Tony La Russa whines about his team being accused of whining

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Tony La Russa and the Cardinals have been vocal about mid-afternoon start times recently.  It started back in the regular season, actually, but this week we’ve once again heard about how the shadows that fall across the field at around 4PM Central time make it difficult for the Cardinals. I suppose it makes it difficult for both teams, but let’s not concern ourselves with that.

We’ve heard the complaint enough that, understandably, some people have accused La Russa and the Cardinals of using the shadows as an excuse. Of — dare I say it? — whining.  Well, La Russa takes exception to his team being called a bunch of whiners. If you’re less charitable than me,* you might even characterize it as whining:

Sensitive to characterizations of his players as “whining” over visibility issues during Game 3 Tuesday afternoon, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa used blunt language to admonish media members for their presentation of the issue … “If you don’t answer the question, then you’re not cooperative. If you do answer the question, you come out like excuse-makers,” La Russa asserted. “That really (angers me). If there’s one thing this team is not it is excuse-makers. … The only thing that can not be ignored, it can be dangerous.”

He later added, “Anyone who would accuse this team of whining has not been around it. That’s an insult to me and to them.”

I get La Russa’s point here — sometimes you can’t win — but at some point you just gotta zip it, because you can’t complain your way out of being accused of being a complainer.

*Oh, wait. Sorry. 

James Paxton will “nerd out big-time” to stay healthy next year

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To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.

So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”

When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.

Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.