If you’re Theo Epstein, there is absolutely no winning when it comes to answering questions about his job right now.
Sure, the Cubs would love to have him. Anyone would. But Epstein is running the Red Sox right now so if he even hints that he’s interested in the job, it’s going to be a monstrous distraction. Likewise, if he shuts the door with a slam, saying unequivocally that he does not want has never wanted and will never want to be the Cubs GM and that anyone who suggests otherwise can take a flying eff at a rolling donut, then he’s just being rude. And, of course, if he really would like the job, he’s hurting himself.
So it’s really a timing problem. Because he’s Theo Epstein and because Theo Epstein rarely if ever says anything that fans flames, any question on the subject of the Cubs’ job now is going to lead to a non-answer which strongly suggests that he’s a Red Sox for life without actually saying that and leaving the hint of a possibility open that he could bolt if need be. And he was asked that yesterday. And he gave exactly that sort of answer:
“I try to avoid commenting on things that are so speculative. I know there are a couple of articles which have appeared but I’m completely focused on the Red Sox of 2011 first and foremost and what potentially lies ahead for this club. We’re trying to get to the postseason and win the World Series and I spend all my time working with my staff to make this the organization we want it to be for now and in the future. That’s where my exclusive focus is.”
And of course the reporters kept asking, so he said “Something like that I can’t even contemplate it long enough to comment on it. I’m all Red Sox, all the time.”
So one takeaway from that could be “THEO DOESN’T DENY INTEREST IN CUBS JOB!” which I bet gets played up on talk radio today if it hasn’t already.
Another, more reasonable take would be to say “there’s really nothing to be gained by getting quotes from Theo Epstein on this subject before the Sox’ season is over.”
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.
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.