NLCS - Los Angeles Dodgers v St Louis Cardinals - Game Two

Yasiel Puig has come up small for the Dodgers in the NLCS

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Cuban superstar Yasiel Puig is the reason why the Dodgers are in the NLCS. The day before he made his Major League debut on June 3, the Dodgers were 23-32 in last place in the NL West. From Puig’s debut through the end of the regular season, they went 69-38 (.645) to win the NL West by a cool 11 games. Puig finished with a .925 OPS.

To criticize Puig when he has already done so much for the Dodgers and when he is surrounded by so many other capable players would normally be unfair, but such is life when you create such lofty expectations for yourself. Puig has shown himself to be the catalyst of the Dodgers, but he has been anything but thus far in the NLCS. In Game 1, he went 0-for-6 with two strikeouts, leaving a boatload of runners on base:

  • First inning: With runners on second and third and two outs, Puig struck out to end the inning. (2 runners left on base)
  • Third inning: With the bases loaded and one out, Puig hit a ground ball back to the pitcher, who got the force out at home. (3 LOB)
  • Fifth inning: With a runner on first base and two outs, Puig popped out weakly to third base to end the inning. (1 LOB)
  • Eighth inning: With a runner on first base and no outs, Puig grounded out to shortstop for a fielder’s choice. (1 LOB)
  • Eleventh inning: Puig struck out looking to lead off the inning.
  • Thirteenth inning: Puig flied out to right field to lead off the inning.

Game 2:

  • First inning: With a runner on second base and two outs, Puig struck out swinging to end the inning. (1 LOB)
  • Fourth inning: With the bases empty and two outs, Puig struck out swinging to end the inning.
  • Sixth inning: With the bases loaded and one out, Puig struck out swinging. (3 LOB)
  • Ninth inning: Puig struck out looking to lead off the inning.

For those of you counting, Puig is 0-for-10 with six strikeouts and 11 runners left on base. He is certainly not the only culprit for the Dodgers’ NLCS woes, but he has been a big part of it by coming up small in every situation he has been placed into thus far. If the Dodgers are to stage a comeback within the next five games against the Cardinals, they will need Puig to pick up the slack, and fast.

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 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.

Report: Dexter Fowler will take a physical in St. Louis on Friday

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Dexter Fowler #24 of the Chicago Cubs reacts after lining out during the third 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 Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
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Update (8:51 PM EST): The deal is in place, according to Heyman.

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Update (8:27 PM EST): Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals made an “over-the-top offer” to Fowler to ensure he’d sign.

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Frank Cusumano of KSDK Sports reports that free agent outfielder will take a physical in St. Louis on Friday. Presumably, that means that Fowler and the Cardinals have gotten pretty far along in negotiations.

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports recently reported that Fowler was looking for $18 million per year. The Blue Jays reportedly made an offer to Fowler in the four-year, $16 million range several days ago. The Cardinals’ offer to Fowler, if there is indeed one, is likely somewhere between the two figures.

Fowler, 30, is coming off of a fantastic year in which he helped the Cubs win their first World Series since 1908. During the regular season, he hit .276/.393/.447 with 13 home runs, 48 RBI, 84 runs scored, and 13 stolen bases in 551 plate appearances.

Fowler rejected the Cubs’ $17.2 million qualifying offer last month. While the QO compensation negatively affected Fowler’s experience in free agency last offseason — he didn’t sign until late February with the Cubs — his strong season is expected to make QO compensation much less of an issue.