Tony La Russa is completely out to lunch

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Chris Carpenter yelling.jpgWhat a crock of a controversy in the Cardinals-Astros game yesterday.  While no punches were thrown, the benches cleared after Carlos Lee and Chris Carpenter started arguing with one another following Lee’s pop up in the third inning.

Based on all the reports I’ve read, the source of the problem was Lee yelling, presumably at himself, about popping up. “My word, I hath made a mistake,” he declared. Or something to that effect.  That set off the jawing because, apparently, Carpenter found it disrespectful that Lee blamed his own swing rather than Carpenter’s pitching prowess for the pop up. Here’s Tony La Russa explaining it all:

“Pence hits the ball out of the ballpark. Carp didn’t make a
good pitch. Carp doesn’t say a word. He doesn’t say anything to the guy
that hit it. It’s his mistake. Well, routinely now, hitters pop up a pitch they think they should
deal with and they start making noises, and that really is disrespectful
to the pitcher. Most of the pitchers just turn around and ignore it.
Carp doesn’t. I think Carp’s right, and I think Carp’s in the right.
Respect should go both ways.

“If he gets you out, he gets you out. Zip it and go back to the
plate. If he gives it up, you zip it and let the guy go around the
bases–or single, double, whatever it was. Most pitchers let the guy
jabber. I don’t think Carlos Lee is anything special as far as a guy who
disrespects, but it’s so common now. Carp will let you know.”

Which is completely crazy. Ballplayers now have to be so mindful of their opposition’s feelings that they can’t even register anger when they screw up?  If this was ever something anyone besides Tony La Russa believed guys like Paul O’Neill would have been murdered years ago.

Players have cussed, slammed bats, punched walls, destroyed water coolers and otherwise exhibited anger at their mistakes since time immemorial.  That La Russa is now creating, from whole cloth, some notion that baseball respect requires that they never display emotion like Lee did would be pathetic if it wasn’t so doggone laughable.

Here’s what really happened: Chris Carpenter was still angry at himself for giving up the homer to Hunter Pence. Having his confidence shaken a bit, he needed to feel like he was a stud for coming back and retiring Lee.  When Lee wouldn’t do him the courtesy of acting like a beaten man, Carpenter flipped and decided to jaw about it.  There’s not much more to it. (UPDATE: Oops, I was wrong: Pence’s homer came after the popup. Lance Berkman’s RBI single preceded Lee’s at bat. General point still stands, though; Carpenter was sore that he was pitching in trouble.)

I appreciate that La Russa is simply trying to defend his guy here, but please, baseball is positively drowning in unwritten rules, secret handshakes and the Byzantine politics of “respect.” How about everyone just get over themselves already and play some friggin’ baseball?    

Michael Bourn opts out of his minor league deal with the Orioles

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Outfielder Michael Bourn was traded by the Diamondbacks to the Orioles late last season and hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with them through the end of the season. While that’s not enough to outweigh the miserable season he had in Arizona, it was enough to get the O’s to give him a look in spring training with a minor league deal. They signed him to one in late February.

Then, a couple of days later, Bourn broke his finger while playing catch with a football. Unable to play, the O’s cut him. In early April, once Bourn healed, the O’s signed him again. He played 11 games for their Triple-A affiliate and went 9-for-41 with ten walks in 51 plate appearances. While that makes for a decent OBP, his lack of any sort of pop or good contact suggests that if someone throws him strikes, he can’t do much with the ball.

As such, the O’s had not called him up to Baltimore. And as a result of that, Bourn exercised his opt-out rights and became a free agent.

Someone may take a look at him given that his batting eye seems to be intact and given that, in an admittedly small sample size, he still performed last season. But if he does get a look, it’ll likely be back at the minor league level.

Rob Manfred talks about playing regular season games in Mexico

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The new Collective Bargaining Agreement commits the players and the league to regular season games on foreign soil. Most of the focus of this has been on games in London, for which there has been a lot of activity and discussion.

Yesterday before the Astros-Tigers game in Houston, however, Commissioner Rob Manfred talked about playing games in Mexico. And not as just a one-off, but as a foot-in-the-water towards possible expansion:

Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday that the time had come to play regular-season games in Mexico City as Major League Baseball weighs international expansion.

“We think it’s time to move past exhibition games and play real live ‘they-count’ games in Mexico,” Manfred said. “That is the kind of experiment that puts you in better position to make a judgement as to whether you have a market that could sustain an 81-game season and a Major League team.”

A team in Mexico could make some geographic sense and some marketing sense, though it’s not clear if there is a city that would be appropriate for that right now. Mexico City is huge but it has plenty of its own sports teams and is far away from the parts of the country where baseball is popular (mostly the border states and areas along the Pacific coast). At 7,382 feet, its elevation would make games at Coors Field look like the Deadball Era.

Monterrey has been talked about — games have been played there and it’s certainly closer — but it’s somewhat unknown territory demographically speaking. It’s not as big as Mexico City, obviously. Income stratification is greater there and most of the rest of Mexico than it is in the United States too, making projections of how much discretionary income people may spend on an expensive entertainment product like Major League Baseball uncertain. Especially when they have other sports they’ve been following for decades.

Interesting, though. It’s something Manfred has talked about many times over the years, so unlike so many other things he says he’s “considering” or “hasn’t ruled out,” Major League Baseball in Mexico is something worth keeping our eyes on.