Craig Calcaterra

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11:  Tim Lincecum #55 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the New York Mets during their game at Citi Field on June 11, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Tim Lincecum close to signing with the Angels

18 Comments

Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that Tim Lincecum is closing in on a deal with the Angels. Passan said the Giants and White Sox, who were in the mix previously, are now out.

Lincecum would fit well into a decimated Angels rotation, still dealing with the loss of Garrett Richards and Andrew Heaney. The Angels last week picked up Jhoulys Chacin in a trade from the Braves, but any additional arms would help. For Lincecum’s part the chance to start, instead of come out of the bullpen, has been reported as a top priority.

Lincecum pitched in only 15 games last year and has been a free agent since last fall as he recovered from hip surgery. He pitched in a showcase for multiple teams a couple of weeks ago, and the Angels apparently liked what they saw.

Bonds: Harper should diversify his game to adapt to walks

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 08: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals is intentionally walked in the12th inning as David Ross #3 of the Chicago Cubs
waits the pitch at Wrigley Field on May 8, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Getty Images
10 Comments

WASHINGTON — When pitchers were intentionally walking Barry Bonds more than anyone else in baseball history, his father had simple message for him.

“It’s your fault,” Bobby Bonds told his son. “You didn’t have to be this good.”

That’s what Barry Bonds thinks when he sees Bryce Harper getting so many free passes to first base. But he also believes the Washington Nationals outfielder and reigning National League MVP needs to diversity his game if opposing teams are going to take the bat out of his hands.

“He’s going to need to learn to steal bases and get to second base and make his teammates’ job easier,” Bonds recently told The Associated Press.

The Chicago Cubs walked Harper 15 times during a four-game series earlier this month, including four times intentionally, and he scored only three runs. Bonds, baseball’s intentional walk king, said too much was being made of Ryan Zimmerman‘s struggles batting behind Harper as the Cubs swept the Nationals.

Teammates had bad series hitting behind Bonds, too, when he was intentionally walked. But Bonds remembers what he said to his children during his playing days.

“My kids used to tell me, `Daddy, I’m sorry they walk you all the time,”‘ said Bonds, who led baseball in intentional walks 12 times and tops the all-time list with 688. “I said, `Yeah, but my job’s now to steal.’ I could run then, so I had to steal bases and my job’s to score runs and keep the pressure on the team regardless of what happened. But I had a different game than him.”

Bonds stole 514 bases during his 22-year major league career. Harper has 43, and it’s an element that Bonds says would make the 23-year-old a five-tool player.

That doesn’t mean that Bonds believes Harper is doing anything wrong.

“Bryce Harper can only do what his job is,” Bonds said. “If they walk him, his job is to go to first base and then run bases. His teammates’ job is to drive him in. Bryce Harper can only do what he’s capable of doing and what he’s given the opportunity to do.”

After the final game of the walk-this-way series against the Cubs, Harper said he was walked a lot during high school and that he can’t get frustrated if the treatment continues.

“You’re getting on base, and that’s what your team asks you to do,” Harper said. “If I can get on base every time I get up there, I’m doing it the right way. If it’s a hit, a walk, I get drilled or whatever. Get on base. Maybe steal second, steal third and get it done.”

Dusty Baker is the common thread between the two superstars, as he managed the San Francisco Giants during Bonds’ heyday and is now managing Harper with the Nationals. Baker said the onus is on Harper’s teammates to make opponents pay for all the walks.

When Bonds was playing, Baker didn’t have to give him any advice because he could lean on his father’s and godfather Willie Mays’ experiences.

“I knew how to deal with it,” said Bonds, now the hitting coach for the Miami Marlins. “I had my own father in me. I had my dad and Willie. I had enough pressure with those two that I didn’t need to add more with Dusty.”

Harper has plenty of pressure on him as the face of the franchise and one of the best players in baseball, but he can only hit what he’s thrown. Bonds became baseball’s home run king with 762 despite walking a major league-leading 2,558 times.

Bonds estimates that he lost four or five years of at-bats from walks. Still, if he were pitching to Harper, he wouldn’t give him much to hit.

“If I was a pitcher and I need to leave it in the ballpark, I’m going to pick somebody who’s going to leave it in the ballpark more than someone who has a chance to hit it out of the ballpark,” he said. “Not every time, but there will be a situation. Even me as a pitcher, he’s going to have to walk if it’s the game on the line.”

AP Sports Writer Andrew Seligman contributed to this report.

No, the Bautista-Odor fight wasn’t “great for baseball”

39 Comments

I’ve seen a lot of sentiment since yesterday afternoon that the Jose BautistaRougned Odor fight was supposed to have great meaning of some kind. More to the point, that it was actually good for baseball. I don’t think it was bad for baseball — it was just a thing that happened, just like fights have happened in baseball for 150 years — but to say it was “great for baseball” seems odd to me.

C.J. Nitkowski of Fox thinks it was great for baseball because it “created buzz” and jacked up the TV ratings. If you saw some of his tweets yesterday, you learned that it was also great because it, somehow, put “nerds” in their place. I don’t fully understand what Nitkowski was getting at with that, but it had something to do with the slide rules and people wanting baseball players not to get injured which, I guess, he considers to be a bad thing. You’ll have to ask him about that.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post thinks it was great for baseball for another reason: there’s too much friendliness in the game, in his view, and it’s better when opponents hate each other. As New York writers always do, Sherman makes something that has nothing to do with New York about New York and uses it to explain how upset he is that Yankees players are friendly with David Ortiz now instead of hating him like the Epic Yankees-Red Sox rivalry allegedly demands. Never mind that the grand old days of the rivalry he describes are, like, 12 years old and no one is left on those teams from that time except for Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez. Never mind that the rivalry past 2004 or so, the last time the Yankees and Red Sox met in the playoffs, is primarily a creation of fans and the media and that the players don’t care at all anymore and likely didn’t care as much as people like to think they did.

These takes have one thing in common: for them to make coherent sense, players have to play roles to satisfy an audience rather than be actual human beings with feelings. Bautista and Odor are buzz-creators or rivalry-stokers here as opposed to humans who got caught up in an emotional thing and let their aggression take over for a few minutes due to some provocations that made sense to them in the heat of the moment. No, they were serving the audience in some way and, not only that, they had to! For the good of the game!

This is all artificial nonsense. Baseball players are people. Their job is to serve the audience when they play baseball. While there were aspects of what happened yesterday that were in and of themselves entertaining (mostly because no one got hurt) it’s not their job to serve fans and the press with that stuff and the fact that they did didn’t Mean Anything Big And Important. It was just a thing that happened. Players likewise can be and should be friends with one another if they choose to be without it harshing the buzz of some columnist who misses what he got to write about over a decade ago. Not saying Odor and Bautista ever will be, but if they do a commercial goofing on their fight this fall, we will not have lost anything by their antipathy being diminished.

I don’t know. I read stuff like what Sherman and Nitkowski wrote and I wonder whether the people who think like that view players as people with agency or mere characters in a drama. I wonder, if Bautista and Odor issue statements apologizing to one another today or make that commercial one day, if guys like Sherman and Nitkowski will be sad. More than anything else when I see stuff like this I think about all of the weird and unfair gladiatorial expectations we place on athletes and remember exactly where it comes from.