Howard Bryant: Mark McGwire is "too toxic" to return

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Howard Bryant.jpgToday’s let’s-run-Mark McGwire-out-of-town-on-a-rail tirade comes courtesy of ESPN’s Howard Bryant, who cites the overwhelming outcry from people “around the game” against Mac’s hiring as hitting coach as a reason for him to be fired or shot or tied backwards on a horse while wearing a mardi gras mask and cast out into the desert or whatever.

For the record, here are the outcriers Bryant cites:

  • Whitey Herzog: A man I love, but a man who hasn’t managed in 20 years and hasn’t had a real job in the game for 14 years;
  • Adolphus Busch IV: A man whose father once owned the Cardinals and who, as far as I can tell, no longer has any connection to baseball, if indeed he ever did;
  • Carlton Fisk, Ferguson Jenkins and Ernie Banks: Three Hall of Famers who, while awesome, are all essentially team ambassadors.
  • Jack Clark and Steve Trachsel: guys who aren’t even notable enough to be genuine team ambassadors.
  • I’ll let Bryant explain the last one: “There is a fourth Hall of Fame player, one who shall remain nameless
    because we spoke in confidence, who told me last week that he planned
    on contacting Selig to tell the commissioner he had made a terrible
    mistake with his enthusiastic endorsement of McGwire’s return to the
    game as the Cardinals hitting coach.”

So there you are. Six retired guys, one random son of privilege and an anonymous Hall of Famer who feels so strongly about McGwire that he won’t even let his name be used.  That’s what Bryant calls a toxic insider “backlash.” That’s what Bryant says justifies people calling for McGwire’s head.

Here’s a nice way to test and see if McGwire’s hiring is as big a mistake as guys like Bryant says it is: ignore it. Say nothing about it and see if, say, Cardinals season ticket sales fall off or if protests form at every stadium to which the team travels or if corporate sponsors flee the team due to McGwire’s presence.  I have this feeling nothing will happen, but if it does, well, at least we have something more than Adolphus Busch IV’s rather irrelevant view of things to work from.

I suppose Bryant may respond that this is a moral issue, not one that can be decided by the whims of public and corporate opinion as I propose. But if that’s the case, then why in the hell does trotting out guys like Busch, Herzog, and Fisk help his case?  If McGwire’s presence on the Cardinals is an abomination, say it, Bryant. Come out and demand that he be fired. Don’t hide behind people who are allegedly “around the game.”

Let’s make it a challenge. Ken Rosenthal. Peter Gammons. Bryant. Anyone else who is inclined to bogusly cite McGwire’s lack of candor, the alleged “distraction” he causes, or the pseudo-backlash:  Quit hiding behind your manifestly artificial controversies and rhetorical constructs and just come out and say you want the Cardinals to fire him because you think he doesn’t deserve the job.  Demand it.  Ask for his head because he doesn’t satisfy you.

If you do, I’ll disagree with your call. But at least I’ll respect it as something honest. Because what we’ve seen from you these past three days has been anything but.

Video: Max Scherzer sets record with 13-strikeout outing

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Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.

More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.

Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)

It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.

Twins’ top prospect Nick Burdi will undergo Tommy John surgery

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Twins’ right-hander Nick Burdi is set to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, the team announced on Friday. Burdi made 14 appearances for Double-A Chattanooga before succumbing to a torn ulnar collateral ligament and is not expected to make his major league debut until mid-2018 at the earliest. A UCL tear doesn’t always require Tommy John surgery — less severe cases can be treated with platelet-rich plasma injections, for example — but Twins’ chief baseball officer Derek Falvey told the press that surgery was unavoidable as Burdi had sustained a “full thickness tear” in his elbow.

Entering the 2016 season, Burdi was widely considered a top ten prospect in the Twins’ system. His exceptional velocity and potent fastball-slider combo made him a fearsome relief option as he came off of his first season in Double-A Chattanooga in 2015. During the 2016 season, however, the 24-year-old experienced a significant setback after a bone bruise cut his season short in late July. Prior to Friday’s diagnosis, he appeared to be staging an impressive comeback with the Chattanooga Lookouts this spring, decorating his efforts with a sparkling 0.53 ERA, 2.1 BB/9 and 10.6 SO/9 over 17 innings.

It’s a tough break for the Twins, whose farm system was ranked 21st in the league by Baseball America. “Obviously he’s proven when he’s healthy he’s an absolute premium prospect, and the Twins are treating him that way,” Burdi’s agent, Matt Sosnick, told Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press. “We just want to make sure everything we do ultimately leads to the goal of getting him back on the field as quickly as he can.”