Greetings Everyone! By the time you read this we will be at the halfway point of the Regular season! So, LET’S DO THIS!
- As a guy in his mid-fifties who’s been watching Baseball since before the advent of Free agency, you may think that I’m an old school fan who espouses the virtues of the “Unwritten Rules”. Most of them deal with Showboating or showing up a teammate or opposing player. Some of the more “established” rules are:
- Do not bunt to break up a no hitter.
- Don’t swing at a 3-0 pitch
- When hitting a home run, don’t stand at home plate and admire it
- Don’t steal bases when your team is up by a bunch
- Don’t discuss with or sit near a pitcher who’s throwing a no hitter or a perfect game.
- The pitcher shouldn’t show displeasure if one of your fielders commits an error
Let’s be clear on this: I’m all for winning with class and losing with dignity. The victor should not rub it in the face of the vanquished; act like you’ve been there before. But Baseball is a very hard game – the best in its history fail 70% of the time. Therefore, I have NO problem with celebrating accomplishments and I definitely have no problem with swinging 3-0, like what Padres’ SS Fernando Tatis did the week prior when San Diego was up seven runs late in a game. Tatis was even made to apologize on Social media for swinging at the pitch, which I found ridiculous! The way I see it, if you’re going to groove a pitch right down Broadway, it’s my job to hit it as far as humanly possible. You don’t like it? PITCH BETTER! SUCK LESS! “But Bitter Mike, the Padres were up by seven runs in the 8th inning! That’s piling on!” WRONG! I just witnessed my Giants blow five run AND three run leads in the 9th on back to back nights against the A’s last weekend; the Phillies scored 7 runs in the first inning against Toronto Wednesday – and lost 9-8. The moral of the story? No lead is safe! Now, if I bring in a middle infielder to pitch the ninth when down ten runs and one of your guys steals second base, then the next pitch is going behind your hitter’s ear! But otherwise if you think it’s uncool for me to swing 3-0 when up seven runs or steal second base when up by five? Too bad – I’ll stop trying when you stop trying!
- One more thing on Tatis: he’s the most exciting player to come out of the Padres system since Dave Winfield. A native of the Domincan Republic, he’s a cornerstone player that San Diego is trying to build around. And as an integral part of a growing number of Latin born players who play with a lot of flash, they’ve been shaping the culture of the game for the last fifteen years. I’m not sure who made Tatis issue that public apology but whoever did is tone-deaf. You never want to rein in that kind of enthusiasm. What kind of a message are you sending to your team? Even if reports are right and Tatis ignored a “Take” sign and swung away, you don’t hang the kid out to dry like that. You pull him into your office, counsel him in private, then face the media and support him in public.
- As if the NY Mets didn’t have enough issues, a player and staff member tested Positive for COVID-19 early last week, putting their season on hold while they await more tests. As of Sunday, thankfully all other tests have returned Negative. They become the third major league team to report Positive COVID results, forcing a re-shuffling of the schedule and lots of Double Headers. To me, the biggest headache of these twin bills is not the fact that they are seven inning affairs, but that we have to play them at all. Winning two games in one day is very hard to do; splitting a DH feels like you’re treading water…
- Yankees’ SP Gerrit Cole has been as good as advertised, starting 4-0 with 44 Ks in 36 IP, but he still does one thing that bothers me: he throws too many pitches. Check out these pitching lines so far this season:
- July 23 – 5 IP, 75 P
- July 29 – 6.2 IP, 102 P
- Aug 3 – 6 IP, 91 P
- Aug 8 – 4.2 IP, 107 P
- Aug 14 – 7 IP, 95 P
- Aug 19 – 6.2 IP, 109 P
This is nothing new for Cole. And yes, that’s only 16 pitches per inning, which is pretty close to what you want from a pitcher. But he needs to go deeper into games. Yankee fans’ concerns should be two-fold. First, Cole’s inability to go deep into games puts too much pressure on that inconsistent bullpen. Second, there are only so many pitches in that arm and so many high-stress innings a guy can throw. And Cole is no youngster; he turns thirty next month and is in the first of a ten-year deal. At this pace, I’ll be shocked if he’s this productive in five or six years.
- LF Dominic Smith is helping Mets fans forget Yoenis Cespedes. The LA native is hitting .323 with 6HR and a gaudy 1.156 OPS, hitting safely in 12 of his last 13 games.
- The Milwaukee Brewers, one of my NL Wildcard picks, are in serious trouble. SS Orlando Arcia is the only position player hitting over .250, with star players OF Ryan Braun and 2019 NL MVP Christian Yelich hitting .204 and .194 respectively. Their starting pitching has been serviceable, with Brandon Woodruff and Adrian Houser keeping them in games and Josh Hader has saved all five of his chances, but it’s hard to win games when your team is near the bottom of the majors in Runs Scored. The icing on the cake? The Crew went into Pittsburg to play the worst team in Baseball, who had yet to win two in a row, and got swept by the Pirates.
- As if the Dodgers didn’t have enough going for them, SP Clayton Kershaw worked on his mechanics and found a few more feet on his Fastball. The 3-time Cy Young Award winner and future HOFer started the year with back spasms and was barely touching 92 MPH, but his last outing showcased a slight twinge in his delivery, regularly hitting 95-96 mph, passing Don Drysdale for 2nd on the all-time Dodger’s strike out list with 2493, second now to only Don Sutton.
- The Astros can’t seem to get fully healthy. Just as OF Michael Brantley was activated from the IL Saturday from a sore right quad, Houston placed RP Josh James on the IL with discomfort in his left hip. This on the heels of losing 3B Alex Bregman for three weeks after straining his hamstring Thursday at Coors Field. To top it off, the Astros closed their alternate site in Corpus Christi after a Positive test for COVID was revealed. And one month later, we’re still waiting for Justin Verlander to begin throwing…and waiting…and waiting…
- Staying in the AL West, the LA Angels are a hot mess and they can thank the impatience of their owner Artie Moreno for it. Realizing their lack of starting pitching, the Angels reached deep into their minor league system, sending four pitchers to the Baltimore Orioles for starter Dylan Bundy. Then they signed SP Julio Teheran to a one-year “prove-it” deal for $9 million after he spent his entire career as a workhorse for the Braves. But they lost out on the Gerrit Cole sweepstakes and were in the hunt to acquire SP Ross Stripling and OF Joc Pedersen from the Dodgers. But that trade got put in limbo while LA worked out a snag in their quest to acquire OF Mookie Betts from the Red Sox. The Angels’ Moreno got frustrated and felt insulted in waiting on his cross-town rivals, so he killed the deal. My guess is he felt confident in what his team had, especially knowing Shohei Ohtani would return to the mound after having Tommy John surgery in September 2018. Bundy has been solid, but Teheran got off to a slow start after having COVID-like symptoms, logged only eight total innings in three poor starts and was demoted to the bullpen after Thursday’s outing against the Giants. Ohtani was even worse, failing to get an out in his first start against the A’s and lasting only 1.2 IP against the Astros before being shut down indefinitely as a Pitcher because of forearm stiffness. Moreno forgot Cardinal Rule #1 in building a team: you can never have too much starting pitching. Instead of biting his tongue and waiting on the Dodgers, his team is now devoid of starters and sports the worst record in the AL while leading the majors in long term payroll commitments, ($651 million).
- Rookie Watch: STL OF Dylan Carlson, their #1 prospect, has been struggling since his debut back on the 15th, but today was a better day: he had his first multi-hit game and first career home run in the Cardinals win against the Reds…The Indians banished SP Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac for their boneheaded stunt last month in Chicago and so far they are not missed. 23-year old Triston McKenzie made his major league debut and shut down the Tigers: 6 IP, 2H, 1ER, 1BB, 10 K….CF Luis Robert defected from Cuba in November 2016 and signed with the White Sox the following May. Chicago paid him a $26 million signing bonus back then, an unheard-of amount for someone whose only experience was in international tournaments. Even more astounding: The White Sox liked what they saw so much in the ensuing three years they signed Robert to a 6-year, $50 million deal in January. That might seem outrageous, but the Sox locked up what could be an impact player through his prime late twenties at what could be a bargain deal, especially when you consider that the last two years are Club options ($20 million each year) with cheap buyouts ($2 million each year). Robert has started all but two of the White Sox games this year with a .265/.321/.541 slash line…finally, the Joey Bart era in SF has begun. The 2018 #2 overall pick and heir apparent to Buster Posey was called up Thursday and wasted no time making an impact both at the plate and behind it. He’s hit safely in all four games, including 3 extra base hits, all very loud, including just missing his first major league home run by about the width of a baseball. On Sunday he showcased his defensive skills, racing over near the Giants’ dugout to make a back handed diving catch of a foul pop-up, all while holding the catcher’s mask in the other hand. But Giants fans are really salivating over the prospect of him building a rapport with pitchers Tyler Anderson, Logan Webb and Tyler Beede…
- Bitter Mike’s “Giant Rants”: after losing another heart-breaker on Monday, the Giants have ripped off six wins in a row. They continue to hit, (4th in the Majors in Runs, 2nd in Hits), but they’ve received stellar starting pitching as of late (10 ER, 36.1 IP, 2.50 ERA), including their first complete game since September of 2018, when Tyler Anderson shut down the D-backs on Saturday. Putting the ineffective Jeff Samardzija on the DL with shoulder issues was a blessing, allowing Anderson to slide in his place. The only bummer was when the team announced they had designated OF Hunter Pence for assignment. Pence had a horrific start to the season(0-23), collecting only five hits in 52 at bats before the Giants cut ties with the popular Right Fielder. Pence came to SF via trade with the Phillies in 2012 and immediately made an impact both on the field and in the clubhouse, helping SF to World Series crowns that year and in 2014. After a year with the Texas Rangers, he returned to SF on a one-year $3 million deal, so the Giants have seven days to trade or give him his outright release. But things are looking up for the team by the Bay. OF Mike Yastrzemski continues to elicit anger from Orioles fans for their brass giving up on him, IF Donovan Solano is still putting up video game like stats, and Brandon Belt is continuing his hot hitting (.474/.545/.789 in his last seven games and trending up from his last fifteen games). At 14-16 at the halfway mark, the second half of their schedule is much easier than their first half. Yes, they are still looking up at the best team in Baseball (Dodgers) and the upstart Padres. But in a shortened season with expanded playoffs, anything can happen.
PS: this issue is dedicated to the memory and life of the Black Mamba, Kobe Bryant, who would have been 42 on Sunday. I still can’t believe he’s gone…
Let me know what you think!