Jason Marquis

Jason Marquis Reds

Jason Marquis designated for assignment by the Reds


Two weeks ago the Reds demoted right-hander Jason Marquis from the rotation to the bullpen and now they’ve designated him for assignment.

Marquis allowed 37 runs, including 10 homers, in 47 innings this season and missed all of last year recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery.

He hasn’t posted an ERA better than the league average since way back in 2009, yet has thrown 483 innings for five different teams while being paid $25 million during that time. At age 36 he’ll almost surely have to settle for a minor-league deal and a stint at Triple-A if he wants to keep playing.

And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights

Daniel Murphy

Mets 3, Marlins 1: Amazin.’ Daniel Murphy hit a go-ahead/come-from-behind three run bomb and Mets improve to 15-5. Murphy also made a nifty play in the field the next half-inning. Adrenaline is a hell of a thing. The Mets have a 4.5 game lead in the East and are eight games up everyone’s favorites, the Nationals. Which, wow.

Red Sox 6, Blue Jays 5: MookieMania is running wild, brother. Betts with the walkoff RBI single through a drawn-in infield. Betts said he “got a decent pitch to hit.” He’s only 22 but his cliche game is that of a seasoned veteran.

Royals 6, Indians 2: Mike Moustakas got four hits and Alex Gordon drove in two, which ain’t too bad against the reigning Cy Young Award winner. Bonus from this game came from the Royals’ booth, where I am told Fox Sports Kansas City’s Rex Hudler was talking about my annual Baseball’s Most Handsome Managers rankings. Hudler was quoted by viewers as saying “Did you say it was a guy that made that list up?” Yes, Rex, it was. And have a nice, heteronormative day yourself.

Braves 8, Nationals 4: The Braves beat up the Nats in a game that featured some chippiness following a hard Andrelton Simmons’ slide into third base which led to a cut on Yunel Escobar’s hand. There were warnings and then Simmons was hit by a pitch. And even though he wasn’t in the game Jonny Gomes got ejected for running out of the dugout. Which, hey, he has a personal brand to maintain. The key thing here, though, is the Nats are now 7-13 and sit eight games back with only one team in all of baseball — the Brewers — featuring a worse record than them. Which is quite a thing.

Oh, and another broadcast datapoint: the Braves booth which has, in the past, engaged in all kinds of silly and unwarranted hatred and hostility with respect to Bryce Harper here said, at one point, “He’s a good player. Easy not to like him, but a good player.” I suppose that’s progress. Maybe in another year or two they’ll acknowledge that no one gives a crap if they like him.

Yankees 4, Rays 1: Brian McCann homered, Adam Warren pitched effectively and the Yankees’ winning combination so far — good defense, just enough hitting and a shutdown bullpen — kept things chugging along. A-Rod did not tie Willie Mays in this game as he went hitless. But someone asked Brian McCann about it afterward and McCann said A-Rod’s place on the all-time home run list is “an amazing accomplishment.” I presume the Yankees will fine him now given his failure to follow team policy which prohibits the stating of the bleedin’ obvious.

Reds 9, Brewers 6: Jay Bruce homered and drove in three. Jason Marquis allowed two runs and seven hits in eight innings. He also hit an RBI single, probably to spite me.

Mariners 3, Rangers 1: Taijuan Walker allowed one unearned run in seven innings in his second solid start following a couple of disasters to open up the season. Both of these teams had to be exhausted, as they didn’t get into Texas until the wee hours of the morning due to severe storms which diverted their flights. Then this one started an hour late due to a rain delay. Hope their cell phones are on Do Not Disturb this morning.

Cubs 4, Pirates 0: Kris Bryant was 2-for-4 and drove in two. Jason Hammel tossed eight shutout innings. The Cubs won their third straight and snapped the Pirates’ five-game winning streak. Bryant has driven in nine in ten games. Scary moment here, though, as a fan was taken away in an ambulance after being hit by a flying bat during an Addison Russell plate appearance.

Tigers 5, Twins 4: Yoenis Cespedes had a homer, a double and three RBI. Jose Iglesias hit a homer and a triple, notching three hits in all. He’s hitting .397. All of us wanted to talk about how the Tigers would do after losing Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello in the offseason, but between those two it’s as if the Tigers added two plus bats to an already potent lineup.

Phillies 4, Cardinals 1: Cole Hamels doesn’t need a ton of run support, so when he even gets a little bit here that’s enough. As it was he struck out nine in seven innings and allowed only one run. Don’t tell anyone, but the Phillies have won three of four and are ahead of the Nats in the standings.

Rockies 5, Diamondbacks 4: Justin Morneau hit a three-run homer in the first. Tyler Matzek limited the Diamondbacks to two runs on five hits in five innings. He had to leave early with a leg cramp, though, and the bullpen just barely held on. The Rockies have won five in a row against Arizona.

Dodgers 8, Giants 3: Joc Pederson and Justin Turner went yard. Pederson also doubled in a run and made a sweet play in the field, ranging back to the wall, catching it with his back to the field and then turned around and doubled off Nori Aoki, who had broke from first on the play. Pederson is hitting .296/.458/.556 on the year and doing that kind of crap in the field. Mercy.

Astros 9, Padres 4: Colby Rasmus homered and drove in three as the Astros won their fourth in a row. Jed Lowrie and Jason Castro also homered. The book on Astros hitters this year was that they’d lead the AL in strikeouts and be near the top of the league in homers. At the moment they lead the AL in strikeouts and are fourth in homers, two off the league lead. So, yep.

White Sox vs. Orioles: Postponed: Unrest in Baltimore continues, which may move this series out of the city and down to Washington or someplace else. Baseball, however, seems very, very unimportant compared to what’s happening there. But this is important. You should probably read this.

2015 Preview: Cincinnati Reds

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2015 season. Next up: The Cincinnati Reds.

The Big Question: Is the fun over in Cincy?

The Reds won a 36-year-high 97 games in 2012 and they finished with 90 wins in 2013, but a combination of key injuries and poor individual performances led the club to a disappointing 76-86 record and fourth-place finish in the National League Central in 2014.

And there isn’t a ton of reason for optimism in 2015.

Joey Votto is fully recovered from his distal quad strain, Jay Bruce is capable of a bounceback, and young speedster Billy Hamilton should take a step forward offensively after batting just .250/.292/.355 in 611 plate appearances as a rookie, but the Reds don’t appear to have the kind of well-rounded major league roster that will allow them to seriously compete in a division that suddenly looks like the deepest in all of baseball.

The rotation is in pretty rough waters, for the upcoming season and especially long term. Homer Bailey had an underwhelming 3.71 ERA (97 ERA+) over 145 2/3 innings last year — the first year of a six-year, $105 million contract — and he will open the 2015 campaign on a minor league rehab assignment following September surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in his right elbow. Taking his place will be 36-year-old righty Jason Marquis, who didn’t make an appearance at the major league level in 2014. Mat Latos was shipped off to the Marlins in December because he had one year left on his contract and the Reds knew they weren’t going to be able to lock him up to a long-term deal. Extension talks don’t seem to be trending in a positive direction with Johnny Cueto, who is among the best starters in baseball but could very well be leaving Cincinnati for good next offseason. Tony Cingrani was shifted to the bullpen in a curious spring training decision so that Raisel Iglesias — an unproven Cuban right-hander — can slide into the starting corps. Iglesias pitched almost exclusively in relief in Serie Nacional. He gave up six runs to the Brewers in his latest Cactus League start.

Mike Leake is solid, and Anthony DeSclafani — part of the return package for Latos — carries some upside at age 24. But there are a whole lot of question marks surrounding this group and that’s an ominous situation for a team that plays 81 games per year in one of the least pitcher-friendly stadiums in Major League Baseball.

Cincinnati’s bullpen doesn’t offer anything inspiring beyond its flame-throwing closer and 22-year-old top pitching prospect Robert Stephenson probably won’t be ready for his MLB debut until the second half. Maybe the Reds can slug their way into contention, but here’s guessing that won’t work in the NL Central in 2015.

What else is going on?

  • The lineup does have a nice mix of dynamic offensive contributors. Todd Frazier finished in a tie with Josh Donaldson for the most home runs by a third baseman (29) last season and he led all major league third basemen in stolen bases with 20. Young catcher Devin Mesoraco was one of Major League Baseball’s breakout stars in 2014, producing an .893 OPS (149 OPS+) with 25 home runs and 80 RBI in 114 games. Offseason addition Marlon Byrd collected 25 home runs and 85 RBI in 154 games with the Phillies last summer. Votto, Bruce, and Hamilton — as mentioned above — should all be very good.
  • Aroldis Chapman has been a steal so far for Cincinnati, boasting a 2.32 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and 430 strikeouts in 252 2/3 innings over the first five years of the six-year, $30 million deal that he signed after defecting from his native Cuba in 2010. But he opted into arbitration this winter and settled with the Reds at $8.05 million. He gets one more year of arbitration in 2016 and can then become a free agent. Will the Reds consider trading him after they get done hosting the 2015 All-Star Game festivities?
  • Brandon Phillips has registered a weak .714 OPS (95 OPS+) in 419 games since signing a six-year, $72.5 million contract extension with the Reds at the beginning of the 2012 season. He was praised for his clutch hitting ability after tallying 103 RBI in 2013, but analytical baseball people knew that lofty total was more the product of Votto and former Reds leadoff man Shin-Soo Choo. Phillips finished with just 51 RBI in 2014 and he slugged just eight home runs — an 11-year low. Yet the veteran second baseman is still being penciled in as the Reds’ No. 3 hitter behind Hamilton and Votto by manager Bryan Price.

Prediction: A potent offense but messy pitching leaves the Reds with 81 wins and a last-place finish in a loaded National League Central. Go ahead and pencil them in for a last-place finish in 2016 as well.

Reds release left-hander Paul Maholm

paul maholm getty

Two weeks ago the Reds announced that they’d chosen right-handers Jason Marquis and Raisel Iglesias over left-hander Paul Maholm for the final two spots in the rotation and now they’ve released Maholm.

It’s not a great sign for Maholm that he couldn’t beat out the 36-year-old Marquis for a spot, but he pitched reasonably well this spring after posting a 4.71 ERA in 71 innings for the Dodgers last season.

Maholm has indicated that he wants to continue starting, which likely sealed his fate in Cincinnati and limits his options going forward. If healthy he could probably help some teams as a fourth or fifth starter.

How in the heck did my kids become Dodgers fans?

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Baseball fandom can be weird. Most people fall into their rooting interests due to geography or family. We’ve done it a bit different in the Calcaterra household, however, and it has led to unexpected results.

While I started out as a Tigers fan due to geography, that changed to the Braves when I was 12 or 13 when I moved away from Michigan and the only team I could watch on a regular basis was the Atlanta Braves. I have explained all of that before.

My kids are another story. Despite what I do for a living, I’ve never pushed sports on them. Far from it, actually. There were some efforts at soccer by my son, but he got bored. My daughter has danced and recently has started riding horses, but sports are really not a part of their lives. Like, at all. Especially team sports. They watch baseball games with me sometimes, but most of my baseball watching happens later in the evening when they’re doing other things. For the most part we’re a pretty non-sporty family, and I have done nothing to force or even encourage rooting interests of any kind.

But, I suppose inevitably given all of the baseball I watch and talk about and all of the baseball stuff I have around my house, they have started to become baseball fans. Those occasional games we watch together are becoming more frequent. And over the past couple of years it’s been interesting to watch some level of baseball fandom develop in my kids.

They have some affinity for the Columbus Clippers, because those local Triple-A games were the first games they ever saw. But they also, eventually, came to realize that “minor leagues” are in some important ways “inferior leagues” so the fandom can only go so deep.

Their first major league game was a San Diego Padres-Texas Rangers matchup while we were on vacation, and for that reason they have good feelings about them too, but that’s more about that vacation and visiting their uncle Curt and stuff like that. It’s not like they knew anyone on the Padres besides Jason Marquis, who pitched the night we went to Petco. And who cares about Jason Marquis?

Local rooting? That’s straight out for them. We’re over 100 miles from Cincinnati and even farther from Cleveland. Unlike what may have been the case until recently, they’re not tied to local broadcasts. Indeed, with MLB.tv and Extra Innings it’s actually easier to get broadcasts from outside of Ohio rather than inside (great job, MLB!). And even if that wasn’t the case, I have already taught them that Chief Wahoo is racist garbage, so they’re never going to care for the Tribe, which cuts their chances of being Ohio baseball fans in half.

But something has happened over the past year or two that has made my kids — particularly my son — Los Angeles Dodgers fans.

A good bit of this is my fault, of course. At some point over the past two years they started asking me a lot of questions about “who’s the best” at this and that. Pitching fascinates them quite a bit, and as a result they are very clearly aware that, at this moment in time, Clayton Kershaw is the best. The idea of who the best hitter is hasn’t stuck with them as much, probably because I’ve differentiated more when it comes to answering their hitting questions. Sometimes we talk about power hitters, sometimes guys who hit for average.  Often times — because they recognize historical hitters’ names like Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds — we talk about old retired dudes. There’s no real idea in their head about the best hitter like there is about Clayton Kershaw: best pitcher. So they like him.

But the real game-changer, particularly with my son, was Yasiel Puig. At some point in the past two years he heard me saying something about Puig. Maybe while doing a radio spot, maybe while just talking, but he knows that I talk about Puig differently than I talk about other players. He asked me why that was one time and I explained how Puig is different than a lot of other guys for many reasons.

For one thing, he’s Cuban. My son LOVES the idea of Cuban baseball players because of what I’ve told him about how they risked their lives to get here to play (Aroldis Chapman is a favorite of his too). That’s some heroic stuff to anyone, but it really hits home with a nine-year-old boy who has lived a pretty sheltered life and loves tales of danger and adventure.

More generally, however, he absolutely loved it when I told him that Puig is a guy some people don’t much care for. Eventually, as I explained why, he boiled it down to “old grouchy men don’t like Yasiel Puig because he’s too damn much fun.” Hey, he’s my kid. He’s going to come by his contrarianism and love of chaos honestly. So between the origin story, the anti-hero stuff and seeing this insanely muscular yet insanely fast and insanely animated man crush baseballs, my boy has decided that Puig is basically Superman. If Superman annoyed old people in ways which really make my boy giggle. And make his dad giggle too.

This love of Puig led to him getting a Puig shirsey, which he wears all the time. That led to his teacher calling him “Yasiel,” which has sort of stuck with his friends. My boy loves it. He plays Minecraft a lot and has a pet pig in the game named Yasiel Pig. Add in some other random factors — both of my kids have it in their heads, based on one visit, that California is some sort of paradise, Los Angeles is glamorous and the only time I’ve ever really let them stay up super late to watch baseball was when Vin Scully was broadcasting a 10pm Eastern Dodgers game or two last year — and there are number of small bricks in that Dodger Blue wall. When you’re a blank slate as a baseball fan it’s pretty easy to create your own fandom story

Last year when the Dodgers came to Cincinnati we went and saw a game, my son and I in our Puig shirseys (I own one for trolling purposes and for solidarity with my kids purposes) and my daughter in her Kershaw shirt. We cheered for the Dodgers and Yasiel Puig and had extra fun doing it in enemy territory. Last week, when I asked my kids what sort of souvenirs they wanted from Arizona, they both asked for Dodgers stuff. T-shirts and pennants. Just today, when I asked my son about whether he’s going to watch more baseball with me this season he asked if it’d be OK if we recorded Dodgers games and watched them the next day since they came on so late.

Last night, instead of reading in bed, my son asked me if he could write and draw. I found this in his room this morning:


Some of that — like the dubious “established 1958” — is just copied from Dodgers junk around the house (I have explained Brooklyn to him and he gets it). Some of it is stuff he asked me, like how many titles they won. Some of it is pure fantasy like the scoreboard which has the Dodgers beating one of the New York teams infinity to zero. Which, whatever you think of the Dodgers, is a nice touch.

All of this is so strange to me. What are the odds of these Ohio kids with a Braves fan dad becoming Dodgers fans? What are the odds that this fandom sticks? Are they old enough for me to taunt when the Dodgers play the Braves and we watch the game together? Most importantly, if what they say about baseball being a thing between parents and their children is true, can it go in both directions? Because I’ll be honest: while I’ll always be a Braves fan, I’ve enjoyed Dodgers stuff way, way more in the past couple of years precisely because my kids enjoys it so much. It’s as if they’re passing it on to me rather than the other way around. Am I a Dodgers fan now too? Maybe in some ways I am.

I guess what strikes me the most about all of this is a realization of how the more traditional modes of familial baseball fandom — the tired cliches of fathers and sons and things being passed down — are sort of random to begin with. They’re accidents of geography and birth, even if we accept them as the norm. So it probably doesn’t matter much that my kids’ Dodgers fandom is rather random too.

I suppose that probably annoys some grouchy old men. But as it is with Yasiel Puig, that’s not criticism to anyone in my family. That’s a selling point.