Brad Hawpe had the worst season of his career in 2010, signed a one-year deal with San Diego as a free agent, and hit just .098 through 18 games, at which point there was speculation about when the Padres would drop him and perhaps even call up top prospect Anthony Rizzo ahead of schedule.
Instead the Padres stuck with Hawpe as their primary first baseman and he’s responded by hitting .365 with a .984 OPS in 18 games dating back to mid-April. His overall numbers still aren’t pretty, but Hawpe has bought himself some more time in the lineup despite Rizzo hitting .374 with huge power at Triple-A.
Hawpe credited manager Bud Black for sticking with him, telling Bill Center of the San Diego Union Tribune:
Bud is a classy manager. He looks at the big picture. He didn’t hit the panic button when we were struggling early. He played the game. He understands it’s 162 games.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens if Hawpe is merely giving the Padres decent production come, say, July, because keeping Rizzo at Triple-A all season when he’s destroying the competition there seems unlikely. Hawpe could have a little trade value to contenders looking for cheap lineup help and he also has plenty of experience in the outfield corners, where Ryan Ludwick and Will Venable have both struggled.
Infielder Javier Baez is back in camp with the Cubs after helping Puerto Rico to a second-place finish in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He was the focal point of what was, to many, the most memorable play of the entire tournament: Baez pointed at catcher Yadier Molina, who was attempting to throw out a would-be base-stealer, before applying the tag for the final out of the eighth inning.
While Baez didn’t receive much criticism for his theatrics, aside from an insignificant handful of spoilsports, he is one of the players who most exemplifies the emotional, celebratory culture that foreign players bring to Major League Baseball. U.S. (and Tigers) second baseman Ian Kinsler is on the other side of that spectrum, as he said prior to the WBC final that he hopes kids mimic the solemn way U.S. players play the game rather than the emotional, passionate way players from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic play the game.
Baez isn’t about to apologize for the way he and his teammates play the game. Via CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney, Baez said, “We do a great job playing and having fun out there. That’s what it’s all about. This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it. but, you know, everybody’s got their style and their talent. I have a lot of fun.”
He continued, “It’s their choice to look at how we play, how excited we get. To us, it’s really huge what we did, even though we didn’t win. All of Puerto Rico got really together. We were going through a hard time over there and everything got fixed up for at least three weeks. Hopefully, they keep it like that.”
Angels outfielder Mike Trout came up with an idea that would allow less experienced umpires an opportunity to call some major league spring training action. As ESPN’s Buster Olney reports, Trout thinks the veteran umpires should only call five or six innings as they get back into regular season shape. The rest of the innings could be called by minor league umpires.
According to Olney, baseball officials loved Trout’s idea when they heard about it last week. One official said, “It makes a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons.” Another said, “That’s Trout — he’s always paying attention to stuff beyond what he’s doing.”
Of course, I have to agree that the suggestion is a great one. As Olney notes, the turnover rate for umpires every year is relatively low, so younger, less-experienced umpires have few opportunities to get a feel for what it’s like calling major league action. Even beyond the actual interpretation of the rules, interacting with big league personalities would also be helpful for minor league umpires.