Manny Ramirez comes up empty as White Sox's playoff hopes slip away

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Needing a sweep of the Twins to have any kind of realistic shot at the AL Central title the White Sox instead dropped Game 1 of a three-game series in Chicago last night as Manny Ramirez repeatedly came up empty in crucial at-bats.
In the first inning he came to the plate with two outs and runners on first and second in a 0-0 game. He struck out swinging.
In the fourth inning he came to the plate with one out and a runner on third base in a 0-0 game. He struck out swinging.
In the seventh inning he came to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded in a 4-3 game. He struck out swinging.
Ramirez did draw a walk and score a run in the sixth inning, but he whiffed in three at-bats where a hit of any kind could have dramatically changed the game. Chicago’s playoff chances were already slim when they acquired Ramirez, they’ve gone 7-5 in his 12 games, and he’s hitting .270 with a .400 on-base percentage, but remarkably has yet to produce an extra-base hit or drive in a run.
Obviously a dozen games is hardly enough to draw any sort of meaningful conclusions about what Ramirez has left, particularly since he posted a robust .915 OPS in 66 games with the Dodgers, but the White Sox took the small sample size gamble by assuming the $4 million remaining on his contract for just 30 games and his bat certainly looked slow last night as he repeatedly swung through fastballs.
And now that the White Sox are seven games behind the Twins what Ramirez does or doesn’t do for the final three weeks is almost meaningless. General manager Ken Williams took a $4 million gamble that Ramirez would be productive for 30 games, but after 12 games of little impact the remaining 18 games hardly matter. According to the simulations at Baseball Prospectus and Cool Standings, the Twins have a 99 percent chance of winning the AL Central.

A must-read oral history of the 1998 home run chase

7 Jul 1998:   American Leaguer player Mark McGwire #25 of the St Louis Cardinals and Sammy Sosa #21 of  the Chicago Cubs answer questions during  the Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Coors Field in Denver,  Colorado.The American  League defeated the
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It’s hard to believe that it’s been 18 years since Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa captivated the nation with their epic chase of Roger Maris’ home run record. But it has been, and after years of reaction, counter-reaction and, of course, baseball’s reckoning with the performance-enhancing drugs which helped fuel the chase, it’s probably finally time to do our best to contextualize it historically.

Today one of my favorite news outlets does that with an oral history. All of the key figures weigh-in on it, from McGwire and Sosa to Bud Selig to Tony La Russa. Randy Johnson makes an appearance as well, reminding us that it wasn’t just the sluggers who had an amazing year in 1998. Indeed, his story, including his being traded to Houston and going on an amazing second-half run, has almost been lost to history.

This is bookmark material, my friends. For savoring later if you can’t read it now. And for revisiting at another time given the depths to the drama which justifies multiple readings. I’ll just warn you that there is some adult language in the story, but that’s to be expected given the passion the 1998 baseball season inspired.

Go check it out.

UPDATE: Asdrubal Cabrera leaves Mets-Nats game with back spasms

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 12:  Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera #13 of the New York Mets throws to first from his knee after diving to catch a ground ball to get Joc Pederson #31 of the Los Angeles Dodgers for the second out of the sixth inning at Dodger Stadium on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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UPDATE: Cabrera was removed from the game due to back spasms.

1:21PM: This is not good: Asdrubal Cabrera was removed from today’s game against the Nationals with an apparent injury.

It’s unclear what the injury was, as Cabrera had yet to even play in the game. Matt Reynolds came on to play shortstop in the bottom of the first inning, but Cabrera didn’t bat in the top of the first. It could be an illness. Or some freak occurrence.

We’ll update when we hear more.

There are apparently unwritten rules about manager replay challenges now

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 05: Manager Joe Maddon #70 of the Chicago Cubs shakes hands with manager Mike Matheny #26 of the St. Louis Cardinals before the Opening Night game at Wrigley Field on April 5, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Last night’s Cardinals-Cubs game was a blowout, with the Cubs beating the Cards 12-3. Apparently, however, in the ninth inning of the game, Reynoldsburg, Ohio’s own Mike Matheny played the Cardinals infield in, which is a move you never see in a blowout. Why did he do that?

He hasn’t said yet, but Cubs manager Joe Maddon just spoke to the media before today’s game and he’s speculating that Matheny did it as a form of protest:

God, I hope that’s true. I hope that manager replay challenges, which are already dumb enough inasmuch as they turn what should be an officiating correction device into a strategic tool, are now turning into another front in the Great Unwritten Rules Wars. I hope that we now have a bunch of people talking about how there’s a right way and a wrong way to use the replay system and that one can disrespect the other side if they do it the wrong way. The way the replay system has been implemented often resembles tragedy. Why not make it farce?

Oh well, I guess it beats throwing at someone for doing that wrong. And I guess it’s just a reminder that no matter what we do, baseball is always gonna give us an opportunity for petty bits of silliness.

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.