“No morning access since it was media training for the Orioles players. There goes all my good quotes for the season.”
— MLB.com beat writer Brittany Ghiroli from Orioles camp this morning.
Brittany is being funny here, but there’s a lot of truth to that. We live in an age now where controlling the message and sanding off all the rough edges is part of doing business for ballplayers and the teams that employ them. As the legendary Pat Jordan wrote in his outrageously good essay on the subject a couple of years ago:
Writers and fans alike no longer get to know the object of their
affections in a way they did years ago. Athletes see us as their
adversaries, not as allies in their achievements. They are as much
celebrities as rock stars and Hollywood actors are. They live insular
lives behind a wall of publicists, agents, and lawyers. They don’t
interact with fans or writers. They mingle only with other celebrities
at Vegas boxing matches, South Beach nightclubs, and celebrity golf
events, all behind red-velvet VIP ropes. We can only gawk at them as if
at an exotic, endangered species at a zoo.
Not that I don’t understand why athletes approach things this way these days. Our media culture has become insatiable. Whereas once upon a time people might be content to accept a handful of good Jordan-esque player profiles a year we want so much more now. We’re obsessed on who’s dating who, who’s wearing what, who’s drinking what and that’s just the beginning. If I was a ballplayer I’d protect my privacy with extreme vigilance.
Still, it saddens me that we’re very, very unlikely to read a story about, say, Jon Lester, like the one Jordan tells about Tom Seaver:
Then I drove him to Shea Stadium in a rainstorm in my old Corvette with
the T-top that leaked. Water dripped on Tom’s forehead. He looked up
and said, “Why don’t you buy a Porsche?” I said, “Because I’m not Tom
Seaver.” Water dripped on his head. He laughed. “That’s a f***ing
Nowadays two publicists and a lawyer would call Jordan and ask him to scrub that prior to publication. So it goes.
It was only a matter of time before Mike Trout courted another all-time record, and on Saturday, he found himself in elite company with his 25th and 26th home runs of the season. He put the Angels on the board with a 429-foot blast in the first inning, depositing an 0-1 fastball from the Orioles’ Kevin Gausman into the left field bleachers:
In the third inning, with the Angels up 2-1, Trout returned to tack on another insurance run. He targeted Gausman’s slider for his second solo shot of the evening and cleared the center field fence with a 418-footer to bring his total to 26 home runs on the year.
Trout has mashed at a staggering .339/.471/.596 clip since his return from the disabled list last month, and Saturday’s totals helped mark his sixth consecutive season with at least 25 home runs. That’s a record few have matched before their age-26 season; in fact, only Hall of Fame sluggers Eddie Mathews and Frank Robinson have ever pulled it off.
Assuming he continues to rake in hits and plate appearances over the last six weeks of the regular season — and there’s nothing to indicate that he won’t — Trout is in line to join elite company of a different kind. The 26-year-old entered Saturday’s game with a 206 OPS+ (park-adjusted on-base plus slugging). According to MLB.com’s Matt Kelly, that means Trout’s hitting at a better clip than the average Major League player by a full 106 percent. Should he finish the year with a 200 OPS+ and 502 plate appearances or better, he’ll be the first player to do so since Barry Bonds obliterated the competition with his 263 OPS+ in 2004.
The Blue Jays acquired right-hander Tom Koehler from the Marlins in exchange for minor league right-hander Osman Gutierrez and cash considerations, the clubs announced Saturday. Koehler is in his sixth year with the Marlins and stands to make $5.75 million in 2017. He’ll be arbitration eligible in 2018 and is set to enter free agency by 2019.
The 31-year-old right-hander struggled to a 7.92 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 7.1 SO/9 over 55 2/3 innings with Miami in 2017. He was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans in late July, where he rebounded with a 1-1 record in seven starts and whittled his ERA down to a 1.67 mark. The Blue Jays have yet to establish Koehler’s role within their organization, but are hoping to see a turnaround from the righty when he breaks back into the big leagues.
Gutierrez, 22, was assigned to Single-A Greensboro on Saturday. He has yet to find his footing in the minors, and exited a 78-inning stint with Single-A Lansing after racking up a career-worst 7.85 ERA and 8.2 SO/9. His lack of control is particularly alarming, with a 6.2 BB/9 that dwarfs the 2.0+ BB/9 of seasons past, but he still has plenty of time to figure out his mechanics before reaching the Show.