Ryan Dempster lasted just three innings and allowed six runs in yesterday’s 9-1 loss to the Phillies, but afterward manager Mike Quade chose to call out the young middle infield duo of 21-year-old Starlin Castro and 25-year-old rookie Darwin Barney.
Castro lost a pop up in the sun during the first inning and even though Dempster allowed just two of his six runs in the opening frame Quade used that play as a launching point for what are clearly numerous complaints about the Cubs’ only All-Star and his double-play partner.
Here’s what the manager told Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago:
I needed to talk to kids in the middle of the diamond about that. We set a bad tone. [They] are communicating all the way. But I look back at this whole game and look at that play. The sun’s been in the same spot for however long Wrigley Field’s been here. Those are the kind of mistakes … there are some you accept. Others have to be taken care of.
Those are two talented kids in the middle of the diamond. We make enough mistakes. But it’s so important for those guys to play well in the middle. Everything goes through them, so if we’re going to be better at pitching, we have to be better in the middle.
After the game Barney took the criticisms in stride, saying: “I agree with him 100 percent.”
Still, with the Cubs leading the majors in errors and veteran first baseman Carlos Pena also committing an error in the same game it seems odd for Quade to repeatedly hammer on his 21-year-old shortstop. He’s been calling out Castro for various things all season and deserved or not publicly criticizing one of the few productive, promising players on a team that’s on pace for 98 losses seems misguided at some point.
Of course, if the Cubs don’t turn things around down the stretch Quade might not be back in 2012 and his relationship with Castro will be a non-issue.
The Nationals bullpen is a tire fire. They’re about to add another tire. Per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, Washington is about to sign free agent reliever Francisco Rodriguez.
K-Rod was released by the Tigers last week after posting an ERA of 7.82 over 28 appearances this season. He has a 1.658 WHIP, is allowing 11.9 hits per nine innings and is posting his highest walk rate in five years. Also worth noting: the Detroit Friggin’ Tigers decided that he was not good enough to be in their bullpen.
So, yeah, good luck with that Washington.
I’ve spent years arguing with people about team chemistry. You know the battle lines on all of that now: people who talk a lot about team chemistry tend to attribute winning or losing to good or bad chemistry, respectively. I tend to think that characterizing chemistry is a retroactive exercise in which teams that win are happy and then cite their happiness as the reason and vice versa. Jim Leyland agrees with me, for what it’s worth, so I’m pretty happy with my take.
Not that I’ll claim a monopoly on wisdom here. I’ve never played on a professional baseball team. I don’t know what it’s like to try to prepare to play baseball while surrounded by jackwagons who don’t get along with anyone. I can’t imagine that makes life easier. Indeed, based on the testimony of players I have spoken to, I will grant that there is at least some intangible yet real benefit if everyone is happy an gelling. I dismiss team chemistry arguments for the most part, but if I ran a team I’d at least try to get rid of bad seeds if their bad seeding was not outweighed by seriously outstanding on-the-field play. You want your workers happy, folks.
All of which makes me wonder what the heck to do about this passage from Ken Rosenthal’s latest column. It’s about the reeling San Francisco Giants. They have all kinds of issues — their offense is putrid, their pitching isn’t much better and they’ve been without their ace most of the year — but today Rosenthal looks at their team chemistry. It’s a quiet and subdued clubhouse, he notes, and it has a lot of people wondering if something is wrong there. What could it be?
Sandoval, who was an often noisy and boisterous presence during his time with the club, departed as a free agent after that season. Pence has suffered a number of injuries in recent years and declined offensively, making it difficult for him to be as vocal as he was in the past. Some with the Giants muse that the team even misses Angel Pagan, who created an odd sort of unity because most of the players disliked him.
Read that last sentence again. And then go on with your talk about how team chemistry is a legitimate explanatory concept regarding what makes teams win or lose as opposed to a post-hoc rationalization of it.
Not that it’s not a good article overall. There’s some interesting stuff about the Giants’ bullpen culture. And, of course, we now know why no one signed Pagan last winter.