Phillies scouting director defends himself in the wake of the Ben Wetzler incident

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You’ll recall that the Phillies drew a ton of criticism over the winter when it was revealed that Ben Wetzler, the Oregon State pitcher who the Phillies selected in last year’s draft, was suspended for 11 games this season. The reason: his ultimately unsuccessful negotiation with the Phillies was handled by an advisor/agent and the Phillies ratted him out to the NCAA about it.

Now, on the eve of the 2014 draft, Marti Wolver, the Phillies’ scouting director, is defending himself and the organization, saying people got their facts wrong and he and the Phillies did everything by the book:

“Every year Major League Baseball sends out an email and asks specific questions about players that did not sign, who they were represented by, and people send it back in,” he said. “Then it’s up to the NCAA whether or not they want to pursue it. That’s what we did. We sent the information in and left it at that and then it went from there.

“The NCAA did the investigation, not the Philadelphia Phillies.”

He says that people all around baseball have told him he did the right thing and that the only thing he regrets is selecting a player who had no intention of signing.

And frankly, this smells like total b.s. If it’s par for the course for teams to say which unsigned players used agents and it’s par for the course for MLB to share that with the NCAA, why aren’t more players suspended like Wetzler was? Everyone uses agents or advisors despite NCAA’s stupid and counterproductive rule against it. Only Wetzler got nailed. I suspect because, contrary to what Wolver says, the Phillies did or said something out of the ordinary in this case.

He says that the Phillies aren’t going to be harmed in the draft as a result of last year’s Wetzler thing. I suppose we’ll see. But it strikes me that any college player who is selected by the Phillies would be very wary of negotiating with them given what happened last year.

Red Sox look to punch their ticket to the World Series tonight

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Thanks to some amazing defense, some big hits and — to continue to beat this horse, a bad call by Joe West — the Red Sox have a 3-1 lead in the ALCS and look to clinch the AL Pennant tonight down in Houston.

If you believe in momentum, you’d have to say it’s on Boston’s side. If you believe that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher, however, you’d have to say things favor Houston more than the standing of the series would suggest. All of which makes me wish Game 5 was starting right now, because it figures to be a tense and exciting affair.

ALCS Game 5

Red Sox vs. Astros
Ballpark: Minute Maid Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
TV: TBS
Pitchers: David Price vs. Justin Verlander
Breakdown:

If someone told you that you had to win one baseball game against the Martians to save the human race, you could do far worse than calling on Justin Verlander to be your starting pitcher. Among the pitchers still in the postseason, he’d almost certainly be your choice right now.

Does Verlander himself appreciate the situation? This is what he said about that yesterday:

“I mean, these are all must-win games at this point. Every time you take the mound I don’t think there’s any difference whether it’s 2-2 or 3-1.”

Look, we’re asking him to beat the Martians here, not win the National Math Bee, so let’s let that go. The point is that after all of these years he’s still one of the most dominant pitchers in the game and after the exhausting, see-saw battle of Game 4, he stands the best chance of giving Houston what it needs: a quick, quiet and drama-free win.

Not that the Red Sox are likely to roll over for that. They didn’t the first time they faced Verlander in this series. They Astros won, yes, and Verlander limited them to two runs on two hits. But he also issued four walks and wasn’t his sharpest overall. Boston didn’t capitalize on his mistakes as best they could, but he’s not invincible.

For Boston it’s David Price. He allowed four runs on five hits and four walks over four and two-thirds innings in Game 2, not factoring in the decision. That’s not great, but given the talk leading up to that game being all about how Price is a postseason flop, the fact that the Sox won it in the end had to bouy him at least a little. As does the fact that, here, tonight, it’s not 100% on his shoulders. Sure, the Sox want to close this out, but with a 3-1 lead there is less pressure on Price than on his former teammate Verlander. Worth noting, though: Price is on short rest and warmed up in the bullpen last night in case he was needed to bail out Craig Kimbrel. He may not go deep into this game.