Carl Crawford = Roberto Clemente, and more of the latest buzz from Rosenthal

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Ken Rosenthal has a new column up.  Nothing outrageously juicy in it, but several thought-provoking items:

  • Carl Crawford’s career to this point looks a lot like Roberto Clemente’s. A flawed comparison, no question, but an interesting one anyway. If the second half of Crawford’s career follows Clemente’s pattern anyone who signs him will be happy. Well, assuming it ends differently.
  • Understatement of the century, about the Marlins, based on a potential Dan Uggla trade: “a post-Uggla lineup that included Emilio Bonifacio at second and Chris Coghlan in center field would raise significant questions.”  Among those questions are “why would I ever, ever want to watch a Marlins game?”
  • Regarding Victor Martinez’s free agent prospects: “No doubt, he’s an outstanding hitter and teammate, but his numbers, if he were a full-time first baseman, would rank him only slightly ahead of say, free agent Adam LaRoche.”  This is an overlooked point. Everyone loves Martinez’s flexibility — and it is valuable — but he’s not a good enough defensive catcher to stick back there every day, nor is he good enough a hitter to carry first base full time for a contender. He’s a great player to have, no question, but no team should pay him like a front line superstar. Nothing against him, but if he’s your best, you’re not going anywhere.
  • Ken Macha could be the Mets’ bench coach if Terry Collins gets the job, thanks to both his personal connection with Collins — they were minor league teammates — and Macha’s familiarity with the NL.  My view of bench coaches, as far as it goes, is that they should be managerial b.s. detectors. Old guys that aren’t hot prospects for another job elsewhere, but who have been around the block a bit and can tell the manager “Dude. Seriously. You don’t want to do that,” without fear of alienating anyone or hurting their career.  Macha can probably be that guy.

Many more nuggets in there.  Winter stinks, but Rosenthal’s hot stove stuff is always a good way to kill some time.

Miguel Cabrera has two herniated discs in his back

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Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera underwent an MRI which revealed two herniated discs in his back, MLB.com’s Jason Beck reports. With six games remaining in the season, if Cabrera plays again, it will be as a designated hitter.

The back issues shed a lot of light on Cabrera’s uncharacteristically subpar season. He’s batting .249/.329/.399 with 16 home runs and 60 RBI in 529 plate appearances this season. He carries an adjusted OPS of 92, which is eight points below the league average and 14 points below his previous career low set in 2003 with the Marlins.

Cabrera, 34, is signed through 2023 and is owed a minimum of $192 million through the end of his contract.

MLB managers weigh in on anthem protests

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No other Major League Baseball player has taken a knee during the National Anthem since Athletics’ catcher Bruce Maxwell‘s protest on Saturday night. The demonstration was sparked by President Donald Trump’s call for the boycott of the National Football League and the firing of any player who chose not to stand during the anthem. The comments drew harsh criticism from many NFL players, coaches and owners and more than a few in MLB have also lended their support. There is still one game left to play on Sunday, but it’s unclear whether any of Maxwell’s league-mates will show their solidarity by refusing to stand as well.

Given a baseball culture that tends toward conformity more often than not, it seems unlikely. But it’s something league managers are prepared for — even if they don’t all agree with the demonstrations themselves.

White Sox’ skipper Rick Renteria specifically addressed Maxwell’s protest on Sunday, speaking to the league’s policy of inclusivity:

None of the White Sox knelt prior to their series finale against the Royals. Neither did members of the Pirates or the Cardinals, though St. Louis manager Mike Matheny and Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington both weighed in on the situation.

Matheny called the president’s comments “hurtful” and, like the Cubs’ Joe Maddon, appeared content to leave the decision to protest up to each player.

The Pirates, meanwhile, took a firmer tone. “We appreciate our players’ desire and ability to express their opinions respectfully and when done properly,” GM Huntington told Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “When done appropriately and properly, we certainly have respect for our players’ ability to voice their opinion.”

Just what the Pirates consider “appropriate and proper” protocol was left up in the air, and club president Frank Coonelly offered no further insights in a separate statement to the press. Setting strict parameters for players to voice their opinions kind of puts them in a gray area, one they’ll have to clear up should someone elect to protest in the days to come, either with a bent knee and a hand over their heart or in some other fashion.

Equally ambiguous were comments from Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts, who claimed to oppose the movement for personal, if misguided reasons, but also respected the right of his players to make an “educated” statement in protest.

The Indians’ Terry Francona took what was perhaps the most balanced approach of the entire group:

“It’s easy for me to sit here and say, ‘Well, I think this is the greatest country in the world,’ because I do,” Francona told MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. “But, I also haven’t walked in other people’s shoes. So, until I think, not just our country, but our world, until we realize that, hey, people are actually equal — it shouldn’t be a revelation — and the different doesn’t mean less. It’s just different. We’ve got work to do.”

These may all be moot points. Maxwell may be the only player to formally protest Trump’s comments, despite the good intentions of his teammates and fellow players around the league. Others may feel too ambivalent, threatened or uncomfortable to protest what the A’s catcher referred to as a “racial divide,” especially in a way that is routinely perceived as unpatriotic.

Even if the protests made by NFL players and Bruce Maxwell fail to gain momentum, however, the underlying issues they speak to are not going away anytime soon. Here, then, is where MLB managers can help foster a more inclusive environment throughout the league, not only by showing respect for a player’s decision to stand against racism but by actively partnering with those who do so. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a start.