Craig Calcaterra

joc pederson getty

Video: Joc Pederson made a fantastic catch — and throw — last night

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Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson has been fantastic so far this year. He’s been hitting up a storm — .296/.458/.556 so far — and his defense has been superb. Defense like this:

Maybe Puig makes that play, but not as easily or as often, I don’t imagine. And Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier probably have little or no chance.

The Dodgers biggest change heading into this season has been putting square pegs in square holes — making sure they have a good, natural shortstop, second baseman and center fielder. And so far it’s paying off.

And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights

Daniel Murphy
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Mets 3, Marlins 1: Amazin.’ Daniel Murphy hit a go-ahead/come-from-behind three run bomb and Mets improve to 15-5. Murphy also made a nifty play in the field the next half-inning. Adrenaline is a hell of a thing. The Mets have a 4.5 game lead in the East and are eight games up everyone’s favorites, the Nationals. Which, wow.

Red Sox 6, Blue Jays 5: MookieMania is running wild, brother. Betts with the walkoff RBI single through a drawn-in infield. Betts said he “got a decent pitch to hit.” He’s only 22 but his cliche game is that of a seasoned veteran.

Royals 6, Indians 2: Mike Moustakas got four hits and Alex Gordon drove in two, which ain’t too bad against the reigning Cy Young Award winner. Bonus from this game came from the Royals’ booth, where I am told Fox Sports Kansas City’s Rex Hudler was talking about my annual Baseball’s Most Handsome Managers rankings. Hudler was quoted by viewers as saying “Did you say it was a guy that made that list up?” Yes, Rex, it was. And have a nice, heteronormative day yourself.

Braves 8, Nationals 4: The Braves beat up the Nats in a game that featured some chippiness following a hard Andrelton Simmons’ slide into third base which led to a cut on Yunel Escobar’s hand. There were warnings and then Simmons was hit by a pitch. And even though he wasn’t in the game Jonny Gomes got ejected for running out of the dugout. Which, hey, he has a personal brand to maintain. The key thing here, though, is the Nats are now 7-13 and sit eight games back with only one team in all of baseball — the Brewers — featuring a worse record than them. Which is quite a thing.

Oh, and another broadcast datapoint: the Braves booth which has, in the past, engaged in all kinds of silly and unwarranted hatred and hostility with respect to Bryce Harper here said, at one point, “He’s a good player. Easy not to like him, but a good player.” I suppose that’s progress. Maybe in another year or two they’ll acknowledge that no one gives a crap if they like him.

Yankees 4, Rays 1: Brian McCann homered, Adam Warren pitched effectively and the Yankees’ winning combination so far — good defense, just enough hitting and a shutdown bullpen — kept things chugging along. A-Rod did not tie Willie Mays in this game as he went hitless. But someone asked Brian McCann about it afterward and McCann said A-Rod’s place on the all-time home run list is “an amazing accomplishment.” I presume the Yankees will fine him now given his failure to follow team policy which prohibits the stating of the bleedin’ obvious.

Reds 9, Brewers 6: Jay Bruce homered and drove in three. Jason Marquis allowed two runs and seven hits in eight innings. He also hit an RBI single, probably to spite me.

Mariners 3, Rangers 1: Taijuan Walker allowed one unearned run in seven innings in his second solid start following a couple of disasters to open up the season. Both of these teams had to be exhausted, as they didn’t get into Texas until the wee hours of the morning due to severe storms which diverted their flights. Then this one started an hour late due to a rain delay. Hope their cell phones are on Do Not Disturb this morning.

Cubs 4, Pirates 0: Kris Bryant was 2-for-4 and drove in two. Jason Hammel tossed eight shutout innings. The Cubs won their third straight and snapped the Pirates’ five-game winning streak. Bryant has driven in nine in ten games. Scary moment here, though, as a fan was taken away in an ambulance after being hit by a flying bat during an Addison Russell plate appearance.

Tigers 5, Twins 4: Yoenis Cespedes had a homer, a double and three RBI. Jose Iglesias hit a homer and a triple, notching three hits in all. He’s hitting .397. All of us wanted to talk about how the Tigers would do after losing Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello in the offseason, but between those two it’s as if the Tigers added two plus bats to an already potent lineup.

Phillies 4, Cardinals 1: Cole Hamels doesn’t need a ton of run support, so when he even gets a little bit here that’s enough. As it was he struck out nine in seven innings and allowed only one run. Don’t tell anyone, but the Phillies have won three of four and are ahead of the Nats in the standings.

Rockies 5, Diamondbacks 4: Justin Morneau hit a three-run homer in the first. Tyler Matzek limited the Diamondbacks to two runs on five hits in five innings. He had to leave early with a leg cramp, though, and the bullpen just barely held on. The Rockies have won five in a row against Arizona.

Dodgers 8, Giants 3: Joc Pederson and Justin Turner went yard. Pederson also doubled in a run and made a sweet play in the field, ranging back to the wall, catching it with his back to the field and then turned around and doubled off Nori Aoki, who had broke from first on the play. Pederson is hitting .296/.458/.556 on the year and doing that kind of crap in the field. Mercy.

Astros 9, Padres 4: Colby Rasmus homered and drove in three as the Astros won their fourth in a row. Jed Lowrie and Jason Castro also homered. The book on Astros hitters this year was that they’d lead the AL in strikeouts and be near the top of the league in homers. At the moment they lead the AL in strikeouts and are fourth in homers, two off the league lead. So, yep.

White Sox vs. Orioles: Postponed: Unrest in Baltimore continues, which may move this series out of the city and down to Washington or someplace else. Baseball, however, seems very, very unimportant compared to what’s happening there. But this is important. You should probably read this.

Source: Josh Hamilton rejected a trade to a National League team because he wanted to go back to Texas

hamilton getty
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A source familiar with the Josh Hamilton trade negotiations tells HardballTalk that, prior to the deal to send him to the Rangers, the Angels had put together a trade that would’ve sent Hamilton to a National League team. Hamilton rejected the deal, however, because he waned to return to Texas.

The source further tells HardballTalk that, if Hamilton had accepted the trade to the NL team, the financial and/or contractual circumstances of the deal may have been better for him there than those under which he agreed to go to Texas.

Hamilton possessed a full no-trade clause under the deal he signed with Anaheim prior to the 2013 season. At the time the potential deal with the National League club was presented to him, Hamilton was aware of the Rangers’ interest. The source tells HardballTalk that the Rangers were “always around” since the notion of trading Hamilton emerged as a possibility.

During Hamilton’s introductory press conference which  just concluded, Hamilton said that the Rangers were his “first choice” when it became apparent that he’d be traded. He added that “If I could change the past . . . I probably wouldn’t have gone anywhere, I would’ve stayed here.”

This may explain, in part, why the Angels are eating so much of Hamilton’s contract.

Did the Angels shoot themselves in the foot in the Josh Hamilton situation?

Jerry Dipoto, Arte Moreno
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The deal is done and Josh Hamilton is heading to Texas. The Rangers are paying less than $7 million for the guy, which is a great deal even if Hamilton performs at the level he’s shown in Anaheim the past two years. If, however, his health and sense of well-being are such that he’s able to approach his old level, the Rangers have themselves an absolute steal. No matter what happens, the Angels are paying Hamilton tens of millions of dollars to simply go away.

And I can’t help but think that’s their own damn fault.

While Rob Manfred continues to maintain that the Angels did not leak the fact of Hamilton’s drug relapse and the disciplinary hearing against him to the media, logic suggests that they’re the prime candidates. And even if they didn’t, the fact of the matter is that Angels officials gave multiple public comments about Hamilton in the wake of all of this, most of it negative, much of it suggesting that Hamilton has little or no value at the moment. He’s broken and sick and he’s the sort of person we don’t even want near our club, let alone on it, the Angels’ words and actions seem to have said.

There are always things that happen in negotiations we in the public don’t know about, but is it that hard to believe that, given how badly the Angels sandbagged Josh Hamilton and how clear they made it that they wanted to be rid of him that Jon Daniels realized he had a good bit of leverage here? Is it not reasonable to suggest that, had Hamilton’s issues remained confidential, they could’ve gotten a better deal for him? Not because the Rangers wouldn’t know — they’d have access to his medical history and, I presume, would be told of his relapse — but because the public wouldn’t. And if they didn’t Jon Daniels would not be able to tell Jerry Dipoto “hey, you gotta help me sell this deal to my fan base.” With said sale being a very low price tag to take on a guy perceived as damaged goods.

It’s all speculation on my part, I realize. Like I said, there are always things in these deals we do not know. But from where I’m sitting, I can’t see a lick of benefit the Angels got from publicly denigrating their player and I can’t see how this deal is particularly good for the Angels.

Maybe those things go together, maybe they don’t. But it’s hard to see what good came of the Angels’ peculiar approach to Josh Hamilton since February.

Deal done: Josh Hamilton traded to the Texas Rangers for cash considerations

Josh Hamilton
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On Friday it was reported that the Angels and Rangers had agreed to a trade for Josh Hamilton. The deal is now done and the details announced: it’s for a player to be named later or cash considerations. There will be a press conference at 4:30 Eastern time, and presumably the details will be confirmed then or shortly thereafter.

As for now, T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com reports that the Rangers will “pick up a small portion” of the remainder of Hamilton’s salary with the Angels responsible for the rest of the $83 million still owed. On Friday it was reported that the Rangers’ amount could be as low as $7 million for the remaining three years. There have also been reports that Hamilton can opt-out of his deal after the 2016 season.

Which, boy-howdy, is not a lot for a guy who could still be a good player. It basically means the Angels just gave up on the guy and gave up on their belief, however erroneous it was, that they could go after Hamilton for the money they still owed him under some sort of “bad behavior” clause in his deal. Now the Angels will be on the hook for the vast majority of the money he is owed and get nothing, it seems, in return.

Of course, given the events of the past several weeks, one suspects that Hamilton and the Angels would do just about anything to be rid of one another.

Following Hamilton’s admission of a drug relapse in late February, Major League Baseball held an arbitration in order to determine if he should be disciplined. Hamilton prevailed and faced no punishment, but the Angels were clearly dissatisfied with the results. In the wake of the ruling, multiple team officials issued public statements criticizing the arbitrator’s ruling and Hamilton’s behavior. Since then, Angels owner Arte Moreno has refused to state publicly if Hamilton would ever play for the Angels again. Hamilton’s locker was given to another player and all Hamilton merchandise had been removed from the Angels’ team store. Two weeks ago it was reported that Hamilton had placed his Orange County home up for sale.

Moreno has suggested to the press that the Angels possessed the legal right to claw back money from Hamilton pursuant to special substance abuse provisions in Hamilton’s contract and language which requires that Hamilton be in “first-class condition.” Sources familiar with the contract told NBC Sports two weeks ago, however, that no such provisions exist which would supersede the terms of the Joint Drug Agreement. The players union has likewise said that Joint Drug Agreement, which Hamilton has been found not to have violated, trumps any contract language to which Moreno may be referring. Last week Hamilton’s teammates who met with him in his Houston-area home told the Los Angeles Times that Hamilton was in excellent physical condition and eager to begin playing again.

This deal puts an end to that acrimony. And puts Josh Hamilton back in Texas, where he rose to his greatest heights as a major leaguer. In five seasons with the Rangers Hamilton hit .305/.363/.549 with 142 home runs and 506 RBI. He led the Rangers to two American League pennants and won the 2010 MVP award and batting title while likewise leading the league in OPS.

While Hamilton’s exit from Texas was a rocky one, a lot has happened since then. Hamilton, following two awful seasons and this latest drama, has been humbled. The Rangers are no longer a winning team. A reunion may not make the most baseball sense, but a commitment of only $7 million for a potential impact bat is not that much, and the reunion may not be the worst thing for a club and a player each of which could use something of a fresh start.