Daily Dose: Opening Dose

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While the Red Sox and Yankees give us a pretty decent Game 1 of 2,430, here are some news and notes from around baseball …
* As expected, the Rockies placed Huston Street on the disabled list Sunday with a sore shoulder. Street already experienced a setback with the injury during spring training, so while he’s expected to return fairly soon Franklin Morales should have quite a few save chances in the meantime and needs to be owned in all leagues. If he throws strikes, he can dominate.
* By designating Jack Cust for assignment the A’s are essentially betting that no team will claim his $2.65 million salary on waivers, in which case they can stash him at Triple-A (unlike Jake Fox, who’s out of minor-league options) and basically use a 26-man roster for a while. Cust would help a few teams at that price–including the punchless A’s, of course–but fitting him into the lineup and budget at this late date could be tough.
* By jettisoning Cust (for now, at least) the A’s are suddenly counting on Eric Chavez to play regularly again, albeit at designated hitter. Chavez seems unlikely to stay healthy even at DH and regardless of that hasn’t produced DH-caliber offense since 2005 or 2006. Chavez is worth a flier in AL-only leagues, but don’t feel obligated to stay with him if/when things go south.
* Fox not only made the Opening Day roster in Oakland, he’ll serve as Kurt Suzuki’s backup after the A’s chose not to keep a true second catcher. Fox caught full time early in his minor-league career, but hasn’t played the position regularly since 2006 and started just twice behind the plate last season between Triple-A and the Cubs. He has plenty of offensive upside, but doesn’t seem likely to play a whole lot early on.
* Mike Leake was the eighth pick in June’s draft after starring at Arizona State and now he’s leap-frogging the minors altogether so the Reds can rush him into their rotation at age 22. Leake is often praised for his command and polish, but handing a young arm to Dusty Baker is always risky and a couple months at Triple-A would have been better for everyone involved. Long term, he projects more as a solid mid-rotation guy than an ace.


* Alex Gordon will begin the season on the disabled list and may not be ready to return from a broken thumb until late April or early May, leaving Alberto Callaspo to play every day at third base. Callaspo hit .300/.356/.457 in 155 games last year to rank second on the team in OPS, yet it took Gordon’s injury for the Royals’ braintrust to avoid benching him after handing second base to Chris Getz.
* Mike Aviles will also be part of the Royals’ infield mix after securing an Opening Day spot by going 24-for-51 (.471) this spring. Aviles came out of nowhere to bat .325 in 102 games as a 27-year-old rookie in 2008, but then hit .183 in 36 games before undergoing Tommy John surgery last season. If healthy Aviles could (or at least should) push the execrable Yuniesky Betancourt for starts at shortstop, but keep expectations modest.
* John Bowker beat out Nate Schierholtz for the Giants’ right field job, which gives the 26-year-old one more chance to show that his strong minor-league numbers are no fluke. Bowker has hit just .244/.291/.402 through 142 games in San Francisco, but batted .322/.424/.546 with 23 homers in 129 games at Triple-A and .307/.363/.523 with 22 homers in 139 games at Double-A. He’s definitely worth a flier in NL-only leagues.
* Ron Washington announced that Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden will split time behind the plate initially, combining for what has to be the most letters ever for a catching platoon. Saltalamacchia is a question mark because of a unique condition that gave him rib, shoulder, and neck problems, so easing him back into the lineup isn’t a bad idea. However, ultimately if both guys are healthy he should claim most of the starts.
* Injuries and poor performances have pushed Travis Buck off the radar since hitting .288/.377/.474 in 82 games as a rookie in 2007, but thanks to a strong spring training and Coco Crisp’s fractured finger he’ll be the Opening Day right fielder for the A’s. Buck is certainly capable of being a lot better than he’s looked over the past two seasons, but lacks the power or speed to make a major fantasy impact even if things go well.
* Andres Blanco is slated to start at second base for the Rangers while Ian Kinsler is out with a sprained ankle, but don’t expect fantasy value from the 26-year-old journeyman. Blanco has hit .252/.295/.324 in the majors after batting .264/.319/.352 in 317 games at Triple-A. He’s a utility man, at best. Kinsler is hoping to return within a couple weeks, but high-ankle sprains can be tricky.

Twins pitcher barfs before almost every appearance

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 18:  Ryan O'Rourke #61 of the Minnesota Twins reacts after loading up the bases in the seventh inning against the New York Yankees on August 18, 2015 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Twins righty Ryan O'Rourke has pitched in 54 big league games. He has barfed before almost every one of them.

No, really:

Through his first 54 big-league outings over the last past two years, O’Rourke estimates he emptied the contents of his stomach close to every time.

“I don’t do it in the public’s eye,” O’Rourke said Tuesday. “I go in the bathroom, or sometimes it’s just on the back of the mound. But, yeah, it happens.”

I wonder if I’ve barfed 54 times in my entire life. I doubt I have. Then again, I’m not doing anything in front of tens of thousands of people with potentially millions of dollars at stake.

Yet he who is without sin hurl the first, um. Well, never mind.

The new intentional walk rule isn’t a big deal but it’s still dumb

PHOENIX, AZ - JUNE 06:  Anthony Recker #20 of the New York Mets calls for an intentional walk as Paul Goldschmidt #44 of the Arizona Diamondbacks looks on during the eighth inning at Chase Field on June 6, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
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Let us preface this by stipulating that the new rule in which pitchers will no longer have to throw four balls to issue an intentional walk is not a big deal, objectively speaking. Teams don’t issue many IBBs to begin with. A couple a week, maybe? Fewer? Moreover, the times when a pitcher tosses one to the backstop or a batter reaches out and smacks a would-be intentional ball may be a lot of fun, but they’re extraordinarily rare. You can go years without seeing it happen.

So, yes, the intentional walk rule announced yesterday is of negligible consequence. We’ll get used to it quickly and it will have little if any impact on actual baseball. It won’t do what it’s supposed to do — speeding up games — but it won’t harm anything that is important either.

But let us also stipulate that the new rule is dumb.

It’s dumb because it’s a solution in search of a problem. Pace of play is a concern, but to listen to Rob Manfred and his surrogates in the media tell it, it’s The Most Pressing Issue of Our Time. Actually, it’s not. No one is abandoning baseball because of 5-15 minutes here or there and no one who may be interested in it is ceasing their exploration of the game because of it. And even if they were, IBBs are rare and they’re not time-consuming to begin with, so it’s not something that will make a big difference. It’s change for change’s sake and so Rob Manfred can get some good press for looking like a Man of Action.

It’s also dumb because it’s taking something away, however small it is. One of my NBC coworkers explained it well this morning:

I agree. Shamelessness is a pretty big problem these days, so let’s not eliminate shame when it is truly due.

Picture it: it’s a steamy Tuesday evening in late July. The teams are both way below .500 and are probably selling off half of their lineup next week. There are, charitably, 8,000 people in the stands. The game is already dragging because of ineptitude and an understandable lack of urgency on the part of players who did not imagine nights like this when they were working their way to the bigs.

Just then, one of the managers — an inexperienced young man who refuses to deviate from baseball orthodoxy because, gosh, he might get a hard question from a sleepy middle aged reporter after the game — holds up four fingers for the IBB. The night may be dreary, but dammit, he’s going to La Russa the living hell out of this game.

That man should be booed. Boo this man. The drunks and college kids who paid, like, $11 to a season ticket holder on StubHub to get into this godforsaken game have earned the right to take their frustrations out on Hunter McRetiredBackupCatcher for being a wuss and calling for the IBB. It may be the only good thing that happens to them that night, and now Rob Manfred would take that away from them. FOR SHAME.

And don’t forget about us saps at home, watching this garbage fire of a game because it beats reading. We’re now going to have to listen to this exchange, as we have listened to it EVERY SINGLE NIGHT since the 2017 season began:

Play-by-Play Guy: “Ah, here we go. They’re calling for the intentional walk. Now, in case you missed it, this is the way we’re doing it now. The new rule is that the manager — yep, right there, he’s doing it — can hold up four fingers to the home plate umpire and — there it goes — he points to first base and the batter takes his base.”

Color Commentator, Who played from 1975-87, often wearing a mustache: “Don’t like it. I don’t like it at all. There was always a chance the pitcher throws a wild pitch. It happened to us against the Mariners in 1979 [Ron Howard from “Arrested Development” voice: it didn’t] and it has taken away something special from the game. I suppose some number-cruncher with a spreadsheet decided that this will help speed up the game, but you know what that’s worth.

No matter what good or bad the rule brings, this exchange, which will occur from April through September, will be absolutely brutal. Then, in October, we get to hear Joe Buck describe it as if we never heard it before because Fox likes to pretend that the season begins in October.

Folks, it’s not worth it. And that — as opposed to any actual pro/con of the new rule — is why it is dumb. Now get off my lawn.