Verlander was fantastic! Um … wasn’t he?

32 Comments

Posnanski makes a great point today about how sports commentators, columnists, broadcasters and the like tend to fall in love with narratives, even if they don’t really hold up.  His example: how everyone during and after last night’s Tigers game was gushing about Justin Verlander, and sticking with that narrative even though, on the merits, the performance wasn’t all that great: eight innings pitched, four earned runs.

I agree with the general point, but I must quibble with Posnanski’s use of Verlander as an example of this.

For one thing, four runs in eight innings against an offense like the Yankees on short rest (or however you want to characterize pitching three days after Friday’s false start) isn’t anything to sneeze at.  Not otherworldly, strikeouts notwithstanding, and I agree with Posnanski that it’s way too easy to blow it out of proportion. But it’s not nothing.

More generally, I think the praise of Verlander last night and into this morning is less about his line score and more about him just being an amazing freak of nature who is outrageously fun to watch.  Posnanski himself describes it in his column: the crazy velocity, changing repertoire and control; the fact that he was still cracking 100 on the radar late in the game.  Setting aside his game score — and acknowledging that people who overstate his literal effectiveness are drinking Verlander Kool-Aid — that stuff was pretty damn remarkable, and it’s thus understandable that it is being remarked upon so much.

This all falls under a theory I’ve cited many times recently in which our friend Ken Arneson reminds us to “Remember the Beer.”  That enjoying something and wishing to honor it some way is a totally different matter than properly assessing something and wishing to praise it in a different way.

We can appreciate that Dwight Evans was objectively better than Jim Rice, but if people want to recall Jim Rice’s exploits more fondly because they took great enjoyment from them back in 1978, so be it.  We can be in awe of Wily Mo Pena’s home runs even though, by every objective measure, Wily Mo Pena sucks.  The point is that just as we should never let our fond memories of a player shake our objective assessment of his merits (no matter how much I enjoyed Jack Morris’ career, he wasn’t a great pitcher), we shouldn’t let the objective assessment of the player detract from our enjoyment of him.  Same goes for movies and records and art and stuff too, by the way, but that’s another essay.

As for Verlander: no, his performance was not “great” last night in an objective way.  But it was dazzling. And enjoyable as all hell unless you’re a Yankees fan. And if people want to talk that up to the heavens today, I see no real reason to take any issue with that.

Video: Andrew Toles hammers grand slam in Cactus League win

Getty Images
2 Comments

Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.

Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).

Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.

David Price’s season debut could be pushed back to May

Getty Images
1 Comment

David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.

Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:

[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.

The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.