A sleepy morning in Angels camp

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Not a lot happening around here today. The biggest topic of conversation surrounds when Albert Pujols is going to run the bases. Mike Scioscia said “this weekend.” Then, a few minutes later, Pujols was down by third base jogging and rounding the bag. A debate ensued among reporters as to whether that constituted “running the bases.”  It was decided that, no, that did not count.

Mike Scioscia used to give his little press availability in his office, but now he does it outside:

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It’s my third straight year of coming to Tempe, and for the third straight year Scioscia corrected a reporter who said that some random problem X was the team’s biggest issue, saying “no, personally I worry about the bullpen.” I think all managers worry about the bullpen. Even managers with good bullpens worry about the bullpen. I imagine it’s no coincidence that managers have more influence over the bullpen than anything else. Managers are all zen and don’t worry as much about that which they cannot control. Or something.

Soon that little scrum devolved into Scioscia and Pedro Gomez discussing their favorite restaurants in Phoenix. Scioscia’s is Chelsea’s Kitchen. Gomez’s is Trattoria Arrivederci. If you go, tell ’em Pedro sent you. But you can’t prove that.

Josh Hamilton was teaching Jered Weaver how to hit lefties here:

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I guess it could conceivably come up in interleague play. If I’m Scioscia, though, I tell Weaver to keep the bat on his shoulder, don’t get beaned and get his butt back to the dugout.

Pujols looked fine taking grounders:

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Guy could fall out of bed and play baseball. It’s hard to describe, but just seeing him do, well, anything, makes you realize how friggin’ talented he is. He looks better than anyone else simply pulling his windbreaker over his jersey.

Coach Dino Ebel hits flies to guys:

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They don’t seem to have one of those fly ball machines here. Maybe Casey Kotchman’s fly ball machine injury has fundamentally changed teams’ relationship with technology. I dunno.

The red rock/butte backdrop both here and at Phoenix Municipal where the A’s play scream Cactus League more than anything else here. I still remember the first time I saw Cactus League highlights on ESPN or whatever back in the 80s. In my mind, they all look like this:

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From the players’ parking lot, this stuck out in the sea of Escalades and Tahoes:

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Someone is trying to keep a low profile.

Really, not much happening here today. Just a nice, 70-something degree day without a cloud in the sky and a baseball game starting in an hour or so. Life is hard.

This Day in Transaction History: Padres pawn off James Shields

James Shields
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For a few years, starter James Shields was quite dominant. From 2011-14 with the Rays and Royals, the right-hander made a minimum of 33 starts each season with a 3.17 ERA. He peaked in ’11, finishing with a 2.82 ERA and finishing third in American League Cy Young balloting.

Shields leveraged that 2011-14 run into a four-year, $75 million contract with the Padres, inked in February 2015. It wasn’t an outright disaster of a contract for the Padres, but Shields did not live up to expectations. In his first year with the Padres, he posted a 3.91 ERA. Through the first two months of the 2016 season, Shields allowed 32 earned runs over 67 1/3 innings. The Padres, however, scored only 22 runs in his 11 games, so he was 2-7 after 11 starts. Shields also gave up one of the more memorable home runs in recent history on May 7, 2016:

On June 4, the Padres moved Shields and $27 million of the $58 million remaining on his contract to the White Sox. The White Sox gave up pitcher Erik Johnson and an infield prospect named Fernando Tatís Jr.

If the White Sox had a do-over button, they would have pressed it. Shields, 34 at the time of the trade, had a disastrous rest of the 2016 season, posting a 6.77 ERA in 22 starts for the White Sox. He finished out the remainder of his contract in Chicago, registering a 5.23 ERA in 2017 and a 4.53 ERA in ’18. Shields went into free agency but went unsigned and hasn’t pitched since.

Johnson flamed out after the 2016 season, yielding 20 runs in 19 2/3 innings in four starts for the Padres. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2017 and spent the ’18 campaign between Double-A San Antonio and Triple-A El Paso.

Tatís, as we know now, was the jewel of the trade. The White Sox signed Tatís as a 16-year-old as a free agent. A year later, before he ever appeared in a professional game in the White Sox organization, he was moved in a big trade. While it took him a couple of years to appear on top-100 prospect lists, his talent was readily apparent. In 2017, Tatís spent most of his season with Single-A Fort Wayne. He accrued 26 doubles, 21 homers, 29 stolen bases, 69 RBI, and 78 runs scored in 518 trips to the plate. Going into the 2018 season, Baseball America, MLB.com, and Baseball Prospectus each ranked him among the top-10 prospects in the game.

Tatís was off to another great start in 2018. Through 88 games, he had a .286/.355/.507 line with 22 doubles, 16 homers, 16 stolen bases, 43 RBI, and 77 runs scored spanning 394 plate appearances. Sadly, in mid-July, Tatís broke his left thumb and suffered ligament damage while making a head-first slide. He recovered from the injury, playing in the Dominican Winter League and having another strong performance over 23 games. Tatís followed that up with a productive spring training, giving the Padres only one choice. He began the season on the Opening Day roster and jumped out to become one of baseball’s best players.

Over his first 84 games as a major leaguer, Tatís batted .317/.379/.590 with 13 doubles, six triples, 22 home runs, 16 steals, 53 RBI, and 61 runs scored over 372 plate appearances. Baseball Reference put him at 4.1 Wins Above Replacement. Sadly, similar to 2018, Tatís suffered a season-ending injury, a stress reaction in his lower back. At the time, he was neck-and-neck with Pete Alonso and Mike Soroka in the NL Rookie of the Year race. The injury allowed Alonso to win the award in a landslide while Tatís finished third.

While the White Sox would have loved to have Tatís at third base, they did end up finding some quality players in Yoán Moncada at the hot corner and Tim Anderson at shortstop. The White Sox and their young corps are close to being competitive again, but having Tatís in tow certainly would have sped up the process. And the Padres likely never would have gotten Tatís if they hadn’t inked Shields first.