I promise you that I’m not panicking. I know that every team goes through a bad stretch and the Braves are just having one right now. I know they are merely a half game back and still lead the wild card race. I know that things could change tomorrow and they could rocket back into first place. I’m just not in the mental space this morning to be optimistic because, you know, the Pirates.
But nor am I going to get all gloomy and doomy either. Rather, I’m of a mind that, my rooting interests not withstanding, it’s a good day to reflect on the job Charlie Manuel has done in Philly. Sam Donnellon does that today and sums it up pretty perfectly:
Say before the season that someone told you Chase Utley would miss two months, Jamie Moyer would tear up his arm, Joe Blanton would be awful for the first three months, Madson would break his toe throwing a tantrum, Kyle Kendrick again would be demoted, J.C. Romero would be ineffective, Rollins and Victorino would get hurt and not hit, and Ibanez would be an automatic out for the first half of the season. What would you say their record should be on Aug. 31?
Donnellon’s point — and it’s a good one — is that Manuel never panicked like so many managers would have in his situation. Indeed, he begins his article with a list of moves that many managers — and no small number of talk radio listeners — would have made or demanded had they been faced with what Charlie Manuel has had to deal with. He’s kept an even keel, however. He has constantly made the correct judgment that he has the most talented team in the NL, and that he was either going to win or lose with that talent deployed in reasonable ways.
Which is one of the reasons I like the guy so much (well, that and the 1940s-speak he occasionally whips out). He doesn’t need to prove to anyone that he’s a technical genius. He doesn’t need to make a show out of chewing people out. He doesn’t pass the buck to his front office or blame the media or any of that stuff. He goes in, does his job, pencils in reasonable lineups most of the time and lets his talent win out.
I’m guessing Bud Black will get most of the Manager of the Year votes this fall. But Charlie Manuel deserves his fair share of them, brother. Because the answer most people would have given to Donnellon’s question at the end of the blockquote would be “80-60; first place NL East.”
Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.
Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.
Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.
Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.
The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.
Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.
Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.
The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.
Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.
Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.
Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.