Playing the "what if" game with Joe Mauer

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Mauer bat.jpgIt’s Mauer day. In addition to this morning’s piece, USA Today ran a scary “what-if” article about the 2001 draft when, as most of you know, the Twins had to choose between Mark Prior and Mauer, with most people at the time thinking that Prior was the better choice. That’s certainly changed now:

The Twins made the pick that perhaps forever changed franchise
history. Mauer won the American League MVP last year and is a
three-time batting champion and two-time Gold Glove winner. He is
considered one of the finest players in the game. Prior won 41
games his first four seasons with the Cubs, but just one game since
2005, and is now out of baseball. He still is battling shoulder woes
and is home in San Diego trying to resurrect his career . . .

. . . “You look back, and wow, it would have been a whole different things
going on if we had not taken Mauer,” [Mike] Radcliffe said, “and taken the
other guy. I don’t want to think about what would have happened if we didn’t.”

Hindsight obviously makes the choice a no-brainer, but hindsight could make it less of one if we think about it a bit. For example, what would have happened if the Twins had taken Prior and, instead of abusing him like Dusty Baker and the Cubs did, they brought him along slowly and carefully?  Maybe he still gets hurt — we’re still kind of guessing what pitcher abuse truly means — but maybe he turns into that Tom Seaver v.2.0.  Likely? Eh, probably not, but the point is that every point of historical divergence throws hundreds if not thousands of variables into play.  Think George Bailey not being born times 1000 and then cut Mark Prior some slack.

But if you insist on living in a what-if fantasy world when it comes to Joe Mauer, you can just start reading the Colorado Springs Gazette, because they’ve got the market cornered on that stuff:

Imagine Joe Mauer catching and hitting in the middle of the Rockies
order next to Troy Tulowitzki for the better part of the next decade. Crazy talk? Yes. It is wild speculation and, as far as I know, a
thought that hasn’t been entertained by anyone in the Rockies front
office. But it’s not as far-fetched as it seems . . .

You can probably guess where that’s heading. It’s the flipside of what Yankees and Red Sox fans say about the guy. Instead of expecting to get him because they’re entitled, the writer here thinks they should get him because, gosh, wouldn’t that be great!

Please, Minnesota, sign Mauer already and return us to the land of certainty.

Matt Harvey has a 13.19 ERA since coming back from the disabled list

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Matt Harvey‘s season was mostly a loss due to extended time on the disabled list. He’s been given a chance, however, to end the season strong and make a case for himself in the Mets’ future plans. Unfortunately, he has been unable to make that case. He was shelled again last night, and his late season opportunity has been a disaster.

Last night Harvey gave up seven runs on 12 hits and struck out only two batters in four innings against a Marlins team that, until facing him anyway, had been reeling. It was his fourth start since going on the shelf in mid-June and in those four starts he’s allowed 21 runs, all earned, on 32 hits in 14.2 innings, for an ERA of 13.19. In that time he’s struck out only eight batters while walking seven. His average fastball velocity, while ticking up slightly in each of his past four starts, is still below 95. Back when he was an ace he was consistently above that. His command has been terrible.

Injury is clearly the culprit. He had Tommy John surgery just as he was reaching his maximum level of dominance in 2013. While he came back strong in 2015, he was used pretty heavily for a guy with a brand new ligament. Last year he was felled by thoracic outlet syndrome and this year a stress injury to his shoulder. Any one of those ailments have ended pitchers’ careers and even among those who bounce back from them, many are diminished. To go through all three and remain dominant is practically unheard of.

Yet this is where Matt Harvey is. He’s 28. He’s still arbitration eligible, for a team that is, to put it politely, sensitive to large financial outlays. While his 4-5 start opportunity to end the year may very well have been seen as a chance to shop Harvey to another team, his trade value is at an all-time low. It would not be shocking if, on the basis of his recent ineffectiveness, the Mets considered non-tendering him this offseason, making him a free agent.

Someone would probably take a chance on him because famous names who once showed tremendous promise are often given multiple chances in the big leagues (See, Willis, Dontrelle). But at the moment, there is nothing in Harvey’s game to suggest that he is capable of taking advantage of such a chance. All one can hope is that an offseason of rest and conditioning will allow Harvey to reclaim at least a portion of his old form.

Noah Syndergaard is concerned about climate change

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Mets starter Noah Syndergaard has been on the disabled list for most of the season so it’s not like “sticking to baseball” is an option for him. The man has a lot of time on his hands. And, given that he’s from Texas, he is obviously paying attention to the flooding and destruction brought by Hurricane Harvey and its fellow storms in recent weeks.

Last night the self-described “Texan Republican” voiced concern over something a lot of Republicans don’t tend to talk about much openly: climate change and the Paris Agreement:

The existence of Karma and its alleged effects are above my pay grade, but the other part he’s talking about is the Trump Administration’s decision, announced at the beginning of June, to pull out of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement on climate change mitigation. Withdrawal from it was something Trump campaigned on in 2016 on the basis that “The Paris accord will undermine the economy,” and “put us at a permanent disadvantage.” The effective date for withdrawal is 2020, which Syndergaard presumably knows, thus the reference to Karma.

Trump and Syndergaard are certainly entitled to their views on all of that. It’s worth noting that climate experts and notable think tanks like the Brookings Institution strongly disagree with Trump’s position with respect to tradeoffs and impacts, both economic and environmental. At the same time it’s difficult to find much strong sentiment in favor of pulling out of the Paris Agreement outside of conservative political outlets, who tend to find themselves in the distinct minority when it comes to climate change policy.

I’m not sure what a poll of baseball players would reveal about their collective views on the matter, but we now have at least one datapoint.