Mark Prior is healthy and trying to win bullpen job with Reds

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Mark Sheldon of MLB.com has an update on Mark Prior’s latest comeback attempt with the Reds, which so far has involved a few relief appearances.

Prior told Sheldon that he’s fully healthy and generally pleased with his performance, but the most interesting part of the article is this quote from the former phenom about his life among minor leaguers in recent years:

Some of these guys were born in 1995. They were seven or eight years old when I broke in and I broke in young. I think it surprises people when I tell them I’m 32 because they think I should be older. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you’re looking at it, I’ve been in extended [spring] and around a lot of minor league guys. They have enthusiasm for the game.

I’m on the back side of my career. They’re on the front side. You enjoy seeing their desire to play and their will to play. It’s refreshing. I can’t keep up with them necessarily running and stuff. They keep you having fun. They’re fun to hang out with. I’ve enjoyed my time in the minor leagues the last few years. I don’t want to be there, nobody wants to be there, but it’s a good bunch of guys.

Prior finished third in the Cy Young voting at age 22, but then saw what had the potential to be a Hall of Fame career ruined by injuries and hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors since 2006. The fact that he’s still trying to make it back to the big leagues six years later and has such a good attitude about the struggles he’s gone through in the process is pretty remarkable.

Hard not to root for the guy.

The Nats are going to sign Francisco Rodriguez for some reason

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The Nationals bullpen is a tire fire. They’re about to add another tire. Per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, Washington is about to sign free agent reliever Francisco Rodriguez.

K-Rod was released by the Tigers last week after posting an ERA of 7.82 over 28 appearances this season. He has a 1.658 WHIP, is allowing 11.9 hits per nine innings and is posting his highest walk rate in five years. Also worth noting: the Detroit Friggin’ Tigers decided that he was not good enough to be in their bullpen.

So, yeah, good luck with that Washington.

The Giants chemistry is suffering because a guy they all hated is gone

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I’ve spent years arguing with people about team chemistry. You know the battle lines on all of that now: people who talk a lot about team chemistry tend to attribute winning or losing to good or bad chemistry, respectively. I tend to think that characterizing chemistry is a retroactive exercise in which teams that win are happy and then cite their happiness as the reason and vice versa. Jim Leyland agrees with me, for what it’s worth, so I’m pretty happy with my take.

Not that I’ll claim a monopoly on wisdom here. I’ve never played on a professional baseball team. I don’t know what it’s like to try to prepare to play baseball while surrounded by jackwagons who don’t get along with anyone. I can’t imagine that makes life easier. Indeed, based on the testimony of players I have spoken to, I will grant that there is at least some intangible yet real benefit if everyone is happy an gelling. I dismiss team chemistry arguments for the most part, but if I ran a team I’d at least try to get rid of bad seeds if their bad seeding was not outweighed by seriously outstanding on-the-field play. You want your workers happy, folks.

All of which makes me wonder what the heck to do about this passage from Ken Rosenthal’s latest column. It’s about the reeling San Francisco Giants. They have all kinds of issues — their offense is putrid, their pitching isn’t much better and they’ve been without their ace most of the year — but today Rosenthal looks at their team chemistry. It’s a quiet and subdued clubhouse, he notes, and it has a lot of people wondering if something is wrong there. What could it be?

Sandoval, who was an often noisy and boisterous presence during his time with the club, departed as a free agent after that season. Pence has suffered a number of injuries in recent years and declined offensively, making it difficult for him to be as vocal as he was in the past. Some with the Giants muse that the team even misses Angel Pagan, who created an odd sort of unity because most of the players disliked him.

Read that last sentence again. And then go on with your talk about how team chemistry is a legitimate explanatory concept regarding what makes teams win or lose as opposed to a post-hoc rationalization of it.

Not that it’s not a good article overall. There’s some interesting stuff about the Giants’ bullpen culture. And, of course, we now know why no one signed Pagan last winter.