Giants’ catcher switch a complete bust for Bruce Bochy

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The real question is why Hector Sanchez ever started catching Tim Lincecum in the first place this year.

Yeah, Lincecum got off to an awful start this year with Buster Posey catching him. But who made that about Posey? Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner certainly didn’t have any problem with Posey. And Lincecum was extremely successful throwing to Posey in 2011, amassing a 1.55 ERA in 62 2/3 innings.

If Lincecum has a legitimate problem with Posey — and there’s been speculation to that effect — he needs to get over it. And it’s part of Bruce Bochy’s job to make sure that happens.

Lincecum did have some early success throwing to Sanchez this year, but in the end, it really didn’t matter much. There was an ERA difference: Lincecum had a 4.87 ERA working with Sanchez and a 5.46 ERA working with Posey, but nothing really backed that up. The league hit .255/.341/.414 against Lincecum with Sanchez catching and .258/.340/.429 against him with Posey catching. In pretty much the same number of innings, baserunners were 18-for-20 stealing against Lincecum-Sanchez and 6-for-6 against Lincecum-Posey.

Plus, Lincecum did just great in relief throwing to Posey in the postseason, pitching four scoreless innings in two appearances.

But there was Sanchez behind the plate for Thursday’s Game 4 against the Cardinals. It did Lincecum no good, as he gave up four runs in 4 2/3 innings to take a loss, and Sanchez ended up going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts at the plate. He also dropped a relay on a play at the plate in the fifth, opening the door for a two-run inning. He did manage to throw out a would-be basestealer, but that was the only highlight of the night.

This should put an end to the foolishness, anyway. If the Giants do come back and win the NLCS, one imagines that Posey will be the choice to catch Lincecum in the World Series. And if they don’t, the Giants need to work out whatever differences Lincecum and Posey have, as this arrangement simply can’t be allowed to linger into 2013.

MLB managers weigh in on anthem protests

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No other Major League Baseball player has taken a knee during the National Anthem since Athletics’ catcher Bruce Maxwell‘s protest on Saturday night. The demonstration was sparked by President Donald Trump’s call for the boycott of the National Football League and the firing of any player who chose not to stand during the anthem. The comments drew harsh criticism from many NFL players, coaches and owners and more than a few in MLB have also lended their support. There is still one game left to play on Sunday, but it’s unclear whether any of Maxwell’s league-mates will show their solidarity by refusing to stand as well.

Given a baseball culture that tends toward conformity more often than not, it seems unlikely. But it’s something league managers are prepared for — even if they don’t all agree with the demonstrations themselves.

White Sox’ skipper Rick Renteria specifically addressed Maxwell’s protest on Sunday, speaking to the league’s policy of inclusivity:

None of the White Sox knelt prior to their series finale against the Royals. Neither did members of the Pirates or the Cardinals, though St. Louis manager Mike Matheny and Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington both weighed in on the situation.

Matheny called the president’s comments “hurtful” and, like the Cubs’ Joe Maddon, appeared content to leave the decision to protest up to each player.

The Pirates, meanwhile, took a firmer tone. “We appreciate our players’ desire and ability to express their opinions respectfully and when done properly,” GM Huntington told Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “When done appropriately and properly, we certainly have respect for our players’ ability to voice their opinion.”

Just what the Pirates consider “appropriate and proper” protocol was left up in the air, and club president Frank Coonelly offered no further insights in a separate statement to the press. Setting strict parameters for players to voice their opinions kind of puts them in a gray area, one they’ll have to clear up should someone elect to protest in the days to come, either with a bent knee and a hand over their heart or in some other fashion.

Equally ambiguous were comments from Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts, who claimed to oppose the movement for personal, if misguided reasons, but also respected the right of his players to make an “educated” statement in protest.

The Indians’ Terry Francona took what was perhaps the most balanced approach of the entire group:

“It’s easy for me to sit here and say, ‘Well, I think this is the greatest country in the world,’ because I do,” Francona told MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. “But, I also haven’t walked in other people’s shoes. So, until I think, not just our country, but our world, until we realize that, hey, people are actually equal — it shouldn’t be a revelation — and the different doesn’t mean less. It’s just different. We’ve got work to do.”

These may all be moot points. Maxwell may be the only player to formally protest Trump’s comments, despite the good intentions of his teammates and fellow players around the league. Others may feel too ambivalent, threatened or uncomfortable to protest what the A’s catcher referred to as a “racial divide,” especially in a way that is routinely perceived as unpatriotic.

Even if the protests made by NFL players and Bruce Maxwell fail to gain momentum, however, the underlying issues they speak to are not going away anytime soon. Here, then, is where MLB managers can help foster a more inclusive environment throughout the league, not only by showing respect for a player’s decision to stand against racism but by actively partnering with those who do so. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a start.

Nationals plan to activate Bryce Harper on Monday

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The Nationals are planning to activate Bryce Harper from the 10-day disabled list on Monday, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reports. Janes adds that Harper has been taking his knee injury on a day-to-day basis, so if he experiences pain ahead of tomorrow’s series opener in Philadelphia, then the Nationals won’t activate him.

Harper, 24, suffered a knee injury running out a grounder last month against the Giants. The Nationals hope to get him into some game action before the end of the regular season just so he can get acclimated in time for the playoffs.

When Harper returns, he’ll look to improve on his .326/.419/.614 slash line with 29 home runs, 87 RBI, and 92 runs scored in 472 plate appearances.