Overaggressive Cardinals come up empty in Game 5 loss

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In getting shut out by the Giants on Friday, the Cardinals never worked a walk against Barry Zito and company. Their one free pass was intentional, as Pete Kozma was walked ahead of the pitcher to set up an inning-ending double play in the second inning.

In all, the Cardinals have drawn a total of eight unintentional walks in five games against the Giants. That’s a remarkably low total from an offense that finished fourth in the NL with 533 walks. And it’s not like the Giants have been throwing Cliff Lee over and over again. They were seventh in the NL in walks allowed by their pitchers, at 489.

Matt Holliday and Jon Jay have been the most aggressive of the Cardinals hitters so far, and it seems to be taking a toll. Holliday went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts tonight and is 4-for-21 with no extra-base hits in the series. He hasn’t homered since the wild card game against the Braves two weeks ago. Jay, the Cardinals’ leadoff man, is 5-for-21 with no walks. He’s also been awful in road games all year long, so there’s a case for sitting him with the series returning to St. Louis on Sunday. However, the Cardinals value his defense so highly that it’s unlikely they’d go that route.

At the very least, hitting coach Mark McGwire should have talks with both. For Holliday, this is shaping up as his sixth lousy postseason series in seven total series with the Cardinals. He hit .289 with five homers and 10 RBI during the Rockies’ World Series run in 2007, but since arriving in St. Louis in 2009, he’s come in at .250 with three homers and 13 RBI in 108 at-bats. Much of that production came in last year’s NLCS against the Brewers. He went 3-for-19 with no RBI in the World Series last year, and he’s hitting .222 with seven RBI in 45 at-bats so far this month.

Must-Click Link: Where’s Timmy?

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Tim Lincecum last pitched last season for the Angels and he did not pitch well. Over the winter and into the spring there were reports that he was working out at a facility somewhere in Arizona with an aim toward trying to latch on to another team. He didn’t. And, given how his velocity and effectiveness had nosedived over the previous few seasons, it was probably unrealistic to think he’d make it back to the bigs.

But now, as Daniel Brown of the Mercury News reports, he seems to simply be gone.

He’s not missing in any legal sense — his friends and family know where he is — but he’s out of the public eye in a way that most players at the end of their careers or the beginning of their retirements usually aren’t. He’s not been hanging around his old club, even though the Giants say they’d love to honor him and give him a job if and when he announces his retirement. He’s not hanging around his high school or college alma maters even though he makes his home in Seattle, where they are. He’s gone from being one of the most identifiable and conspicuous presences in baseball to having disappeared from the public eye.

Brown’s story is an excellent one, touching on Lincecum’s professional rise and professional fall, as well as the personality traits that may suggest why he’s not eager to be making headlines or posing for pictures. A good read.

 

Major League Baseball claims it will “redouble its efforts” on expanded netting

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Yesterday, during the Minnesota Twins-New York Yankees game at Yankee Stadium, a young girl was injured after a foul ball flew off the bat of Todd Frazier and into the stands along the third base line where she was sitting. In some parks that ball would be stopped because of netting down the line.

There was no netting that far down the line in Yankee Stadium, because (a) Major League Baseball does not require it; and (b) the Yankees have still not committed to expanding it like other teams have.

A few minutes ago, Commissioner Rob Manfred released a statement about the injury:

I’m not sure how baseball can “redouble” its efforts given that its efforts thus far have been to completely delegate the responsibility of expanded netting to the 30 clubs.

This delegation came in December of 2015 when Major League Baseball released its recommendation — not its mandate — that teams provide expanded netting. Teams were “encouraged” to shield the seats between the near ends of both dugouts (i.e., the ends of the dugouts located closest to home plate) and within 70 feet of home plate with protective netting or other safety materials of the clubs’ choice. At the same time, they launched “fan education” guidelines about where to sit and whether or not they’ll be protected.

While these recommendations were better than nothing, they also seemed far more geared toward diminishing the liability of the league and its clubs than actively protecting fans from screaming projectiles.

The stuff about fan education was obviously a creature of an assumption-of-the-risk calculus. It was, essentially, a disclaimer of the “don’t say we didn’t warn you” variety and, as such, was aimed more at shielding baseball from liability over batted ball or bat-shard injuries than at directly shielding fans from such injuries. Even the netting recommendation could be construed as MLB insulating itself from being joined in a lawsuit at a later date if a club were to get sued over a fan injury. A way of saying “hey, we told the Yankees [or whoever] that they should do more, please don’t sue us too.”

It’s one thing to do all of that and walk away, as the league seemed content to do in 2015. It’s another thing to walk back today, as Manfred is, claiming that the league will “redouble” such transparently ineffective efforts. It’s frankly insulting. Yet this is baseball’s approach to the matter. The league is, for whatever reason, afraid to tell its clubs that it has to do something that is so clearly prudent. It, apparently, is waiting for a someone to be killed by a foul ball before mandating netting rather than meekly suggesting it.

Oh, I’m sorry. Waiting for someone else to be killed. Because it has happened before. Absent prudent protections it will, inevitably, happen again.

While Major League Baseball may have been safe from being held responsible for such things due to its ticket disclaimers and assumption of the risk arguments in the past, it won’t be in the future. One would hope it will not take death or debilitating injury of a fan for the league to accept it.