Autumn Sunset

Bye-bye regular season

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I’m glad the last day of the season is happening on Ocotber 3. My favorite final day of the season in my lifetime happened on October 3. It was 1993. I spent that day in Cleveland, at the last game ever played at old Cleveland Municipal Stadium. The Tribe — with a young Albert Belle, Kenny Lofton, Jim Thome and Carlos Baerga — were taking on the first place Chicago White Sox. The Sox won 4-0, but the packed house — over 72,000 for a baseball game, which was insane — cheered like crazy anyway.

First they cheered for the fact that Belle beat out Frank Thomas for the RBI crown (this was before we all learned that RBI didn’t really matter). Then they cheered for the fact that Cleveland native Bob Hope ended the day by standing on home plate and singing “Thanks for the Memories.” He was a bit wobbly by 1993, but no one cared. It was a treat.

Another reason why October 3, 1993 was fantastic?  As I watched the Indians and the Sox do their thing, I was scoreboard watching. And what I watched was the Braves beating the the Rockies handily, as David Neid, alas, was bested by Tom Glavine. Meanwhile, as Bob Hope sang, the Dodgers-Giants game was underway, but not yet decided. It wasn’t until I got down to my friend’s parents house in Wooster for Sunday dinner that we learned — via radio, not the Internet because the Internet was something you used at the campus computer lab in those days and, really, where were you going to get scores on that thing anyway? — that the Dodgers won, ending the last of the great division title races.  Man, what a day!

We won’t have any parks filled with 77,000 people today. And, with all of the playoff participants decided, we have no win-or-go-home games left to play.  But we do have the A’s and Rangers facing off in a win-or-play-the-wild-card-game thing. And the Orioles and Yankees could still end in a tie, forcing extra baseball tomorrow.  That’s not nothing.

Also not nothing: the fact that, for the last time until next spring, we have a slate of 15 ballgames. And no matter how great the playoffs can be, they’re … different than regular season baseball. Things become more important and more pitched and intense and that’s good. But today does mean the end of easy going, relaxing baseball for baseball’s sake that characterizes so much of the regular season. And I’ll miss that, even as things get all crazy over the next month.

Bye-bye 2012 regular season. You were pretty darn good to us.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

Screenshot 2016-02-07 at 10.16.43 AM
Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.