Los Angeles Dodgers v Miami Marlins

John Hirschbeck tried to pick a fight with Yasiel Puig

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I didn’t see this happen and can’t find video, but Jeff S., a reader and HBT correspondent, alerts me to something that happened in last night’s Dodgers-Marlins game.

In the fifth inning, Yasiel Puig struck out. Strike two was a bad call. After the call and after the strikeout, Puig didn’t say a word to home plate umpire John Hirschbeck. He rolled his eyes and showed some displeasure as he walked, but barely turned his head.  No biggie, right? Small beer in the grand scheme of players being upset at umpires’ calls?

Except then Hirschbeck ripped off his mask and yelled at Puig, apparently trying to goad him into an angry reaction.

source: Getty Images

Why are umps allowed to jaw at players and managers? If the player gets out of line, sure, eject them. But when someone merely rolls their eyes or notes his disapproval with a call — and when the player is all the way back to the dugout — why shouldn’t the ump be expected to keep doing his job and ignore it? What possible reason does Hirschbeck have for staring down Puig like this?

It has nothing to do with his authority being undermined. Indeed, by not reacting at all to the player, the umpire would be showing him that his authority is not even subject to being questioned.

Maybe that’s harder than it sounds, but it’s what the goal should be.

Cardinals, Dexter Fowler agree to a five-year, $82 million deal

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Dexter Fowler #24 of the Chicago Cubs reacts during the seventh inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Getty Images
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The Cardinals have officially signed outfielder Dexter Fowler to a five-year, $82.5 million contract. Fowler will also get a full no-trade clause.

The Cardinals gave Fowler a bigger deal than many speculated he’d get, as some reports predicted he’d get something in the $52-72 million range. His skills, however — he’s a fantastic leadoff hitter who plays a premium defensive position — definitely earned him some major dough. Fowler hit .276/.393/.447 with 13 homers, 48 RBI and 13 steals over 125 games in 2016 for the World Series champion Cubs.

For the Cardinals, this will allow Matt Carpenter to move down to the middle of the batting order and will shift Randal Grichuk to left field. It also takes a prime piece from the Cardinals’ biggest rival. For their part, earlier this offseason the Cubs signed former Cardinal center fielder Jon Jay. So that’s fun.

Are the Cardinals about to go on a free agent binge?

John Mozeliak AP
Associated Press
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The Cardinals have always emphasized building from within. In the 2016-17 offseason, however, they may end up being one of the bigger free agent buyers. At least according to some informed speculation.

St. Louis is already in agreement with Dexter Fowler. But Derrick Goold and Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch write today that the Cardinals “could become more aggressive than previously believed,” with Mark Trumbo and Edwin Encarnacion as “possible pursuits.” Worth noting that separate reports alleged some interest on the part of the Cards front office in free agent third baseman Justin Turner.

The Cardinals are already losing their first round pick due to the Fowler signing, so any other top free agent won’t cost them more than the money he’s owed. And as far as money goes, the Cardinals have a great deal of it, despite being a small market team. They have a billion dollar TV deal coming online and Matt Holliday and Jaime Garcia are off the payroll now. Spending big on a free agent or three would not cripple them or anything.

Encarnacion or Trumbo would be first baseman, which wold fly in the face of the Cards’ move of Matt Carpenter to first base (and, at least as far as Encarnacion goes, would fly in the face of good defense). Getting either of them would push Carpenter back to second, displacing Kolten Wong, or over to third, displacing Jhonny Peralta. If you’re going to do that, I’d say that Turner would make more sense, but what do I know?

Either way, the Cardinals may be entering a pretty interesting phase of their offseason now. And an unfamiliar one as, quite possibly, the top free agent buyer on the market.