SAN FRANCISCO — The crowd at AT&T Park cheered a 5-4 putout in the first inning of last night’s Game 1 as though it were a walkoff home run in Game 7. This is not a criticism. It is merely an observation. They were hyped from the get-go — I think it started with the Blue Angels flyover following the National Anthem — and had every reason to remain hyped throughout.
So hyped, I assume, that they wouldn’t want to think too hard about the fact that the Giants won Game 1 in the 2002 World Series too, and that their playoff series wins so far this year all began with Game 1 losses. Put a less annoying way: it is still only one game and anything can happen in a seven game series, even if it did feel like the beginning of a trouncing.
I’ve mocked narratives pretty constantly lately, but two of them which were widely adopted before last night’s game started have fresh currency today: (1) the Tigers were going to be rusty; and (2) the Giants had momentum. They may not have a basis in reality, of course — Justin Verlander’s velocity and lack of command of his fastball was such that fatigue, rather than rust may be the bigger problem and, if anything, the Giants habit of losing the early games of the series and then roaring back is anti-momentum — but I doubt that will change the overall story. The Tigers layoff and big San Francisco MO are likely going to be all the rage today.
A few things we certainly can take away from Game 1 (apart from Pablo Sandoval’s history-making performance anyway):
- The Tigers looked lost against slow junk like Zito was flinging. The Giants shouldn’t give them fastballs all week;
- That little weird double that kicked off the third inning rally — the one that ricocheted off the third base bag — is the second weirdo vodoo hit the Giants have had in the past two games. If they get something like that or the Hunter Pence broken bat dipsy-doodle in Game 2, they are officially charmed and wicked in some strange way;
- It may have been overlooked because the game was already out of hand, but the Tigers bullpen is still a hot mess and based on how he looked in mopup duty last night Jose Valverde should not be given the ball again. Not even once. Even in a blowout he’s so unreliable that Leyland has to use other relievers just to bail him out. He should be done.
- It’s random, but someone needs to talk to Delmon Young about where he’s playing left field. I watched the game from way up high in the auxiliary press box in left, and I could not see Young, he was so close to the wall. Given how bad his arm is, anything hit out that way to him should be an instant double. Not sure what that was all about.
That’s all I have as far as in-game action goes (I’ll have more on-the-scene observations a bit later this morning). The Tigers have to shake this one off. It’s still just one game. If people still want to credit momentum, fine, but the idea of momentum being your next day’s starting pitcher has been around a lot longer than the current momentum story. So it’s up to Doug Fister to re-set the storylines.
It was reported Sunday that free agent right-hander Johnny Cueto had turned down a six-year, $120 million contract from the Diamondbacks. He’s hoping to land a bigger deal this winter and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick has heard some chatter about what he’s looking for.
Jordan Zimmermann finalized a five-year, $110 million contract with the Tigers today, which works out to $22 million per season. Arizona’s offer to Cueto checked in at $20 million per season. A six-year offer to Cueto at the same AAV (average annual value) as Zimmermann would put him at $132 million, which is still a little shy of the figure stated by Crasnick. Of course, Cueto owns a 2.71 ERA (145 ERA+) over the last five seasons compared to a 3.14 ERA (123 ERA+) by Zimmermann during that same timespan, so there’s a case to be made that he should get more. Still, he’s the clear No. 3 starter on the market behind David Price and Zack Greinke.
CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that the Dodgers, Giants, Red Sox, and Cubs are among the other teams who have interest in Cueto. One variable in his favor is that he is not attached to draft pick compensation, as he was traded from the Reds to the Royals during the 2015 season.
The rebuilding Braves have already been active on the trade market and they might not be done, as CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that right-hander Shelby Miller has been a very popular name. In fact, around 20 teams have checked in.
Nothing is considered close and the Braves have set a very high asking price, mostly centered around offense. They asked for right-hander Luis Severino in talks with the Yankees and would expect outfielder Marcell Ozuna among other pieces from the Marlins. The Diamondbacks and Giants are among the other interested clubs.
Miller is under team control through 2018, so there’s not necessarily a sense of urgency to move him, but anything is possible with the way the Braves are doing things right now. The 25-year-old is coming off a year where he went 6-17, but that was about really rotten luck more than anything else, as he had a fine 3.02 ERA and 171/73 K/BB ratio over 205 1/3 innings. The Braves gave him the worst run support of any starter in the majors.
Jenrry Mejia appeared in just seven games this past season due to a pair of suspensions for performance-enhancing drugs, but Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports that the Mets are expected to tender him a contract for 2016.
While the Mets were vocal about their disappointment in Mejia’s actions, it makes sense to keep him around as an option. Had he played a full season in 2015, he would have earned $2.595 million. He’s arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter and figures to receive a contract similar to his 2015 figure, but he’ll only be paid for the games he plays. He still has 100 games to serve on his second PED suspension, which means that he’ll only be paid for 62 games in 2016. This likely puts his salary closer to $1 million, which is a small price to pay for someone who could prove useful during the second half and beyond. He also won’t count toward the team’s 40-man roster until he’s active.
Mejia, who turned 26 in October, owns a 3.68 ERA in the majors and saved 28 games for the Mets in 2014. He’s currently pitching as a starter in the Dominican Winter League.
UPDATE: The deal is official. Bowman adds that Johnson will make $2.5 million in 2016.
6:11 p.m. ET: Jim Johnson enjoyed some success out of the Braves’ bullpen in 2015 until a midseason trade to the Dodgers and Mark Bowman of MLB.com reports that he has returned to Atlanta on a one-year contract. No word yet on the terms involved.
After an awful 2014 between the Athletics and Tigers, Johnson signed a one-year deal with the Braves last winter and bounced back to the tune of a 2.25 ERA and 33/14 K/BB ratio over 48 innings. He also saved nine games. However, things went south for him after a trade to the Dodgers in late July, as he put up an ugly 10.13 ERA in 23 appearances. He was left off the team’s roster for the NLDS against the Mets.
It’s unclear what role the Braves have in mind for Johnson, as Arodys Vizcaino finished the season as the closer, but they have made upgrading their bullpen a priority this winter.