Scott Rolen's body lets him down again

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A bounce-back first half for one of baseball’s surprise teams led to a much-deserved All-Star appearance, and all again seemed right in Scott Rolen’s world. He appeared well on his way to his best season since 2004, and it was suddenly worth thinking about his Hall of Fame merits again.
And then July hit. Rolen missed two of the final three games before the All-Star break with back soreness. After playing in the Reds’ first game back, he missed the next two with an illness of some sort. Now the team is also admitting that he’s dealing with a right hamstring injury that required a cortisone shot. He’ll miss his third straight game tonight, and he told the Cincinnati Enquirer that he’s not sure how long he’ll be out.
It could be a sign of things to come for Rolen. He played in 77 of the Reds’ first 87 games, putting him on pace to reach 140 games for the first time since 2006. That was also the last time he went a year without spending time on the DL. In the three full years since, he’s appeared in 112, 115 and 128 games. 2003 was the last season in which Rolen played in 150 games.
Rolen, though, is 35, and he didn’t figure to suddenly become more durable with age. And the Reds are going to be in serious trouble if he can’t stay relatively healthy from here on in. The team is 48-32 in the 80 games in which Rolen has played this year and 3-10 when he’s been absent. Their backup third baseman is Miguel Cairo, and while they do have Juan Francisco on the farm, the 23-year-old’s shaky defense and all-or-nothing approach at the plate would likely make him a similarly huge downgrade.
That’s why a legitimate backup third baseman should be near the top of GM Walt Jocketty’s shopping list with the trade deadline approaching. Jhonny Peralta would likely come cheap, as the Indians appear to have no interest in retaining him for 2011. The Reds haven’t been mentioned as one of the teams targeting Ty Wigginton, but maybe he’d be an option if the Orioles lowered their asking price. I don’t think either Mike Lowell or Pedro Feliz is worth pursuing, but a more versatile player like Craig Counsell or Mike Fontenot could be.

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.