Earlier today I observed that the decision to sit Vlad Guerrero and play Nelson Cruz in right field was a good one by Ron Washington, because Cruz got to a couple of balls in the outfield in the early innings that Vlad never would have reached. One of them came on a ball towards the gap with a runner on base that almost certainly would have scored a run. Another fly out likely would have dropped for extra bases and could have led to a second run. While those plays ended up not mattering a ton given the final score, they seemed pretty big at the time.
Without Guerrero, the Rangers went back to what they were in 2009, a donut of a team. They had a great big hole in the middle. It ended up resulting in nearly a dozen donuts on the scoreboard in a 9-0 loss in Game 2. Sure, no balls bounced around in the outfield and no errors were made, but the Rangers offense offered up only the sound of silence . . . For all the fury in Josh Hamilton’s bat and all the thunder and lightning supplied by Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler in the bottom half of the order, the lineup works because Guerrero gives it real girth.
“Girth?” That’s a new one to me. But whatever, it’s a pretty empty sentiment here, because Guerrero’s “girth” hasn’t helped the Rangers all that much lately.
Yes, he has driven in some runs this postseason — 6 in 12 games — but he has not been a force or anything. He’s 13 for 49 in with three doubles. He hit .278/.322/.426 with only seven homers in the second half of the regular season. If you extrapolated that performance over a whole year you’d have yourself one substandard DH. To the extent he’s provided any girth, it was provided between April and early July. Not much since.
Grant is a really good writer and blogger, but in this case I think he’s doing what I’ve been doing a lot of for the past couple of years: remembering the Vlad Guerrero who used to be rather than the Vlad Guerrero who currently plays baseball for the Texas Rangers. That latter fellow is someone whose bat in no way makes up for his glove and who shouldn’t get a sniff of the outfield for the rest of the series.
Report: MLB, union making progress on new slide rule at second base
After Ruben Tejada suffered a fractured right fibula on a takeout slide from Chase Utley during the playoffs, there was momentum for a new rule about slides at second base. We haven’t heard much about it since the Owners’ Meetings in November, but ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that talks between MLB and the players’ union are making progress and a change is expected for the 2016 season.
The exact wording of the new rule is still unclear, but Olney hears that there’s a focus toward “ensuring that sliding runners either touch the base or make an effort to touch the base.” Below are some more details:
Sources said that in the union’s internal discussions, players made it clear they had been taught since they first began playing baseball to go into second base with the intent of breaking up double-play attempts. Although the union wants to improve safety for middle infielders, it does not want to eliminate players’ aggressiveness on slides or the ability to break up a double play.
However, there is a desire on both sides to eliminate slides on which a baserunner goes beyond the effort to reach second to make contact with middle infielders.
There’s already a rule in place for a situation like we saw with Utley, but it’s rarely, if ever, enforced. It’s unfortunate that Tejada’s fractured fibula had to be the catalyst for change or clarification with the rules, but hopefully this will result in fewer injuries in the future. Similar to the “Buster Posey Rule” for plays at home plate, get ready for life with the “Chase Utley Rule.”
Here’s the video of the Tejada/Utley play:
And here’s the video of another high-profile play from 2015 which resulted in a torn lateral meniscus and a fractured tibia for Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang:
UPDATE: Jason Beck of MLB.com confirms that it’s a two-year, $18.5 million deal.
8:00 p.m. ET: Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports that the Tigers have avoided arbitration with outfielder J.D. Martinez by agreeing to a two-year contract. No word yet on the terms involved, but Robert Murray of Baseball Essential reported earlier today that he was hearing rumblings about a two-year, $18.5 million deal.
Martinez filed for $8 million and was offered $6 million by the Tigers when arbitration figures were exchanged last month. There has been some talk about a long-term extension, but we heard last week that the two sides were discussing both one- and two-year deals. This new deal will buy out Martinez’s final two years of arbitration, so as of now, he’s still on track to go into free agency after 2017.
After a breakout 2014, Martinez batted .282 with 38 home runs and an .879 OPS over 158 games last season.
Veteran reliever Eric O'Flaherty is coming off the worst season of his career, but there’s still plenty of interest in a bounceback, as ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that he’s deciding between four teams and “should sign a deal by the weekend.”
You really can’t sugarcoat O’Flaherty’s 2015. The 31-year-old was flat-out bad, posting an 8.41 ERA and 21/18 K/BB ratio over 30 innings of work between the Athletics and Mets. Opposing batters hit .343/.427/.482 against him. I keep going back to check if that’s a misprint, but nope, it’s real. He also missed some time with shoulder inflammation. On the bright side, Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reported last month that O’Flaherty feels healthy and believes that he has fixed his mechanics.
O’Flaherty’s career has veered off track since Tommy John surgery in 2013, but he has enjoyed plenty of success in the past and throws from the left side. He’s the kind of guy who will continue to get chances.
Veteran outfielder Roger Bernadina has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Mets that includes an invitation to spring training.
Bernadina was a semi-regular for the Nationals from 2010-2012, but never developed as much as hoped offensively and didn’t play in the majors at all last season.
At age 32 he’s a career .236 hitter with a .661 OPS in 548 games as a big leaguer and given the Mets’ outfield depth–they already have Alejandro De Aza and Juan Lagares in bench/part-time roles–Bernadina seems likely to begin the season in the minors.