Choking, in my view, is what happens when someone faces a pressure situation and responds in an unusual and suboptimal way. Sometimes it’s more physical than mental – I know I missed a couple of wide open nets playing soccer back in the day — and sometimes it’s all mental. My opinion is that Yadier Molina choked when he decided to drop down a sac bunt in the top of the ninth inning down a run against the Padres last night.
Make no mistake: Molina had never before bunted in such a situation. Of the 42 sac bunt attempts he had made in his career, three had come with his team down a run. All three of those — one in 2005, one in 2006 and one in 2007* — had come with his team at home, when playing for the tie makes a lot more sense. They also all came when Molina was a lesser hitter than he is now.
So, Molina made a decision he wouldn’t normally make. It took place in the ninth inning of a big game with the Cardinals on the verge of being swept. And it hurt the Cardinals’ chances of winning (by drastically reducing the chances of a multi-run inning). That’s pretty much my definition of choking.
*(In case you were curious, he was successful on all three of those bunt attempts and two of them helped the Cardinals win the game. The 2005 bunt came in the seventh inning and led to a game-tying run, though given that two hits followed, one guesses they would have at least tied it regardless. In the 2006 game, Molina gave up the out in the ninth and the Cardinals went on to score two runs to win anyway. In the 2007 loss to the Pirates, Albert Pujols ended up popping up with the bases loaded to end it.)
Chris Sale was recently suspended five games by the White Sox over a heated confrontation with front office staff over an issue concerning throwback uniforms the team was to wear against the Tigers. Sale was scratched from his scheduled start, forcing Matt Albers to make a spot start.
Ken Rosenthal reports that the White Sox players also collectively protested over another issue. The club was in Seattle for a three-game series at Safeco Field from July 18-20 last week. The Mariners have a new clubhouse policy that, as Rosenthal describes, redirects 60 percent of the dues into an account managed by the team. White Sox players did not agree with the policy because “Mariners management unilaterally entered a financial relationship that historically has existed between only players and ‘clubbies,'” Rosenthal explains.
Clubhouse attendants handle a lot of the players’ needs, typically doing a litany of chores throughout the day. They don’t get paid handsomely for their labor, so players often tip the clubhouse attendants for their hard work. The White Sox were protesting that the money was being redirected from the hardworking clubbies to the front office.
Mariners GM Jerry DiPoto confirmed that the White Sox were the first team to refuse payment to the visiting clubhouse manager Jeff Bopp. DiPoto also noted that other teams have reacted with “curiosity” and that the Giants backtracked after adjusting its clubhouse procedures last year following complaints from visiting players.
This is the third controversy in which the White Sox have been involved. Before the start of the regular season, some members of the club were upset that Adam LaRoche — now retired — often brought his son Drake into the clubhouse. Then there’s the Sale incident, and now this. Needless to say, it’s been an interesting year for the White Sox.
Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports that the entire Rangers “inner circle of front office personnel” was on hand to watch Edinson Volquez start for the Royals against the Rangers on Sunday. Volquez went six innings, giving up a lone run on seven hits and three walks with three strikeouts.
Volquez, 33, is earning $9.5 million this season and can become a free agent after the season if his team chooses to buy him out for $3 million instead of picking up their end of his $10 million mutual option for 2017. GM Jon Daniels said he was hoping the club would be able to avoid considering rentals, but as the club has dealt with injuries, the strength of the starting rotation has become a concern. Colby Lewis and Derek Holland are both on the disabled list. Yu Darvish has made only five starts since making his season debut in late May. Meanwhile, Kyle Lohse — who has given up 13 runs in two starts — has occupied the back of the rotation. A reliable starter would go along way towards helping the 57-42 Rangers fight to keep first place in the AL West.
Jon Morosi of FOX Sports also reports that the Rangers have shown interest in young Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez, but they would pay a much higher price for him than for Volquez. Velasquez has a 3.34 ERA with a 103/34 K/BB ratio in 91 2/3 innings for the Phillies this season.