Author: Craig Calcaterra

masahiro tanaka getty

Masahiro Tanaka pitches a simulated game, on track to pitch in September


Masahiro Tanaka pitched a simulated game this morning. He tossed 49 pitches and, according to those who watched it, he utilized his entire repertoire of pitches, splitter included. His command was a bit rusty, but afterwards, the Yankees manager waxed optimistic:

At the moment the Yankees are six games behind the Orioles in the AL East but only two and a half back of the Mariners, who sit in the second wild card slot. Between them: the Tigers. So, yes, having Tanaka back would be a pretty big deal.

Albert Pujols plays the “you never played the game!” card

pujols getty

Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times has a piece about Albert Pujols. One which acknowledges the obvious — Pujols now is not what he used to be — but that he still has his value and his moments and how he’s still producing just fine for the first place Angels.

Pretty standard story for when a former all-world star ages and loses a step. And Pujols has a pretty standard retort to anyone who has the temerity to note that, no, it’s not 2008 anymore, unfortunately:

Age and mileage on his legs have, inevitably, dimmed Pujols’ brilliance. But he’s far from washed up, and said he learned to ignore critics who snipe from afar without all the facts.

“Those genius think that, why they don’t come and try and hit a ball? They’re sitting behind a desk or punching numbers in a computer or writing in the paper. That’s what their job is, to try and be negative towards the players,” he said. “But they don’t know that this game is tough. This game is not easy. You can be 100% and it’s not easy — imagine when you have injuries. At the end of my career, I will know what I have accomplished in this game. At the end of my career, then we can look back. If I can play the seven years I have left on my contract we’ll see where we’re at.”

Yeah, if only there was some objective standards — some metrics — by which one could see the decline in a baseball player’s performance and which would justify them making the innocuous and factual statement that he’s not quite as good as he once was. Sadly, no such thing exists and we’re all forced to shut up unless we actually go and face major league pitching.

This stance bugs the hell out of me. Mostly because when athletes say such things they’re railing against non-existent critics. No one with any sense or reason says that Pujols is a bad person because he can’t hit like he did when he was 27. No one thinks he’s particularly unusual in terms of his career arc and (relative) decline. To the extent his contract is criticized it’s not a personal thing — who wouldn’t take that money? — and criticism of it is leveled at the Angels for offering it, not for Pujols accepting it. Show me the “critics who snipe from afar” who say such things. Because I’m not sure who he’s talking about here.

[ RELATED: Is Pujols’ contract still worth it to the Angels? ]

More generally: we don’t live in a world in which only those who do a thing are capable of talking about that thing. No one who writes about music thinks they can play the guitar like a rock star, but they are certainly capable of talking about how a band isn’t as good as it once was. No one (well, no one with self-awareness) who writes about politics thinks they could lead a nation, but they are certainly capable of talking about a politician failing to fulfill his or her promises. And no one who writes about baseball thinks they can hit a major league fastball, but we’re certainly capable to noting when a hitter is in decline. And Albert Pujols is in decline.

If Pujols needs to compare himself to his critics in this fashion to motivate him, well, whatever works. But if he hopes to change any minds with such an approach voiced publicly, good luck.

The Padres create a “Selig Hall of Fame Plaza” outside of Petco Park for some reason

Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves

I’ve been pretty out front in arguing that Bud Selig’s tenure as Commissioner of Baseball has been a successful one. At least (a) if you measure him by what his actual job is and not what you wish it was; and (b) if you measure him against his predecessors.

But even if you do that and even if, like me, you come to the conclusion that Selig has been a success, it’s not like success as Commissioner is the sort of thing that the masses are likely to celebrate. The Padres seem to have missed that:

On yet another sun-kissed day in paradise, the Padres honored Selig with a dedication ceremony of the Selig Hall of Fame Plaza at Petco Park, which sits behind the Western Metal Supply Building, next to 13 palm trees, waving gently in the breeze during the 20-minute ceremony . . . the area will serve as a home to the Padres Hall of Fame and eventually statues in the plaza to honor Padres greats as well as a plaque to honor Selig, not just for his overall achievements to baseball during his 22-year tenure as Commissioner but the specific accomplishment of helping to keep baseball afloat in San Diego.

The Padres, it seems, have the same disconnect regarding Selig that fans who think he’s awful do: they think he’s a leader of of people apart from 30 baseball owners. They’re treating him like a statesman or a political figure when, in fact, he’s the head of a board of directors. A CEO of a business. A business that, to be fair, a lot of us patronize, but which in terms of revenues is not all that far north of the Dollar Tree stores. I don’t think Bob Sasser, the CEO of Dollar Tree, Inc., is getting plazas named after him on the sidewalk out side any Dollar Tree outlets these days.

Just another example of the weird relationship between sports and the public. A relationship in which sports are treated like public institutions and their leaders are somehow considered something other than business people. The same thing that goes into making a public plaza honoring Bud Selig is what goes into governments and tax payers giving them money to build ballparks or courts immunizing them from the same laws every other business has to follow. This impulse has always baffled me.

Let us praise Bud Selig for the things he has done. And let him have his statue in Milwaukee because, after all, he did bring baseball to Milwaukee. But let us have perspective too. He’s an executive. He’s not an athlete people loved to watch like Tony Gwynn. He’s not a war hero like Ted Williams. He’s not a statesman like some mayor, president or governor. He’s an executive of a moderately-sized business. Nothing more. Why he gets a plaza in San Diego is beyond me.

Corey Kluber is miffed he didn’t get to throw warmup pitches during a replay review

Corey Kluber Getty

Here’s an odd area of the new replay rules most of us hadn’t thought about: if and when the pitcher on the mound during the replay gets to throw warmup pitches following a replay review.

Most of the time the TV cameras aren’t focused on the pitcher during a review. They’re focused on the umps in headsets and the showing of replays of the play being reviewed. But apparently, some pitchers use that time to keep warm, as they don’t know how long the review may last. Some, however, wait it out and then throw a couple pitches after the review is over and before play resumes.

That’s what Indians starter Corey Kluber usually does, anyway. But last night he was denied. He didn’t much care for that. From Jordan Bastian at

The pitcher has been on the mound for a handful of replay reviews, including one that lasted a few minutes in the eighth inning of his Aug. 15 start against the Orioles. Given the unpredictability of the length of any given review, the pitcher has developed a routine in which he warms up after the conclusion of the delay . . . When Wednesday’s review wrapped up after a quick 48-second conference with the Replay Operations Center in New York, Kluber asked to throw a few warmup pitches. [umpire Rob] Drake informed the pitcher that he should have done that during the review. Kluber then checked with [Crew Chief Joe] West, but the pitcher was instructed to take the mound in order to resume the game.

Kluber didn’t much care for having to guess when he should throw. He said, in this case anyway, it didn’t much matter, but that not having a set rule about when pitchers can take warmup pitches is a problem to be addressed.

I don’t assume that a 48-second review like this one will create precedent, but at some point an extended review may cause a problem that MLB would do well to address.

And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

Clayton Kershaw

Dodgers 3, Diamondbacks 1: Eight innings, ten strikeouts no earned runs for Clayton Kershaw. Ho-hum. It’s his third straight start with double digits in strikeouts. Ho-Hum. He’s 16-3 with a 1.73 ERA. Ho-hum. The guy leads MLB in wins despite spending five weeks on the disabled list. Ho-effeing-Hum.

Pirates 3, Cardinals 1: Ike Davis with a long two-run shot in the second ended up being all the scoring the Pirates would need as Jeff Locke allowed only one run over seven, outdueling Adam Wainwright. After the game Wainwright said he had a dead arm. Which is way better than an undead arm. Although there are fixes for that too.

Rangers 12, Mariners 4: Rougned Odor hit a grand slam, Tomas Tellis drove in three and everyone on the Rangers was detained by the Seattle police for suspected fraud and identity theft because there is no way those are real people’s names.

Phillies 8, Nationals 4: The Phillies sweep the Nats, with Grady Sizemore’s two-run pinch hit homer in the sixth putting them ahead. If the Phillies keep winning like this Ruben Amaro is going to go into next season thinking that this group is totally dandy, isn’t he?

Yankees 8, Tigers 4: The Yankees banged out nine straight hits off David Price in their eight-run third inning. Meanwhile, every baseball analyst, present company included, is spending their morning deleting old posts and columns in which we claimed that the Tigers picking up Price ensured them a playoff spot and made them World Series favorites.

Rays 3, Orioles 1: Meanwhile, the other part of the David Price trade — Drew Smyly — was just dandy, allowing one run on two hits over seven innings. We pundits will not be deleting anything we said about Smyly. At least those of us who said that he was a really solid young pitcher who the Rays will be happy to have. He’s certainly been showing that so far.

Reds 7, Cubs 5: Jorge Soler was called up yesterday and made his big league debut. Not a bad one — 2 for 4 with a homer and an RBI single — but it wasn’t enough. Mat Latos stuck out ten and the Reds bats chased Jacob Turner in the fourth. Not that it was all his fault: the Cubs committed three errors. They threatened in the ninth too, but it came up short.

Braves 3, Mets 2: The Braves snap their losing streak thanks in part to a lead-saving, mind-blowing freakout of a play by Andrelton Simmons. I saw people comparing his range-right, jump-throw to first play to Derek Jeter. And I suppose it was in form. But I’d love to see a video overlay of Simmons’ play with any of Jeter’s from the past, oh, 15 years. I’d bet the farm there was none in which Jeter was a deep in the hole as Simmons was here.

Blue Jays 5, Red Sox 2: Danny Valencia had a pinch-hit, go-ahead, three-run homer in the seventh. In a bleak season, Boston’s bullpen had actually been pretty OK until recently. Now even it is disappointing.

Padres 3, Brewers 2: Rene Rivera took care of everything here, tying the game with a home run in the ninth inning, and winning it with an RBI single in the 10th. He also allowed a run to score on a passed ball, so he really did dominate this game in every way.

White Sox 3, Indians 2: The Sox end a seven game losing streak that had them actually tied with the Cubs for the worst record in Chicago (which is a thing I just made up). Jose Abreu hit a pair of RBI singles. Corey Kluber lost his second straight start after not taking a loss since June before that.

Royals 6, Twins 1: Phil Hughes shut Kansas City down until the eighth inning, then they broke through for four runs against him and two more off the pen. Sal Perez and Billy Butler had the big hits. The Royals gain another game in the standings and they now lead Detroit by two and a half.

Giants 4, Rockies 2: Buster Posey had two homers on Tuesday and then broke a 2-2 tie — and ended the game — with a walkoff two-run homer. Tim Hudson, who pitched excellently despite the no-decision,  notched his 2,000th career strikeout. Bruce Bochy got his 1,600th career win.

Athletics 5, Astros 4: Sam Fuld broke a tie with a two-run homer in the ninth. Man, there were a lot of tie-breaking homers last night. The A’s have won 12 games this year when trailing after the seventh inning. That’s the most in baseball. Now they face the Angels in a [pick your adjective which generally means important] four-game series.

Angels 6, Marlins 1: Mike Trout notches his 30th homer of the year. Trout leads the majors with 71 extra-base hits and 283 total bases. I look forward to someone trying to construct an argument about how he’s not the American League MVP.