You could fill a book with the things I was wrong and deluded about in 1986, but one thing I was certain of was that Houston Astros pitcher Mike Scott was scuffing baseballs.
Yeah, people were all taken at the time with the notion that the splitter was some vexing form of sorcery, but it strained credulity that Scott — after an exceedingly pedestrian career to that point — suddenly figured out all of the secrets to pitching in 1986, doubling his strikeout rate on the back of some newfound hyper-command of his split-fingered fastball. Way more likely that he just figured out how to properly install an old nail or a thumbtack in his glove — perfect for scuffing purposes — so that it wouldn’t be detected.
Scott still hasn’t totally come clean on that, but in an interview he gave for MLB Network’s upcoming documentary about the 1986 postseason, he comes as close to a full confession as any crafty ball-doctorer ever will:
They can believe whatever they want to believe. Every ball that hits the ground has something on it. … I’ve thrown balls that were scuffed but I haven’t scuffed every ball that I’ve thrown.
I love that passive voice: “balls that were scuffed.” It’s OK, Mike. We all know. We’ve known for 25 years. You gave us a fun, improbable 300+ strikeout season that was nice to plug into our Lance Haffner sim baseball game for our Commodore 64s and your treachery, while almost impacting the results of the 1986 season, ultimately didn’t carry the day. We’re cool with it. Really, we are. Now give us a big hug.
(link via Mets Blog)
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.
According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals are keeping an eye on outfield prospect Luis Robert. The 19-year-old left his native Cuba last November and is expected to command interest from multiple MLB teams as he approaches free agency. Goold adds that the Cardinals sent scouts to evaluate Robert’s workouts in the Dominican Republic as recently as last week.
There’s still a good chance that the club won’t get a shot at signing him; as Craig mentioned last month, it seems likely that Major League Baseball won’t declare Robert a free agent until after June 15. By July 2, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement’s policies on international bonuses will go into effect, handcuffing teams with the maximum penalty for bonuses to a $300,000 signing figure for any available international prospect. It’s designed to effectively take away those teams’ abilities to sign additional international talent, and the Cardinals have already spent a reported $9.35 million in bonuses on Venezuelan outfielder Victor Garcia, Cuban outfielders Jonatan Machado and Randy Arozarena and Cuban right-hander Johan Oviedo.
Until the cutoff in mid-June, the Cardinals are likely to continue actively scouting other international talent, including Robert. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez quotes an anonymous National League scouting director who describes Robert as the No. 2 talent behind Japanese wunderkind Shohei Otani. The 19-year-old hit .286/.319/.397 with a .716 OPS during a 16-game run in the Canadian-American League in 2016, following up an impressive three-year tenure with the Ciego de Avila in the Cuban National Series from 2013-2015.