The Monstrosity

Really now, what should the Marlins have done?


Look, I’d be just as happy to kick Jeffrey Loria to the curb as the rest of you. I’m not going to slam him for all of the sliminess involving the Marlins ballpark deal because in those maneuverings, he’s basically just doing everything Bud Selig wants his owners to do. But, yeah, as far as MLB owners go, I think he’s the worst of the bunch.

That said, what should the Marlins be doing differently right now? They went for it, signing Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell to big contracts, and they came up way short. Should they have tried to re-sign Anibal Sanchez to a four-year, $48 million deal and gone forward with the same bunch of guys who couldn’t get it done this year? It wouldn’t have made a lot of sense.

I don’t see this as nearly as disgusting as the Marlins’ previous fire sales. They tried their damnedest with Hanley Ramirez and it just didn’t look like it was going to work out. Trading him wasn’t all about saving money — if the reports are correct, they offered to pay $20 million of what he was still owed in order to get better prospects for the A’s — it was also about trying to build a team in which the pieces fit better than they may look on paper.

And it’s not like the Marlins have done any real damage with their spending. None of the contracts they gave out last winter established a new market for players. Six years and $106 million for Reyes? Someone else would have gone that high had the Marlins not moved so quickly. Four years and $58 million for Buehrle? That’s the deal that looked the most out of line at the time, but then, he made $56 million over the previous four years. Three years and $27 million for Bell? Of course, it looks like a bust now, but he had the track record. Maybe no other team would have gone three years at that rate, but he would have received at least $18 million for two years elsewhere.

Honestly, I think the Marlins are going about things the right way now. Given his history of arm problems and his status as one of the top three free agent pitchers available this winter, Sanchez was going to be a very risky signing. And as great as Ramirez was a few years ago, I’m not convinced he ever would have turned it around in Miami.

But with those two gone, the Marlins are facing their toughest decision; whether to trade Josh Johnson. If they keep him, they’re not going to be in bad position going into 2013. A rotation that includes Johnson, Buehrle and the newly acquired Nathan Eovaldi, along with probably either Ricky Nolasco or Carlos Zambrano andwith two premium youngsters on the way in Jacob Turner and Jose Fernandez looks pretty good. One of the Marlins’ biggest issues this year is that neither Giancarlo Stanton nor Logan Morrison has ever been 100 percent. Stanton still has MVP potential, and Morrison could break through offensively and prove more useful defensively at first base. If they use their savings this week to bring in a premium outfielder and a quality third baseman, they could pose a threat in the NL East.

Or they could continue down this path and sell Johnson. As difficult as he’d be to replace in free agency, it’d make a run in 2013 far less likely. On the other hand, they’d have the chance to continue to add to a farm system that entered 2012 as one of the game’s weakest and maybe bolster their chances for 2014 and beyond. I like the idea of retaining Johnson; the NL East should be winnable next year and the Marlins need to try to keep people interested in coming to their new ballpark. Still, if the Rangers are willing to offer a Hanley replacement in Mike Olt and a quality pitching prospect, it might be hard to turn down.

Game 2 is going to be the poster child for pace of play arguments this winter

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 26:  Zach McAllister #34 of the Cleveland Indians is relieved by manager Terry Francona during the fifth inning against the Chicago Cubs in Game Two of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 26, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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In August, it was reported that Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred would like to implement pitch clocks, like those in use in the minor leagues for the past two seasons, to improve the pace-of-play at the major league level. You can bet that last night’s Game 2 will be the lead argument he uses against those who would oppose the move.

The game was moved up an hour in order to get it in before an impending storm. By the time the rain finally started falling the game had been going on for three hours and thirty-three minutes. It should’ve been over before the first drop fell, but in all it lasted four hours and four minutes. It ended in, thankfully, only a light rain. The longest nine-inning game in postseason history happened a mere two weeks ago, when the Dodgers and Nationals played for four hours and thirty two minutes. There thirteen pitchers were used. Last night ten pitchers were used. Either way, the postseason games are dragging on even for those of us who don’t mind devoting four+ hours of our night to baseball. It is likely putting off more casual fans just tuning in for the Fall Classic.

It’s not all just dawdling, however. Yes, the pitchers worked slowly and a lot of pitching changes took place, but strikeouts, walks and the lack of balls in play contribute to longer games as well. We saw this both last night and in Game 1, which was no brisk affair despite each starting pitcher looking sharp and not working terribly slowly. Twenty-four strikeouts on Tuesday night had a lot to do with that. Last night featured 20 strikeouts and thirteen — thirteen! — walks. It’s not just that the games are taking forever; the very thing causing them to drag feature baseball’s least-kinetic forms of excitement.

But no matter what the cause for the slower play was — and here it was a combination of laboring pitchers, the lack of balls in play and, of course, the longer commercial breaks in the World Series — Manfred is likely to hold Game 2 up as Exhibit A in his efforts to push through some rules changes to improve game pace and game time. So far, the centerpiece of those efforts is the pitch clock, which has proven to be successful and pretty non-controversial in the minor leagues. It would not surprise me one bit if, at this year’s Winter Meetings in Washington, a rule change in that regard is widely discussed.

Kyle Schwarber is the feel-good story of the 2016 postseason


Most baseball fans and even the Cubs had resigned themselves to most likely not seeing Kyle Schwarber in game action until spring training next year after he suffered a gruesome knee injury in a collision with teammate Dexter Fowler back in early April. Schwarber suffered a fully-torn ACL and LCL in his left leg.

To the surprise of everyone, including manager Joe Maddon, Schwarber was cleared by doctors to play if the Cubs wanted to put him on the World Series roster. So they did. And, boy, are they glad they did it. In preparation, Schwarber saw over 1,000 pitches from machines and pitchers in the Arizona Fall League.

Schwarber essentially crammed for the final exam and unlike most students who do it, it has panned out well thus far. No one was expecting him to look outstanding against Indians ace Corey Kluber in Game 1, but in his first at-bat — his first in the majors since suffering the injury in April — Schwarber worked a 3-1 count before eventually being retired on strikes. Schwarber came back up in the fourth and drilled a Kluber sinker to right field for a two-out double.

In the seventh inning, facing one of the American League’s two scariest left-handed relievers in Andrew Miller, Schwarber worked a full count before drawing a walk. During the regular season, Miller walked exactly one lefty batter. Schwarber made it two. Schwarber would face Miller again in the eighth, going ahead 2-1 before ultimately striking out. He finished 1-for-3 with a walk and a double in the Cubs’ 6-0 loss. Considering the circumstances, that’s amazing.

Schwarber continued his great approach in Game 2 in what turned out to be a 5-1 victory. He struck out against Trevor Bauer in the first inning, but returned to the batter’s box in the third inning and singled up the middle to knock in the Cubs’ second run. Schwarber made it 3-0 in the fifth when he singled up the middle again, this time off of Bryan Shaw, to make it 3-0. Facing Danny Salazar in the sixth, Schwarber drew a four-pitch walk to put runners on first and second base with two outs. Finally, he struck out against Dan Otero in his eighth-inning at-bat, finishing the evening 2-for-4 with a pair of RBI singles and a walk.

But now, as the Cubs return to Chicago for World Series Games 3, 4, and 5 at Wrigley Field, they have to contest with National League rules, a.k.a. no DH. Will Maddon risk Schwarber’s subpar defense to put his dangerous bat in the lineup? Even if Schwarber is not put in the starting lineup, he can at least serve as a dangerous bat off the bench late in the game when the Indians send out their trio of relievers in Shaw, Miller, and closer Cody Allen. At any rate, what Schwarber has done already in the first two games of the World Series is mighty impressive.