It’s not that the Reds had nothing to play for this weekend; winning two out of three against the Pirates would have ensured that Tuesday’s rematch in the wild card game would be at home. Instead, they’ll travel to Pittsburgh for Tuesday’s rematch and elimination game after getting swept in the series.
Right from the get-go on Friday, it hardly seemed as though the Reds’ hearts were in it. They lost that one 4-1 when A.J. Burnett threw four more pitches in eight innings than Homer Bailey did in five (99-95). Saturday’s game saw the Pirates hit six homers. The Reds hit one in the entire series. On Sunday, the regulars mostly started for the third straight day, yet all were pulled after two at-bats in the 4-2 loss. The two runs were actually delivered by third-string catcher Corky Miller.
Now the Reds are going to be expected to suddenly turn it on again Tuesday after five straight losses in which they scored a total of eight runs. It will have been eight days since their previous win. As little as momentum seems to matter in baseball, it makes it difficult to get excited about the Reds’ chances. Besides Shin-Soo Choo and maybe Todd Frazier, no regular is swinging the bat very well. In the matchup of Johnny Cueto vs. Francisco Liriano, there figures to be quite a bit more weight on Cueto’s shoulders at the onset.
Infielder Javier Baez is back in camp with the Cubs after helping Puerto Rico to a second-place finish in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He was the focal point of what was, to many, the most memorable play of the entire tournament: Baez pointed at catcher Yadier Molina, who was attempting to throw out a would-be base-stealer, before applying the tag for the final out of the eighth inning.
While Baez didn’t receive much criticism for his theatrics, aside from an insignificant handful of spoilsports, he is one of the players who most exemplifies the emotional, celebratory culture that foreign players bring to Major League Baseball. U.S. (and Tigers) second baseman Ian Kinsler is on the other side of that spectrum, as he said prior to the WBC final that he hopes kids mimic the solemn way U.S. players play the game rather than the emotional, passionate way players from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic play the game.
Baez isn’t about to apologize for the way he and his teammates play the game. Via CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney, Baez said, “We do a great job playing and having fun out there. That’s what it’s all about. This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it. but, you know, everybody’s got their style and their talent. I have a lot of fun.”
He continued, “It’s their choice to look at how we play, how excited we get. To us, it’s really huge what we did, even though we didn’t win. All of Puerto Rico got really together. We were going through a hard time over there and everything got fixed up for at least three weeks. Hopefully, they keep it like that.”
Angels outfielder Mike Trout came up with an idea that would allow less experienced umpires an opportunity to call some major league spring training action. As ESPN’s Buster Olney reports, Trout thinks the veteran umpires should only call five or six innings as they get back into regular season shape. The rest of the innings could be called by minor league umpires.
According to Olney, baseball officials loved Trout’s idea when they heard about it last week. One official said, “It makes a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons.” Another said, “That’s Trout — he’s always paying attention to stuff beyond what he’s doing.”
Of course, I have to agree that the suggestion is a great one. As Olney notes, the turnover rate for umpires every year is relatively low, so younger, less-experienced umpires have few opportunities to get a feel for what it’s like calling major league action. Even beyond the actual interpretation of the rules, interacting with big league personalities would also be helpful for minor league umpires.