Archive for the ‘TPA Dispatches’ Category

Hey, remember Yoenis Cespedes?

Yeah, you remember, from Cuba. He was kind of a big thing for a while there. He had that amazing, overproduced video, where over the course of twenty minutes he murdered baseballs, ran track, worked out and was seen roasting a pig. Essentially every team in the league was rumored to be bidding for his services at one point or another, led by the Yankees and those free-spending Marlins (hey, remember them, too?). Then the Oakland Athletics signed him, which was a pretty huge surprise, but — to we non-A’s fans populating the vast, vast majority of the baseball-loving world — kind of a boring one. It did allow us to pay attention (on tape delay) to his Major League debut, as the A’s went out to Japan to play two real baseball games against the Mariners while everyone else was still in spring training. So we saw him double off of Felix Hernandez in his third big-league PA, and hit a long, key seventh-inning home run in his second game.

He was pretty uninspiring for the month or so after that, though, hitting .240/.313/.400 from April 6 to May 6. He’s been very good since then…but that’s it, no one cares, the lustre is gone. Why is that? Read the rest of this entry »

Do you not feel shame, Major League Baseball?  Do you not feel the hot tears of embarrassment and grief streaming down your rosy cheeks in the way you have so callously murdered baseball’s 2012 season by adding a second Wild Card team to each league?  Jeff Passan thinks you should,

It is the middle of September, and baseball is celebrating a pair of teams [Philadelphia and Milwaukee] that have clawed their way back to around .500. Their refusal to fold is laudable, certainly, and their re-admittance to the wild-card shuffle should invigorate fan bases that were ruing September. And that’s about the only positive thing baseball gets from this watered-down race that rewards the pedestrian and manufactures and force-feeds drama where it need not be…. The number of deeply flawed and disappointing teams nonetheless in the playoff hunt is disheartening. Contention and bad baseball are not supposed to mix in September.

Passan goes on to talk about 9 franchises that he identifies as still being “legitimate” contenders for the postseason (including the 71-76 San Diego Padres, who sit six games out with six teams in front of them with 15 games to play, truly stretching the definition of “contender” past any and all reasonable measure).

Good god, spare us your moralizing, Jeff.  “Shameful?” Baseball is not a great moral undertaking.  It’s a game and a business that provides entertainment to millions and millions of North Americans.  Shameful?  I suppose if your goal is to shut down interest in baseball’s postseason chase for a better part of a month in those nine cities, and cede the fall to football for a month, that would be a disappointment.  But I cannot see how it’s at all shameful that fans have a reason to keep talking about their teams and buying tickets for games deep into September.

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The baseball season is really, really long. Beautifully long, but really long. Long enough that, come late July or early August, it starts to feel like it’s always been baseball season, and always will be. So then we get to this part of the year, and suddenly there are about twenty games left, and the fact that the season will end eventually (and pretty soon, at that) is a bit hard to get the ol’ head around. And then I realize that as closely and regularly as I follow baseball, and as much as I read about it, there’s been a ton of stuff going on in the game that I just haven’t paid any attention to at all.

That might be especially true this season.  It feels to me as though this year, more than any others I can remember, has revolved around a small handful of individual players. Trout and Pujols in Anaheim; Harper and Strasburg in Washington; Cabrera, Fielder and Verlander in Detroit. Hamilton, Felix, Braun, Cain. Your mileage may vary, and there are probably several I’m forgetting who belong there, but the national stories I’ve seen have tended to focus on one or two of the guys in that group.

Conversely, and naturally, there are plenty of players having great, good or merely interesting seasons who, as far as I can tell, have received essentially no national attention. Here are my favorite five:

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Long before Roy Oswalt was pulled in the third inning of last night’s loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, it was apparent that the Oswalt experiment was a mistake.  After finding few takers this offseason, Oswalt chose to rest for half a year and shop his services at midseason, just like Roger Clemens did for two seasons at the end of his career.

On the surface, it seemed like a solid idea.  Oswalt’s back would be better with time off, and it certainly stood to reason that what Clemens could do at 44 years old, Oswalt could do a decade younger.   But despite the time off, and his relative youth, velocities that are unchanged from last year in Philadelphia, and the best strikeout to walk ratio since his rookie season, Roy Oswalt has been getting absolutely lit up, allowing a homer for every five innings he’s tossed.

Meanwhile, at 50 years old, Roger Clemens has thrown eight scoreless innings in the Atlantic League on a whim.  And despite the angry vitriol from some writers suggesting that he’s poised to make a cynical appearance for the Astros to increase his chances of making the Hall of Fame, it’s fairly clear that he won’t be allowed to join Houston before the season ends in three weeks.

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The Baltimore Orioles started the season 19-9, and have been at least two games above .500 since the second game of the season. They’ve fallen as far as 10 games behind the Yankees in what’s generally considered to be baseball’s toughest division, but have never been more than a handful of games out of the races for the two wildcard spots.

It took an 18-9 August (and a 2-1 start to September), though, and a crawling back to within a game of the Yankees in the East, for people to really take notice and start taking the O’s seriously.

Part of that, of course, is because they’re the Baltimore Orioles, the team that still needs to go at least 7-21 to secure its first winning season since 1997, and needs to go 15-13 for its second 90-win season since 1982. But another part is that it’s really hard to analyze this team in any way (other than one that begins and ends with the won-loss record) and conclude that it’s anything more than an average team. Read the rest of this entry »

September starts this weekend, bringing with it one of the things that makes baseball markedly different from every other professional sport on the planet: starting on Saturday, rosters are permitted to expand from 25 active players to 40.

This rule seems to be almost universally hated (except, one would think, by the extra guys who actually get called up rather than sloughing off home or to a fall league after their minor league season wraps up). Joel Sherman is the latest to pile on, noting that teams in September often face off with wildly different-sized rosters, his entire post dripping with something like incredulity that this sort of injustice is perpetuated in 2012.

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Did you ever go away for a weekend thinking the world worked one way, and then suddenly had those illusions ripped away, and had to come back to a vastly different world from the one you left?  I was up at our cabin this weekend in the north woods of Wisconsin, standing on a dock overlooking a pristine lake, preparing to catch a zillion fish with my son (who quickly decided he’d rather practice his light saber moves with a nearby stick), when I found out that the Red Sox were sending Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto to the Dodgers for James Loney and four young prospects.

The Red Sox haven’t been sellers since 1997, when they dealt Heathcliff Slocumb to the Mariners for Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek and Mike Stanley to the Yankees for Jim Mecir and Tony Armas Jr., and while they’re on pace for their worst finish since 1994, it would have been impossible to imagine them dealing any of those four players (and their contracts) this year before this weekend, let alone exchange them (in August!) for anything of value.

But they did, and I’m being forced to reevaluate a lot of things I thought I knew.  So, here’s what I learned from this weekend’s mega deal:

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