MLB has fined Cardinals manager Tony La Russa an undisclosed amount for his criticism of umpires during a between-innings television interview Sunday, according to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post Dispatch.
In speaking to the TBS announcers, La Russa said of home plate umpire Jerry Meals: “I would add–which could get me in trouble, but I’m going to add anyway–is that we are pitching to two different strike zones.”
Well, he was right about the “get me in trouble” part. La Russa met yesterday with MLB vice president for on-field operations Joe Torre, but the manager declined to comment afterward.
Strauss reports that the fine was “four figures,” so while it isn’t enough to put a dent in La Russa’s bank account it’ll probably be enough to keep him quiet.
Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.
Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.
Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.
What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.
That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.