Tony La Russa and the Rockies' groundskeeper

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Despite clinching the division, Tony La Russa was angry about something over the weekend:

Dissatisfaction over a seeming discrepancy between the visitors bullpen mound and the Coors Field main mound caused Cardinals manager Tony La Russa to seek an umpires’ review of the two following Friday night’s loss and led to an animated exchange with the Rockies grounds crew Saturday . . .

. . . The umpiring crew measured the two mounds Saturday and found no discrepancy. The finding didn’t prevent La Russa and Duncan from a testy back-and-forth nearly four hours before first pitch with Rockies head groundskeeper Mark Razum.

This may seem like your standard “Tony La Russa being difficult” kind of story (why argue with the groundskeeper even after the umps made the measurements?), but I think there’s more going on here than meets the eye.

For one thing, the article notes that Chris Carpenter — who lodged the mound complaint — said that the problem wasn’t the height of the bullpen mound, but the slope. It’s possible for the bullpen mound to be regulation height yet still have the wrong slope due to the whole mound havng a greater diameter or something. I’ve seen umpires measure a mound’s height before — it’s a fairly simple operation involving a stick, a level and a tape measure — but I’ve never seen them measure the slope. It’s not clear from the article, but it doesn’t seem likely that they could have done it, let alone accurately, before Saturday’s game (UPDATE: OK, I may be wrong about this). La Russa is a lawyer by training. Though this often makes him a jerk, it also makes him the detail-oriented guy that he is, and I’m guessing he still wasn’t satisfied on Saturday, maybe for good reason.

The much more interesting thing about this comes via the Baseball Think Factory message boards. It’s no secret that long time Rocky Mountain News writer Tracy Ringolsby posts over there from time to time under the name “ballfan.”  Ringolsby knows Rockies’ baseball of course, and in response to the mound dispute, “ballfan” posted this yesterday:

Interesting tid bit is that Mark Razum, groundskeeper at Coors Field, was hired from Oakland, where he developed a friendship with former A’s manager Tony La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan. Now, here’s the real question. Could Duncan and La Russa be suspicious because of anything they might have been involved with in the past?
 

Nice catch, Tracy.  Could this be a situation in which La Russa and Duncan know damn well that Razum messes with the bullpen mounds based on personal history? If so, it might explain the argument on Saturday.

Report: Padres trade Matt Kemp to the Braves for Hector Olivera

SAN DIEGO, CA - JUNE 06:  Matt Kemp #27 of the San Diego Padres talks in the dugout prior to the start of the game against the Atlanta Braves at PETCO Park on June 6, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Kent Horner/Getty Images)
Kent Horner/Getty Images
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Update (7:01 PM EDT): David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the deal has been completed.

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ESPN’s Keith Law reported on Saturday evening that a bad contract swap involving the Braves’ Hector Olivera and the Padres’ Matt Kemp was “getting close.” Olivera has been pulled off the field, per Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that only a last-second medical would kill the deal at this point, and that the Padres will be sending money to the Braves.

Kemp, 31, will have $64.5 million remaining on his contract through 2019 after this season, but the Dodgers will pay $3.5 million annually over those remaining three years, so the $64.5 million is really $54 million. The veteran has compiled a .262/.285/.489 triple-slash line with 23 home runs and 69 RBI in 431 plate appearances for the Padres this season.

Olivera, 31, will have $28.5 million remaining on his contract through 2020 after this season. The outfielder was handed an 82-game suspension, beginning on May 26, for his involvement in a domestic dispute on April 13. The suspension is up on August 2. He has a .501 OPS in 21 major league at-bats this season and a .278 OPS in 37 PA at Triple-A.

Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Padres will consider designating Olivera for assignment. The trade is all about the salary dump for the Padres, as they’d rather give outfield playing time to prospects Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot.

Athletics trade Billy Burns to the Royals for Brett Eibner

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - MAY 13: Billy Burns #1 of the Oakland Athletics waits on deck to bat during the fourth inning of a game against the Tampa Bay Rays on May 13, 2016 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
Brian Blanco/Getty Images
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The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.

Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.

Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.

Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.