Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Angels have been “coincidentally” making personnel choices around players’ incentive bonuses

21 Comments

An interesting news item slipped through our fingers last week, as Pedro Moura of the Los Angeles Times wrote about the curious way in which the Angels have handled pitchers Bud Norris and Jesse Chavez recently.

Norris gets a $500,000 bonus if he reaches 60 relief appearances. Norris was at 56 relief appearances. The Angels needed a spot starter on September 15, so they chose Norris rather than Chavez or Yusmeiro Petit, who had both started for the team previously. Norris pitched in relief four days later, then made another spot start this past Saturday. With six games left, Norris is three relief appearances shy of reaching his bonus. Given the rate at which he’s been used in September — only five times, twice as a starter — that seems pretty unlikely.

Chavez would earn a $250,000 bonus if he reaches 22 starts and another $250,000 at 24 starts. To date, the right-hander has made 21 starts, all coming prior to the month of August. As mentioned, the Angels chose Norris over him to start on both September 15 and 23.

Manager Mike Scioscia denied having any idea about Norris and Chavez’s contract incentives. “In my position as manager, I’m not privy to those contract things, and for good reason,” he said.

GM Billy Eppler said, “It’s just a coincidence,” and added that the decisions were made because Scioscia likes to have “maneuverable pieces” in the bullpen.

Norris declined to comment on the situation. Chavez said he wasn’t bothered by the choices the team made. I, however, am bothered by it on their behalf and think it’s a bit more than a “coincidence” that Eppler and Scioscia made personnel decisions that just so happened to benefit the team financially. Hopefully, the players’ union is also bothered by it and can get the ball rolling on ending contract incentives that teams can simply manage around.

Astros push ALCS to Game 7 with 7-1 stunner against Yankees

Getty Images
6 Comments

There’s just something about playing in your home ballpark. The Astros decimated the Yankees at Minute Maid Park on Friday, riding seven scoreless innings from Justin Verlander and a pair of big runs from Jose Altuve to win 7-1 and force a Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

Through the first four innings, however, the teams looked equally matched. Luis Severino no-hit the Astros through 3 2/3 innings, losing his bid on Carlos Correa‘s line drive single in the fourth. The Astros returned in the fifth to do some real damage, drawing two walks and plating the first run of the night with Brian McCann‘s ground-rule double off of the right field wall. Things didn’t get any easier for Severino. Jose Altuve lined a two-RBI base hit into left field, upping Houston’s advantage to three runs.

Verlander, meanwhile, muted the Yankees’ offense with seven innings of five-hit, eight-strikeout ball. While he didn’t come close to matching his complete game effort in Game 2, he was still plenty dominant against a struggling New York lineup. No player reached past first base until the sixth inning, when a pair of base hits from Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees their first runner in scoring position. That didn’t last long, though, as Gary Sanchez grounded out on a 3-0 slider to end the inning.

In the seventh, Houston’s ace got into another spot of trouble. He walked Greg Bird on six pitches to start the inning, then plunked Starlin Castro on the wrist. Aaron Hicks struck out, in part thanks to a questionable call by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds, but it was Todd Frazier who presented the biggest threat after returning an 0-1 fastball for a 403-foot fly out to left field. Luckily for Verlander, George Springer was there to bail him out with a leaping catch at the wall.

The Yankees kept things exciting in the eighth, too. Aaron Judge ripped his third postseason home run off of Brad Peacock, taking a 425-footer out to the train in left field to spoil the Astros’ shutout. That was the only real break the Yankees got, however, as Altuve, Alex Bregman and Evan Gattis returned in the bottom of the inning to tack on another four runs, including Altuve’s solo shot off of David Robertson:

Ken Giles handled the ninth, expending 23 pitches and giving up a base hit and a walk before retiring Frazier and Headley to end the game. Thanks to Houston’s winning efforts, the two teams will compete in their first seven-game Championship Series since 2004 — and this time, at least one of them is guaranteed to come away with a win.

Game 7 of the ALCS is set for Saturday at 8:00 PM ET. Houston right-hander Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62 ERA) is scheduled to face southpaw CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA).