, I’ll be ready for sure. Happy the way the last few starts have gone. Being able to contribute to this amazing team. I’m just thankful to be a part of it. If I don’t pitch in the postseason, that’s it. It’s been fun. Hopefully there’s a lot more games to go. … If my name is called, I’ll be ready.

Injuries has lessened Haren’s overall effectiveness in recent years, but he’s remained a solid mid-rotation starter and has pitched 13 seasons in the big leagues with a 3.75 ERA in 2,419 innings. He made three All-Star teams and earned more than $80 million.