Dirk Hayhurst, currently a farmhand at Durham and, of course, the author of “The Bullpen Gospels” and the upcoming “Out of My League,” hates to burst your bubble, but he does not play baseball for the love of the game:
So, dear baseball purist, you ask why then do I play? … Because I enjoy it more than the alternative. Because I’ve spent my life training to do it and walking away to another profession is easier said than done. Because I need the healthcare benefits (as crappy as they are). Because there are certain perks this job has that others don’t. Because making it to the top sets you up for the rest of your life, if you’re good enough to get there.
Admit it, none of these answers sound as satisfactory, noble, or fulfilling as love, do they? Some even sound selfish. But they are the real reasons. Real, boring, reasons John Forgerty wouldn’t dare pen a lyric too. Furthermore, if you took even a third of them away, I would have to seriously reevaluate why I keep doing this job.
It’s not a cranky rant. It’s a realistic take that I am certain Hayhurst is not alone in having among men who play baseball for a living. That “love of the game” stuff is mostly for us fans. It’s a job to these guys. At least those of them who haven’t made millions doing it. I see that on the face of the non-prospects when I go to Columbus Clippers game. I’ve heard from other writers who talk to journeymen ballplayers that the sentiment is common.
But rarely is it put as well as Hayhurst puts it here. And, contrary to what you might expect, it makes me appreciate these guys way more than if they were all “rah-rah, I heart baseball” about it.
The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.
Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.
Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.
Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.
The Nationals announced on Saturday afternoon that the club acquired closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates in exchange for reliever Felipe Rivero and minor league pitcher Taylor Hearn.
Melancon, 31, put together another solid season for the Pirates, leaving the club with 30 saves, a 1.51 ERA, and a 38/9 K/BB ratio in 41 2/3 innings. He led the majors last season with 51 saves and has a 1.80 ERA since joining the Pirates in 2013. Melancon is earning $9.65 million this season and can become eligible for free agency after the season.
With Melancon out of the picture, the Pirates intend to have Tony Watson take over the closer’s role.
Rivero, 25, has handled the seventh and eighth innings for the Nationals this season, compiling a 4.53 ERA and a 53/15 K/BB ratio in 49 2/3 innings. He’s just shy of one year of service time, so the Pirates will have control of him for a long time.
Hearn, 21, was rated the Nationals’ 27th-best prospect by MLB Pipeline. He was originally drafted by the Pirates in the 22nd round of the 2012 draft but he didn’t sign and ended up going back to college. The Nationals took him in the fifth round of last year’s draft. This season, between rookie ball and Single-A Hagerstown, Hearn put up a 2.79 ERA and a 39/13 K/BB ratio in 29 innings. He’s a long way away from the majors, so he’s essentially a lottery ticket for the Pirates.
The Nationals needed an upgrade at closer as Jonathan Papelbon has struggled this season. The right-hander has allowed runs in each of his last three appearances, ballooning his ERA up to 4.41 with a 30/13 K/BB ratio in 32 2/3 innings. It will be interesting to see how Papelbon, who has never made a habit of letting his feelings go unspoken, handles a demotion to the eighth inning.