Hamels lets down Phillies one more time

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It seems like the story has been repeated several times this year. Cole Hamels came out firing again Saturday, keeping the Yankees hitless through three innings. The only one of the first 11 hitters to reach did so on a HBP. And then it all fell apart, too quickly for Charlie Manuel to do much of anything about it. Mark Teixeira walked and Alex Rodriguez homered in the fourth. In the fifth, four of the first five batters delivered hits, resulting in three runs. Hamels left down 5-3, and the Yankees ended up winning 8-5.
For the fourth straight postseason start, Hamels failed to last six innings. He’s given up 16 runs and seven homers in 19 innings. Compare that to the 2008 postseason, when he went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA and gave up two homers in 35 innings.
The search for a reason has been on for months. How could one of the league’s best be so consistently mediocre for so long? His strikeout, walk and home run rates are practically identical to his 2008 marks. His groundball rate is actually up slightly. His velocity readings are essentially the same.
Pitch tipping? It’d be the easiest explanation, but it’s one the Phillies have surely examined time and time again. I think a big part is that the league has gotten smarter about laying off his excellent changeup. Hamels has never had a remarkable fastball, and his curve is average at best. If you swing at those pitches, you have a pretty good chance against him.
Unable to come back after Hamels departed, the Phillies are now down 2-1 in the World Series. Andy Pettitte wasn’t great, but he neutralized the left-handers — Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez combined to go 0-for-12 with seven strikeouts in the game — and that ensured that both of Jayson Werth’s homers were solo shots. Alex Rodriguez, the redeemed Nick Swisher and Hideki Matsui went deep for the Yankees in the victory.
The Phillies, so confident after Game 1, can’t be feeling good about things now. The decision to back up Cliff Lee to Game 5 leaves them with essentially no choice other than to start Hamels in a potential Game 7. J.A. Happ would be the alternative, and he’ll probably be too burnt from relief work. The Yankees, meanwhile, are all set to go with CC Sabathia against Joe Blanton on Sunday. The Phillies will have to pull off quite an upset to avoid falling behind 3-1.

Unprecedented sanctions: MLB bans former Braves GM for life, makes 12 signees free agents

Associated Press
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Major League Baseball has slammed the hammer down on the Atlanta Braves as the result of their violations of rules on the international free agent market.

As reported earlier, 12 of their international signees are now free agents. Former Braves General Manager John Coppolella has been placed on the permanently ineligible list — the same list Pete Rose is on — banning him from a job in baseball forever. His assistant, Gordon Blakeley will be suspended for a period of one year. Other Braves’ International Baseball Operations employees who participated in the misconduct could still be suspended as the league finishes its investigation.

The Braves will lose the following players, signed during the 2015-17 international free agent signing periods:

  • Juan Contreras;
  • Yefri del Rosario;
  • Abrahan Gutierrez;
  • Kevin Maitan;
  • Juan Carlos Negret;
  • Yenci Peña;
  • Yunior Severino;
  • Livan Soto;
  • Guillermo Zuniga;
  • Brandol Mezquita;
  • Angel Rojas; and
  • Antonio Sucre

As reported earlier, Maitan was the number one overall international prospect in 2016.

The penalties are not limited to the loss of those players. Commissioner Manfred is imposing what amounts to punitive damages going forward:

“While the remedies discussed above will deprive the Braves of the benefits of their circumvention, I believe that additional sanctions are warranted to penalize the Club for the violations committed by its employees. Accordingly, the Braves will be prohibited from signing any international player for more than $10,000 during the 2019-20 signing period, which is the first signing period in which the Braves are not subject to any signing restrictions under our rules; and the Braves’ international signing bonus pool for the 2020-21 signing period will be reduced by 50 percent.”

There was also what appears to be an unrelated draft violation, imposing penalties along those lines as well:

“The investigation also determined that the Braves offered impermissible benefits, which were never provided, to a player they selected in the First-Year Player Draft in an attempt to convince him to sign for a lower bonus. As a penalty for the Club’s attempted circumvention involving a draft selection, the Braves will forfeit their third-round selection in the 2018 First-Year Player Draft.

The gist of the violations against the Braves involves the bundling of signing bonuses, in which the Braves got players — through their representatives in Latin America — to take lower than the amount typically allotted in one year in order to use the money to sign other, highly rated players in subsequent years, with money they wouldn’t have otherwise had. MLB’s statement describes the scheme thusly:

“The investigation established that the Braves circumvented international signing rules from 2015 through 2017. During the 2015-16 international signing period, the Braves signed five players subject to the Club’s signing bonus pool to contracts containing signing bonuses lower than the bonuses the Club had agreed to provide the players. The Club provided the additional bonus money to those players by inflating the signing bonus to another player who was exempt from their signing pool because he qualified as a ‘foreign professional’ under MLB rules. Consistent with the rules, the Braves could have signed all of the 2015-16 players for the full, actual signing bonus amounts. Had the Club signed the five players to contracts containing their actual bonuses, however, the Braves would have exceeded their signing bonus pool by more than five percent and would have been, under MLB rules, restricted from signing any players during the next two signing periods for contracts with bonuses greater than $300,000 . . . As a result of the 2015-16 circumvention, the Braves were able to sign nine high-value players during the 2016-17 signing period who would have been unavailable to them had the Club accurately accounted for its signings during the 2015-16 signing period.”

The scheme continued like this:

“The investigation also determined that the Braves: (i) agreed to sign six players to inflated signing bonuses pursuant to an agreement with prospect Robert Puason’s agent in exchange for a commitment that Puason would sign with the Club in the 2019-20 signing period; and (ii) offered prospect Ji-Hwan Bae extra-contractual compensation. In order to remedy these violations, I am prohibiting the Club from signing Robert Puason when he becomes eligible to sign, and disapproving the contract between Bae and the Braves, which has not yet become effective.”

Bae was expected to sign with the Braves and posted photos on social media with Braves gear.

This is, by far, the most serious set of scouting, drafting and signing penalties ever imposed by Major League Baseball. It speaks to the sheer audacity of the Braves’ scheme to circumvent signing rules. It also sends a loud and clear signal to other teams — many who have been rumored to have engaged in similar conduct on a smaller scale — that MLB will not tolerate it.

The Braves lower minor league system has been decimated. It stands, essentially, as the head on the pike outside of the castle.