CTB: Live from the Winter Meetings

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We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold . . .

Wait. That was a different trip. This is Indianapolis, not Vegas, and it’s the Winter Meetings, not the Mint 400. Still, there’s that same “what in the hell am I doing here” feeling that Raoul Duke and the good Doctor Gonzo had on their fateful journey into the heart of the American Dream.  Every executive and agent I’ve slammed in print in the past three years is here.  The writers too. It’s enough to make a fellow wonder about his place in the world. 

Just kidding. I’m gonna keep slamming those worthy of slamming, keep calling the smart moves smart and the dumb moves dumb and let the chips fall where they may.  There’s a definite class reunion feel to this event and I’m just going to pretend that I’m that foreign exchange student no one thought would show.  If they don’t like it, hey, maybe they shouldn’t have credentialed the blogger. 

In the meantime, let’s talk baseball.  On tap this week:

  • The Mariners may go crazy.  They’ve already got Figgins. They’re reportedly in on Bay and Lackey.  They’re talking extension with King Felix.  Are they gonna put the 2010 AL West away in December 2009?

  • Jason Bay, Matt Holliday and John Lackey still freely roam the market. My guess is that they still will by the end of the week, but recent history shows that the earlier you sign, the better off you are. Of course now the teams know that too. But maybe the players know that the teams know that. But maybe the teams know that the players know that the teams know that and . . . wait, deep breaths. Just follow Rosenthal around. He’s gonna report it first anyway.

  • More likely to see action is the second tier of free agents, populated by the likes of Marlon Byrd, Jermaine Dye, Mark DeRosa, Adrian Beltre, a metric crap-ton of relievers and whatever catchers the Mets haven’t yet signed. I think Benito Santiago is still available.

  • Roy Halladay is still the alpha-trade chit, but one has to think that the Yankees and Sox and whatever dark horses may present themselves are gonna make Toronto sweat that Halladay-imposed spring training deadline a bit.  More likely to move this week: Milton Bradley.  Baggage handlers standing by.

  • The BBWAA will be meeting, and a subset of those guys will be casting Hall of Fame ballots for managers, umpires, pioneers, and executives.  Go Marvin Miller and Whitey Herzog. Also, the Rule 5 Draft will be held on Thursday.

  • There will be a trade show during which vendors will try to convince teams that, yes, they really do need new LCD “No Pepper” signs for the backstop.

  • A job fair for those looking to break into the biz will take place.  Wanna be the assistant to the assistant ticket taker for the Mudville Tea Totallers of the Western League? Now’s your chance, Bunk.

There will be a ton more happening, some official, most non-official, some transaction-related, some not (for team-by-team previews, check out Matthew’s posts on the NL and the AL).  I’m going to do my best to sniff out the news as it happens and, failing that, I’ll certainly be grokking the scene and passing along my observations to you.  All I know for certain is that (a) I have a press pass that has not yet been revoked for cause; (b) I have a laptop with a wireless connection and a hella-long lasting battery; and (c) I know a lot of lawyers in central Indiana in the event I need someone to bail me out.

Refresh often, my friends. Refresh often.

Pete Rose says no one ever told him not to gamble on baseball anymore

Former Cincinnati Reds player and manager Pete Rose poses while taping a segment for Miami Television News on the campus of Miami University, Monday, Sept. 21, 2015, in Oxford, Ohio. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)
Associated Press
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Pete Rose will soon be inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame and have his number retired and all of that jazz. To mark the occasion, Cincinnati Magazine interviewed the Hit King. And, for, like, the 4.256th straight time, Rose shows that he’s in complete denial about why he was banned in 1989 and why he was not reinstated last year when Rob Manfred agreed to review his case:

In this time of limbo after the ban, did you worry about your legacy? I normally don’t ever worry about anything that I’m not in control of. I wasn’t in control of anything in that situation. I went through a period when I got suspended where I didn’t even go to the ballpark. It’s not because I didn’t want to. There were so many restrictions on me, I just didn’t want to put people through that. It didn’t feel good to me.

Sure he wasn’t in control of anything. He was a tiny boat, cast out onto the waves, left to drift in a sea of uncertainty and powerlessness.

But it gets better. Rose was asked about how he changed his life after his ban:

But you still bet on baseball, albeit legally. It seems like the commissioner’s office has taken issue with that fact. Have you considered not betting on baseball anymore? That’s a good point. You remember reading about Bart Giamatti telling me to reconfigure my life? OK, no one has ever told me—including Manfred, including Selig—what does that mean? I guess my point is, just tell me what you want me to do and I’ll do it. I’m in control. Just tell me. If I want to bet on Monday Night Football, and that’s the way I enjoy my life, why is everybody so worried about that? I’m 75 years old, I have to be able to have some form of entertainment. I’m not betting out of my means. It’s not illegal. If you don’t want me to bet on baseball or anything else, just tell me.

If they told you that— I’d do it. Absolutely. But no one has ever explained “reconfigure your life.” I have taken responsibility for it. I have apologized for it. I have shown I’m sorry. But there again, no matter how many times you say you’re sorry, not everybody’s going to hear you. All I can do is imagine what they meant when they said reconfigure my life. And evidently, no one’s willing to tell me what that means.

So it was all a big misunderstanding. A man who was in his late 40s was banned for gambling on baseball and was told to straighten up yet he had no idea, for 26 years, that maybe it’d be a good idea for him to not gamble on baseball anymore in order to get back into the good graces of the folks who banned him. Damn, why did they pose such impossible riddles to him! If only he had a clue as to what sort of behavior would have improved his chances!

But really, guys: Rose is ready to stop betting on baseball. All you have to do is tell him. If he had known before now, well, we’d be having a TOTALLY different conversation, I’m sure.

Jose Fernandez plunked the Rays mascot

Raymond
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Nuke: “What are you doin’ out here? I’m cruisin’, man.”

Crash: “I want you to throw the next one at the mascot.”

Nuke: “Why? I’m finally throwin’ it where I wanna throw it.”

Crash: “Just throw it at the bull. Trust me.”

The Tampa Bay Rays’ mascot is not a bull — it’s this weird blue thing named Raymond — but apparently Crash Davis got to Marlins starter Jose Fernandez before yesterday’s Marlins-Rays game. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that Fernandez, a Tampa native, plunked the Rays’ mascot, Raymond, while warming up in the bullpen before the game. Why?

“He was all over my business,” Fernandez said. “I’m trying to concentrate. It was a little change-up that came out of my hand. Just part of the game, man. This is a game, and I love to have fun.”

Raymond needs to learn to play the game the right way if he doesn’t want no-nonsense old schoolers like Fernandez putting him in his place. Reminds of how Bob Gibson and Don Drysdale used to bury one in Mr. Met’s ear on the regular. Guys like them don’t take no guff.

And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

MIAMI, FL - MAY 21: Jose Fernandez #16 of the Miami Marlins pitches during the first inning of the game against the Washington Nationals at Marlins Park on May 21, 2016 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Marlins 9, Rays 1: Jose Fernandez struck out 12 in seven innings. After the game he said “it’s time for me to learn how to manage myself on the mound and learn how to pitch.” Wow, he’s doing all of this in ignorance? Just imagine how many dudes he’d strike out if he learned to pitch. It’s like Barry Allen in season 1 of “The Flash” when he still didn’t even know what he was doing but was still pretty impressive. I mean, look at Fernandez in the picture above. He even sorta looks like The Flash.

Astros 4, Orioles 2: George Springer hit two solo homers, but the real story was, once again, just how strikeout-tastic the Astros pitching staff was. Astros pitchers combined for 15 strikeouts on the night. That goes with their 18 strikeouts on Wednesday night and their 19 strikeouts on Tuesday to set a new major league record for strikeouts in a three-game series with 52. The New 52, as it were.

Pirates 8, Diamondbacks 3: Gerrit Cole hit a three-run homer but the Pirates blew the lead he gave them. Luckily Josh Harrison, who didn’t start because he was sick, came off the bench to hit  two-run double in the bottom of the sixth to give them back the lead for good. They’d add some insurance later. Always gotta be careful not to add too much insurance, though, as it may inspire Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray to bump you off. Or maybe Kathleen Turner and William Hurt.

Blue Jays 3, Yankees 1: J.A. Happ allowed one run over seven innings and notched his sixth win. He outdueled CC Sabathia who turned in his best outing of the season (7 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 7K) but simply didn’t get the run support. Sabathia allowed one earned run in 20 innings in the month of May.

Nationals 2, Cardinals 1: Homers from Bryce Harper and Danny Espinosa backed Joe Ross, who is quite quietly having a sweet season at the back end of the Nats’ rotation, boasting a 2.52 ERA in nine starts. OK, he’s probably not boasting. He seems like a fine young man who lets his actions speak rather than his words. That’s what my source tell me, anyway. My source is Joe Ross’ mom. I’m worried that she may be biased, however, so I’m using a second source: his grandma. I’m gonna get to the bottom of this Joe Ross character controversy, that I can promise you.

Rockies 8, Red Sox 2: Jackie Bradley Jr.’s hitting streak ends at 29. And with that, Joe DiMaggio cracks open the bottle of champagne he saves for the end of every hitting streak of 25 games or more. Mercury Morris taught him that trick and you can never go wrong with doing something Mercury Morris thinks is cool. Trevor Story hit his 13th homer.Carlos Gonzalez and Dustin Garneau went deep too. Clay Buchholz‘s ERA is now 6.35.

Brewers 6, Braves 2Ryan Braun and Jonathan Villar each homered as the Brewers swept the Braves. They have three wins in Turner Field in three games this year. Atlanta has two wins in Turner Field in 22 games this year.

White Sox vs. Royals — POSTPONED: I don’t care if it rains

(Let’s all go to the bar)
I don’t care if there’s a hurricane
(Let’s all go to the bar)
And I don’t care if I’m the one to blame
(Let’s all go to the bar)

Video: Bryce Harper launches a homer into the upper deck

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 24: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals looks on against the New York Mets at Nationals Park on May 24, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images
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Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper has had a tough month of May. Opposing pitchers have become increasingly unwilling to throw hittable pitches in the strike zone for him, and he’s had trouble adjusting. Entering Thursday’s action, Harper was hitting .194/.454/.306 with two home runs in 97 plate appearances this month. 31 of those plate appearances ended in a walk, nine intentionally.

Harper finally got a pitch to hit in the sixth inning against Cardinals starter Mike Leake. Leake threw a 1-1 curve and Harper promptly launched into the upper deck at Nationals Park. It’s Harper’s 12th homer of the year.