Tony La Russa is completely out to lunch

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Chris Carpenter yelling.jpgWhat a crock of a controversy in the Cardinals-Astros game yesterday.  While no punches were thrown, the benches cleared after Carlos Lee and Chris Carpenter started arguing with one another following Lee’s pop up in the third inning.

Based on all the reports I’ve read, the source of the problem was Lee yelling, presumably at himself, about popping up. “My word, I hath made a mistake,” he declared. Or something to that effect.  That set off the jawing because, apparently, Carpenter found it disrespectful that Lee blamed his own swing rather than Carpenter’s pitching prowess for the pop up. Here’s Tony La Russa explaining it all:

“Pence hits the ball out of the ballpark. Carp didn’t make a
good pitch. Carp doesn’t say a word. He doesn’t say anything to the guy
that hit it. It’s his mistake. Well, routinely now, hitters pop up a pitch they think they should
deal with and they start making noises, and that really is disrespectful
to the pitcher. Most of the pitchers just turn around and ignore it.
Carp doesn’t. I think Carp’s right, and I think Carp’s in the right.
Respect should go both ways.

“If he gets you out, he gets you out. Zip it and go back to the
plate. If he gives it up, you zip it and let the guy go around the
bases–or single, double, whatever it was. Most pitchers let the guy
jabber. I don’t think Carlos Lee is anything special as far as a guy who
disrespects, but it’s so common now. Carp will let you know.”

Which is completely crazy. Ballplayers now have to be so mindful of their opposition’s feelings that they can’t even register anger when they screw up?  If this was ever something anyone besides Tony La Russa believed guys like Paul O’Neill would have been murdered years ago.

Players have cussed, slammed bats, punched walls, destroyed water coolers and otherwise exhibited anger at their mistakes since time immemorial.  That La Russa is now creating, from whole cloth, some notion that baseball respect requires that they never display emotion like Lee did would be pathetic if it wasn’t so doggone laughable.

Here’s what really happened: Chris Carpenter was still angry at himself for giving up the homer to Hunter Pence. Having his confidence shaken a bit, he needed to feel like he was a stud for coming back and retiring Lee.  When Lee wouldn’t do him the courtesy of acting like a beaten man, Carpenter flipped and decided to jaw about it.  There’s not much more to it. (UPDATE: Oops, I was wrong: Pence’s homer came after the popup. Lance Berkman’s RBI single preceded Lee’s at bat. General point still stands, though; Carpenter was sore that he was pitching in trouble.)

I appreciate that La Russa is simply trying to defend his guy here, but please, baseball is positively drowning in unwritten rules, secret handshakes and the Byzantine politics of “respect.” How about everyone just get over themselves already and play some friggin’ baseball?    

Mike Trout has been really good at baseball lately

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“Water wet,” “Sky blue,” “Dog bites man” and “Mike Trout good” are not exactly newsworthy sentiments, but once in a while you have to state the obvious just so you can look back later and make sure you were, in the moment, aware of the obvious.

And to be fair, “Mike Trout good” is underselling the Angels outfielder lately. He’s on the greatest tear of his great career lately, and dang it, that’s worthy of a few words on this blog.

Last night Trout went a mere 1-for-1, but that’s because the Diamondbacks were smart enough not to pitch to him too much, walking him twice. There was no one on base the first time he came up and he got a free pass. There was a guy on first but two outs the second time, so he was once again not given much to hit and took his base again. Arizona was not so lucky the third time. The bases were loaded and there was nowhere to put Trout. He smacked the first pitch he saw for a two-run single. They probably shoulda just walked him anyway, limiting the damage to one. The last time up he reached on catcher’s interference. Maybe Arizona figured that literally grabbing the bat from him with a catcher’s mitt was the best bet?

If so you can’t blame them, really. Not with the month he’s had. In June, Trout is hitting .448/.554/.776 with five homers. He currently leads the league in the following categories: home runs (23), runs (60), walks (64), on-base percentage (.469), OPS (1.158) OPS+ (219), total bases (179) and intentional walks (9). He currently has a bWAR of 6.5. WAR, in case you did not know, is a cumulative stat. When he won the 2014 MVP Award, he “only” had 7.6 for the entire year.

Sadly, one man does not a team make, so the Angels are only 9-8 in the month of June and have fallen far back of the red-hot Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners in the division race. For this reason I suspect a lot of people are going to do what they’ve long done and overlook Mike Trout’s sheer dominance or, even more ridiculously, claim he is overrated or something (believe me, I’ve seen it even this month).

Feel free to ignore those people and concentrate instead on the greatest baseball player in the game today, who has somehow managed to up his game in recent weeks.