Daily Dose: Hardy back in Milwaukee

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J.J. Hardy is headed back to Milwaukee now that rosters have expanded, but three weeks spent at Triple-A is just enough time to delay his free agency by another year. Rather than being arbitration eligible for the final time next season Hardy is under the Brewers’ control through 2011, which should come in handy when trying to trade him this offseason.
Alcides Escobar has started 13 of 17 games at shortstop following Hardy’s demotion, but general manager Doug Melvin indicated that the two players will split the position down the stretch. Hardy hit just .246/.279/.415 in 17 games at Triple-A, but it makes sense for the Brewers to give him some action in the hopes that he can build up a bit of additional trade value. Still, expect Escobar to be the primary starter.
While the Brewers slickly gain an extra year of Hardy’s services, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* Much like John Smoltz did a couple weeks ago, Brad Penny signed with a National League team Monday immediately after clearing waivers and being released by the Red Sox. He joins the Giants on what is essentially a one-month, $100,000 deal to replace Joe Martinez as the fifth starter and clearly hopes to follow further in Smoltz’s footsteps by turning his awful season around in the weaker league.
Penny went 7-8 with a 5.61 ERA and 89/42 K/BB ratio over 131.2 innings in Boston, including 0-4 with a 9.11 ERA in his final five starts. His fastball has still clocked in at an average of 94.0 miles per hour this season, but it’s been one of the least-effective heaters in baseball against AL batters. Don’t expect a dramatic turnaround, but he’s certainly capable of having some value in NL-only leagues down the stretch.
* As expected, the Diamondbacks placed Chad Qualls on the disabled list Monday after the closer suffered a gruesome-looking dislocated kneecap on the final play of Tuesday night’s game. Qualls will miss the remainder of this season and his status for the beginning of next season could be in some doubt. No official fill-in has been named, but rookie Juan Gutierrez is the obvious choice followed by Clay Zavada.
* Kyle Blanks’ strong rookie season came to a halt Monday when he was diagnosed with a partially torn plantar fascia in his right foot. Blanks blasted 10 homers and 19 total extra-base hits in just 148 at-bats, joining Adrian Gonzalez this year and Milton Bradley in 2007 as the only hitters to produce an Isolated Power above .250 calling Petco Park home. The ballpark limits his upside, but expect 25-plus homers in 2010.
AL Quick Hits: Ichiro Suzuki (calf) was held out of the lineup again Monday, but did take batting practice and shag fly balls before the game … Jarrod Saltalamacchia (hand) could be headed for surgery after being removed a rehab game Monday at Double-A … Jarrod Washburn was rocked for eight runs Monday, giving him a 6.81 ERA in six starts with the Tigers … Tim Wakefield (back) received a cortisone shot Monday and will be evaluated further later this week … Adrian Beltre is expected to rejoin the lineup Tuesday just three weeks after injuring his testicle … Carlos Guillen went 4-for-5 with two homers, four RBIs, and three runs Monday … On the disabled list with complications from past back surgeries, Joe Crede denied reports that he’s considering retirement … Jeremy Bonderman is due to come off the DL when rosters expand Tuesday, but is not a rotation option … Is there something higher than MVP? Joe Mauer homered, singled, stole a base, and scored twice in a 4-1 win Tuesday.
NL Quick Hits: Rich Harden struggled Monday after the Twins failed to trade for him, giving up five runs on five hits and six walks in five innings … Lou Piniella said that Geovany Soto will begin to lose playing time to Koyie Hill because of his season-long struggles … Tim Lincecum’s next start has been pushed back one day after he threw a season-high 127 pitches in eight shutout innings Friday … Carlos Beltran (knee) is scheduled to begin a rehab stint Wednesday at Single-A … Johnny Cueto threw five innings of one-run ball in his return from the disabled list Monday after going 0-6 with a 10.63 ERA in his previous eight starts … Jordan Schafer had season-ending wrist surgery Monday, but should be ready for spring training … Nick Johnson (hamstring) is set to start a rehab assignment Tuesday at Single-A … Daniel McCutchen hurled a Quality Start in his debut Monday despite serving up a leadoff homer … Brandon Phillips revealed Tuesday that he’s been playing with a fractured wrist for two weeks.

Who should you root for in the playoffs?

Mets Fans

If you are a fan of the Yankees, Astros, Blue Jays, Royals, Rangers, Pirates, Cubs, Cardinals, Mets or Dodgers, your life is pretty easy. Your team is in the playoffs and you thus have someone to root for. Enjoy!

But what if your team isn’t in the playoffs? Then what do you do?

Well, the first thing you do is go to SI and follow the great Emma Span’s flowchart which picks a rooting interest for you. It has important considerations for you there which feed into this data-driven solution. Things like how you feel about underdogs, what kind of monster movies you like, your beard preferences and where you fall on the bunting/shifting/irritation scale. Go run your own preferences through the flowchat, but in the meantime know that it gave me the Royals, which is 100% baloney, but let’s not blame Emma for that. She does God’s work most of the time.

If I’m being less scientific, when my Braves are not in the playoffs I generally choose based on my gut, and my gut tends to like (a) individual players more than teams; (b) pitching more than hitting; and (c) newer playoff faces instead of ones who are there every damn year. These aren’t hard and fast rules — I want to see the Dodgers do well because I like Kershaw, Greinke and Puig, but they aren’t new faces and big payroll teams can get bent —  but in generally they hold.

Here are some pros and cons of your potential rooting interests:


Pro: They’re actually underdogs this year, at least according to the oddmakers. Rooting for A-Rod is always a good thing because he is all that is right and just in baseball.

Con: They’re still the friggin’ Yankees and who, besides Yankees fans, roots for the Yankees?


Pro: They’re young and plucky and were supposed to be years away from contention and worst-to-first stories are grand.

Con: If you don’t like sabermetrics and stuff this club might annoy you. Of course if that’s a basis for annoyance for you, you’re probably not reading this blog too often.


Pro: If you dig the longball, these are your huckleberries. Rogers Centre is going to be rocking like crazy, and that’s fun to see.

Con: You’re such a Trump supporter that you’re worried about the NORTHERN border too and you’d feel way more comfortable if there weren’t reasons for foreigners to travel here. Also: the more they advance, the more likely it is that you’re gonna hear Rush music as bumpers between innings.


Pro: Good defense is great. Teams with lots of contributors instead of a couple of megastars are great. They came so close last year and seeing those finally-got-over-the-mountain teams break through is pretty neat. At least it was back when the Bulls followed the Pistons who followed the Celtics. Torch-passing is cool.

Con: Baseball writers online telling you all about their barbecue experiences. Those guys are the worst.


Pro: They came outta nowhere and, the longer they play, the more likely it is we’ll get to see Prince Fielder leg out extra bases. If Josh Hamilton makes the World Series it’ll be even more of an eff you to Arte Moreno, who really deserves an eff you over how he handled the Josh Hamilton situation.

Con: With games in Dallas broadcast by Fox, we’ll almost certainly get some gimmicky double-broadcast stunts from Joe Buck.


Pro: Andrew McCutchen is fun to watch and it would be a shame if, like the early 90s, they had a megastar on the Pirates who just never quite made it to the World Series.

Con: Everyone’s gonna be mad at ’em if they eliminate the Cubs, who are likely going to be every bandwagon fan’s choice this year. Or maybe that’s a pro. Depends on how angry you like everyone to be.


Pro: A lotta fun players on this club and, for as much of a joke and sense of identity it has become, you have to be pretty hard hearted to not at least be somewhat happy for a team breaking a 107-year World Series championship drought.

Con: I think Joe Maddon is a great manager, but the way the media treats him when his teams are doing well is pretty insufferable. The entire World Series broadcast will be people lauding his singular wisdom for bringing the Cubs back to life and forgetting that a multi-year rebuild has just gone down.


Pro: I’ll get back to you on this one. I honestly can’t think of a single reason why a non-Cards fans would root for the Cardinals. They’re not underdogs. They’re in it every year, it seems. People say I hate the Cardinals and that’s not true, but I am very weary of the Cardinals and their storylines much the same way so many people were tied of seeing the Red Sox and Yankees deep into the playoffs every season.

Cons: Pick any number of things. I would venture to say that, if one could measure such a thing, the Cards will have fewer non-Cards fans rooting for them this month than any other team will have non-fans rooting for them.


Pro: Lots of pros here. Perpetual underdogs and sad sacks. Great pitching. They’ve been out of it for years. Cool players like Cespedes and Bartolo and deGrom and Harvey and everyone. Far fewer annoying celebrity fans than the Yankees have. Just a solid, solid choice for a rent-a-root situation, and I say that even as a guy who normally hates the Mets because they’re in my team’s division. Just go with it.

Cons: If they do go far it may get exhausting. Aligning yourself with Mets fans is to align yourself with misery. They could be up 5-0 in Game 7 of the World Series and Mets fans will be worrying about the bullpen and bitching about how they didn’t close it out in five. It’s just always like that with them.


Pro: Fun players in Greinke, Kershaw and Puig. Nice camera shots of the L.A. sunset after they come back from commercial. Good vibes for Vin Scully.

Cons: They are the anti-underdog given their payroll and three straight division titles. I have heard rumors that some people don’t like Yasiel Puig as much as I do, though I have discounted them as slander. Fox’s “spot a celebrity from an upcoming Fox show who just happens to be in the crowd here tonight” game will go into overdrive.

So there are the metrics. Choose wisely.

AL Wild Card Game: Astros vs. Yankees lineups

Dallas Keuchel

Here are the Yankees and Astros lineups for tonight’s Wild Card game in New York:

2B Jose Altuve
RF George Springer
SS Carlos Correa
LF Colby Rasmus
DH Evan Gattis
CF Carlos Gomez
3B Luis Valbuena
1B Chris Carter
C Jason Castro

SP Dallas Keuchel

Center fielder Carlos Gomez is in the lineup despite still being bothered by a lingering intercostal tear. He started just one of the final 20 regular season games because of the injury. Jed Lowrie, who’s been sidelined by a quadriceps injury of late, is out of the lineup in favor of Luis Valbuena at third base.

CF Brett Gardner
LF Chris Young
RF Carlos Beltran
DH Alex Rodriguez
C Brian McCann
3B Chase Headley
1B Greg Bird
2B Rob Refsnyder
SS Didi Gregorius

SP Mashiro Tanaka

Jacoby Ellsbury, who’s been the starting center fielder since signing a seven-year, $153 million deal with the Yankees two offseasons ago, is on the bench versus left-hander Dallas Keuchel. Chris Young starts in his place, as manager Joe Girardi preferred his right-handed bat in the lineup with Brett Gardner shifting to center field. Stephen Drew is out with a concussion, so little-used rookie Rob Refsnyder gets the nod at second base over veteran Dustin Ackley.