If it weren’t for that pesky First Amendment I’d campaign for a law that forbids partisans of any baseball team from suggesting personnel moves until a good ten days after the World Series ends, because almost anything that comes out in that vein is reactionary and fairly stupid. As soon as the Yankees were eliminated there were people talking about trading Nick Swisher, which makes no sense. Lately a certain brand of Phillies people are trying to pass off this kind of baloney:
Chase Utley has been haunted by one injury after the next. His defense at second base has gone from acceptable to poor. His offensive production is deteriorating at troubling speed.
So exactly what was so outrageous again about the notion of moving Utley to the outfield earlier in his career?
While far less than a populist view, the Utley-to-the-outfield initiative was advanced by the enlightened. Loosely based on the Alfonso Soriano-Robin Yount model, the idea was to provide full protection of Utley as a power hitter by minimizing his inning-to-inning physical stress. Naturally, it was shouted down. The best thoughts usually are.
Utley made a couple of bad plays at second in the playoffs and now people are trying to argue that he’s no good at second anymore. Meanwhile back in the world of the reality-based, he’s still pretty obviously the best second baseman in the National League. Sure he got hurt this year, but by just about every measure he was just as good defensively in 2010 as he’s ever been.
Perhaps there will come a time when moving him to the outfield makes sense. That day, however, is not today.
Facing an elimination number of one, the Astros staved off elimination in the AL West by beating the Diamondbacks on Friday night by a 6-1 margin. The Rangers suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Angels on Saturday afternoon, which temporarily put the Astros’ fate in their own hands.
Colby Rasmus hit a pair of solo homers and Jose Altuve added a solo shot of his own. Starter Collin McHugh tossed seven innings of one-run ball, limiting the Diamondbacks to six hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Reliever Will Harris allowed a solo home run to Paul Goldschmidt in the eighth, but Luke Gregerson closed out the game with a scoreless ninth.
The Astros trail the Rangers by one game in the AL West and lead the Angels by one game for the second AL Wild Card slot. The Rangers can clinch the AL West on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Astros loss. The Astros can clinch the second AL Wild Card on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Angels loss.
The Yankees lost both ends of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Orioles and lead the Astros by only one game for the first AL Wild Card slot.
If the Astros win and the Rangers lose on Sunday, they will play an AL West tiebreaker in Texas. The winner will win the second AL Wild Card if the Yankees win on Sunday, or the first AL Wild Card if the Yankees lose on Sunday.
If the Astros lose and the Angels win on Sunday, the two teams will be tied for the second AL Wild Card. They would play a tiebreaker in Houston, and the winner would play the Yankees in New York in the Wild Card game.
Giants second baseman Kelby Tomlinson looked more like Ladainian Tomlinson the way he was running during Saturday afternoon’s game against the Rockies. In the first inning with one out against starter Chris Rusin, Tomlinson hit a fly ball into the right-center field gap at AT&T Park, a great place to go if you’re in the mood for an inside-the-park home run.
Neither Carlos Gonzalez nor Chris Dickerson could corral the ball before it rolled all the way to the 421-foot marker at the fence. Tomlinson motored around the bases, but Gonzalez made a strong throw into cut-off man D.J. LeMahieu, and LeMahieu made a great throw in to catcher Tom Murphy, but Tomlinson slid in safely just ahead of the tag.
It was an exciting play and the hit proved important as the Giants eked out a 3-2 win against the Rockies.