Padres shouldn't declare Gonzalez off limits

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adrian gonzalez running.jpgWe’ve been playing this game for nearly six months now: some team is talking to the Padres about Adrian Gonzalez — usually the Red Sox — and then the report goes on to state, in some similar but perhaps not identical fashion, “yet the Padres have no reason to trade their first baseman.”
But they do. There are two very good reasons for the Padres to trade Gonzalez, even though he’s ridiculously affordable at $10.25 million for the next two years.
Reason No. 1: The Padres aren’t going to the World Series during the next two years.
There’s quite a bit to like about the group the Padres are putting together. The bullpen should be excellent once again, and a rotation comprised of a healthy Chris Young, Kevin Correia, Mat Latos, Clayton Richard, Sean Gallagher could keep the team in a lot of games. The offense, though, is still a huge problem. Besides Gonzalez, there isn’t a position player in the organization sure to be an above average regular, and the Padres will likely be below average at all four up-the-middle spots unless someone new is brought in. I could see the pitching keeping the Padres in the race for a time next year, but they’re not going to be there in the end. The 2011 outlook wouldn’t be much better, barring the addition of a couple of more bats.
Reason No. 2: Kyle Blanks should never play the outfield again.
In need of some offense, the Padres tried shifting the 6-foot-6, 285-pound Blanks to the outfield last season. He came up and delivered 10 homers in just 148 at-bats, but he simply wasn’t adequate in Petco’s spacious corners and he got hurt while trying to cover all of that ground. A torn plantar fascia in his right foot ended his season in late August.
Besides Gonzalez, Blanks is likely the best hitter in the Padres organization. Yet much of what he would provide in the batter’s box would be given away if the Padres continued to use him in the outfield. Worse, the team would be inviting more injuries. He belongs at first base.
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Now, I’m not saying the Padres need to trade Gonzalez right away. Blanks just turned 23 in September, and it wouldn’t hurt him to spend another three or four months in Triple-A. Gonzalez, though, probably has as much trade value right now as he’ll ever have, and there’s been nothing to suggest that the Padres have a realistic chance of signing him for the long-term. If the right offer comes along, the Padres can’t be afraid to pull the trigger.

Major League Baseball needs to make an example out of José Ureña

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We’re about an hour and a half separated from the first pitch of Wednesday night’s Marlins/Braves game that featured Marlins starter José Ureña hitting Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña on the elbow with a first-pitch, 97.5 MPH fastball. The benches emptied, Ureña was ejected, and the game went on. Acuña left the game not long after to tend to his injured elbow.

After the game, when the Marlins speak to the media, they will almost certainly deny any ill intent towards Acuña, who had hit leadoff home runs in three consecutive games against them. When they do so, they will be lying. Watch how catcher J.T. Realmuto sets up on the first pitch.

ESPN Stats & Info notes that Ureña’s 97.5 MPH fastball was in the 99th percentile in terms of velocity of the 2,125 pitches he has thrown this season. It was also the fastest pitch Ureña has ever thrown to begin a game. Ureña put a little extra mustard on this pitch, for some reason.

Ureña has a 6.8 percent walk rate, which ranks 37th out of 95 starters with at least 100 innings of work this season. The major league average is eight percent. Control isn’t typically something with which he struggles.

Furthermore, Acuña isn’t the only player who has drawn Ureña’s ire:

Ureña wanted nothing to do with Hoskins — even though Hoskins has yet to get a hit off of him — in his August 4 start at home against the Phillies, walking him twice which included a few up-and-in pitches.

Ureña will almost certainly be fined and suspended for his actions on Wednesday night against Acuña. But will his punishment be enough to deter him and others from wielding a baseball as a weapon? Probably not. On June 19, when Marlins starter Dan Straily intentionally threw at Buster Posey, he received a five-game suspension and manager Don Mattingly was suspended one game. If you look at Straily’s game logs, you can’t even tell he was suspended. He started six days later on June 25 against the Diamondbacks and again on July 1 and 6. Because starters only pitch once every five days, it was like he wasn’t even suspended at all.

Major League Baseball needs to levy harsher punishments on players who attempt to injure other players. A 15-game suspension, for example, would force Ureña to miss at least two starts and it would inconvenience the Marlins enough to more seriously weigh the pros and cons of exacting revenge. The Marlins couldn’t work around it the way they did Straily by pushing back his scheduled start one day.

Major League Baseball also needs to make a legitimate effort to do away with this culture of revenge against players who are just a little bit too happy. Batters get thrown at when they flip their bats, when they yell at themselves in frustration, and even when they’re just hitting well. Baseball’s stagnating audience is very old, very white, and very male. It is not going to bring in fans from diverse backgrounds by keeping this antiquated culture that prevents baseball players from showing their personalities and being emotive. In the event Acuña needs to go on the disabled list for a couple weeks, that’s two weeks that Acuña isn’t on SportsCenter’s top-10, isn’t on the front page of MLB.com, and isn’t in articles like this. The culture of revenge is actively harming MLB’s ability to market its bright, young stars. If ending this culture of revenge doesn’t hit MLB from a moral angle, it should absolutely hit home from a business angle.