Winter meetings preview: NL teams

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Here’s a quick look at what the National League teams could be trying to do this week in Indianapolis.
Arizona – The Diamondbacks should have some money to spend, and they need a starter, a setup man, a first baseman and a closer. They probably won’t do any long-term deals, though, and they may well wait to bargain hunt late in the offseason. In the meantime, they’ll see if a Chris Snyder trade will fill one of the holes.
Atlanta – GM Frank Wren needs to move a starting pitcher, preferably Derek Lowe. That’d free up some money to use on an outfielder and/or a first baseman. Kelly Johnson is another a trade possibility, though he’ll likely be non-tendered. Ryan Church may be in the same boat. The Braves are also crossing their fingers hoping that free agent Rafael Soriano doesn’t accept arbitration prior to Monday’s deadline.
Chicago – Because of GM Jim Hendry’s need to do things in order, the Cubs have to trade Milton Bradley before really starting their offseason. It’s possible he’ll come off the books this week, allowing Hendry to go get the center fielder he wants (Mike Cameron?). The Cubs also need a second baseman and some rotation depth.
Cincinnati – The Reds would have much more room to maneuver if they could deal Francisco Cordero, Aaron Harang or Bronson Arroyo, but there’s little reason to think any will go this week. GM Walt Jocketty would surely like to improve at shortstop and likely in the outfield, but he may be stuck with the current lineup until a pitcher goes.
Colorado – There figures to be one last push to move Garrett Atkins before the non-tender deadline, but it’s doubtful anything will come of it. The Rockies can spare an outfielder, probably Brad Hawpe, in their hunt a starter to replace Jason Marquis. Also, they’ll know Monday night whether Rafael Betancourt will accept arbitration to stick around as a setup man. If he leaves, they’re expected to target LaTroy Hawkins.
Florida – As usual, the Marlins are shedding arbitration-eligible players. Jeremy Hermida is already gone, and Matt Lindstrom, Dan Uggla and Renyel Pinto likely will follow. The Marlins should get an outfielder at some point, allowing them to return Chris Coghlan to the infield. They could also use an innings-eater for the rotation.
Houston – The Astros need to rebuild their bullpen on a budget, which could mean finding cheaper replacements for Jose Valverde and Hawkins. At least the infield market is shaping up better for them now. They might re-sign Miguel Tejada to play third and find a bargain option to pair with Kaz Matsui at second (Ronnie Belliard?).
Los Angeles – The decision not to offer arbitration to Randy Wolf showed just how deep the Dodgers’ financial troubles run. Fortunately, the club doesn’t have too many needs; a starting pitcher is a must, but Blake DeWitt is an option at second base if the belt has to be tightened another notch. A Juan Pierre trade could help, but it’s highly unlikely that GM Ned Colletti would be able to shed much salary in such a deal.
Milwaukee – The Brewers are going cheap in center field and behind the plate, so they should have plenty of money to upgrade their rotation. Ideally, they’d land two reliable starters from the group of free agents. Wolf should top their list now that he’s not going to require draft-pick compensation. They’ll also be in the market for a setup man, and they’d like to re-sign utilityman Craig Counsell, who could be the next infielder off the board.
New York – Who knows? The Mets need a left fielder, a catcher, a first baseman, at least one starting pitcher and perhaps a setup man. Still, trading Luis Castillo and upgrading at second seems to be the top priority. As many holes as they have, it’d make sense to spread the wealth around rather than focus on Roy Halladay, John Lackey, Matt Holliday or Jason Bay.
Philadelphia – With third base taken care of, the aggressive Phillies are now focused on finding a setup man and fallback closer in case Brad Lidge fails to rebound. Ex-Tigers Brandon Lyon, who is also a target of the Yankees, and Fernando Rodney are two possibilities.
Pittsburgh – The Pirates seem determined to spend some cash, even though it could result in Jeff Clement being blocked. Xavier Nady, Rick Ankiel and Hank Blalock are a few of the players on their list. They’ll also consider trading Zach Duke, Matt Capps and Ryan Doumit, preferably for young pitching. Shortstop would be a nice position for an upgrade, but there just isn’t much available there. Tampa Bay’s Reid Brignac is one possible exception.
St. Louis – It’s been a slow developing winter for the Cardinals, as their finances are tied up in their bid to retain Holliday. If Holliday stays, they’ll almost certainly have to settle for cheap replacements at third base and in the rotation. If he exits, then they could sign Mark DeRosa or Miguel Tejada to play third and attempt to bring back Joel Pineiro for the rotation. Unfortunately for them, it’s doubtful the situation will be resolved this week.
San Diego – With Jed Hoyer still settling into his new role as the Padres’ GM, the team’s plans are unclear. There’s little chance of either Adrian Gonzalez or Heath Bell being traded this week, but Kevin Correia and Kevin Kouzmanoff might be possibilities. The Padres will keep their eyes open for a center fielder (Coco Crisp?) and cheap rotation help.
San Francisco – The Giants don’t appear prepared to jump into the bidding for one of the big free agents. They have cash to buy a first baseman, a catcher and an outfielder, but it appears as though they’ll look for guys willing to sign one- or two-year contracts. Perhaps GM Brian Sabean will surprise and move Jonathan Sanchez for long-term help at an infield corner or the outfield.
Washington – The Nationals’ biggest needs are in the rotation and the bullpen and they could land big-name free agents for both spots, but it shouldn’t happen this week. A Josh Willingham trade is a possibility for the meetings. The Nats will also try to find a defensive-minded shortstop, allowing them to send Ian Desmond back to the minors for the start of the year.

Remembering Carlos Delgado’s protest in the wake of Kaepernick

NEW YORK - AUGUST 9:  First baseman Carlos Delgado #25 of the Toronto Blue Jays watches the game against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on August 9, 2004 in the Bronx, New York. The won Blue Jays won 5-4.  (Photo by M. David Leeds/Getty Images)
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Over the weekend, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick created a stir when he did not stand for the National Anthem before an exhibition game and later told reporters that his refusal to do so was a protest of institutional racism in America. Given how issues which touch on patriotism and protest play in a sports setting, it’s not at all surprising that this quickly turned into a huge controversy, with many decrying Kaepernick’s act, even as many have rushed to his defense.

Because this is the NFL and because we live in the social media era, the volume of this controversy is understandably cranked to 11. But it’s not the first time an athlete has mounted such a protest. Back in 1995 NBA player Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf similarly refused to stand for the Anthem and the same sorts of pro and con arguments emerged, albeit at the far more measured pace of 1990s discourse.

In 2004 a baseball player made a somewhat similar protest. That player was Carlos Delgado, who made a point to not be on the field during the by then de rigueur playing of “God Bless America” during the seventh inning stretch which most teams adopted in the wake of 9/11. Part of Delgado’s protest stemmed from his opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It likewise reflected his protest of the United States Navy’s use of the Puerto Rican island of Vieques as a weapons testing ground for decades and Puerto Ricans’ call for the government to clean up the island which had become contaminated with ordinance over 60 years of bombing.

Delgado was backed by his team, the Blue Jays, who made no effort to intervene in his protest. He likewise had the support of his teammates. Even profoundly conservative ones like Gregg Zaun, who disagreed with the substance of Delgado’s protest yet respected his right to protest how he chose. At the time Zaun said “He has his opinion and he’s decided to use that as his platform. Whether or not I agree with him, I salute him.”

Which is not to say that Delgado did not take considerable criticism for his protest. Many, including commissioner Bud Selig, said that, while they respected his right to protest how he wished, they hoped he wouldn’t protest in such a fashion. Or, at the very least, they hoped to better understand why he chose to make a political statement at a sporting event, suggesting that they really didn’t think his act to be appropriate. Lost on them all, it seemed, was that the act of playing “God Bless America” during the seventh inning stretch was itself a political statement, but I suppose that’s an argument for another time.

Carlos Delgado weathered the controversy well, playing for five more seasons after 2004 and maintaining the respect he had always had in baseball as a team leader, a respected veteran and a consummate professional. Kaepernick doesn’t have the track record in his sport that Delgado had by 2004 and there are some who have suggested that, this controversy aside, he may not have long in the league due to his skills and health and things. It’ll be interesting to see how those differences, as well as the different media environment in 2016 compared to 2004 affect this whole saga.

What we know for certain, however, is that Kaepernick’s reasons for protest are his own and he is, obviously, free to protest however he’d like. He is, of course, likewise subject to criticism from those who don’t care for his protest. That’s how free speech works. Even in sports, where a great many people choose to believe that protest and political speech, at least of a certain variety and of a certain leaning, does not have a place.

And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights

ARLINGTON, TX - AUGUST 28: Derek Holland #45 of the Texas Rangers points out a pop fly against the Cleveland Indians in the first inning at Globe Life Park in Arlington on August 28, 2016 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Rick Yeatts/Getty Images)
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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Rangers 2, Indians 1: Derek Holland was solid, allowing one run over six innings and Ian Desmond and Jonathan Lucroy each had an RBI single. The Rangers take three of four in what could be an ALCS preview. Although, given that no teams have been eliminated yet, any game between AL teams could be an ALCS preview if you think about it hard enough. Open your mind, man.

Dodgers 1, Cubs 0: All goose eggs until the eighth when the Dodgers cobbled together a run out of a hit-by-pitch, a two-base throwing error by Trevor Cahill and a fielder’s choice. Then all goose eggs after that. Brock Stewart and four relievers combined on a four-hit shutout for the Dodgers. This could be an NLCS preview, by the way. I won’t finish the joke here. I already told it.

Orioles 5, Yankees 0: Kevin Gausman had no trouble with the somehow resurgent Yankees, shutting them out for seven innings and fanning nine. I rarely say “fanning” for striking out and I don’t hear at all that often anymore. Back in the 80s it seemed like there was a lot more “fanning” going on. Steve Pearce drove in three. Earlier this season, while he was still with the Rays, I mistakenly identified some Orioles player in a photo as Steve Pearce. I’m glad he’s back where he belongs.

Blue Jays 9, Twins 6: Josh Donaldson hit three homers, including the go-ahead dong, continuing a year that, by the numbers, is better than his MVP year last season, even if people aren’t talking about it as much. On his third homer Jays fans tossed hats out onto the field. Get it? Yeah. Anyway, Minnesota had a 5-2 lead in the middle of the game but blowing moderate leads with lots of time to go is one of the primary traits of teams that suck.

Angels 5, Tigers 0: Jefry Marte hit a two-run homer and drove in a third run on a sac fly. Marte’s performance would really serve as a great “bet you miss me NOW, huh?!” game for him if anyone remembered that he played for the Tigers last year.

Phillies 5, Mets 1: A.J. Ellis hit a two-run double to break a 1-1 tie in the seventh inning. Somewhere Clayton Kershaw shed a single tear, Iron Eyes Cody-style.

Padres 3, Marlins 1: Luis Perdomo tossed a complete game while allowing only one run and requiring only 99 pitches. Having six double plays get turned behind you certainly helps the old pitch count.

Rockies 5, Nationals 3: Nolan Arenado went 4-for-4 with a homer and a triple as the Rockies take two of three from the Nats. Lucas Giolito ran into trouble in the third when Arenado hit that dinger. Dusty Baker after the game: “It’s that one bad inning that does you in. That was the one bad inning.”

One Bad Day

So what I’m saying is, yes, Lucas Giolito is now either The Joker or Batman. That’s how this works.

White Sox 4, Mariners 1: Carlos Rodon allowed a run and five hits while pitching into the seventh. After a pretty disappointing season he’s turning things around lately, going 3-0 with a 1.47 ERA in his last five starts.

Pirates 3, Brewers 1: The Sweep. John JasoGregory Polanco and Starling Marte all homered. Ivan Nova pitched well but left with a wonky hamstring. Which, given that Gerrit Cole is hurt, does not bode well for a team that needs everything to go right for the next month and change if they don’t want to go home in a month and change.

Athletics 7, Cardinals 4: The A’s have won four of five. Khris Davis hit a two-run shot and Steven Vogt hit a three-run homer. A’s starter Andrew Triggs got his first win. He’s from Nashville and said that a bunch of his friends and family drove to St. Louis from there to see him pitch. Can’t think of a road trip I’d rather do less in the August heat than Nashville-to-St. Louis, but you crank up the AC and do it for your friends and family I suppose.

Rays 10, Astros 4: Chris Archer allowed three runs on four hits in seven innings and struck out ten. Astros pitchers allowed ten runs on 15 hits and only struck out four. The order of things matters, man. Corey Dickerson his a three-run homer.

Giants 13, Braves 4: Four homers from the Giants — two from Joe Panik — to back a less-than-perfectly-sharp-but-good-enough-against-a-team-like-the-Braves Madison Bumgarner. The Giants took two of three from Atlanta to remain two back of the Dodgers. It was only the second series they have won since the All-Star break.

Diamondbacks 11, Reds 2: A.J. Pollock went 3-for-5 and stole two bases, showing Diamondbacks fans what they missed with him gone all year. Welington Castillo drove in four in this laugher of a game.

Royals 10, Red Sox 4: Down 4-2 in the sixth and the Royals put up an 8-run inning. Raul Mondesi‘s bases-loaded triple and Eric Hosmer‘s two-run single were the big blows. The Royals have won 17 of 21 and have moved to 5.5 back in the AL Central and three back in the wild card. They’re tied with Houston and are a game back of Detroit in that race. Maybe the defending champs were only mostly dead.