Deep Thoughts: a fan’s take on the Cardinals-Braves trade

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The idea here applies to any fan when their team trades someone they like, I think. My team traded someone I like today, so let’s talk about how that goes, OK?

I like Jason Heyward. A lot. It’s not 100% rational and it’s not based on either his actual value or what I think he might do in the future. He has shown amazing promise, yes, and a big part of me feels like he’ll break out eventually, putting the power, patience and defensive skill he has shown in given seasons in the past altogether in the same year and be an MVP player. Like, if he pulled a .300/.400/.500 out of his rear next year and led the Cardinals to the World Series, I wouldn’t be shocked. I’m not predicting it or anything. Unlike some Braves fans I don’t truly believe that Heyward is some sort of megastar. Certainly not yet. Maybe not ever. I’m just saying I wouldn’t be shocked.

But that’s not what makes me love Jason Heyward so much. Like I said, it’s hard to quantify. A lot of is wrapped up in his awesome major league debut a few years ago. I was watching that game live and it was a thrill and that stuff doesn’t rub off easy. There’s also something interesting about a baseball player who looks like he could be a power forward or something. There’s something about him — closely related to my feelings about how he may do in the future described in the previous paragraph — that makes you think that, at any time, he could hit a homer or a triple or make a spectacular catch or something. I’m sure many of you have similar intangible — maybe ineffable — feelings about some of your favorite players. You like them because  . . . well, you just do. That’s how I feel about Heyward.

It’s worth noting, of course, that, objectively speaking, the Braves did OK here. At least if you assume they weren’t going to sign Heyward to a long term deal, which I think is a safer assumption than thinking they would. Shelby Miller may not be quite the prospect he looked like a couple of years ago and Tyrell Jenkins represents a lot of uncertainty (and if there is payoff, it’s a few years down the road) but having two decent-to-good-to-possibly-very-good pitchers under team control for a long time represents a lot of value. Depending on how you prefer to analyze such things, there are several non-crazy ways to analyze this trade as good for Atlanta at the moment if you’re so inclined.

But I’m not so inclined. Not because I disagree with that analysis out of hand, but because I’m a fan of one of the players and teams being analyzed. And no matter what my predispositions are when it comes to analysis (mine skew objective and sabermetric, you’re no doubt aware) it seems sort of wrong to immediately revert to that right when one of your favorite players gets dealt. No matter how much time we spend analyzing it, baseball is about fandom, and when your fandom is involved, you can hate it when your team trades a guy you like. Be it Jason Heyward or someone bigger. Or heck, for that matter if it’s Joe Shlabotnik.

Take the fandom and my love of Heyward out of it and the deal is defensible. But personally I hope I never get to the point to where, if my team does something I’m not hot about, I just revert to cold analysis. That’s no fun.

Juan Soto steals the show, powering Nationals past Astros 5-4 in World Series Game 1

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Nationals outfielder Juan Soto stole the show on Tuesday night in Houston, going 3-for-4 with a double, a homer, three RBI, and a stolen base to power his team past the Astros 5-4 in Game 1 of the World Series.

The Astros jumped on Max Scherzer for two runs in the bottom of the first inning to open the scoring. Scherzer allowed the first two batters he faced to reach on a single and a walk, then struck out the next two batters before allowing a two-strike, two-out, two-run double to Yuli Gurriel. Given the way Gerrit Cole has pitched all year long, two runs seemed like plenty.

Cole did not have his best stuff on this particular night. Ryan Zimmerman answered with a solo home run to center field with two outs in the top of the second inning, cutting the deficit to 2-1. Juan Soto would absolutely obliterate a Cole offering for a solo homer of his own in the fourth inning, tying the game at two apiece. Soto became the fourth player in baseball history to hit a World Series home run before his 21st birthday.

The Nationals hung a three-spot in the top of the fifth against Cole, putting their first two batters on base thanks to a walk and a single. Adam Eaton brought home the go-ahead run with a line drive single to right field. Soto followed up by scorching a line drive off of the wall in front of the Crawford boxes to plate two more runs, padding the Nats’ lead to 5-2.

The two runs the Astros got in the first inning would be all they would get off of Scherzer, though they did make him labor in every inning. Scherzer ultimately threw 112 pitches over five innings, yielding five hits and three walks with seven strikeouts.

Patrick Corbin worked a scoreless sixth, working around a one-out single. His usage out of the bullpen likely means he starts Game 4, not Game 3. Manager Dave Martinez handed the ball to hard-throwing right-hander Tanner Rainey for the seventh inning, but it didn’t work out. Rainey gave up a leadoff home run to George Springer to make it 5-3. Springer has now homered in five consecutive World Series games, breaking a tie with Reggie Jackson and Lou Gehrig to set a new major league record. Rainey got into yet more trouble, issuing back-to-back one-out walks to Michael Brantley and Alex Bregman, forcing Martinez to use Daniel Hudson a little earlier than anticipated. Hudson, however, was able to wriggle out of danger in the seventh.

Hudson wasn’t as fortunate in the eighth inning as the Astros continued to claw their way back. Pinch-hitter Kyle Tucker led off with a single, advanced to second base on a deep fly ball to center fielder Victor Robles. Springer brought Tucker home on a fly ball to right-center field that bounced high off of the fence, very nearly becoming a game-tying two-run homer. He settled for an RBI double. Hudson got José Altuve to fly out before handing the ball to lefty Sean Doolittle, who got Brantley to line out to end the inning.

In the ninth, Doolittle returned to the bump to close out the game. He struck out Bregman, got Gurriel to fly out to center, and Correa did the same to end the contest. Nationals take Game 1, 5-4 over the Astros, earning their first World Series victory in franchise history.

Cole, by the way, was still able to complete seven innings. The right-hander threw 104 pitches, allowing the five runs on eight hits and a walk with six strikeouts. He allowed more than one run for the first time this postseason, and more than two runs for the first time since August 28 against the Rays. The Astros lost a game he started for the first time since July 12 against the Rangers.

The Nationals, big underdogs entering the World Series, now have a 1-0 series lead over the Astros, successfully vanquishing Cole. The two sides will meet again for Game 2 on Wednesday night. Justin Verlander will oppose Stephen Strasburg.