And the Manny-hate World Series tickets go to . . .

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You’ll recall that last week the Los Angeles’ Times’ Steve Lopez offered up his World Series tickets to the person who wrote what he felt to be the best 50-word anti-Manny Ramirez statement.  Well, he has a winner, and his name is Richard MacPhee, and he’s a firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service.  His entry:

“Dear Manny. I am a firefighter for the USFS, I make $16 an hour. It’s hot, dirty, dangerous, with long hours. My body hurts all the time. It takes four years to make $170,000. My bonus, somebody telling me ‘Thanks for the hard work.’ You should try it some time.”

I take no issue with Mr. MacPhee getting the World Series tickets. And I certainly don’t disagree with the notion that he works his ass off, that he risks his life, that his job is hard, and that his body is tired and sore after spending his days protecting the lives and limbs of people who think it’s a good idea to build luxury houses in places that have suffered from raging forest fires for the past several hundred thousand years.  It’s often thankless work that 99.9% of us could never and would never do, because we don’t have the friggin’ stones to drop from helicopters into the closest thing to Hell on Earth.  Indeed, given that a World Series is not assured for L.A., I’d hope that Lopez would give Mr. MacPhee his NLCS tickets too, and if the Dodgers do make it past the Phillies, that someone would chip in to give him and other firefighters tickets to more than just Game 4.

That said, I have to agree with the Times’ Dodgers blogger Jon Weisman, who had this to say to Lopez via Twitter regarding his little contest: “I’m a fan of yours but you’re giving Manny too much power. He’s not bigger than the game but you’ve chosen to act like he is.”

One thing I left out in my little pro-con exercise below is the fact that the national media is almost certain to make a Dodgers’ World Series all about Manny.  Which is a shame, because the Dodgers are a pretty balanced team with way more interesting stories than the overplayed Ramirez angle.  If Lopez truly can’t stand Manny, you’d think he’d just ignore him rather than to play into that overhype even more.

But it’s too late for that.  And while I don’t have any rooting interest in the NLCS, I’m tempted to pull for the Dodgers now so that Richard MacPhee can go to a game, even if I think the contest he won was rather misguided.

Aledmys Diaz is trying to improve his defense with strobe glasses

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MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports that Cardinals’ shortstop Aledmys Diaz has been sporting a new look around Busch Stadium with a pair of “strobe glasses,” technology-enhanced specs designed to help athletes focus on the ball. Like a strobe light, the lenses of these glasses affect a player’s vision by rapidly changing opacity, giving its wearers the illusion that the objects they see are moving more slowly than normal. Once a player adjusts to the new speed of play, they gain a greater sense of control and are able to time their actions with more precision.

Diaz isn’t the first MLB player to utilize the technology, just the first Cardinals’ player to do so. It’s been tested by Bryce Harper, Corey Brown, Tommy Joseph, Austin Hedges and Joe Mauer, among others around the league, and has been used for everything from refining a catcher’s reflexes behind the plate to tweaking a hitter’s ability to track a pitch. Per Langosch, Diaz has been using the glasses to hone in on the ball during pregame drills, increasing both his confidence and response time on the field and improving his defense at short.

The shortstop has been the focus of some concern this season after seeing a sizable dip in his production at the plate, and his five fielding errors, 0.6 UZR and 0.6 fWAR haven’t helped matters, either. He sustained a minor thumb injury during an at-bat on Friday night, and was left off of the Cardinals’ starting lineup on Saturday, though manager Mike Matheny didn’t rule out his ability to pinch-hit during the series. While the strobe glasses are a good start, Diaz will need more than a pair of specs to match the spotlight-worthy performance he turned out during his rookie season in 2016.

Eduardo Rodriguez could rejoin the Red Sox rotation in July

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Red Sox’ left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez may finally get a chance at cracking the rotation again, assuming all goes well in Double-A Portland first. Rodriguez took the field prior to the club’s afternoon session with the Angels, firing 68 pitches in a simulated game as he prepared for an upcoming rehab assignment in Portland on Thursday.

The 24-year-old southpaw suffered a right knee subluxation during pregame warmups on June 1, and it’s been a slow path to recovery ever since. It’s not the first time Rodriguez has had issues with his right knee — he sustained a similar injury during spring training last year — and this time around, the Red Sox weren’t about to gamble with their starter’s health. Ian Browne of MLB.com reports that Rodriguez was put in a knee brace and underwent exercises designed to help him regain some mobility and stability while he worked back up to full strength on the mound.

He’ll still need to prove he can throw a 75- to 80-pitch outing in Double-A, and barring any significant setbacks, will likely rejoin the Red Sox’ pitching staff when they visit the Rangers next month. In the meantime, the club will continue to cycle starters through the No. 5 spot, which has seen no fewer than three different pitchers since Rodriguez hit the disabled list. The lefty is 4-2 in 10 starts this season after logging a 3.54 ERA, 3.1 BB/9 and career-high 9.6 SO/9 through his first 61 innings.