Let us take a moment to praise Charlie Manuel

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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.”

Astros avoid arbitration with Mike Fiers

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 17: Starting pitcher Mike Fiers #54 of the Houston Astros walks to the dugout after pitching an inning during a game against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 17, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. The Astros won the game 2-1. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
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The Astros avoided arbitration with pitcher Mike Fiers, agreeing on a $3.45 million salary for the 2017 season, per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle. The right-hander was in his first of three years of arbitration eligibility.

Fiers, 31, made 30 starts and one relief appearance for the Astros in 2016. He finished the year with a 4.48 ERA and a 134/42 K/BB ratio in 168 2/3 innings.

Fiers had a much better showing in 2015 as well as in limited action in 2014, so the Astros are hoping he rediscovers that effectiveness going forward. He’ll slot into the back of the starting rotation.

Raines to wear an Expos cap, Pudge to wear a Rangers cap on their Hall of Fame plaques

1990:  Outfielder Tim Raines of the Montreal Expos in action. Mandatory Credit: Otto Greule  /Allsport
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There is little if any controversy to be had about the caps this year’s inductees will wear on their Hall of Fame plaques, but in case there was any doubt at all, it was put to rest this afternoon at the Hall of Fame press conference: Tim Raines will wear a Montreal Expos cap and Ivan Rodriguez will wear a Rangers cap. Jeff Bagwell, of course, never played for a team other than the Houston Astros at the big league level.

Though Raines had some good seasons with the Chicago White Sox and though he helped provide a nice kick start to the Yankees dynasty in the mid-1990s, his best seasons, by far, took place while he was an Expo. It’s also the case that the bulk of his Hall of Fame push came from Expos fans. He was particularly boosted by Jonah Keri, who recently wrote a book detailing the history of the Expos. So, yeah, that’s easy.

Rodriguez played 13 of his 21 years with the Texas Rangers, including his MVP 1999 season. He did have some notable years elsewhere, particularly in Detroit where he remains a fan favorite, but it was always going to be the Rangers for him, one would think. Maybe a slight, slight chance that he’d do the blank cap thing, Greg Maddux-style, but smart money was on the Rangers.

With Bagwell, the only question is which Astros cap he’ll wear. There are a couple of applicable ones: the brick red star, which he wore to the World Series in 2005. There’s also the shooting star cap he wore during his best seasons and which Craig Biggio’s plaque displays. He was around for the classic “H” over the star look, but he was just a kid then, so I doubt he’d wear it.

Anyway, sorry to the Marlins fans who wished that Raines and Pudge would wear the fishy-F.