Philadelphia Phillies v  New York Mets

Jimmy Rollins takes some shots at Jose Reyes

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While preparing for Game 1 of the NLDS against the Cardinals yesterday at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Jimmy Rollins still managed to keep up with one of his favorite hobbies: Tweaking Mets fans.

The big topic of the day? Jose Reyes’ decision to take himself out of Wednesday’s season finale following a bunt single in order to preserve his lead for the National League batting crown. Rollins told Mike Puma of the New York Post that he would have done things differently.

“I would have played the whole game,” Rollins said. “I’m like, ‘Hey, I fought this hard to be in this position and I’m going to see it through to the end.’ My personality, I’m going to ride it out. I worked this hard to be this good and put up these numbers, I would like to see it all the way to the end.”

Keep in mind, Rollins is a .272 career hitter and has never batted higher than .296 in a full season in the big leagues, so he will probably never have to worry about being in the the same situation. Sorry, most of you guys know I’m a Mets fan, so I at least had to get that one out of my system.

Anyway, that’s not all. Rollins also questioned Reyes’ motivation in the past, hinting that he wasn’t a team player in previous seasons.

“He did everything he needed to do, and when you see that coming from another player, you see them putting the team first,” Rollins said. ” ‘It’s not about me. I’ve got to push the issue for the team. I put myself in position that puts us in position.’ In previous years you just didn’t get quite that feeling from [Reyes] being in the other dugout. This year you really did. It was like, ‘This man is doing everything he can.’ “

If Reyes wasn’t doing “everything” he could from 2006-2008, when he was one of the best players in baseball, well, I feel pretty cheated. More realistically, though, whatever drop in production we saw from 2009-2010 was because of injury, not because he wasn’t a team player. It’s important to understand that Rollins is also looking out for himself here, as he will also be a free agent this winter. Rollins, who turns 33 in November, can’t touch Reyes in terms of production at this point, but will clearly try to argue that his leadership and intangibles are worth a similarly significant investment. And hey, can’t blame the guy for trying.

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.