Olney: realign the Rays out of the AL East

Leave a comment

Buster uses the Mauer signing as a jumping off point for thoughts on the
A’s and Rays.  For the A’s: Bud needs to make San Jose happen.  No
argument there. My view is that the commish should offer the Giants some
concessions, deem the move to be OK, and make the Giants sue if they
don’t like it. The Giants may be rattling their sword, but they have a
large and disparate ownership group full of businessmen who didn’t get
rich by spending years in litigation.  If Peter Angelos — a man who did
get rich by spending years in litigation — didn’t sue, the Giants
won’t either.

Buster’s take on the Rays is a bit more problematic:

Selig has the power to affect change on behalf of the Rays, too, through
realignment. He needs to get Tampa Bay out of the AL East, to give the
Rays a consistent opportunity for success. This, in time, will give them
a chance to build their brand and make their case for a new ballpark.

There’s been a lot of realignment chatter lately, but someone has to
play in the AL East, don’t they?  And though I realize that the past
decade or so seems like forever, I remain convinced that the current
Yankees-Red Sox hegemony is a temporary phenomenon. Sure, they’ll always
have financial advantages, but the competitive advantages that flow
from them aren’t always going to be this pronounced.

The Jeter-Rivera-Poada-Pettitte isn’t something you can just buy, and it
isn’t something that appears by happenstance, even among the
smartest-drafting team. If the Yankees merely had the dollars or merely
had the core and didn’t have the other, we’d be in a very different
world than we’ve experienced since 1995. It’s a team that didn’t even
make the playoffs in 2008.  I’m not entirely certain the Red Sox will
make the playoffs this year, but I’ll save that for my big predictions
post next week. Anyway, I’ll grant that life sucks for the poorer sisters of the AL East
now, but I am convinced that it won’t suck forever and that making
realignment decisions based on temporary dominance would be a
shortsighted move.

But if we’re going to realign — and Bud says he thinks about it — let’s just go whole-hog with it and make a system that will never be subject to these little eddies of competitive frustration in the baseball-time continuum: two leagues, no divisions, top four teams in each league make the playoffs. If you don’t like that all the action will be in the race for the 3-4 slot as opposed at the top, build in pronounced home field advantage for the top finishers.

Or let’s just leave it as it is and see what happens over the next few years.

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images
1 Comment

It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.