Usain Bolt: pinch runner?

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Bolt Braves cap.jpgMatt Stroup over at Universal Sports has noted that sprinter Usain Bolt has some conflicting baseball loyalties.  Recently he was spotted wearing a Red Sox cap. Yesterday, he had on a Braves cap. Jamaica doesn’t have a team so all is forgiven, but the image of the fastest man on the planet in a Braves cap did give me a quick, cheap thrill.

Would it be worth it to sign the guy and make him a pinch runner?  It’s been done before: The Athletics signed track star Herb Washington to be their full-time pinch runner for the 1974 season.  Washington scored 29 runs and stole 28 bases in 91 games without once coming to bat or playing defense.  But even the A’s — who were pretty crazy about pinch runners in general back in the Charlie O. Finley days — didn’t think so much of Washington that they kept him around. He was cut early into the ’75 season and was never heard from again in baseball circles.

The problem: he was just too one-dimensional. And he wasn’t really that great in that dimension: in two seasons he was caught stealing 17 times in 48 attempts, which is below the level of success that makes stealing bases a value-added proposition (you usually want to see a 75% success rate or higher).  Washington’s failure as a pinch runner clearly shows that there is way more to stealing bases than speed. Indeed, there was probably no one faster than him in the game at the time. But you have to be able to read pitchers’ moves and pick your spots, and to do that you need experience.

These days it would be even harder for a guy like Washington — or Bolt — to make that job work because (a) stealing is way less a part of the game now than it used to be; and (b) roster spots are just way too precious to be used on a runner.  In 1974 the A’s basically had a nine-man pitching staff.  Today teams typically carry 12 pitchers and, on occasion, go with 13. Yeah, that’s ridiculous, but it’s how it is, and as a result a baseball team in 2010 would be more likely to sign a chef who only prepares bear steaks than it would be to sign a pinch runner.

The upshot of all of this is that I can see only two situations in which Usain Bolt would ever appear in a major league game. Either as (a) a pure gimmick, on a losing team after the rosters expand in September; or (b) after someone teaches him to shag flies and decides that they can stick him in left-center and thereby eliminate one of their three outfielders.

Given that Nate McLouth is currently patrolling center for the Braves, I’m not sure that a Bolt-Heyward outfield isn’t a bad idea.

The Royals and Cardinals make a minor trade

FILE - In this Oct. 6, 2006 file photo, a freshly painted St. Louis Cardinals logo adorns the grass behind home plate at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. The St. Louis Cardinals have been the toast of their Midwestern town for generations, a source of civic pride as one of baseball's most successful and cherished franchises. Suddenly, they're an embarrassment, under federal investigation for the previously unprecedented crime of hacking into the computer database of an opponent, the Houston Astros, whose general manager, Jeff Luhnow, is a former Cardinals executive. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam, File)
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The St. Louis Cardinals just announced that they have acquired minor league outfielder Jose Martinez from the Royals in exchange for cash considerations.

Martinez was the 2015 Pacific Coast League batting champ, hitting .384 in 98 games. This year he’s hitting .298/.356/.433 in 37 games. He doesn’t have a ton of power — he’s more of a doubles guy — and turns 28 this year so he’s not a prospect but he’s not chopped liver.

Meanwhile, Cash Considerations continues to be well-traveled. It must be hard for him to be dealt so many times a season. So much uncertainty and time away from his family. Feel for the guy.

What’s On Tap: Previewing Wednesday’s afternoon action

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We have a lot of day games today.

Steven Matz and Tanner Roark are both coming off of good starts against lesser teams and now face tougher tests. Tyler Duffey is coming off of a terrible start and faces the defending world champs. The Tigers are on a roll but Anibal Sanchez has still struggled a lot. He’ll try to get back on track against the weak-hitting Phillies lineup.

Jake Arrieta goes against a struggling Carlos Martinez in St. Louis. Arrieta has, obviously, been on a roll, with the only person coming particularly close to him being Clayton Kershaw. After Kershaw’s two-hit shutout the other day we’ll see if Arrieta can do the anything you can do I can do better trick. Though doing it against St. Louis is a taller order than Kershaw doing it against Cincy.

No matter what happens, God help these guys if they don’t talk to the media afterward.

New York Mets (Steven Matz) @ Washington Nationals (Tanner Roark), 1:05 PM EDT, Nationals Park

Kansas City Royals (Dillon Gee) @ Minnesota Twins (Tyler Duffey), 1:10 PM EDT, Target Field

Philadelphia Phillies (Aaron Nola) @ Detroit Tigers (Anibal Sanchez), 1:10 PM EDT, Comerica Park

Chicago Cubs (Jake Arrieta) @ St. Louis Cardinals (Carlos Martinez), 1:45 PM EDT, Busch Stadium

Los Angeles Angels (Hector Santiago) @ Texas Rangers (Colby Lewis), 2:05 PM EDT, Globe Life Park in Arlington

Cleveland Indians (Corey Kluber) @ Chicago White Sox (Jose Quintana), 2:10 PM EDT, U.S. Cellular Field

San Diego Padres (James Shields) @ San Francisco Giants (Jake Peavy), 3:45 PM EDT, AT&T Park

 

 

Matt Harvey to make his next start

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 19: Pitcher Matt Harvey #33 of the New York Mets walks off the mound after being relieved during the third inning of a game against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field on May 19, 2016 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
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After Matt Harvey‘s bad start last night — his third in a row in a heretofore lost season — many speculated that he could be skipped, sent down or shut down. If that happens it won’t happen yet, however. The Mets just announced that Harvey will make his next start against the White Sox on Monday.

Matt Harvey could not be reached for comment, but I’m sure if he did comment it would be interesting and insightful and would totally change the manner in which he was handled by the New York press corps.

Video: Mike Napoli face-plants into third base after a triple

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Indians DH/1B Mike Napoli has hit ten triples in his 11-year big league career, so sliding into third base after a long run is not something with which he has tons of experience. As such, the slide — and I use that term in the loosest sense possible — he executed — and I use that term as loosely as possible too — when he hit a triple last night against the White Sox was somewhat unconventional.

The best part, though, was that he didn’t even need to slide as the throw from the outfield was delayed due to the outfielder not getting a great handle on the ball and the relay throw which never came was dropped by the infielder. He could’ve gone in standing up.

Thank God he didn’t, though, because this was too good: