Fred McGriff isn’t having the best couple of months

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The Rays fired the Crime Dog!  Or, probably.

According to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times, the Rays declined to rehire Fred McGriff after the 2010 season for reasons unknown.  He had been working as a special advisor in the community outreach department for a total of four years.

Those roles are usually more celebratory than anything, and his time probably just expired.

But, there’s more bad news on McGriff.

Alexandra Zayas, also of the Times, is reporting that McGriff’s wife Veronica filed for protection against the former ballplayer on January 14, just about three weeks ago.

Veronica McGriff wrote this in the police report:

“I am afraid and scared for my life and well-being.  During the past four months, my husband has been acting very strange. I learned that he secretly forged my signature to transfer our $1-million from a trust. He has stopped talking to me and the only communications he has had with me have been rude, aggressive and violent.”

“I don’t know who he is anymore. … I fear he is going to try to hurt me and I do not feel safe in my home.”

Scary stuff, but it sounds like things have been smoothed over now.  Veronica and Fred agreed to begin marriage counseling on January 31, dismissing the petition and dissolving any potential injunction.  It’s probably not fair to guess, but perhaps the strange behavior was a result of the Rays’ decision to cut McGriff loose.  Whatever the case, things seem to be back on track.

McGriff, now 47, retired after the 2004 season with 493 career home runs and a stellar .284/.377/.509 career batting line.  He was a five-time All-Star and drew MVP votes in eight different seasons.

The Mets are a mess

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The Mets lost again on Thursday afternoon, suffering a 7-5 defeat at the hands of the Braves. It’s their sixth consecutive loss and the club is now in last place in the NL East. Not exactly the start the Mets envisioned.

Matt Harvey got the start, but lasted only 4 1/3 innings. He gave up six runs on five hits and five walks with only one strikeout. After the game, Harvey said he was tight and that he threw yesterday expecting to start on Friday instead, per Matt Ehalt of The Record. Sounds like no one communicated to Harvey that he’d be starting this afternoon until it was too late for him to properly prepare.

Harvey started because Noah Syndergaard was scratched due to a “tired arm.” Syndergaard blew reporters off after the game, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post. Puma then added that Syndergaard ripped Mets P.R. guy Jay Horwitz for letting reporters approach him.

By the way, the Mets also lost outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a hamstring injury. Not much else can go wrong in Queens.

Joey Votto isn’t on board with the latest fly ball trend among hitters

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If you haven’t heard, fly balls — not ground balls or line drives — are all the rage among hitters these days. Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez summed it up perfectly last month when he said, “I’m not trying to hit a [freaking] line drive or a freaking ground ball.” The goal is to maximize damage. Last year, for example, fly balls became hits about 17 percent less often than ground balls (7.4% versus 24.6%), but hitters had a slugging percentage more than twice as much as on ground balls (.539 versus .267). This refocusing has helped hitters like Martinez as well as Ryan Zimmerman reinvigorate their careers.

Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who is as much a student of new age analytics as anyone in the game, doesn’t feel that this approach is necessarily a good one, as Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto said:

Where I get concerned is the guys that make this attempt and burn out too much of their time and don’t get a chance to be their best selves, and either don’t make it to the big leagues or don’t perform their best in the big leagues because they’re always attempting this new style of hitting. I see it with a lot of guys. Everyone tells the good stories, but there’s a lot of s—ty stories of guys who are wasting their time trying things.

Votto added that while the fly ball approach is working right now, pitchers will soon adapt and the fly ball approach won’t be so good anymore. And he’s right. Baseball has always been a game of adjustments. For example, as teams have gotten comfortable with shifting their infield, hitters like the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber have both dropped bunts down the third base line for easy hits. Knowing that hitters are aiming to hit fly balls now, pitchers may stay higher in the strike zone more often as one possible solution.

Votto is just trying to stay as well-rounded as possible. He says that he wants to become “unpitchable.” Votto wants to be like Angels outfielder Mike Trout, whom he describes as a guy “who can do absolutely anything he wants” and “at all times [has] all options.”

So far, Votto is having another productive season despite a relatively pedestrian batting average and on-base percentage. He’s hitting .238/.330/.563 with seven home runs and 16 RBI in 94 plate appearances. Coincidentally, he’s been hitting way more fly balls than usual as he’s currently carrying a 42.3 percent rate compared to his 33.1 career average, according to FanGraphs. His line drives are way down to 16.9 percent compared to his 25.4 percent career average.