One year later, K-Rod replaces John Axford as closer

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6:15 p.m. EDT update: Brewers manager Ron Roenicke made it official today, saying Francisco Rodriguez would replace John Axford in the closer’s role for now.

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When the Brewers acquired Francisco Rodriguez from the Mets last July 12, they knew he wanted to close and tried to placate him by saying he and John Axford would be co-closers. Of course, that never materialized, and K-Rod ended up going without a save in 31 appearances during the second half of the save.

Now, one year later, K-Rod over Axford looks like a real possibility. Axford, who was stellar in racking up an NL-high 46 saves last year, blew his sixth save and took his sixth loss when he gave up three runs in the ninth Monday against the Cardinals. In his defense, none of the three hits he gave up were all that well struck. However, he put himself in a bad situation by walking two batters.

K-Rod hasn’t exactly been stellar himself, but he did pitch his fifth straight scoreless inning Monday. The stretch has lowered his ERA from 4.17  to 3.67. Axford is currently sitting at 5.35.

It’d be an interesting switch for the 42-47 Brewers. Rodriguez is a definite candidate to be traded if Milwaukee deems itself out of contention, and he’d likely be more attractive to suitors if he picked up a few saves over the next couple of weeks. He’s someone who could also potentially be moved in August, given his $8 million salary.

On the other hand, the Brewers are still hoping Axford is their long-term closer, and it wouldn’t be sending him a very good message to pull him in favor of someone who could be dealt at any time. If the Brewers do make the switch, they should advertise as a short-term move and tell Axford he’ll get his job back if he performs.

Oh good, it’s “Yasiel Puig is a showboat” season

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With the Los Angeles Dodgers punching their ticket to the World Series, Yasiel Puig is now going to be the subject of commentary by people who tend not to care about Yasiel Puig until it’s useful for them to write outraged columns or go on talk radio rants about baseball deportment.

We got a brief teaser of this last night when, after scoring the Dodgers’ ninth run on a Logan Forsythe double, TBS analyst Ron Darling criticized Puig for his “shenanigans” and “rubbing it in.” Never mind that his third base coach was waving him home and that, if he didn’t run hard, he was just as likely to be criticized for dogging it. In other news, baseball teams don’t stop trying in the fourth inning of baseball games, nor should they.

That was just an appetizer, though. The first real course of the “Puig is a problem” feast we’re likely to be served over the next week and a half comes from Phil Mushnick of the New York Post, who wrote it even before the Dodgers won Game 5 last night:

If you were raised to love baseball and to recognize the smart, winning kind from everything less, the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig is insufferable. As the sport is diminished by professionals who disregard the basic act of running to first base as a matter of style, Puig, an incurable home-plate poser, often makes turning doubles and triples into singles appear effortless . . . In the postseason, Puig continues to behave as if he’s in the Home Run Derby. He even seems to relish his high-risk flamboyant foolishness despite frequent backfires.

This may as well be a fill in the blanks column from 2013 or 2014, when “Puig is a flashy showboater who costs his team more than he gives it” columns were all the rage. It ignores the fact that Puig, commonly dinged for being lazy, worked his butt off in 2017, particularly on defense, to the point where he has a strong case for a Gold Glove this year. It also ignores his .455/.538/.727 line in the NLDS sweep of the Diamondbacks and his .389/.500/.611 line against the Cubs in the NLCS. In the regular season he set career highs for games, homers, RBI, stolen bases and almost set a career high for walks despite having seventy fewer plate appearances than he did back in 2013 when he walked 67 times. He’s not the MVP candidate some thought he might be, but he’s a fantastic player who has been a key part of the Dodgers winning their first pennant in 29 years.

But the dings on Puig from the likes of Mushnick have rarely been about production. They’ve simply been about style and the manner in which he’s carried himself. To the extent those issues were legitimate points of criticism — particularly his tardiness, his relationships with his teammates and his at times questionable dedication — they have primarily been in-house concerns for the Dodgers, not the casual fan like Mushnick. On that score the Dodgers have dealt with Puig and, by all accounts, Puig has responded pretty well. An occasional lapse to be sure, but nothing which makes him a greater burden than a benefit. I mean, if he was, would be be batting cleanup in a pennant-clinching game?

So if the beef with Puig is not really about baseball, what could Phil Mushnick’s issue with him possible be?

I, for one, have no idea whatsoever.