Mike Napoli

And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights


Red Sox 7, Rays 3: Mike Carp with a tenth inning grand slam. Good job extending your lead, Boston! Good job letting the Yankees pull to within one game of the wild card, Rays! Apropos of nothing, I’d give a lot to hear what Red Sox fans who love this beards thing had to say about Brian Wilson a couple of years ago.

Yankees 5, Orioles 4: The Yankees are Rasputin. No, they’re not mystic/visionary/healer/religious charlatans who hold the Tsarina in thrall. I’m talking about the part where you simply can’t kill them, no matter how hard you try. Homers from Cano, Granderson and A-Rod combine with a good enough effort from Andy Pettitte to pull the Yankees to within one game of the wild card. And one game closer to the delicious “A-Rod came back and turned the Yankees’ season around” narrative that will literally kill multiple New York columnists. Especially the ones who were convinced that he’d never play another game and/or was “physically unable to perform.” Still waiting for the mea culpas from those guys. Not holding my breath.

Marlins 5, Braves 2: Jose Fernandez held the Braves to to one run on five hits over seven innings while striking out five. He also hit a homer. He also stopped to admire it and then spit at the third baseman’s feet and fomented a benches-clearing situation. All in a day’s work. As for the pitching: holy crap this guy is good. He’s being shut down now, which makes sense. He should also be the consensus Rookie of the Year. As for the hubbub: I’m not a big fan of unwritten rules, I think that admiring your first ever big league homer is defensible and I think the Braves, as an organization, get too hung up on all that Play The Game The Right Way thing. Not saying the spitting was fantastic, but maybe your best revenge is to get hits off the guy or to humiliate him the next time he bats against you.  Anyway, what I really want to know, though, is what that old lady who thought Harper and Puig were “low class acts” and Fernandez was “such a nice young man” thinks of all of this.

Pirates 7, Rangers 5: If you’re not a fan of Fox you have to hope this is the World Series matchup, right? Not exactly a ratings bonanza, even if baseball freaks should love it. If you’re an AL team you shouldn’t like it either, as the Pirates are now 15-5 in interleague play this year after sweeping the Rangers.

Reds 6, Cubs 0: A solid if unspectacular game for Mike Leake and homers from Devin Mesoraco and Jack Hannahan helped the Reds avoid the sweep.

Royals 6, Indians 2: The Indians fail to take advantage of the Rays’ recent troubles — if they’d won these past two games they’d be in the wild card slot right now — and the Royals succeed in coming back from the near dead to find themselves only two games back. They’ve won 13 of 18. Imagine where they’d be if it wasn’t for a couple of sharp swoons at various points this year.

Giants 4, Rockies 3: The Giants were down 3-1 but then plated one in the seventh and two in the eighth. I feel like the Giants have been playing the Rockies for 12 straight games.

Phillies 4, Padres 2: Cliff Lee solid again. Eight innings, five hits, two runs, nine strikeouts and lowers the ERA to 2.97. Imagine what he’d do on a team with a bullpen and an offense.

Nationals 3, Mets 0: Five straight wins for the Nationals. Still six back in the wild card, but some nice baseball all the same. Dan Haren was fantastic again. If he had been anything close to this in the first half the Nats could be playoffs bound.

Angels 5, Blues Jays 4: The Angels season has sucked but at least C.J. Wilson has been good. Three earned runs in seven innings to win his eighth straight decision. Josh Hamilton was 3 for 3. He’s hitting .400 in the month of September.

Cardinals 5, Brewers 1: A good start from Lance Lynn and a four-run eighth inning helps the Cards win their fifth straight and maintain their lead over the Reds and Pirates.

Tigers 1, White Sox 0: Anibal Sanchez strikes out ten in seven and a third shutout innings. Tough break for Jose Quintana, who also pitched wonderfully. Omar Infante’s RBI single in the eighth was the only offense here. How a 1-0 game still goes three hours and sixteen minutes is a bit of mystery.

Diamondbacks 4, Dodgers 1: Paul Goldschmidt went 4 for 5 with a couple driven and Patrick Corbin allowed one run in six and a third as the Dbacks avoid the sweep.

Athletics 18, Twins 3: Well, that was ugly. Every A’s starter had at least one hit, one run and one RBI. That’s practically socialism. Not that it mattered much, but there was a foul ball call that was reversed and turned into a double in this one after the umpires huddled and changed their call. After that Ron Gardenhire came out and argued forever and got an ejection. Can’t wait to see how managers react once challenges start.

Astros 6, Mariners 1: And the sweep. The Astros actually have a winning record in September. I don’t think momentum is a thing, but I’m sure this will make some Astros fans and players happy.

What Barry Bonds being the Marlins hitting coach means. And what it doesn’t mean.

FILE - In this March 10, 2014, file photo, former San Francisco Giants Barry Bonds chats to the dugout during a spring training baseball game in Scottsdale, Ariz. Bonds' obstruction of justice conviction reversed by 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday, April 22, 2015.  (AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File)

The news that Barry Bonds plans, tentatively at least, to accept the Marlins offer to be their hitting coach has the hot stove sizzling. Which is totally understandable. Barry Bonds is a big famous — infamous, even — name and he’s been out of baseball for a long time. That he seems to be getting back in the game, then, is understandably interesting. That he seems to be heading to the Marlins — not exactly an expected destination — is likewise interesting.

But how interesting is it? And does it really matter, both for Bonds and for the Marlins? And if so, how much? Let’s do a quick Q&A about it, shall we?


Q: Bonds is one of the greatest hitters of all time. That should make him an amazing hitting coach, right? 

A: Not necessarily. The guy thought to be one of the best hitting coaches in history — Charlie Lau — had an OPS+ of 89 for his career across 11 almost totally bench-riding seasons in the bigs. Many of the other top hitting coaches in baseball history were likewise scrubeenies of one flavor or another. Same goes for pitching coaches, by the way, while many of the ex-superstars that got into the coaching biz didn’t last long and didn’t have a lot of success. Indeed, there appears to be no correlation at all and at least some anecdotal disconnection between playing prowess and coaching prowess, possibly because that which comes naturally to a superstar is hard to communicate to someone not as gifted. Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio and Bob Gibson coached. None of them changed the coaching game by their presence.

All of that said, Barry Bonds’ greatness came not just from his physical gifts —  naturally or artificially bestowed — but from his approach to at bats. His preparation, his strategy and his plate patience. Some of those things can likely be communicated fairly straightforwardly, even if they cannot simply be picked up by any Justin, Adeiny or Christian who comes along.


Q: Let’s assume Bonds would be a good hitting coach, though. How much of an impact could he possibly have?

A: That’s the big question, really. And you won’t find a lot of agreement on it. Many people say that hitting coaches are only as good as the lineup they coach and that, especially in this day and age, a player’s own preparation — which he may take far more seriously than the atta-boys from a coach his father’s age — matters much more than anything else.

There have been some attempts to quantify a good hitting coach’s impact, however. One such study was conducted by Baseball Prospectus’ Russell Carelton a couple of years ago. Carelton found that hitting coaches can really only have a noticeable impact on whether or not hitters take a more aggressive or a more passive approach at the plate and cannot, by themselves, teach pitch selectivity. He further found that hitting coaches seem to be divided into two groups: those who teach hitters to put the ball into play and those who encourage a walk/strikeout/home run approach to things.

As far as results go, Carleton found some pretty significant impacts in small sample sizes and for hitting coaches, like Clint Hurdle, who coached in volatile run-scoring environments such as Colorado and Texas. He concluded, however, that even if we’re being super conservative, a good hitting coach could account for 20-30 runs in a year, which is a couple of wins, and that a couple of wins is a pretty big impact for a low-paid coach.

Of course, the Marlins had the second worst offense in the National League last year. They need more than just 20-30 runs.


Q: Getting away from the numbers, this is a big deal, right? For the Marlins? For Bonds? 

A: Though I’m on record being a pretty big Bonds fanboy, I think we should temper our expectations on all of this. Mark McGwire made something of a P.R. splash when he entered the coaching ranks with the Cardinals. He was the first bigtime PED guy to return to the game and he was under the microscope for a bit. But then, of course, he just faded into the same woodwork into which all of the other hitting coaches fade. We didn’t think too much of him until he changed jobs a few years later then when he changed jobs again just recently. Being back in the game certainly didn’t help his Hall of Fame case either. He’s been sliding off the ballot pretty steadily for years, actually. The most that can be said is that, when McGwire’s name comes up in news reports, the first reference to him isn’t “The controversial, steroid-associated slugger, Mark McGwire.” That usually waits until the second paragraph. If Bonds has that happen to him it’ll be a moral victory for him. But given that he’s more infamous than McGwire was, don’t count on that happening.

Ultimately I think that Bonds will, after the initial wave of stories and the initial pictures of him in Marlins garb next spring come out, fade into that woodwork like any other coach. After all no one comes to the ballpark to see a hitting coach. Not even one as famous as Barry Bonds.


Q: Quit being negative. Isn’t it something of a big deal? Even a little bit? 

A: OK, I’ll give you this much: between McGwire, the reinstatement of A-Rod and his well-received and successful 2015 season and now Bonds being hired, it’s fair to say that baseball has had no problem with the rehabilitation and mainstreaming of the PED crowd from the 1990s and 2000s. They’re not pariahs in the game and their association with it is not considered controversial by the people who play it and run it. The only people living in the past in this regard, it seems, is the media. Perhaps another so-called villain being welcomed back into the game’s ranks will help bring them around too.


Q: Why is Bonds, after years of exile from baseball and a seemingly idyllic life in California, willing to go work for Jeff Loria anyway?

A: We won’t know until he says so, though I’m sure many people will try to speak for him on that count. To the extent they do, they’ll likely talk about his “legacy” and the fact that his legal troubles were finally and definitively put behind him in 2015. All of that is just speculation, of course. The most we know is that Bonds was (a) willing to coach the Giants in spring training; and (b) spoke at various points in his career about how he’d like to maybe one day be a coach of some kind. This is a job that seems to be open and it’s in a city — Miami — that ain’t a hard place to live, even if the organization for which he’ll work is dysfunctional.

Maybe a young man’s dreams don’t really ever go away. Maybe baseball is fun and guys who spent almost their entire life in baseball miss it when it’s gone. And maybe Barry just wants back in.

Astros “shopping” slugger Chris Carter

Chris Carter

With tomorrow’s deadline to tender 2016 contracts to arbitration eligible players looming, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com reports that the Astros are “shopping” first baseman Chris Carter.

Few players in baseball have more power than Carter, who hit 24 homers in 129 games this year and has averaged 30 homers per 150 games for his career, but he’s also a career .217 hitter with little defensive value who should probably be a designated hitter.

Houston has no shortage of power options, many of whom have somewhat similar skill sets to Carter, so shopping him around makes sense. He seems unlikely to generate a big return, however. Carter could command a salary of more than $6 million via arbitration.

UPDATE: Barry Bonds tentatively plans to accept the Marlins hitting coach job

Barry Bonds

UPDATE: Bob Nightengale reports that while negotiations are not yet finalized, Barry Bonds “tentatively plans to accept the Marlins’ offer to be hitting coach with Frank Menechino.” Which is a good reminder that Menechino is still the Marlins’ hitting coach. Who would be the assistant and who would be the coach — or if they’d be co-coaches — is unclear.

12:00PM: The matter of Barry Bonds as the Marlins hitting coach has gone from “consideration” to “offer,” reports Bob Nightengale. The Marlins now await Barry Bonds’ response.

The biggest mystery in all of this is whether Bonds is actually interested. No one has reported that he was willing or even that there have been serious conversations between the Marlins and Bonds. That could be because Bonds, as has always been his practice, doesn’t talk too much to the media. Indeed, we learn more about him from his social media presence than anything reported about him. So it’s possible that Bonds and Jeff Loria have been in contact about all of this and he’s strongly considering it as well.

It’s also possible that this is all nothing and the Marlins are just trying to make a long shot happen.

MONDAY, 5:01 PM: This shouldn’t cause any controversy, lead to a lot of people saying dumb things or provide fodder for jokes at all. Nope, none whatsoever:

In what promises to be a bombshell move, if executed, all-time great slugger Barry Bonds is under consideration to become Marlins hitting coach.

Team higherups have quietly been discussing this possibility for weeks.

That’s Jon Heyman, who reminds us that Bonds has worked with the Giants in the spring in recent years. And who, no matter what else you can say about him, was one of the greatest hitters the game has ever seen. Also worth remembering that despite his controversial past, that greatness came not just from physical gifts, naturally or artificially bestowed. It came from his approach, preparation and strategy at the plate. No one can teach a hitter to hit like Barry Bonds, but you’d think that hitters could be taught to try to approach an at bat the way Barry Bonds would. And who better to do it than Barry Bonds?

That is, if Bonds is willing to drop his seemingly ideal retired life in San Francisco, move to Miami and work for Jeff Loria for nine months a year. Which, eh, who knows? But the possibility of it is pretty fascinating to think about.

Royals avoid arbitration with Tim Collins for $1.475 million

Tim Collins Getty
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Left-hander Tim Collins, who missed the entire 2015 season following Tommy John elbow surgery, will remain with the Royals after avoiding arbitration for a one-year, $1.475 million contract.

Collins was a non-tender candidate due to his injury and projected salary via arbitration, but the Royals are convinced he can bounce back to be a valuable part of the bullpen again in 2016 and beyond. He agreed to the same salary he made in 2015.

Prior to blowing out his elbow Collins posted a 3.54 ERA with 220 strikeouts in 211 innings from 2011-2014 and he’s still just 26 years old. He figures to begin 2016 in a middle relief role.