And That Happened: Thursday's Scores and Highlights

21 Comments

Rays 10, Yankees 3: In 1974, Dock Ellis hit three Cincinnati Reds players in a row to start a game. He tried to hit a fourth — Tony Perez — but ended up walking him because Perez kept dodging pitches. He then tried to hit Johnny Bench, but before he could, Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh took him out. The plunkings were intentional, by the way: before the game, Ellis told his teammates that he wanted to make a statement. His exact quote in the locker room: “We gonna get down. We gonna do the do. I’m going to hit these motherf——.”

I’d like to think Javier Vazquez was cool and brash enough to do that before he hit three Rays in a row last night, but we know better. He’s just lost. And this could have been the last time he ever pitches for the Yankees.  Fitting it came in such an ugly game. Both of his stints in New York have been nightmares, more or less.

As for what this disaster of a game means: the season series between these two is over, and the Yankees have a half-game lead. But they also have to play six games against the Red Sox and three against the Jays.  Tampa Bay, on the other hand, plays the Mariners, Orioles and Royals. And the Rays possess the tiebreaker. I like the Rays’ chances, don’t you?

Giants 13, Cubs 0: I did a radio hit last night. Instead of watching any baseball or surfin’ the web before I went on, I read a book. I had been reading baseball stuff and writing all day, so I figured I was prepared.  The host asked me about the Giants, and I said something about how they’ve had trouble scoring runs.  As soon as I got off the phone I checked the scores and saw this.  I would like to thank the host — who I know had the current scores up in front of him at the time — for not totally slamming me with the “well, they’re not having trouble scoring runs tonight!” line, which would have totally thrown me off my game.  Oh, and in case you missed it, Juan Uribe hit a grand slam and a two-run homer in the second.

Dodgers 3, Padres 1: And this one puts the Giants alone back up in first place. This is the first time the Dodgers have beat San Diego in seven games. Rod Barajas: “It’s not like we have nothing to play for. We have pride. You don’t want to be the punching bag.” Took awhile for L.A. to begin to feel this way, but at least they got there.

Diamondbacks 10, Rockies 9: Like watching a stock car run out of gas on the final lap. Carlos Gonzalez did everything he could to get out and push — a grand slam and a two run single while trying to come back from an 8-2 deficit — but he wasn’t getting any help from his bullpen. And the starter — Jeff Francis — had nothing either. Three and a half games back in both the division and the wild card seems awfully large right now, but at least they’re home this weekend against the Giants. The only question now is can anyone around here pitch?

Athletics 5, Rangers 0: Ruh-roh. Dallas Braden one-hit Texas over eight innings and Cliff Lee looked extremely mortal (5 IP, 6 H, 4 ER). The “ruh-roh” is not because I think the A’s can make up seven games with ten to go — that would be beyond nuts — but because the Rangers are looking really, really bad as this thing winds down. You think the Rays and Yankees wouldn’t rather play them than the Twins right now? Think again.

Blue Jays 1, Mariners 0: Felix Hernandez (8 IP, 2 H, 1 ER) just doesn’t know how to win.

Nationals 7, Astros 2: No Dunn, No Zimmerman, no problem: Mike Morse homered, doubled and drove in three runs and Roger Bernadina and Danny Espinosa each hit two-run jacks.

Cardinals 9, Pirates 2: Hit this one up yesterday. But again — for completeness sake — let me say: poopy pants.

Royals 4, Indians 2: I’m not going to go back and check because I have a pretty good memory for these things, but I’m going to say that the Royals and Indians have played each other 346 times this season. With this win, the Royals assured themselves of no worse than 99 losses. The Indians still need one more win in order to do that.

Brewers 8, Marlins 3: Sandy Rosario made his big league debut in the seventh inning of this one. His first pitch resulted in a Rickie Weeks home run to left. His second pitch was a strike. His third pitch was a Prince Fielder home run to right field. Then he gave up a double and a couple of singles. You know what they call a pitcher whose debut goes as bad as that?  A major league pitcher. And even if this is the only game he ever plays in the bigs, no one will ever be able to take that away from Sandy Rosario, no matter how nightmarish it was.

Who Should win the Rookie of the Year Awards? Who Will?

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 05:  Corey Seager #5 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts to his three run homerun for a 6-0 lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks during the fifth inning at Dodger Stadium on September 5, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

With the regular season ending on Sunday and most of the playoff spots locked up, there’s really only one big thing left to argue about: postseason awards. So let’s spend some time looking at who should win each of the four major awards and who will win them. Which are often totally different things. Next up: The Rookie of the Year Awards

This is a whole heck of a lot easier than the MVP and Cy Young Awards, that’s for sure. It’s a two horse race in the AL and a one-horse race in the NL.

Who should win the AL Rookie of the Year Award?

It seemed like Tigers starter Michael Fulmer would be the no-brainer choice for a good long while, as his low ERA and solid performance helped carry the Tigers when their starting pitching wasn’t doing them any favors. But then the Yankees called up catcher Gary Sanchez at the beginning of August and all he’s done since then is hit .303/.378/.672 with an astonishing 20 homers in his first 51 games. Fulmer has continued to be solid — he’s just short of qualifying for the ERA title, but does have the league’s lowest ERA at 3.06 — but Sanchez has been spectacular.

The MVP and Cy Young Award require full season contributions. Not everyone takes the Rookie of the Year Award quite as seriously, it seems, and are thus more willing to entertain smaller samples of excellence over large samples of solid work when it comes to the award. That’s how Bill and I think about it anyway, giving the nod to Sanchez’s historic two-month run. Ashley, however, favors Fulmer’s larger volume of work. You can’t really go wrong with either choice:

Craig: Sanchez
Bill: Sanchez
Ashley: Fulmer

Who will win the AL Rookie of the Year Award?

Hard call. I have no idea what voters will do on that quantity/quality calculation. I’ll guess Fulmer, but it’s just a guess. I could just as easily see Sanchez given some quasi-MVP credit for helping the Yankees remain relevant after the trade deadline and throw it his way.

 

Who should win the NL Rookie of the Year Award?

If you say anyone other than Corey Seager, and his .311/.369/.519 26 homer batting line, the state has authorized me to have you taken to a hospital for 48 hours of examination, at which point your competence to reenter society will be gauged. But there is ice cream there.

Craig: Seager
Bill: Seager
Ashley: Seager

 

Who will win the NL Rookie of the Year Award?

If any BBWAA voter lists anyone other than Corey Seager at the top of his or her Rookie of the Year ballot, the state has authorized me to have them taken to a hospital for 48 hours of examination, at which point their competence to reenter society will be gauged. They will not, however, be allowed to have any ice cream because, really, they should know better. They’re professionals.

Jeremy Giambi vs. David Ortiz

jeremy-giambi
4 Comments

The 2002 Red Sox won 93 games, only to finish 10 games behind the Yankees in the AL West and six back of the lone wild card. They named Theo Epstein the GM that November and allowed him to begin reshaping the team, then led by Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez.

The Red Sox didn’t make any big splashes that winter. Their biggest free agent signing was Ramiro Mendoza, who got $6.5 million for two years. They also signed Mike Timlin and Bill Mueller (who played behind Shea Hillenbrand at third initially). They traded for Todd Walker. They stole Bronson Arroyo off waivers.

What Epstein did totally overhaul was a first base-DH situation that held the team back the previous season. 2002 trade deadline pickup Cliff Floyd exited in free agency, as did disappointments Tony Clark and Jose Offerman.

Brought in was a three-headed monster of underappreciated, high-OBP, Moneyball-type players. First, the Red Sox traded Josh Hancock to the Phillies for Jeremy Giambi, who had just hit .244/.435/.538 in 156 at-bats after coming over from the A’s at midseason. He hit .272/.402/.475 in 684 at-bats total between 2001 and 2002, and he looked like he was still very much in his prime at age 28.

The day after the Giambi trade, the Twins made the move to release David Ortiz. No one pounced, though, and Ortiz remained unsigned for a month before joining the Boston on a one-year, $1.25 million contract. Ortiz, who was entering his age-27 season, hit .272/.339/.500 in 412 at-bats for the Twins in 2002.

While that was going on, the Red Sox were working to bring in Kevin Millar for first base. Millar hit .306/.366/.509 in 438 at-bats for the Marlins in 2002 and was even better the previous season, but he was a poor outfielder and third baseman and the team already had Derrek Lee at first base. So, the Marlins, rather than trade Millar for a player, sold him to Japan for some much-preferred cash. Millar, not realizing that he was a desired commodity around the league, went along with the plan. That’s when the Red Sox broke an unwritten rule and claimed Millar off waivers. It turned into a long ordeal, but the Red Sox were finally able to land Millar in February by buying him from the Marlins.

I remember at the time being most excited about the Giambi acquisition. He couldn’t play defense and he had gotten himself exiled by the A’s for some transgression the previous year, but he looked like an awesome offensive force with his terrific power and ridiculous walk rate. Ortiz was certainly worth taking the chance on, too, but I thought Giambi would be better and leave Ortiz with little to do.

Indeed, Giambi started over Ortiz on Opening Day. However, both got off to lousy starts and Giambi’s playing time quickly diminished. Giambi finished April at .125/.288/.292 in 60 plate appearances, starting only once in the final week of the month. Ortiz came in at .212/.311/.346 in 61 plate appearances.

Both players found their strokes at the beginning of May. For Giambi, though, it amounted to all of about two weeks of success. He peaked with an .828 OPS on May 16. Ortiz’s build was slower, but it lasted. He had a .942 OPS in May, a .961 OPS in June, a .987 OPS in July and a 1.097 OPS in August before plummeting all of the way to .977 in September. He finished 5th in the AL MVP balloting despite playing about half the time the first two months.

Giambi, finding himself more starved for at-bats after Ortiz heated up, landed on the DL in late June with a bad shoulder. At the time, it looked like it might have been a made-up injury to get him playing time in the minors for a spell. It wasn’t. He returned a few weeks later, but he still wasn’t right. He made his last appearance on Aug. 1, going 0-for-3 against the Orioles. He landed back on the DL and then underwent surgery to repair damage in his labrum and rotator cuff.

As it turned out, Giambi never played in the majors again. As he was trying to come back from the shoulder surgery the next spring, he developed back problems. He played in 17 minor league games with the Dodgers in 2004 and nine with the White Sox in 2005. That was it for him, and he was done at 30 years old. In early 2005, he admitted to using BALCO-provided steroids and said that he regretted it. The strength training likely played roles in both his emergence and his downfall, given the breakdown of his body.

Things worked out a little differently for Ortiz…

Ortiz through 2002 (age 26): .266/.348/.461, 108 OPS+ in 1,693 PA
Giambi through 2002 (age 27): .269/.381/.437, 114 OPS+ in 1,549 PA

Ortiz after 2002: .290/.386/.570, 148 OPS+ in 8,387 PA
Giambi after 2002: .197/.342/.354, 81 OPS+ in 156 PA

And those 2003 Red Sox? Well, they won 95 games, which was good enough for the wild card this time. Still, they lost to the Yankees in seven games in the ALCS. They were still one year away.