Jim Leyland asserts the supremacy of the pitcher win at the All-Star press conference

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I just got back from the All-Star Game press conference in which Jim Leyland and Bruce Bochy announced their starting pitchers and lineups.  As Aaron noted, we get Scherzer vs. Harvey and a couple of lineups with which you could quibble, I suppose, if you wanted to, but what’s the point, really? Go outside and play. Do something productive.

Things of random interest to me during the press conference:

  • Brian Kenny of MLB Network emceed it. When we learned it would be Max Scherzer starting, I was hoping Kenny — who has built a cottage industry of dismissing the pitcher win as a useful statistic — would go to great lengths to avoid mentioning that the most talked-about thing with Scherzer this year has been his wins. Kenny didn’t mention it.
  • Jim Leyland did, though. A couple of times. And not just Scherzer’s wins, but when he was asked about why Hiroki Kuroda wasn’t named to the team despite his great ERA, Leyland said it’s be impossible for him to have left Chris Tillman off given that he’s won 11 games. I think Kenny had to sit down for that.
  • Phillies Chairman Bill Giles is the honorary NL President. Jackie Autry is the honorary AL President. Each of them — along with Bruce Bochy and Jim Leyland — gave considerable lip service to the notion of the All-Star Game determining home field advantage in the World Series. They all love it.  I had to sit down for that.
  • Bochy had the line of the presser. When asked if Matt Harvey’s blister is going to be a problem for the All-Star Game, Bochy said he spoke with Terry Collins about it and assured him that Harvey is “gonna be limited to 100-120 pitches tomorrow night.”
  • Someone asked both managers about the “cloud” the Biogenesis scandal has cast over the All-Star Game. Know what? I’ve been here two days. Basically no one is talking about Biogenesis. There’s enough going on. I sorta wish Bochy or Leyland had said “well, son, it wasn’t casting any cloud until your question,” but they were more diplomatic than I am.

So that was the presser. On to some player interviews. Gonna ask some guys what kind of tree they’d be, were they a tree. Hoping someone says “shagbark.”

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.