This has been telegraphed for a couple of weeks now, but I have to admit that I didn’t think John Farrell would actually do it: Pablo Sandoval has been benched. Travis Shaw is the starting third baseman for the Boston Red Sox.
A few weeks ago Dave Dombrowski said that Farrell had a free hand to put the best players on the field, regardless of contractual status. It’s been pretty clear this spring that Shaw has been the better player, especially defensively. Sandoval’s defense was always suspect, but his conditioning, Farrell noted, has caused his range and agility to suffer even more than it had in the past. Meanwhile Shaw, though primarily a first baseman in his rookie season, was a third baseman in college and has handled the position ably this spring training.
As for offense, Shaw hit 13 homers in 65 games last year for the Sox and is a .261/.359/.445 hitter in over 500 minor league games. He started off hot this spring but is slumping of late. Sandoval is a better hitter than Shaw when he’s at his best, but whether he’s at his best is the issue here. He had a terrible year at the plate in Boston last season. This spring he is 10-for-39 with two homers.
Not that spring stats are what led to this move. This seems based on defense and approach first and, secondarily, may very well be something of an exercise in message-sending to Sandoval. The Red Sox may have signed him to a five-year, $95 million contract before last season, but that doesn’t guarantee his playing time. If this motivates him — and if Shaw doesn’t Wally Pipp him — Sandoval will either be back at third at some point or, possibly, at DH next year after David Ortiz is gone. If it doesn’t, the Sox are making it quite plain that they will walk away from a bad deal made by the previous front office administration.
In the meantime: welcome to the pine, Kung-Fu Panda.
John Schuerholz, who has spent over a half century in baseball, and over 25 years with the Atlanta Braves, will step down from his role as the club’s president, the team announced today. Long-serving executive vice presidents Mike Plant and Derek Schiller will fill the business and development roles Schuerholz has filled since being elevated from the GM slot back in 2007.
Schuerholz will continue to have a hand in things, as he is being given the new title of Vice Chairman. Based on his comments about doing this so he can ease back and spend more time with his family, however, it sounds like, for the first time in the 75-year-old’s career, he’s easing into something of an emeritus/semi-retirement mode.
Schuerholz is likely headed for the Hall of Fame. He’s one of the greatest GMs of all time, having broken into baseball in what was then the best organization in baseball, the Orioles and then worked his way up to the GM chair in another fantastic organization, the 1970s and 80s Royals. After a World Series win there he moved on to Atlanta and, with the help of his predecessor GM and future manager, Bobby Cox, helped bring the Braves back from oblivion and turned them into perpetual division title winners.
No executive is perfect and both Royals and Braves fans have some nits to pick (David Cone for Ed Hearn? Kevin Millwood for Johnny Estrada?) but Schuerholz is basically the gold standard in baseball executives over the past 50 years and his place in Cooperstown will be well-deserved.
Matt Harvey wouldn’t talk to the media yesterday. He was angry, Terry Collins said, about how the press covered his bladder infection. Collins, clearly perturbed himself said . . .
We were scared Monday. You know how scary it is when they are talking about having to decide in 24 hours what kind of procedure they would have to do to remove the clot if it didn’t pass? They were talking about the fact he wouldn’t be able to fly to New York.
“He was scared,” the manager said. “We were all scared for him. And to see everyone make a joke out of it … yeah, he’s mad. He’s not the only one who is.”
Not gonna blame him. It was a serious situation. I will offer that no one — including the tabloids, who I am usually not in the habit of defending — actually made fun of the illness itself and no one was cracking jokes while his condition was uncertain. Based on what I’ve read — and given my admission yesterday that potty humor is basically my favorite thing ever, I’ve read a LOT — people were joking about Harvey’s comments after the fact about having to use the bathroom more often, not his actual condition. Collins acknowledged that, saying that Harvey maybe said a bit too much about going to the bathroom. But Collins, and by extension Harvey, are right that that’s a pretty fine line to draw in a couple of scary days.
Collins’ comments were clearly in response to the tabloid covers, but we’re not innocent here. I made some jokes. I laughed at many more. I go on about empathy and stuff an awful lot but didn’t practice any here. Being in Harvey’s shoes this week was probably not a lot of fun. While some people may have had a laugh about things after the fact — and I think many people thought Harvey was too based on his comments on Tuesday — Harvey was and is entitled to his own feelings and no on really respected them. We assumed he was cool with it and then rushed to make pee jokes.
Sorry, Matt. The media often tells baseball players, in a lot of different ways, that they need to be better. We can and should be told that we need to be better too.