Nick Canepa once again demands that the Padres release Yasmani Grandal

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Back in November Nick Canepa of the San Diego Union Tribune wrote what may have been the worst baseball column I read all year (and I wasn’t the only one to think so).

In it he demanded that the Padres release catcher Yasmani Grandal due to his positive PED test. The idea is stupid enough. One does not simply cut ties with a 24 year-old catcher who is under team control for five more years and who has shown immense promise. But it was Canepa’s overwrought, dramatic prose that really set his column apart.

According to Canepa, Grandal committed “an incredibly stupid and thoughtless act.” He “tore the club’s head off.” He “burned this franchise, his teammates and its fans.” He called the act “unforgivable,” and made a weird cryptic comment about how there is no place in a decent world for sports. It was really out of sight.

Three passing of three months has not brought Canepa back to Earth, it seems. Via the Avenging Jack Murphy blog, we learn that Canepa has struck again. After noting the questions with the Padres’ pitching staff, Canepa fights the real enemy:

But doing most of the damage is Yasmani Grandal, who after coming on strong at the end of the year seemed set to be the team’s starting catcher for years. But he got himself busted for taking PEDs and will miss the first 50 games of the season, and that’s if the organization takes him back at all, which it shouldn’t because he absolutely screwed this team …

… How long had he been on the juice? Are there any guarantees he’s going to be the same player if he comes back? There seems to be a feeling within the organization that Grandal hasn’t come clean on this drug thing, especially now that his name allegedly has surfaced in the Miami anti-aging clinic scandal. The justice department probably is going to get involved now. Do the Padres want to be a part of this?

He acts as if Grandal was the first person to ever test positive for PEDs and that keeping Grandal somehow puts the Padres at some great risk. He acts as if there is no downside to the Padres releasing one of the more talented young players in the game. I refuse to believe that Canepa is stupid. I refuse to believe that he does not know that teams like the Padres can’t simply ship talent off and that Grandal is likely to have a good major league career ahead of him. I refuse to believe it, not because I know that much about Canepa, but because no person on planet Earth could possess so much weapons-grade stupidity without being sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council.

No, Canepa is not stupid. He’s grandstanding and hand-wringing and moralizing. And that’s worse than stupidity, because that’s willful.

Nationals’ starting pitching carrying them into World Series

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In my postseason preview at the end of September, I listed the Nationals’ starting rotation as a strength and their bullpen as a weakness. Anyone who had followed the club this season could have told you that. Even the Nats are aware of it as manager Dave Martinez has leaned on his rotation to hide his sometimes unreliable ‘pen.

In Game 1 of the NLDS against the Dodgers, Martinez was burned by his bullpen as Tanner Rainey, Fernando Rodney, and Hunter Strickland combined to allow six base runners and four runs. Martinez used ace Max Scherzer in relief in Game 2, sandwiched by Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson. Starter Patrick Corbin pitched in relief in Game 3 and it backfired, but the bullpen after Corbin continued to allow more runs — three officially, but Wander Suero allowed two inherited runners to score on a three-run homer by Max Muncy. Martinez only had to rely on Doolittle and Hudson in Game 4 and he again went to Corbin in relief in Game 5.

The strategy was clear: use the actual bullpen as little as possible. If Martinez absolutely has to, Doolittle and Hudson get top priory by a country mile, followed by a starter, then the rest of the bullpen.

Thankfully for Martinez and the Nationals, the starting pitching has done yeoman’s work in the NLCS, jumping out to a three games to none series lead over the Cardinals. Aníbal Sánchez famously brought a no-hit bid into the eighth inning of Game 1, finally relenting a two-out single to José Martínez before his night was over. Doolittle got the final four outs in the 2-0 win. Max Scherzer flirted with a no-hitter in his Game 2 start as well, losing it when Paul Goldschmidt led off the seventh with a single. He was erased on an inning-ending double play. Doolittle, Corbin, and Hudson got the final six outs in the 3-1 victory.

It was more of the same in Game 3. While Stephen Strasburg didn’t flirt with a no-hitter, he was dominant over seven innings, yielding one unearned run on seven hits with no walks and 12 strikeouts. The Nats’ offense woke up, amassing eight runs through seven innings which allowed Martinez to give his main relief guys a night off. Rodney and Rainey each pitched a perfect inning of relief with two strikeouts in low-leverage situations, their first appearances in the NLCS.

The Nationals starting pitching has been outstanding by itself, but it has also had the secondary effect of allowing Martinez to hide his team’s biggest weakness. Now Martinez just has to hope for more of the same for one more game, then at least four more in the World Series.