Posts Tagged ‘Shane Victorino’

The Big Dealers, Thus Far . . .

Now that Josh Beckett has won his first game as a Dodger, maybe it’s a good idea to see how those involved in the biggest deals—non-waiver trade deadline and waiver deadline period alike—have done since pulling those triggers. We’ll list them by the major players who moved:

Ichiro Suzuki—Since becoming a Yankee, Ichiro’s played 37 games, scored nine runs, collected 35 hits including six doubles and (count ’em) three home runs. He’s racked a .310 OBP—55 points below his career average. He’s also -0.2 wins above a replacement player as a Yankee. As for the Yankees, since Ichiro joined them 23 July the Yankees have won 19 and lost 18, including one four-game winning streak and one four-game losing streak. The Mariners since the trade? 22 wins, 14 losses, including two stupefying winning streaks of seven and eight. Not to mention, immediately after Ichiro changed clubhouses (the Yankees were in town to play the Mariners when the deal was done) the Mariners reeled off a nine-of-twelve winning string that included the aforesaid seven-game winning streak.

Thus far, overall: The Marines only seem like a better team without Ichiro, but it’s really still too soon to tell for dead last certain. The Yankees have enough other problems (injuries for the most part) that you can’t really say they’ve been worse with or because of him than they would have been without him.

Not quite, not yet . . .

Zack Greinke—He became, arguably, the pitching star of the non-waiver deadline period once Cole Hamels signed that delicious extension with the Phillies, the Dodgers and Red Sox couldn’t yet pull a trigger on Beckett (the Dodgers were interested), the Rangers and the Red Sox couldn’t pull likewise, and Ryan Dempster’s dance between Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Texas drove everyone to drink. He hasn’t exactly been a saviour for the Angels since the deal: he’s 3-2 with a 4.82 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP, with one less strikeout per nine and his strikeouts-to-walks rate cut in half on the strikeout side.

Thus far, overall: He hasn’t exactly pitched like a horror, but you note that through this writing his ERA as an Angel is a full run higher than his career rate, and he’s been more prone to the long ball as an Angel thus far than he was in Milwaukee before the deal.

Ryan Dempster—He finally went to the Rangers at the non-waiver deadline’s eleventh hour. And the timing was fortuitous for the Rangers, since Neftali Feliz went down for the season practically in the same minute. Dempster’s 33-inning scoreless streak probably inflated his worth as the deadline approached, but he was still pitching reasonably well enough to win when the Rangers finally landed him. Since the deal? Dempster got dumped by the Angels in his first Rangers start (eight earned runs); he beat the Red Sox in his next start in spite of three unearned runs, then he got waxed for another eight earned runs by the Yankees following that.

Thus far, overall: Dempster rehorsed after that Yankee spankee; he’s won three straight starts and shrunk his season’s ERA to 2.87 since. Still, as a Ranger overall since the deal he’s got a 4-1 won-lost record but a whopping 4.58 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. His strikeouts per nine as a Ranger are impressive at 8.7, and if he’s indeed rehorsing himself overall it’s going to count big enough for the Rangers as the stretch drive reaches white heat levels.

Shane Victorino—The change of scenery hasn’t done him as much good as the Dodgers hoped when they landed him from the Phillies. As a Dodger, Victorino is hitting .248 with a .308 OBP—well below what he was doing in Philadelphia before the deal, and he wasn’t quite looking like his former All-Star self. Since Victorino suited up for the Dodgers, they’ve been 15-14.

Thus far, overall: Victorino hasn’t necessarily hurt the Dodgers, but they haven’t really been a better a team with him. Which has to hurt considering the Dodgers did slip into first place in the NL West for a spell not long after acquiring Victorino but have clung to second place with a 4.5 game deficit behind the Giants—whom they’ll play in two more series, including a regular season-ender, yet to come this season.

Decent return thus far . . .

Jonathan Broxton—The Reds already had one of baseball’s best bullpens when they bagged the former Dodger closer from the Royals. As a Red, Broxton’s been hurt by three shaky outings in ten assignments, so don’t be alarmed by that 5.00 ERA or 1.44 WHIP since he put on Reds fatigues. He has two wins and five holds to show for setting up Arnoldis Chapman. The Reds are really getting a very nice return on him.

Thus far overall: The Reds are 9-1 in games in which Broxton has pitched. He’s no team or pen killer just yet. And unless the Cardinals or the Pirates find a little September magic, you can all but hand the NL Central to them.

Hanley Ramirez—He came to the Dodgers before they landed Victorino. He looked like a classic change of scenery guy, since he’d all but worn out his welcome in Miami. As a Dodger, he’s been better than he was as a Marlin before the trade: he’d had a mere .322 OBP with the Fish this season, but since becoming a Dodger he’s swollen it to a .344, not quite to his career level .373 but well enough on the way. He’s being more selective at the plate and rediscovering his consistent enough power, with nine bombs, 17 of his 39 Dodger hits going for extra bases, all in 36 games.

Thus far, overall: With Ramirez the Dodgers have been 18-18. Don’t blame Ramirez, this one’s pretty much a team effort.

Hunter Pence—The Giants landed him right around the non-waiver deadline. He’s played thirty games with them since, with a .292 OBP, a .362 SLG, and 37 runs produced in those thirty games. He’s 0.2 WAR as a Giant, too.

Thus far, overall: Melky Cabrera’s suspension put a big cloud over the Giants when he went down midway through August. Without him, the Giants are 10-5. Keep that pace up and they can only win the NL West, assuming the Dodgers can’t rehorse in September. Since Pence joined them, the Giants are 18-11, and their longest losing streak over that period has been two games. So while you can’t necessarily argue that Pence is that much of a help to the Giants, he certainly hasn’t hurt them. If you’re 10-5 since your best hitter (reputedly) goes down under suspension, and you’re 18-11 overall since you picked up a Hunter Pence, you’ve sure got a terrific team.

(Come to think of it: If you’re 10-5 without Cabrera, who was fool enough to get bagged for actual or alleged performance-enhancing substances, why on earth would you want to screw with a team makeup that gets you that kind of performance otherwise and let him back in during the postseason, when he’s eligible to return? The Giants know better than most organisations what the PED issue can do to you. Here’s a grand opportunity to make a very big statement about that matter. It would also help remove that little gray cloud hovering around the return of two-time actual or alleged PEDaler Guillermo Mota, too . . .)

Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, Nick Punto—I mention those three alone because Carl Crawford won’t be back from Tommy John surgery until early in 2013. Gonzalez got off to the absolute right start when he suited up for the Dodgers after that laughing-all-the-way cross country flight from Boston that Saturday, hitting the second pitch he saw as a Dodger into the right field seats, on a day the Dodgers battered Miami.

That three-run bomb to introduce himself to Los Angeles has been his highlight thus far . . .

Unfortunately, the Dodgers are 2-5 since The Big Deal. Beckett’s first start as a Dodger wasn’t terrible, and his masterpiece against the Diamondbacks yesterday was much needed. He’s only given up four earned runs as a Dodger, and three were against the Rockies in his first start, not to mention he seems to have rediscovered his strikeout pitches for now. However, his WHIP in his two Dodger starts as been 1.39, which seems to indicate on the evidence thus far that you can hit him but he may still find a way to beat you. Gonzalez has played in eight games as a Dodger and, following that crowd-pleasing opener, has hit a mere .182 with a .250 OBP, though he has taken three walks, stolen a base, scored three runs, and only five of his 27 outs have been strikeouts—he’s making contact, but not getting much for it yet. Punto has only thirteen plate appearances since joining the Dodgers and you probably shouldn’t expect a big show out of that just yet, especially for a utilityman.

Thus far, overall: You can’t hang the Dodgers’ latest slippage on the three ex-Red Sox alone, or even remotely, just yet. How they do in September, when the Dodgers will really need them the most, should tell you more.

Root, Root, Root, Get Run

If Don Mattingly and Matt Kemp are right, Angel Campos needs to face baseball government and explain why he threw Kemp out of a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates for the heinous offence of rooting for a teammate.

If they are wrong, however, and Campos’s real motivation was Kemp and other Dodgers barking about Campos’s balls and strikes, then Campos needs to explain why he waited until Kemp hollered, “Let’s go, ‘Dre!” to teammate Andre Ethier, in the batter’s box leading off the second inning, before he tossed Kemp.

Facing A.J. Burnett—whose comeback story is one of the reasons the Pirates are chugging away in an honest-to-God pennant race, and in whose starts the Pirates are 18-4 this season, including Thursday night’s 10-6 win over the Dodgers, tying a single-season percentage mark (82 percent) set in 1902 (behind Jack Chesbro)—Ethier stepped out of the box a moment and the scrum was on in earnest.

“Hey, man, since when is rooting for my guy against the law?!?”—Manager Don Mattingly (l.) and outfielder Matt Kemp (c.) would like plate umpire Angel Campos (r.) to explain that one, as should everyone. (Note: Campos’s “HW” patch is in honour of longtime NL ump Harry Wendelstedt, who died in March.)

You could hear a little yapping coming from the Dodger dugout before Ethier stepped out of the box. Kemp, who’d struck out in the first, was clearly unhappy with Campos’s strike zone. Campos would have been well enough within his rights as an umpire to toss someone if it was just barking about ball and strike calls. All he had to do was give one of the Dodger barkers the ho-heave during the ball and strike barks, and that would have been that.

As it happens, Campos did issue a kind of warning to the Dodger dugout over the ball-and-strike barking. Something along the line of, “I don’t want to hear another word out of you.”

“Then I said, ‘Let’s go ‘Dre’,” Kemp told reporters, apparently indicating he’d begun rooting for Ethier after the unofficial knock-it-off about the pitch calls, “and he tossed me out of the game. You’ve got two teams going at it in a pennant race. We’re trying to build the lead against the Giants and Arizona, and I get thrown out for cheering my teammate.”

Throwing a player out for rooting for his teammate? No wonder Mattingly scurried out of the dugout to face Campos down. In part from the instinct to protect his player further, in part because he probably had every right on earth to demand an explanation as to why, suddenly, rooting from the bench is supposed to cost a player.

Kemp, for his part, blasted out of the dugout after getting the thumb. No problem there. Players and managers have been known from time immemorial to look to have their say, once and for all, after their ejections. Except that Kemp needed, at various times, bench coach Trey Hillman, teammate Shane Victorino, and one or two other umps to keep him from possibly trying to knock Campos into the middle of September.

At one point, Kemp bumped into one of the umps, probably unintentionally. It got rather crowded around the plate, where the debate transpired, particularly when crew chief Tim Tschida decided Mattingly needed the rest of the night off for bad behaviour himself. He also needed Hillman’s help to get Mattingly off the field at last.

“This isn’t about being mad,” said Mattingly to reporters after the game, which cost the Dodgers a series sweep against the Pirates. “This is something that has to go above me. It needs to go to the league. We’re in a pennant race, and I’ve got a guy who was second in the MVP last year, and you can’t take him out of the game for cheering for a teammate. If we had gone out of control, that’s different. This is just unacceptable behavior [by Campos].”

It wouldn’t be the end of the Dodgers’ troubles with the plate ump. When Pedro Alvarez hit one over the center field fence in the fifth, moments after Garrett Jones hit one of his two three-run bombs on the night, Los Angeles starter Joe Blanton ran toward Campos before leaving the field when he was lifted for a reliever.

Campos isn’t exactly immune to controversy. Last year, during an interleague game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Kansas City Royals, Campos tossed Royals catcher Matt Treanor (who happens to be with the Dodgers this year) while they were exchanging words . . . at a moment when Treanor wasn’t even facing Campos as he talked. Let’s see. Tossing one man when he isn’t even looking at you; tossing another man when he’s rooting from the dugout. Campos seems to have a thing for long-distance purging.

We’re going to hear and see it if Kemp gets himself a fine and/or a suspension, which is just about the last thing the Dodgers need while battling for the National League West. Bank on it. What we may not hear or see is whether Campos is disciplined as a possible instigator, and by what means.

Which is part of the problem many have with umpiring today. For the most part, the arbiters do well. But when they do wrong, when they cross the line between mere command of a game and baseball’s equivalent of judicial tyranny, which is, unfortunately, often enough, the consequences they face are disclosed rarely enough.

Got Melk—Under Drug Testing Program, That Is

This is just what the San Francisco Giants don’t need, though it probably did the Washington Nationals—who just squared off against the Giants in San Francisco—a small favour: Melky Cabrera, the MVP of this year’s All-Star Game, suspended fifty games for a positive testosterone test.

The announcement came practically on the heels of the Giants announcing contract talks with Cabrera would go on hold until season’s end. Cabrera, of course, was enjoying a very respectable walk year, with a .906 OPS and a National League-leading 156 hits, 51 of which came in May alone (tying Randy Winn’s team record for any month, and breaking Willie Mays’ team record for May, since the Giants came to San Francisco in the first place), a significant factor in the Giants at this writing sitting tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers for first place in the NL West.

Got melked by a positive testosterone test . . .

Cabrera’s suspension begins at once. If the Giants get to the postseason, those games will be included as part of Cabrera’s suspension. If they don’t, Cabrera will finish serving the sentence at the open of the 2013 regular season.

Give Cabrera credit for this much: He ducked nothing and manned up at once when handed his sentence. “My positive test was the result of my use of a substance I should not have used. I accept my suspension under the Joint Drug Program and I will try to move on with my life. I am deeply sorry for my mistake and I apologize to my teammates, to the San Francisco Giants organisation, and to the fans for letting them down,” he said in a formal statment.

The Giants landed Cabrera in the off-season in a swap that sent Jonathan Sanchez (P) to the Kansas City Royals. He signed a single-year deal with the Giants rather than go to salary arbitration.

MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE JUNGLE . . .

CONTINUING THE CUB SHUFFLE—Theo Epstein’s work on remaking/remodeling the Cubs continued Wednesday with the execution of Oneri Fleita as vice president of player personnel. “All of us with the Cubs owe Oneri a debt of gratitude for his tremendous service to the organization over many years. Oneri has impacted countless people here in a positive way, and we wish him well as he continues his career elsewhere,” said Epstein in a statement. Fleita had been in the Cubs’ organisation since 1995; he was actually given a four-year contract extension in 2011, before Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer were brought aboard. The Cubs also canned manager of baseball information Chuck Wasserstrom, who’d been with the Cubs for 25 years; and, reassigned statistical analysis manager Ari Kaplan to become a consultant to owner Tom Ricketts.

THE BOSTON BRISTLE, CONTINUED—Boston Red Sox principal owner John Henry says none of the players who wanted to meet with the brass in that July New York sit-down actually called for manager Bobby Valentine’s execution. Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports—whose colleague, Jeff Passan, wrote the article that launched this week’s  hoo-ha over the meeting—argues that, whatever you do or don’t think about Valentine’s style vis a vis a rickety Red Sox clubhouse, Henry must tell one and all that Valentine’s his man through the end of his contract (it expires after 2013, specifically) at least, “that employees do not fire managers.”

Tell everyone this isn’t working because bad contracts and worse attitudes have fouled the place, but will not any longer. Tell them that it will be addressed this winter, that the talented [general manager Ben] Cherington is under orders to see to it, no matter the cost in discarded mistakes and malcontents. Now what? Tell them none of this will be tolerated any longer. 

That’s a pretty point. But what do you say about a manager who, yes, walked into a fragile enough situation to begin with—and after assorted Red Sox brass, perhaps unaware of what other assorted Red Sox brass thought, told assorted Red Sox players last winter that the divide-and-conquer Valentine wasn’t even a blip on their managerial radar—chose almost from the outset to inflame rather than inspire his players?

Will John Henry’s hammer drop on Bobby V., his rickety clubhouse, or both . . .?

It wasn’t the players who threw Kevin Youkilis under the proverbial bus right out of the chute, questioning his heart in hand with his physical condition, possibly as revenge for Youkilis, supposedly, being the one who dropped the proverbial dime on the chicken-and-beer contingency of last September. (Enough say that was the precise moment Valentine lost much of his clubhouse.)

It wasn’t the players who filled out the wrong lineup card against the Minnesota Twins shortly after the Youkilis yak—though it was one player (catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia) who caught the blunder in time enough for its correction.

It wasn’t the players who made a starter out of setup man Daniel Bard only to learn the hard way Bard would be in over his head in that role.

It wasn’t the players who finked on now-traded Kelly Shoppach, who took his complaint about playing time to Valentine for a private discussion about it.

It wasn’t the players who took poor Will Middlebrooks’s “nice inning, kid” barb from Valentine public. (Though it may have been one player, post-Tommy John patient John Lackey, out for the season while he recuperates from the procedure, who took that remark to Henry privately. Emphasis on “privately.” Lackey may have his troubles otherwise, but he wasn’t looking to make a press pump out of it.)

It wasn’t the players who betrayed Clay Buchholz’s private request for an extra day’s rest and threw in a subtle implication that Buchholz’s heart, too, should be deemed suspect.

It wasn’t the players who decided Jon Lester absolutely needed to stay in, on a day he clearly didn’t have it, for an eleven-run beating from which no one could find anyone to step in for him before it got past a five-run first-inning flogging.

And it wasn’t the players who told the Boston Herald, ““I hear a lot of (players) say, ‘Why doesn’t anybody talk about this other team like that? Why don’t they talk about anyone else?’ I just say, ‘It’s just because this is who we are. We’re the Red Sox.’ And maybe it’s because of who I am, too. They have to understand, I’m here. There’s going to be a lot of bullets thrown my way, and they can become collateral damage.”

The Red Sox players aren’t quite innocent. But if Henry were to heed Brown and deputise Cherington to clean house, the housecleaning probably has to include the manager, too. If Valentine has a few too many of the wrong players to lead, high-priced or otherwise, a few too many of the right players (high-priced or otherwise) have the wrong manager to lead them. And what would make someone think that cleaning out the Red Sox clubhouse would give the divide-and-conquer Valentine a better shake at anything . . .  other than possibly blowing up a cleaner clubhouse, perhaps while shrugging that off as just a case of collateral damage from the “bullets” thrown his way?

Valentine has his talents as a manager. Unfortunately, they’re not suited for just any old place. And Boston, for better or worse, isn’t just any old place.

ABOUT THOSE TRADE-DEADLINE PICKUPS—In a word, says SweetSpot’s David Schoenfeld, they’ve been duds thus far, to a considerable extent:

Ryan Dempster—After all the hoopla about where he’d go (or want to go), before he finally consented to go to Texas, Dempster as a Ranger has been nuked for 19 runs in 17 1/3 innings in three starts, two of which saw him reached for eight runs each.

Anibal Sanchez—As a Tiger, he’s been a pussycat: 1-3, 7.97 ERA since going to Detroit, 19 runs in 20.1 innings, and by the way he got lit up Monday, too.

Zack Greinke—Until he beat the Indians Tuesday night, Greinke came off a five-walk game and the Angels hadn’t won in his previous three starts since joining them.

Hunter Pence—Struggling when the Phillies dealt him to the Giants in the first place, Pence through Tuesday had a .445 OPS.

Ichiro Suzuki—The good news: He’s been a better Yankee than Mariner this season. The bad news: He’s not exactly pushing the Empire Emeritus closer to the top.

Jonathan Broxton—In four innings with Cincinnati, he’s burped up four runs. Not to mention one loss and one blown save in one of his gigs.

The good news? Hanley Ramirez isn’t putting up a better OPS in Los Angeles than he did in Miami, but he has driven in eighteen runs since joining the Dodgers. Omar Infante (to the Tigers) and Shane Victorino (to the Dodgers) are doing well in their new environs. Chris Johnson also has eighteen ribs since joining the Diamondbacks. And Paul Maholm, not exactly the most glittering name on the non-waiver trade block, has allowed only three runs in his first two Atlanta starts, building himself to a total of eight runs in his previous eight starts.

Replay's Ally—Vin Scully

Tracy’s blinking meltdown compelled a broadcast titan to blow anti-replay arguments away . . .

You can say the name alone and it becomes a nine-letter synonym for greatness. But it’s always nice to be handed fresh reminders as to why Vin Scully’s name became that synonym in the first place. Monday night, for example.

This reminder came down during the seventh inning, with freshly minted Dodger Shane Victorino at the plate. Just about everyone since has been buzzing about everything Scully said for the at-bat, the play, the argument, and the ejection, except two things he managed to tuck in, one in the middle, and one after the meat of it was digested.

What Scully did was remove major further obstruction to those who argue in favour of expanding official replay on tight calls other than hair’s breadth home runs or borderline foul balls.

And this isn’t just another analyst or spoilsport angling to remove, spare us, the “human factor” from a game in which the need to get things right has gone from acute to critical mass only too often. This is baseball’s greatest broadcaster, a man called a national treasure often enough for it to become a cliche, making the argument.

Here was that we just saw, as Scully himself called it. It only began with Victorino lofting a soft rising liner to center that Colorado outfielder Dexter Fowler had to catch on the run, and on the shoestrings, more or less. Or, did he?

All right, three and two . . . There goes [Dodger baserunner A.J.] Ellis, there goes the ball to center field, and a great try catch—yes, catch . . . The second base umpire could not go out, because Ellis was running, and it was the first base, right field line [umpire Mike Esterbrook] ran down to make the catch . . . we had to wait because there was no sign, but you see he did catch it.

So far, so good, even if on the first of two television replays you could make a call that the ball hit the web of Fowler’s glove just a hair’s nanosecond after hitting the center field grass. Onward Scully goes:

No trap. So it was a good call by Mike Esterbrook. [Dodger manager] Don Mattingly is gonna argue . . . 

At this point, the camera is showing another angle, and a slow-motion one at that, from which you might see a hair more clearly that Fowler could have trapped the ball. Scully begins to speak again just as the home viewer sees Fowler finish his knee slide while raising his glove with the ball secure in the web.

Now, Esterbrook is gonna go over and talk to the other umpires. We couldn’t call it, so I just looked at Esterbrook, and he finally called it. Victorino is out on a fly ball, but the umpires are gonna huddle. That’s a good thing, no matter what, you want to make sure you get it right . . . okay . . .

Emphasis mine.

Here, one of the umps began walking toward the Colorado dugout and motioning to Rockies manager (and former Dodger manager) Jim Tracy. The Dodger Stadium crowd hasn’t let up in its gleeful racket, ramping it up with what follows at once. “Uh, oh,” Scully purrs. “Uuhh, oh!” Tracy steps up from the dugout and isn’t going to like what he’s about to be told, as Scully continues.

The meeting looks like they’re gonna call it a trap, and Jim Tracy . . . “He caught the ball,” Jim said. “He caught—the ball. He caught the—blinkin’ ball. He caught the darn ball.” 

Seconds later, with the crowd noise surging a little further, Tracy removed his cap with both hands and thrust it to the ground.

Oh! oh, you’re gone! He’s gone . . . “That—is—blinkin’ fertilizer” . . . I’m doing the best to translate . . . “You’ve gotta be blinkin’ me! The ball, he caught the ball! No way . . . no blinkin’ way . . . no bloody way . . . “

If replay’s good enough for this man, it should be good enough for the Show.

Tracy by now is arguing for whatever he’s blinking worth, since he’s been tossed, about which Scully dryly remarks, “Jim’s gone, so he’s spending house money now.”

That’s where the widely-circulated video clip ends. The bad news is that just about everyone else is having their fun with Scully’s blinking bid to translate Tracy’s tirade. Without the like of Big League Stew to cite it, you almost wouldn’t know Scully also stuck a genteel barb into the craw of those whose arguments against replay include not just the “human factor” but, almost as often, that replay will only delay further games that (allegedly) take “too long” to play as it is.

We have all this technology and they don’t use it because they say it would delay the game. Well, what was that we just saw?

Emphasis mine. Game, set, and match. All arguments against replay should be dismissed from now on as fertlizer. Blinking or otherwise.

Replay’s Ally—Vin Scully

Tracy’s blinking meltdown compelled a broadcast titan to blow anti-replay arguments away . . .

You can say the name alone and it becomes a nine-letter synonym for greatness. But it’s always nice to be handed fresh reminders as to why Vin Scully’s name became that synonym in the first place. Monday night, for example.

This reminder came down during the seventh inning, with freshly minted Dodger Shane Victorino at the plate. Just about everyone since has been buzzing about everything Scully said for the at-bat, the play, the argument, and the ejection, except two things he managed to tuck in, one in the middle, and one after the meat of it was digested.

What Scully did was remove major further obstruction to those who argue in favour of expanding official replay on tight calls other than hair’s breadth home runs or borderline foul balls.

And this isn’t just another analyst or spoilsport angling to remove, spare us, the “human factor” from a game in which the need to get things right has gone from acute to critical mass only too often. This is baseball’s greatest broadcaster, a man called a national treasure often enough for it to become a cliche, making the argument.

Here was that we just saw, as Scully himself called it. It only began with Victorino lofting a soft rising liner to center that Colorado outfielder Dexter Fowler had to catch on the run, and on the shoestrings, more or less. Or, did he?

All right, three and two . . . There goes [Dodger baserunner A.J.] Ellis, there goes the ball to center field, and a great try catch—yes, catch . . . The second base umpire could not go out, because Ellis was running, and it was the first base, right field line [umpire Mike Esterbrook] ran down to make the catch . . . we had to wait because there was no sign, but you see he did catch it.

So far, so good, even if on the first of two television replays you could make a call that the ball hit the web of Fowler’s glove just a hair’s nanosecond after hitting the center field grass. Onward Scully goes:

No trap. So it was a good call by Mike Esterbrook. [Dodger manager] Don Mattingly is gonna argue . . . 

At this point, the camera is showing another angle, and a slow-motion one at that, from which you might see a hair more clearly that Fowler could have trapped the ball. Scully begins to speak again just as the home viewer sees Fowler finish his knee slide while raising his glove with the ball secure in the web.

Now, Esterbrook is gonna go over and talk to the other umpires. We couldn’t call it, so I just looked at Esterbrook, and he finally called it. Victorino is out on a fly ball, but the umpires are gonna huddle. That’s a good thing, no matter what, you want to make sure you get it right . . . okay . . .

Emphasis mine.

Here, one of the umps began walking toward the Colorado dugout and motioning to Rockies manager (and former Dodger manager) Jim Tracy. The Dodger Stadium crowd hasn’t let up in its gleeful racket, ramping it up with what follows at once. “Uh, oh,” Scully purrs. “Uuhh, oh!” Tracy steps up from the dugout and isn’t going to like what he’s about to be told, as Scully continues.

The meeting looks like they’re gonna call it a trap, and Jim Tracy . . . “He caught the ball,” Jim said. “He caught—the ball. He caught the—blinkin’ ball. He caught the darn ball.” 

Seconds later, with the crowd noise surging a little further, Tracy removed his cap with both hands and thrust it to the ground.

Oh! oh, you’re gone! He’s gone . . . “That—is—blinkin’ fertilizer” . . . I’m doing the best to translate . . . “You’ve gotta be blinkin’ me! The ball, he caught the ball! No way . . . no blinkin’ way . . . no bloody way . . . “

If replay’s good enough for this man, it should be good enough for the Show.

Tracy by now is arguing for whatever he’s blinking worth, since he’s been tossed, about which Scully dryly remarks, “Jim’s gone, so he’s spending house money now.”

That’s where the widely-circulated video clip ends. The bad news is that just about everyone else is having their fun with Scully’s blinking bid to translate Tracy’s tirade. Without the like of Big League Stew to cite it, you almost wouldn’t know Scully also stuck a genteel barb into the craw of those whose arguments against replay include not just the “human factor” but, almost as often, that replay will only delay further games that (allegedly) take “too long” to play as it is.

We have all this technology and they don’t use it because they say it would delay the game. Well, what was that we just saw?

Emphasis mine. Game, set, and match. All arguments against replay should be dismissed from now on as fertlizer. Blinking or otherwise.

The End for Abreu, Possibly . . .

Abreu—approaching the end of a solid career?

Someone had to go in order for the Los Angeles Dodgers to clear a spot for incoming Shane Victorino, and it looks as though veteran Bobby Abreu, Victorino’s former Philadelphia Phillies teammate, is the unlucky candidate. The Dodgers designated him for assignment Wednesday.

It isn’t that Abreu had become baggage by any means—in seventy games he had a .359 on-base percentage, though he wasn’t hitting quite to his one-time level—but the Dodgers for now just had little enough role for him now other than pinch-hitting duty, with an outfield of Victorino, Matt Kemp, and Andre Ethier. Clearly, according to ESPN, manager Don Mattingly wasn’t all that anxious to let Abreu go just yet.

Bobby kind of came at a time when we had some guys hurt, did a great job for us. He’s another guy in the clubhouse who’s been good with the young players, talking to them about hitting. To me, he’s an intelligent guy who understands the game and everything that’s going on with it. He’s just good for guys.

Once a Phillies mainstay who became a better than useful player with the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels, Abreu found himself released in late April when Mike Trout—making a solid Rookie of the Year and American League Most Valuable Player case (he leads the Show in WAR at this writing)—was promoted to stay.

The Dodgers picked him up with the Angels paying most of his $9 million 2012 salary. Mattingly hopes the Dodgers can hold onto Abreu in one way or another, pending his acceptance to Albuquerque (AAA) until the Show rosters can expand 1 September, ESPN says. The Dodgers have ten days to trade or release the veteran otherwise; if they find a deal to their reluctant liking, Abreu could still help a team as a designated hitter who can still hit reasonably enough (his outfield skills, which were never formidable, have all but eroded) as well as mentoring their younger hitters.

Abreu himself was realistic about his role with the Dodgers during July, even though his once-formidable power numbers were no longer possible at age 38.

I never change my approach. I’m just trying to work the count, get on base and start rallies. I’ve got good guys behind me that can knock home some runs, so I just need to get on base.

If this is approaching the end of Abreu’s line, though, he would leave the game with a formidable resume. Over seventeen major league seasons, he is, at this writing, number 23 on the all-time doubles list (he led the National League in 2002 with 50 doubles), and he’s number 51 all time in times on base. In parts of 17 seasons, Abreu has amassed 2,434 hits and drawn 1,451 walks. He actually ranks 51st in baseball history in overall times on base. Perhaps more impressive: His 565 doubles rank 23rd in the history of baseball. He’s driven in 100 or more runs in a season eight times.

In his heyday with the Phillies . . .

And, Abreu has more WAR than a small boatload of players including a few Hall of Famers—his 57 overall WAR through this writing are more than Hall of Famers Zack Wheat, Yogi Berra, Willie Stargell, Bill Dickey, Joe Medwick, Tony Perez, and Kirby Puckett, among others; among active players, he’s behind only (in ascending order) Adrian Beltre, Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Carlos Beltran, Roy Halladay, Derek Jeter, Jim Thome, Chipper Jones, Albert Pujols, and Alex Rodriguez. He has 57.3 offensive WAR, which puts him in the top hundred all-time in that isolated category.

He was highly enough valued even as he approached the apparent end. What might be forgotten now is this: before the Yankees unloaded A.J. Burnett to the Pittsburgh Pirates last winter, they wanted to bring Abreu back (he’d been a useful Yankee from 2006-2008 and, among other things, stole the last known base in the old Yankee Stadium before it closed) and offered Burnett to the Angels for him.

The Angels were willing to do it. They respected Abreu while having no room for him as a regular anymore, after he’d played well enough for them over three seasons, making a parallel reputation for shepherding their younger hitters toward better plate patience. But Burnett scotched the deal, infuriating Abreu, who wanted to go to the Yankees if the Angels couldn’t play him every day (the Yankees sought DH help last winter and Abreu would have fit the plan well enough) when they had young comers ready to step up.

Burnett ended up with the Pirates, where he’s enjoying a renaissance of his own. (He’s got a respectable record on the season thus far and damn near no-hit the Cubs the other night.) Abreu ended up further fighting the reality that age was finally catching up to him in terms of regular play, demanding the Angels play him as an everyday DH or trade him. (The Angels also couldn’t swing a deal with the Indians for him.) Then, they released him to make room for Trout.

Abreu actually might have gotten back to the Yankees in another way. Strange as it may seem, considering how the Phillies unloaded him to the Yankees for a package of non-entities at the 2006 non-waiver deadline, the Phillies had ideas last winter about dealing for Abreu—it was thought they’d send Joe Blanton to the Angels for Abreu, then flip Abreu to the Yankees for Burnett. That deal didn’t pan out, either.

The Phillies did become a National League East powerhouse after the original Abreu trade. But Abreu’s image as a clubhouse cancer may actually have stemmed from his concern that, as good as they looked, those Phillies weren’t as close to contending as some thought. And the Phillies’ rise may have had less to do with moving Abreu than you might think.

You wonder if the Phillies would have bagged more than one World Series ring in the coming run if they’d kept him, especially since Abreu did help the Yankees win the American League East in 2006 and the American League wild card in 2007. (He also played well for them in those two division series, both of which the Yankees lost.) You wonder if the Phillies would have done better in their impressive run had they gotten better for Abreu, since his value was at its absolute peak at the time of that trade. Bleacher Report isn’t the only one who wonders if there weren’t better offers on the table for him (only one of the minor leaguers who went to the Phillies is still with the organisation), and whether the 2006 Phillies used the chemistry issue to beard a salary dump.

Abreu may have a solid future ahead of him as a hitting instructor, at least. He’s smart enough to become a manager, even. He’s been, basically, one of the game’s quiet stars, a solid hitter with an off-the-chart ability to work pitch counts (he often led his league in pitches seen) and reach base. (He has averaged 126 strikeouts per 162 games lifetime, but he’s also averaged 101 walks per 162.) As a matter of fact, according to the Bill James definitions, Abreu meets 54 of the Hall of Fame batting standards (the average Hall of Famer would meet 50) and scores 94 on the Hall of Fame batting monitor.

I bet you didn’t realise Abreu shook out through this writing as just about an average Hall of Famer. The kind who snuck up on you when you almost weren’t looking, even if his case, if he has one, would be made almost entirely by his bat and his ability to reach base. (At best, Abreu was a serviceable outfielder; at worst, he could be a bit of a klutz whom people thought, perhaps wrongly, was dogging it.) I don’t think he will become a Hall of Famer; I’d have to say his odds are long enough. (Among other liabilities: he’s only ever been an All-Star twice.) But never let anyone tell you this guy was anything less than a thoroughgoing professional who learned to use his skills as they were, not as he might have hoped they’d be.

Abreu’s been a  brainy hitter with quite a bit of power, brilliance on the basepaths (bet you didn’t realise his lifetime stolen base percentage as of today is .756) and quite a bit of run productivity. (He averaged 194 runs produced per 162 games lifetime, through this writing.) He learned his strengths, played with and to them, and did whatever he could do within them to help his teams win, even if his teams often didn’t realise what they would miss until after they let him go.

DID YOU KNOW . . . Bobby Abreu has been almost the same hitter on the road as he’s been at home. He has only twenty less lifetime home runs on the road; his road OBP and slugging percentages aren’t that far off his home figures; and, he’s been practically even up between the first and second halves of a season. He was as consistent as they came when his skills were at full strength.

His best months, lifetime: June and September/October, in both of which he’s a lifetime .400+ hitter. Situational hitting: .942 OPS with runners in scoring position; .855 with a man on third and two out;  .928 with two out and men in scoring position; 1.052 with two out and the bases loaded; .855 when the game was late and close; and, .882 when the game was tied or within a run either way.

In other words, Bobby Abreu was an excellent clutch hitter. Maybe not quite a Hall of Fame-caliber clutch hitter, but you never should have been anywhere close to a nervous breakdown if he was at the plate and the game was on the line or close enough to it.

The Dempster Backstory, and other heads and tales . . .

Turns out the Chicago Cubs got a pair of A-level minor leaguers, Christian Vilanueva (3B) and Kyle Hendricks (RHP), from the Texas Rangers for Ryan Dempster . . . decent prospects but not necessarily blue chips. For the most part, few no-questions-asked blue chip prospects moved in the non-waiver trade period, Jean Segura (SS) possibly having been the bluest of the chips when he went to Milwaukee in the Zack Greinke deal.

How and why did the Rangers—hungering for rotation help with Colby Lewis gone for the year (entering the final fortnight, his was the hole they needed to fill)—end up settling for Dempster when all was said and done? According to Fox’s Ken Rosenthal:

* Approaching the non-waiver trade deadline the Rangers’ real first love was Cole Hamels—but Hamels signed that $144 million, six-year extension with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Ryan Dempster—the Rangers landed him only too much in the nick of time . . .

* With Hamels out of reach, the Rangers’ next great love was Zack Greinke—but they were out-bid for him by the Los Angeles Angels, simply because the Rangers were unwilling to surrender any of their top three farm prospects (they offered their numbers six and fifteen; the Brewers said not quite) and less likely than the Angels (who sent the Brewers Segura as part of the trade package and have the farm depth to have been able to make the deal) to be able to sign Greinke long-term. Which made the Rangers only too normal under today’s collective bargaining agreement that puts serious reins on spending for prospects.

* With Greinke out of reach, the Rangers went talking about every other starting pitcher known to be available. Except that Miami’s Josh Johnson is an established health risk, Tampa Bay’s James Shields picked the wrong time to slump, their own one-time World Series carrier Cliff Lee was too damn expensive, and Boston’s Josh Beckett had just too many issues—from his own expensive salary to his own history of health and clubhouse issues. (Which means, Rosenthal says, the Red Sox may have missed their own best shot at moving Beckett, and the Rangers lost out on a possible blockbuster that might have included another element they hoped to get: seeking a lineup sparkplug, they’d coveted Shane Victorino, who went to the Los Angeles Dodgers, but would have taken Jacoby Ellsbury if the two sides could work a blockbuster that didn’t happen.)

* With Dempster, the Cubs themselves were over the proverbial barrel—the new rules would have given the Cubs draft pick compensation if Dempster left as a free agent after the Cubs made him a single-year, qualifying offer, which they might not have been willing to do for a pitcher Dempster’s age if it meant losing a first-round pick.

* Dempster himself helped the Rangers’ cause when he spurned a deal to the Atlanta Braves; the Dodgers—Dempster’s known first choice—didn’t want to part with their top prospects for him (they refused to budge on Allen Webster, not that you could blame them), and Dempster himself was in the Cub front offices watching the haggle with the Dodgers, perhaps enough to cause him to change his mind on his hoped-for choice. Then, if a deal couldn’t get done with the Dodgers, Dempster let it slip that he wouldn’t say no to the Yankees or the Rangers, and for likewise personal reasons: in New York, two Dempster allies (former Cub GM Jim Hendry, former pitching coach Larry Rothschild, who now has that job in the Bronx) are there, and in Arlington there’s another former Cub teammate he respects (future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux) working in the front office.

“Time will tell,” Rosenthal writes, “if Dempster made the right decision by rejecting the Braves and switching leagues just months before he enters the free-agent market — he not only is moving to the more hitter-friendly AL but also to hitter-friendly Rangers Ballpark.”

And barely had Dempster agreed to the move—which happened practically as the period expired—when the Rangers got hit with a double-whammy: Neftali Feliz, their closer-turned-starter, who looked impressive enough in the new job until he went down with elbow trouble in May, now needs Tommy John surgery and will be lost until the middle of next summer at least; and, Roy Oswalt, whom they signed as a free agent in May, continued showing his age and has been transferred to the bullpen.

They could still end up with a Cliff Lee homecoming, though—there’s always a chance of making a deal on Lee once a) he clears the waiver wire; and, as just about every analyst figures, the Phillies get it into their thick skulls that they’re going to have to eat some money to move him. Which would embarrass the Phillies far less than the Red Sox have been embarrassed since they moved Kevin Youkilis: the erstwhile Greek God of Walks is enjoying a renaissance with the White Sox, while the Olde Towne Team ended up with a small-enough return for moving Youkilis, Scott Podsednik, and Matt Albers.

MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE JUNGLE . . .

There were some deals that didn’t get made but might or should have:

* Chase Headley—San Diego did a lot of talking about moving their third base prize; lots of people wanted Carlos Quentin and Huston Street, too, but those two signed contract extensions while Headley, who stayed on the market until the non-waiver deadline, went nowhere. Leaving the Padres, according to Yahoo!’s Jeff Passan, to see if they can get a better package for him after the season.

* Michael Cuddyer—The former Minnesota mainstay now with the Rockies and struggling a bit, there was a GM or two who wanted him but the Rockies didn’t want to let him go, for whatever reasons.

* Chris Perez—Cleveland needs to continue rebuilding; Perez could have brought them a decent if not spectacular return from a team in dire need of relief fortification (the New York Mets or the Brewers, anyone?), but the Indians decided to hold him.

* Denard Span—The Twins wouldn’t mind moving him, and the Cincinnati Reds—who fortified what might be the best bullpen in baseball this year when they added Jonathan Broxton before the non-waiver deadline—could have plugged in their leadoff hole nicely with Span. And the Reds right now are baseball’s most solid team without Joey Votto; they’d have been downright filthy with Votto and Span in the ranks.

* Scott Hairston—Among pieces the slipping Mets might have moved, Hairston would have brought the best return. Maybe the Mets aren’t giving up on the season just yet, maybe they are, but if they’re not giving up on the season it’s to wonder why they didn’t offer up Hairston seeking badly-needed bullpen help, since the only thing making their bullpen look anything close to serviceable is the horror of a bullpen in Milwaukee. The Mets aren’t being run by dummies anymore, and you know damn well they won’t even think about moving the like of David Wright, R.A. Dickey, Ike Davis (who’s beginning to rehorse after a frightful beginning this season), Matt Harvey, or Bobby Parnell (they may still see him as their closer of the future, if he can get that explosive stuff of his under control), but holding Hairston when his trade value was at peak may have been a bigger mistake than it looked as the non-waiver deadline approached.