Major League Baseball and the Washington Nationals have issued a joint statement regarding the Wilson Ramos kidnapping:
“Our foremost concern is with Wilson Ramos and his family and our thoughts are with them at this time. Major League Baseball’s Department of Investigations is working with the appropriate authorities on this matter. Both Major League Baseball and the Washington Nationals have been instructed to make no further comment.”
I assume those instructions came from law enforcement. When someone is being held, it’s probably best to keep mum for fear of inspiring rash action by the kidnappers. This is all so horrifying.
Going beyond the specifics a bit, it’s inescapable that Major League Baseball is going to have to reevaluate its relationship with the Venezuelan baseball establishment. As ESPN’s Jorge Arangure tweeted a while ago, MLB has a say in the playing conditions of the Venezuelan Winter League — things like turf and infield dirt and locker rooms and stuff — to ensure player safety. What is unclear, however, is what level of involvement MLB has with respect to security, whether they should have such involvement, how much, how should it be effected and that sort of thing. Personal bodyguards?
Or, heck, maybe we’re at a point where MLB should strongly consider or outright ban its players from playing in Venezuela altogether. I don’t know. That’s probably a kneejerk reaction. Ramos is a Venezuelan native, after all, and while he was playing in the winter league, it’s just as likely that he could have been taken from his home even if he was merely resting all offseason. Any player in Venezuela is a potential target, whether he’s playing there or simply living in the town in which he was born.
But as Arangure notes, things are getting bad down there: players threatened, scouts mugged in the airport, etc. This was probably inevitable. And, absent something being done, will certainly happen again.
Former first base and infield coach Nick Leyva was promoted to senior advisor of baseball operations on Saturday, per a report by Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The Pirates also fired third base coach Rick Sofield, with no named successor as of yet.
Leyva joined the Pirates’ organization in the 2011 offseason as a third base coach under manager Clint Hurdle. He shifted to his role as the first base coach and infield coach in 2014, when first base coach Rick Sofield was reassigned to third base prior to the 2015 season. According to Biertempfel, the swap was made in order to optimize the team’s baserunning strategies, all of which appeared to fall flat during the 2015 and 2016 seasons:
The results this season were awful. The Pirates ranked 13th in the National League with a minus-7.0 BsR — a FanGraphs.com metric that measures how many runs above or below league average a team gets via its baserunning.
In 2013 and 2014, the Pirates had one of the top five BsR ratings in the NL. In 2015, they were seventh with a 2.8 BsR.
This season, the Pirates made the second-most outs at third base in the league and were last in taking extra bases on singles and doubles. Their baserunners went from first to third base on hits a league-low 63 times.
Sofield, in particular, highlighted the Pirates’ poor baserunning choices in games like this one, when he sent Sean Rodriguez home too early during the last vestige of a ninth inning rally against the Phillies.
Following the announcement, Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington issued a statement elaborating on Leyva’s role within the organization:
We have great respect and appreciation for both men. We thank them for their time and effort as part of our Major League team and the Pirates organization. It was a difficult decision, but we felt it was the right time to make this change on our Major League staff. We look forward to Nick’s continued impact in his future role with the Pirates. Nick has held nearly every coaching position at the major league level and at the minor league level, including Major League manager, in his extensive career and will be a quality mentor for our minor league managers, coaches and players.
With Game 6 of the NLCS just hours away, the Dodgers will opt for a lefty-heavy lineup against right-hander Kyle Hendricks. Batting leadoff is rookie outfielder Andrew Toles, who made one appearance at the top of the lineup during the 2016 season. The Cubs, meanwhile, will bench Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.. This will be Almora’s first start of the playoffs, and while he has yet to face Kershaw in October, his right-handed bat could play well against the lefty at the bottom of the lineup.
Game time is scheduled for 8 PM EDT; lineups are below.
1. Andrew Toles (L) LF
6. Wilson Contreras (R) C
8. Albert Almora Jr. (R) RF
9. Kyle Hendricks (R) RHP