Author: Mike Florio

Tony La Russa and Colby Rasmus both deny reported "rift"


Colby Rasmus was back in the Cardinals’ lineup yesterday for the first time in two weeks, and after the game the 24-year-old center fielder and manager Tony La Russa denied the reported “rift” between them.
Rasmus said: “From my side, me and Tony, we’re on good terms.”
However, in downplaying their “issues” that have been reported extensively this month La Russa admitted that the two “had a heated exchange earlier this season” and still took a few jabs at Rasmus:

There is no issue. I feel like he’s got a chance to be a really good player. He’s young. He’s learning. Even while he’s been inconsistent, he’s still a good player. Colby believes he needs to hit for power to make a mark. I stress to him if he can hit .300, he’ll help us a lot more than that. In that .300, there will be home runs. But there will also be going first to third, stealing bases, using his legs. He’s young. In the back of his mind, he knows if he catches one, it’s going.

Keep in mind that earlier this week St. Louis Post Dispatch beat reporter Joe Strauss speculated that “either La Russa or Rasmus is gone from St. Louis before the 2011 season” and columnist Bernie Miklasz opined that the La Russa-Rasmus situation “is very strange and it must end.”
Perhaps the whole thing has been overblown or perhaps La Russa and Rasmus are simply trying to play nice for the rest of the season, with La Russa struggling to do so without still taking the young player down a few notches in the media. Either way, outwardly at least Rasmus is saying all the right things and at 24 years old he’s been one of the best all-around center fielders in baseball, so I tend to think he’s a bigger part of the Cardinals’ future than La Russa.

Royals top prospect Mike Moustakas has 3-homer, 11-RBI game at Triple-A


Yesterday the Double-A Texas League named Mike Moustakas its player of the year despite his promotion to Triple-A six weeks earlier and then the stud Royals prospect celebrated his honor a few hours later with three homers and 11 RBIs in last night’s game.
Moustakas hit .347 with 21 homers, 24 doubles, and a ridiculous 1.100 OPS in 66 games at Double-A. He hasn’t been able to keep up those video game-like numbers in the Pacific Coast League, but a 21-year-old hitting .297 with 13 homers, 14 doubles, and a .569 slugging percentage in 45 games at Triple-A is still incredibly impressive.
Between the two levels he’s hitting .326/.376/.637 with 34 homers and 39 doubles in 111 games, with the former No. 2 overall pick’s only real weakness being a lack of plate discipline. Of course, I wouldn’t be all that interested in drawing walks if I was slugging .637 either and Moustakas has cut his strikeouts even while upping his power.
Things have been ugly in Kansas City again this season, but fortunately for Zack Greinke, Billy Butler, and Royals fans some big-time help is on the way.

Jim Edmonds says "I'm leaning toward shutting it down and being a family man again"


Acquired from the Brewers for Chris Dickerson three weeks ago, Jim Edmonds played just nine games for the Reds before being sidelined by an oblique injury and the 40-year-old said yesterday that he’s now leaning toward retiring after the season:

I’m leaning toward shutting it down and being a family man again. I’ve made my mark. I’ve done as much as I can do as an everyday player.

Edmonds will try to get healthy enough to contribute to the Reds down the stretch and into October, but told Milwaukee reporters that he misses playing for the Brewers:

I had a blast there. I miss it, actually. It’s been a bit of a tough transition. It’s never easy to leave guys that you’ve spent four months with. I can’t say enough about the front office, the fans. It’s a great place to play. It’s a first-class organization all the way through. They made it comfortable for me and my family. You can’t beat it.

He also revealed that Brewers manager Ken Macha talked him out of calling it quits just prior to the trade, with Edmonds saying “it was the only thing that kept me going.”
Edmonds has played remarkably well this season considering he’s 40 years old, sat out all of last season after failing to find an interested team, and has struggled with various injuries. He’s hit .277/.337/.481 with nine homers and 23 doubles in 264 plate appearances, and his .818 OPS ranks fourth among NL center fielders with at least 250 trips to the plate.
I’m fairly certain Edmonds won’t come close to getting the votes necessary for the Hall of Fame, but he has a very good case and is perhaps one of the most underrated players of this era. He’s an eight-time Gold Glove winner with 391 career homers and a .902 lifetime OPS that ranks 10th all time among center fielders. Few people seem to recognize it, but Edmonds is likely one of the dozen best center fielders in baseball history.

Another prominent columnist perpetuates the "Manny Ramirez is no longer any good" myth


I wrote yesterday about how silly it is for mainstream media members to act as if Manny Ramirez is no longer a good player despite his owning the fourth-best OPS in the entire league and the Dodgers having a significantly better record when he was in the lineup.

Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times wrote a column about Ramirez today and it includes exactly the sort of “don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story” approach that I was talking about. Here’s an excerpt:

With the exception of an occasional lucky moment when a fat pitch hit his slow bat, he departed the Dodgers the moment he was busted for being a performance-enhancing drug cheat. How do you say goodbye to someone who has been gone for 16 months?

“Man ain’t the same since he’s been off his medicine,” one of the Dodgers told me late last season.
Man lost faith in his drug-free swing. Man lost the swag in his clubhouse swagger. Man wasn’t Manny again, really, until last weekend. That was when he officially quit.

According to Plaschke he “lost faith in his drug-free swing” and “has been gone for 16 months” except for “an occasional lucky moment when a fat pitch hit his slow bat.” That all sounds good until you actually try to match up Plaschke’s statements with facts.

Since “he was busted for being a performance-enhancing drug cheat” Ramirez has batted .287 with a .396 on-base percentage and .500 slugging percentage in 143 games. That works out to an .896 OPS, which is the best on the Dodgers during that time and ranks 12th in the entire National League, directly behind Adrian Gonzalez (.916) and Ryan Howard (.903) and right ahead of Hanley Ramirez (.877) and Ryan Braun (.865).

I’m certainly not suggesting that anyone has to overlook Ramirez’s many faults, but why does pointing out his flaws have to include ignoring or even distorting his strengths to fit into a certain storyline? Since returning from his 50-game suspension Ramirez has been the best hitter on the Dodgers and one of the dozen best hitters in the entire league, yet from reading the many articles like Plaschke’s you’d think he was batting .190.

Cole Hamels' win-loss record doesn't show it, but he's having a great season


Before tossing eight shutout innings for a victory against the Padres yesterday Cole Hamels hadn’t won a game since July 11 and his overall record this season is just 8-10, but don’t let that fool you: Hamels is having an outstanding year.
He has a 3.31 ERA and 176/50 K/BB ratio in 174 innings, including a 2.47 ERA, .220 opponents’ batting average, and 88/18 K/BB ratio in 12 starts since July 1. Hamels ranks fifth among NL pitchers in both strikeouts and strikeouts per nine innings, ninth in strikeout-to-walk ratio, and has the same opponents’ batting average as rotation-mate Roy Halladay.
Yet because he ranks 47th among the 53 qualified NL pitchers in run support his winning percentage is below .500 for the second straight season. Hamels has pitched every bit as well as he did in 2007 or 2008, and if the Phillies can make it to October a playoff rotation of Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Hamels is awfully scary.