David Wright is struggling lately, and this morning we have two competing explanations for it. First is Tim Smith of the Daily News:
Wright won’t admit it, but Citi Field has gotten inside his head and he
can’t shake it. If a park can haunt a baseball player, then Citi Field
is haunting Wright. How else to explain how it has shrunk Wright’s power
since the move over from Shea?
Then comes Buster Olney:
Clearly, he is not comfortable at the plate; scouts are noticing that he
is flinching at breaking pitches, a tendency that they believe started
after Wright was beaned last summer in a game against the Giants.
To illustrate, Olney posts Wright’s pre-beaning stats from last year and his post-beaning stats through last night. The difference is stark. .324 average and eight homers in the 426 at bats before the beaning, .253 and nine homers in the 217 at bats since. Power up, but contact and strikeout rates way, way down.
I suppose those explanations aren’t mutually-exclusive, but I’ve always been far less impressed with the “David Wright is spooked by Citi Field” line of reasoning. Ballplayers play in all kinds of parks as they come up through the ranks, and Wright has never been some home-run-or-die kind of hitter anyway. If anything, he strikes me as the kind of player who would lament some lost homers but be happy with the extra doubles to the gap. In contrast, if scouts are seeing Wright flinch on breaking pitches it would definitely explain a lot.
Of course a third explanation seems like the most prudent one, at least for now: he’s simply in a mini-slump. Despite the recent wave of strikeouts, the guy is hitting .277/.403/.527 with seven homers on the year. That paces-out to a 36 homer, 114 RBI season. The homers would represent a career high. The .928 OPS he’s currently sporting would be the second best of his career if it lasted all season.
Could it be . . . nah, forget I even considered it. No one ever overreacts when it comes to the performance of a big-name New York player . . .
Mark Buehrle last pitched in 2015, for the Toronto Blue Jays. He was still pretty effective and toyed with the idea of pitching last season, but he never signed anywhere and is, for all intents and purposes, retired.
Now at least his number will be retired officially. It will be done by the club for which he had the most success and with which he is, obviously, most associated:
Buehrle pitched for the White Sox for 12 years. He was the model of consistency and durability in Chicago, logging over 200 innings a season in every single season but his rookie year, when he was primarily a reliever. He was a solid defender, a multi-time All-Star, tossed a perfect game in 2009 and helped the Chisox to their first World Series title in 88 years in 2005.
He was also one of baseball’s fastest workers, so I’m going to assume that, in his honor, the number retirement ceremony will last, like, a minute 20, after which everyone can get on with their dang day.
Terry Francona just won the American League pennant, the Manager of the Year Award and his Cleveland Indians will likely be among the favorites to win it all in 2017. Between that and his 17-year track record as one of the best managers in the business, he will have a job, somewhere, for as long as he wants one.
He said yesterday, however, that his body will likely limit how long he manages:
“It gets harder and harder physically. It really does. It takes me longer to recharge every year . . . I’ve had a lot of surgeries, a lot of health problems. It just takes a toll on you. I love [the game of baseball]. I really do, but I can’t see myself doing something else. But there is going to come a day when I feel like I’m shortchanging the team or the organization. That’s not fair.
“Even now, during batting practice, I’ll come in and get off my feet a little bit. I think everybody understands. But when there comes a day when it gets in the way, I’m going to have to pull back, and it’s not because I don’t love managing. You have to have a certain amount of energy to do this job right.”
Francona experienced some chest pains and had an elevated heart rate that caused him to leave a game early last season. In 2005 a similar episode caused him to miss three games while managing the Red Sox. He also has a history of embolisms and blood clots, some of which have hospitalized him.
With multiple World Series rings there isn’t much more in baseball that Francona can accomplish, but here’s hoping he sticks around and accomplishes a lot more before he trades in his baseball spikes for golf spikes and calls it a career.