Craig Calcaterra

It must be “make Daniel Murphy a Yankee” day

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The Mets had a day off and New York had a day to think about all of the cool things Daniel Murphy has done over the past week or so. For their part, New York reporters had a chance to write up “will the Yankees sign Daniel Murphy?” columns.

Here’s one from Mark Feinsand of the Daily News. Here’s one from Bob Klapisch of the Bergen Record. Both of them note the Yankees’ need for a second baseman, note his lefty power and argue that it would translate pretty well to Yankee Stadium. Never mind that he has two homers and a SLG of .393 in 15 games in Yankee Stadium and, more to the point, is playing way above his head at the moment, can’t really cover second base and the Yankees have a third baseman, a DH and two first basemen, really.

Feinsand’s correctly notes that Rob Refsnyder is an internal option that the Yankees are more likely to go with than some expensive free agent. And even if they change their mind about that, there are many second basemen out on the market if they decide to go that route, including Howie Kendrick and Ben Zobrist. The upshot: there are cheaper options. There are better options. There are better cheaper options. Given the Yankees’ stated and, to quite a degree, demonstrated desire to get younger and cheaper, signing a 31-year-old Daniel Murphy at the top of his market following a killer and likely flukey postseason just doesn’t seem like the Yankees’ m.o. these days.

So why these columns? My guess: some editors who like to stoke the idea of Mets-Yankees rivalry and drama and who think it’s still 1987, George Steinbrenner is still alive and that the Yankees make decisions based on what is most likely to land them on the back pages of the tabloids.

Playoff Reset: A must-win game for the Cubs

Jacob deGrom
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Both the AL and NL are in action today. And while every game matters in a short series, if the Cubs don’t win this one they’ll likely be free to make early inning dinner reservations starting next Tuesday when the World Series starts. The Royals, meanwhile, don’t want to let the Jays even things up this afternoon. Because, given that lineup, even would seem like a disadvantage for Kansas City in some strange way, wouldn’t it?

The Game: Kansas City Royals vs. Toronto Blue Jays
The Time: 4:07 p.m. ET
The Place: Rogers Centre
The Channel: FS1
The Starters: Chris Young vs. R.A. Dickey
The Upshot: Chris Young is an Ivy League product. Dickey is a published author. They’re former teammates in both Texas and New York and they used to have long intellectual conversations with one another. In the other game you have Kyle Hendricks, who also went to an Ivy League school. Jacob deGrom once broke his finger while castrating a calf. He’s the best pitcher of the lot of them, of course. Baseball rules.

Anyway, I sort of love Dickey vs. the Royals. He’s 3-0 with a 2.73 ERA in his last four starts against them, and I can’t help but think the random and weak contact hitters get against knuckleballers harms them more than other teams given how much they rely on balls in play as opposed to homers. Young could be rusty: he hasn’t pitched since he struck out seven in four innings against the Astros twelve days ago. He has had some success in a couple of starts against the Jays.

 

The Game: New York Mets vs. Chicago Cubs
The Time: 8:07 p.m. ET
The Place: Wrigley Field
The Channel: TBS
The Starters: Jacob deGrom vs. Kyle Hendricks
The UpshotMatt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard had no trouble with the Cubs’ big bats. If Jacob deGrom finds the sledding that easy, that’s pretty much all she wrote. And deGrom has been unbelievably tough. He was dominant in Game 1 against the Dodgers, striking out 13 while pitching seven scoreless innings. In Game 5 he really didn’t have his best stuff at all, but gutted out six innings on the edge. An extraordinarily mature performance for a young player and one which should warn the Cubs that the typical calculus in which one figures out early if the opposing pitcher is sharp or not is not necessarily operative. Then again, a lot of calculuses are non-operative for the Cubs, such as “it’s OK to pitch to Daniel Murphy, he can’t really hurt you too bad.”

Kyle Hendricks made one start in the Cubs’ ALDS appearance against the Cardinals, giving up three solo home runs and being pulled in the fifth inning. The Cubs won that game but Hendricks didn’t inspire a ton of confidence. In two starts against the Mets Hendricks has only allowed two runs in 13 innings. One was this past June. The other wasn’t even this season, so that really doesn’t matter too much given where and what the Mets are now.

John Hirschbeck’s ejection of Troy Tulowitzki was weak

Tulowitzki ejection
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Last night, Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki was called out on strikes in the bottom of the seventh inning. It was a borderline call but a pitch that is quite often called a strike and wasn’t the kind of hill you’d prefer your star shortstop to die on, but he beefed about it anyway. He and home plate umpire John Hirschbeck argued a bit about the call, Tulowitzki sat down and that was that.

Except that wasn’t that. When Tulowitzki went out to shortstop at the top of the eighth, he appeared to be talking to his teammates about it. Hirschbeck, all the way over by home plate, took notice. Tulowitzki later said that he told Hirschbeck that the pitch wasn’t a strike. I imagine he said something stronger than that. But whatever the case, after a very brief exchange, Hirschbeck ejected Tulowtizki. Watch:

 

The Blue Jays have, to put it lightly, taken considerable issue with the strike zone this series. They don’t really have a great case on that score according to PITCHf/x, but ballplayers complain about strike zones sometimes. Even if you’re not supposed to argue balls and strikes with umps. It’s baseball and it happens.

What doesn’t happen or, at the very least shouldn’t happen, is an umpire running a key player in a situation like that. Yes, if a player is up in his face or delaying the game or otherwise behaving obnoxiously he may warrant an ejection, but this was not that case. This was an umpire fully able, if he so chose, to ignore a whining player. Instead he chose to have rabbit ears and take personal insult at what the player said, allowing his ego to control the situation.

We can possibly ignore this stuff in July, but this was a playoff game. The AL-freakin’-CS, and Tulowitzki is one of the most important players in it. It ultimately didn’t matter much to the outcome, but baseball should not tolerate a situation in which an overly-sensitive umpire is allowed to have a key impact on a playoff game by virtue of running a player with whom he becomes displeased. The fuse in a playoff game should be way, way, way longer than it normally is. And, heck, even in a regular season game the fuse should not be lit by a player standing 80 feet away saying something that no one else in the ballpark can hear in between innings.

I know there will be many of you who say “hey, you’re not supposed to argue balls and strikes,” “Tulo is a veteran who should know better,” or “hey, it was a good pitch and he had no argument in the first place.” Sorry, not buying that. Umpires should not, in anything other than extreme circumstances which imperil their very control over the game (i.e. beanball wars, fights, extreme and excessive confrontations) be ejecting players from playoff games. The outcome should be dictated by the players on the field, not the officials exercising what they consider to be their power.

Know what real power for an umpire is? Making your call and making it clear that nothing the players who are mad about it say makes a lick of difference. A power move is to totally and 100% ignore someone whining like Tulowitzki was whining. To act as if you can’t even hear him and, even if you did, that it doesn’t matter anyway. That’s what an umpire should be doing in these sorts of situations, not having his attention taken from his in-between inning routine and showing how big a man he is by depriving one team of one of its most important players.

In almost every situation, the first person to raise their voice in an argument is the loser. The person who escalates a situation the weaker party. While John Hirschbeck is one of the better umpires in the game, he showed himself to be the weaker party here, and by doing so could have very easily affected the outcome of a playoff game. That’s simply unacceptable.