Cleveland Indians v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Mike Scioscia gets defensive about the Mike Napoli trade


Mike Napoli continuing his spectacular season in the playoffs has led to the Angels being criticized for trading him in a deal for Vernon Wells and manager Mike Scioscia being criticized for never being the biggest Napoli fan.

Scioscia got defensive when that topic was raised during a radio interview yesterday, saying:

We did not butt heads, that’s absolutely false. Mike had to work on stuff that didn’t come naturally to him, more so than other catchers who maybe do it more naturally. … I think we have to wait a couple years first. Right now, it’s obvious. Mike Napoli is having an incredible run with Texas. He was certainly capable of doing what he did and we valued him. The thing that cracks me up is when people say we didn’t think he was any good. We played him a lot more than Texas has this year over his career with us.

Napoli, of course, had a much different take on his time with Scioscia and the Angels, telling the Dallas Morning News earlier this season:

I always felt like I was looking over my shoulder to see if I was doing things right. I had “bad hands.” I was so worried about my setup and the mechanics all the time. I learned a lot. I learned a lot of what I do there, but playing there just wasn’t much fun.

Scioscia often preferred Jeff Mathis’ inept bat and good glove over Napoli’s slugging, and while some of what the manager says about Napoli’s time with the Angels is surely true there’s no getting around that fact. Now that the Angels have parted ways with general manager Tony Reagins there are tons of reports about how Scioscia has really been running things for years and the perception–right or wrong–that he helped push Napoli out of town isn’t going away any time soon.

NL Wild Card Game: Cubs vs. Pirates lineups

Jake Arrieta

Here are the Cubs and Pirates lineups for tonight’s Wild Card game in Pittsburgh:

CF Dexter Fowler
RF Kyle Schwarber
LF Kris Bryant
1B Anthony Rizzo
3B Tommy La Stella
2B Starlin Castro
C Miguel Montero
SS Addison Russell
SP Jake Arrieta

Cubs manager Joe Maddon wanted Tommy La Stella in the lineup over Jorge Soler or Chris Coghlan, so he starts at third base and Kris Bryant shifts to left field. Bryant started just four games in left field all season, compared to 136 starts at third base. Also of note: After batting Addison Russell ninth–behind the pitcher–116 times this season Maddon has him in the more traditional eighth spot tonight.

RF Gregory Polanco
3B Josh Harrison
CF Andrew McCutchen
LF Starling Marte
C Francisco Cervelli
2B Neil Walker
SS Jordy Mercer
1B Sean Rodriguez
SP Gerrit Cole

Pedro Alvarez started 119 games at first base for the Pirates and with right-hander Jake Arrieta on the mound he was the presumed starter tonight, but instead manager Clint Hurdle has benched the 27-homer slugger in favor of utility man Sean Rodriguez. Alvarez is vastly superior to Rodriguez offensively, especially versus a righty, but he’s also very shaky defensively. During the regular season Rodriguez started a grand total of one game at first base against a right-hander, so this qualifies as a hunch by Hurdle.

The Cardinals are optimistic about Yadier Molina’s status

St. Louis Cardinals' Yadier Molina celebrates as he arrives home after hitting a solo home run during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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Jenifer Langosch of reports that Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina‘s bum thumb responded well after participating in baseball activities Tuesday, including catching, hitting, blocking balls and the like.

This morning Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said that he’s now even more optimistic that Molina will be on the NLDS roster. The Cards’ first game will be Friday against the winner of tonight’s Cubs-Pirates tilt.

Having Molina would obviously be a boon for the Cardinals on the field. For a look at what Molina means to the Cardinals off the field, however, take some time to go read Derrick Goold’s excellent story about what Molina’s teammates think of him. Short version: the world. It’s worth your time, even if you’re not a citizen of Cardinals Nation.