Brewers acquire Francisco Rodriguez from Mets

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Francisco Rodriguez has gone from closing in New York to setting up in Milwaukee.

K-Rod, who had 23 saves in 26 opportunities for the Mets, was acquired by the Brewers with cash for two players to be named, the team announced after Tuesday’s All-Star Game.

“Francisco has been one of the best relievers in the game for many years,” Brewers GM Doug Melvin said in a statement. “He is a high-quality arm who will be a tremendous asset to our bullpen as we prepare for the final months of the regular season and playoffs.”

The assumption is that Rodriguez didn’t have the Brewers on his no-trade list and thus couldn’t block the deal that almost certainly will prevent his $17.5 million option for 2012 from vesting.

Rodriguez’s option would kick in with 55 games finished this year, which is the big reason the Mets wanted to move him.  The Brewers won’t want to be responsible for that kind of payout, so they’ll use him as an eighth-inning guy in front of John Axford for the remainder of the season and then likely let him leave in free agency.

The Mets figure to turn to Bobby Parnell in the closer’s role as K-Rod’s replacement.  The hard-throwing Parnell, who has one career save to Rodriguez’s 291, has a 2.92 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 24 2/3 innings this season.

In theory, Rodriguez’s addition will give the Brewers a pair of dominant right-handers at the end of games.  However, it remains to be seen how K-Rod will react to the move.  He surely would have preferred to remain a closer and probably only partly for financial reasons.  It’s the first time in seven years that he’ll have had to work in a setup role.  In fact, he hasn’t recorded a single hold since 2004.

Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak ended 78 years ago today

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There’s nothing special about a 78-year anniversary. It’s not a round number or anything and we tend to like round numbers. But (a) I was reminded of this today; and (b) we have no idea if the Martians will have invaded and taken over the planet come 2021, so I feel like it’s best to run this now than wait for the 80th anniversary. Cool? Cool.

Anyway: on this day in 1941, Joe DiMaggio’s still-unbroken and possibly unbreakable (see below) 56-game hitting streak came to end. The game took place in Cleveland in front of a staggering 67,468 fans. Not bad for a Thursday night. The way the streak ended, courtesy of an ESPN Classic post from Larry Scwartz back in 2003:

Third baseman Ken Keltner makes two outstanding plays, grabbing DiMaggio smashes down the line in the first and seventh innings and throwing him out at first base. In between these at-bats, left-hander Al Smith walks DiMaggio in the fourth.

The Yankee Clipper has one more chance to extend his streak when he bats in the eighth with the bases full against Jim Bagby, a young right-hander who just enters the game. DiMaggio hits the ball sharply, but shortstop Lou Boudreau plays a bad hop perfectly and turns the grounder into a double play.

Stuff happens.

To be clear: 56 may not be broken in my lifetime or yours. It’s obviously a SUPER difficult task to string together a hitting streak of considerable length. As we saw when guys like Pete Rose or Paul Molitor or whoever have come within spitting distance of DiMaggio’s record — long spitting distance — the pressure ramps up and it’s hard to do you job with a lot of pressure. Add in the fact that simple base hits are harder to come by in today’s game than they used to be due to prevalent hitting, pitching and defensive trends, and it’d be no shocker whatsoever if no one ever does it.

But I draw the line at “unbreakable,” simply because, as noted above, stuff does happen. And because there’s nothing structural preventing it from happening. It’s not like Cy Young’s 511 wins or something which fundamental changes in the game have made basically impossible. No one is going to win 26 games a year for 20 years straight or what have you. Heck, CC Sabathia is baseball’s current gray hair among pitchers and only has a few dozen more career starts than that. It’s just a different game.

Hitters do play in 150-160 games now, though, and the good ones do average more than one hit per game. Putting them in the right arrangement may never be likely, but doing so is only a matter of stars aligning, not breaking the fundamental rules of engagement. It could happen. Maybe. Because, unlike some other records, it did before under broadly similar circumstances.

OK, that aside, I’ll offer up my favorite and most maddening DiMaggio hitting streak fact.

During his streak, which lasted from May 15-July 17, DiMaggio went 91-of-223, which is a .408 average. Between April 15-September 28 (i.e. the whole dang season) Ted Williams hit .406. And when it was all said and done he was substantially better in virtually every other batting category as well.

Joe DiMaggio won the MVP Award.