Craig Calcaterra

Blogger at NBC Sport.com's HardballTalk. Recovering litigator. Rake. Scoundrel. Notorious Man-About-Town.
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Joey Votto is Joey Hotto

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I’m sorry. I could’ve tried harder with that headline. I’m more disappointed in myself than anyone, really. Time for some soul searching on my part, frankly. Anyway:

Joey Votto just struck out looking in the first inning of this afternoon’s Reds-Cards game, but the way he’s going right now, that’ll be remedied soon.

Votto is on fire. He’s in the middle of a 17-game hitting streak. During that streak he’s batting an astounding .500/.605/.759 with 18 runs. But it’s not just the streak. After a slow start to the season, Votto hit .319/.466/.549 in June and .413/.549/.627 in July. Not counting that strikeout a few minutes ago he’s 5-for-8 in his first two August games. In June and July he’s raised his average, his on-base percentage and slugging percentage nearly 100 points each, taking him into today’s game with a line of .293/.424/.497. All in a season in which, around Memorial Day, people were asking “what’s wrong with Joey Votto?”

Votto signed a ten-year contract worth $225 million back in 2012 and, if it weren’t for that deal and it being almost impossible for anyone to pick it up, he’d probably have been traded away just like Jay Bruce, Aroldis Chapman and Todd Frazier were. Being on a losing Reds team with fewer friends around than he used to have may make life a tad sad for him, but it’s not hurting his performance. And it’s giving Reds fans a reason to tune in to each game no matter how bad the team is playing.

 

Mark Prior: “I don’t blame Dusty for what happened to me”

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The story people tell about former Cubs pitcher Mark Prior goes like this: he had perfect mechanics and the sky was the limit. Then his manager, Dusty Baker, overused him in 2003, giving him 211 innings regular season innings in his first full big league season and allowing him to throw 130+ pitches multiple times down the stretch and the playoffs. Prior broke and never really recovered, ending his career before it truly began.

Only one problem with that: Mark Prior says it’s bunk. Today he writes a first person account over at The Cauldron about where he is now — happily working as a pitching coordinator for the Padres — and where he was. As for where he was, he says leave Dusty Baker alone. It’s not his fault, Prior says, noting that he had other injuries totally unrelated to overuse which could have easily contributed to his later problems. He says “I don’t blame Dusty for what happened to me.”

Prior makes a lot of fair points there. And, it’s important to note that while overuse is not a good thing for a pitcher and while Prior was overused, some pitchers experience the problems he experienced with far less use. He may have blown up anyway. For what it’s worth, Baker became a much different manager as far as pitcher use goes after he moved on to Cincinnati and then Washington. Baker’s rep was earned but it’s outdated.

I don’t think Baker is totally blameless. What’s more, Prior alluding to his own desire to not leave games when he was young doesn’t carry the day. It was Baker’s job to rein in Prior’s youthful competitiveness and be the adult and he didn’t always do that. But as Prior notes, it’s his job now with the Padres to deal with workloads and pitcher health and it is not an easy job at all. There is still so much unknown and we know far more now than anyone did in 2003.

If Prior is letting Baker off the hook for this we all should too.

 

Kendrys Morales suspended for one game

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Kansas City Royals DH Kendrys Morales has received a one-game suspension and an undisclosed fine for his actions following his ninth inning ejection during Tuesday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Which, um, I didn’t see and can’t remember anyone talking about, but apparently involved him returning to the field after being ejected, which you can’t do.

Morales has appealed his suspension, but one-game suspensions are never reduced. He probably just wants to play today and will drop the appeal when he wants a day off.