According to Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish, the Mariners granted Scott Baker his release today. Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports that he asked for his release after declining an assignment to Triple-A.
Signed to a minor league deal over the winter, Baker appeared to have a rotation spot to lose after Hisashi Iwakuma went down with a finger injury and Taijuan Walker fell behind due to a sore shoulder, but he pitched himself out of consideration with an awful spring. The 32-year-old allowed 12 runs (nine earned) in just 12 Cactus League innings. He struck out just one batter and allowed 16 hits and seven walks. He also hit three batters in a row in one of his starts. Put it all together and you have a ghastly 1.92 WHIP.
Baker has three major league starts to his name since 2011, but he shouldn’t be long before he gets an opportunity elsewhere. As for the Mariners, they will now likely go into the season with a rotation of Felix Hernandez, James Paxton, Erasmo Ramirez, Randy Wolf, and Roenis Elias.
Retired big league pitcher Barry Zito has a memoir coming out. Much of it will likely track the usual course of an athlete’s memoir. The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat and a few fun and/or sad and/or thoughtful anecdotes along the way. One bit of it, though, is not the stuff of the usual athlete memoir.
He writes that he ctually rooted against the San Francisco Giants — his own team — in the 2010 World Series. He did so because he was left off the postseason roster, felt miserable about it and let his ego consume him. From the San Francisco Chronicle:
“It was really hard to admit . . . I rooted against the team because my ego was in full control and if we lost then I could get out of there . . . It would a) prove they couldn’t do it without me, and b) take me out of the situation because I was so miserable coming to the field every day. I was so deep in shame. I wanted out of that situation so bad.”
Zito at that point was midway through a seven-year, $126 million contract he signed with the Giants after the 2006 season. Almost as soon as he signed it he transformed from one of the better pitchers in the game — he had a 124 ERA+ in eight seasons with the Oakland Athletics and won the 2002 Cy Young Award — to being a liability for the Giants. Indeed, he only had one season in San Francisco where, again, by ERA+, he was a league-average starter or better. In 2010 he went 9-14 with a 4.15 ERA and was way worse than that down the stretch. It made perfect sense for the Giants to leave him off the 2010 postseason roster. And, of course, it worked out for them.
Things would improve. He’d still generally struggle as a Giant, but in 2012 he was a hero of the NLCS, pitching the Giants past the Cardinals in a must-win game. He then got the Game 1 start in the World Series and beat Justin Verlander as the Giants won that game and then swept the Tigers out of the series. As time went on he’d fine more personal happiness as well. When his contract ended following the 2013 season Zito took out a full-page ad in the San Francisco Chronicle thanking Giants fans for their support. He’d leave the game in 2014 and pitch three more games for the Athletics in 2015 before retiring for good.
Not many baseball memoirs deliver hard truths like Zito’s appears willing to do. That’s pretty damn brave of him. And pretty damn admirable.