St. Louis Cardinals v Cincinnati Reds

The Reds got bunt-happy last night and it cost them dearly

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If the Reds fall a game short of the Cardinals and/or Pirates — or, heaven forbid, the Diamondbacks or Nationals — they might want to look at last night’s game against the Cardinals as the reason why. It was a night the Red squandered multiple opportunities thanks to ill-advised bunts.

The first weird attempt did no harm, but it was nonetheless head-scratching. In the bottom of the 14th inning the Reds were down by a run. The leadoff hitter reaches and Dusty Baker wisely inserts Billy Hamilton into the game as a pinch runner. The entire point of Billy Hamilton’s existence on a major league roster right now is to steal bases. But rather than have him steal, Baker puts on the bunt with Zack Cozart squaring. He didn’t get the bunt down and Hamilton stole on the next pitch anyway and then scored when Cozart, swinging away, singled.  Maybe that was just a missed sign by Cozart?

The second one came right afterward, with Cozart on first. Dusty Baker had Devan Mesoraco try to bunt him over. He bunted it back to the mound and Cozart was out at second.

The third one came in bottom of the 15th. Score tied and Shin-Soo Choo singles. The heart of the order is due up: Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce. Baker has Phillips — who has 100 RBI on the year which we’re all told is supposed to mean something — bunt Choo over. Votto was then retired, but did advance Choo to third. The open first base allowed Mike Matheny to issue an intentional walk to Jay Bruce. Then:

For reasons known only to God, Chris Heisey tries to bunt. Two outs, runner on third, a flamethrower on the mound and Heisey is playing suicide squeeze. Choo is a dead duck when Heisey misses and a rundown ensues. After the game Dusty Baker made it clear that Heisey was freelancing there.

It was a dumb freelance, obviously, but I’m reminded of this:

Just substitute “bunts” for “drugs.” And ask yourself why Dusty and his players seem to love to bunt so darn much.

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.

 

Bobby Valentine on short list to be U.S. Ambassador to Japan

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12:  Former MLB player Bobby Valentine attends Annual Charity Day hosted by Cantor Fitzgerald, BGC and GFI at BGC Partners, INC on September 12, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Cantor Fitzgerald)
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There is literally nothing you could tell me that the incoming administration is considering which would shock me anymore. As such, I saw this story when I woke up this morning, blinked once, took a sip of coffee, closed the browser window and just went on with my morning, as desensitized as a wisdom tooth about to be yanked.

Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports that Former Red Sox, Mets and Rangers manager Bobby Valentine is on a short-list of candidates for the job of United States Ambassador to Japan:

The 66-year-old, who currently serves as Sacred Heart University’s athletics director, has engaged in preliminary discussions with President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team regarding the position.

When contacted Thursday night, Valentine refused comment.

Huh. Given his history, I’d have assumed Valentine would be a better choice for the CIA, but what do I know?

Valentine managed the Chiba Lotte Marines of Japan’s Pacific League for six seasons, leading the team to a championship in 2005. He also knows the current prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, as both went to USC. Assuming championship teams meet the country’s leader in Japan like they do in the United States, Valentine has at least twice the amount of experience with top political leaders than does, say, Ned Yost, so that’s something.

The former manager, more importantly, is friends with Donald Trump’s brother, with the two of them going way back. Which, given how this transition is going, seems like a far more important set of qualifications than anything else on this list.