Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard provided the Phillies’ only run in a 9-1 loss to the Nationals on Friday, blasting a solo homer to right field in the ninth inning off of Yusmeiro Petit. The home run marked the 361st in the slugger’s career, tying him with Joe DiMaggio for 81st on baseball’s all-time leaderboard.
No one, at least in the last five years, has ever entertained the thought that Howard is comparable to DiMaggio in hitting prowess. But Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully, in relaying the news on Friday, took the opportunity to praise DiMaggio at the expense of Howard. Andy Merritt went to the trouble of transcribing the comment, which you can hear on Streamable:
Howard was, for a while, a lightning rod for criticism among Phillies fans because after signing a five-year, $125 million extension, he represented the divide between statistical traditionalists and proponents of Sabermetrics. But as the last five years of his career have been hampered by serious injuries, and a much-publicized familial strife affected his on-field play, he’s become a sympathetic player again. Slamming Howard now, when he’s going through the motions in the final year of his contract with the Phillies, is to kick a guy while he’s down sadistically. It’s likely the case that Scully wasn’t aware of the tone he conveyed, as he certainly hasn’t made a name for himself by ripping into players.
We’ve talked about the bans on tobacco products in various cities — New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles among them — and some players’ reactions to it.
The Rays kick off a three-game series in Boston followed by a three-game set in New York, meaning the Rays’ players will have to deal with life on the field without chewing tobacco. That will prove to be a challenge for some players, like Dana Eveland and Matt Moore, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.
Reliever Steve Geltz has a philosophical disagreement with the ban. “It seems a little dictatorship-ish. And that’s not the world we live in,” he said.
It’s exaggeration to the umpteenth degree, because we have regulations on behavior and choice in many facets of life, some meaningful and others not so meaningful. All healthy democracies do this. Geltz, in fact, may be confusing democracy with anarchy.
Eveland, however, is working on a substitute for tobacco. “If I can replace that with gum and seeds and biting my fingernails a little bit more, maybe I’ll survive,” the lefty said.
Bleacher Report’s Scott Miller spoke to Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman about outfielder Yasiel Puig and Cuban players in general. Friedman was very honest, saying, “We as an industry, in my opinion, have failed our Cuban players. We sign them for big money and rush them to the big leagues.”
The Dodgers signed Puig to a seven-year, $42 million contract in June 2012. He played in only 63 minor league games, skipping Triple-A entirely, before debuting in the majors in June 2013.
Still only 25 years old, Puig has been held under a microscope for all of his failures both on and off the field, some deserved and some not. It pales in comparison to the treatment of native prospects who struggle after debuting. Of course, some of the spotlight has to do with the contracts Puig and others have signed, where as traditional minor leaguers are severely underpaid until they accrue enough service time to either sign a contract extension or become eligible for arbitration.
Puig, starting in Sunday night’s game against the Giants, is hitting .357 with four extra-base hits in 49 plate appearances to begin the 2016 season. He played in only 79 games last season and posted a meager — by his standards — .758 OPS.
Sunday’s Mariners-Yankees game was historic because it featured a starting pitching match-up between two pitchers who were former teammates in Japan, the first meeting of its kind in the major leagues, as MLB.com’s Greg Johns and Bryan Hoch note.
Tanaka and the elder Iwakuma were teammates on the Rakuten Golden Eagles between 2007-11. Iwakuma then signed with the Mariners (one year, $1.5 million) and debuted in the majors in 2012. Tanaka signed with the Yankees (seven years, $155 million) and debuted in 2014.
Tanaka got the upper hand on Sunday, getting the win by limiting the Mariners to three runs (two earned) on six hits with no walks and six strikeouts over seven innings. Iwakuma went seven innings in a losing effort, yielding four runs on eight hits and a pair of walks with three strikeouts in seven innings.
Friday was Jackie Robinson Day, a day on which Major League Baseball remembers the impact Robinson had in breaking baseball’s color barrier in 1947 with the Dodgers. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle spoke about Robinson’s importance, not just with regards to race, but gender as well.
Via Matt Eisenberg of ESPNW:
“This isn’t just an African-American celebration. This is about the opening of doors for everybody,” Hurdle said, according to the Beaver County Times. “I still believe firmly there is going to be a day where there is a female player in the big leagues. I got that. Where it goes, I don’t know. I don’t believe I’ll be in the dugout to see it.”
Mo’ne Davis made waves with her dominance as a pitcher in the Little League World Series, and Justine Siegal served as a guest instructor for the Athletics’ Instructional League team last year. Meanwhile, major league front offices have become a bit more inclusive when it comes to hiring women. While the progress hasn’t been as swift as one would like, it’s progress nonetheless. Hopefully, Hurdle is right, and he’ll be in the dugout to see it.