After a long weekend in which golf courses around the greater Big Bend area were subject to brutalization not witnessed since Jean van de Velde took to the 18th at Carnoustie, I have to say that it is great to be back in the saddle. Well, at least in terms of focusing back on baseball. And today was a bit of a big day around MLB, with the non-waiver trade deadline coming and passing at 4pm today, with nary a move coming from DC. Although there has been a lot of smoke emanating from the nation’s capital in recent weeks regarding possible trades involving the Nationals, Washington sat pat today, with team owner Mark Lerner announcing that, “We’re going all the way with what we’ve got in this room.”
It goes without saying that I am not privy to what possible deals were or were not being discussed by Nats management today and in recent days and weeks. But if I were to entertain the notion that all of the rumored deals had a grain of truth attached to them, then I still have to say that I’m glad the Nationals are closing with the boys who brought them this far. Sure, would it have been nice to get Jarrod Saltalamacchia for a bucket of balls? Naturally. But the likelihood of prying Salty from the Red Sox on the cheap rates somewhere up there with me prying Gisele Bündchen from Tom Brady. Probably not going to happen. In a town where constantly acting, know-it-all nanny staters have come to regulate the flow of water in toilets, it is refreshing to see it recognized that sometimes, doing nothing is the best course of action. This is the team, after all, that has the best record in baseball coming into tonight. Still sounds like pretty goods odds to me.
So, I can’t say I’m a die-hard follower of the MLB draft but I did tune in last night to catch who the Nationals took in the first round. And I found it fascinating to discover that apparently, the Nationals may really belong to a frequent Tommy John Surgery Club. With the 16th pick in the MLB draft, Washington snagged right-handed pitcher Lucas Giolito from Harvard-Westlake High in Studio City, California. The good news is that by all accounts, the kid is blessed with overall #1 talent, buoyed by an electric 100 mph fastball. The not-so-good news is that Lucas has a sprained ulnar collateral ligament.
From Adam Kilgore’s Nationals Journal piece today comes the money quote:
He (Giolito) said he had been assured his UCL strain would most likely not lead to Tommy John surgery, about which, “I was 100 percent relieved.”
Most likely not lead to Tommy John surgery. Sounds about as convincing as when I say a third doughnut most likely won’t lead to any further weight gain.
Oh, and I should probably also throw out there that Lucas may opt for UCLA over the Nationals, especially if the team can’t meet his asking price. Given the recommended slot signing bonuses and overall draft spending cap, there is yet another mine in the way of a successful pairing of pitcher and team. I guess given the position the Nationals were in, these risks were worth taking on. To make it all work, though, the team better be prepared to punch another hole in the Tommy John Surgery Club card, and an expensive one at that.
Cole Hamels intentionally hits Bryce Harper merely because he is a rookie and essentially, gets his next start pushed back a day.* Mike Rizzo tells the truth and gets fined. Apparently, absurdity in MLB punishment is another unwritten rule.
*MLB New Math, where a five-game suspension only costs you a day. They much smart. Me just a fan.
With the Nationals series opener against the Diamondbacks scheduled to start in less than a half hour, I figured for kicks and giggles that I would take a look back at the April that was in MLB and hand out totally hollow and meaningless awards, all for the entertainment of the masses. I think I will call them the MESPY (Matt’s Excellence in Self-Promotion Yada Yada) Awards.
AL MVP: Josh Hamilton. The only caveat with Hamilton is whether he can hold up for close to 162 games. His current back injury is a small red flag but his April was monster nevertheless. He led the AL in RBIs, home runs, and was second in average and runs scored. No wonder his 1.8 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) according to FanGraphs was second in baseball.
AL CY Young: Jake Peavy. He paces all pitchers with a 1.5 WAR and has posted a quality start in each of his five outings. Oh, and he belongs to the same caveat club as Hamilton. It’s a party inside!!!
AL Rookie of the Year: Yu Darvish. I’m not too keen in handing out a ROY to a player who has already played seven professional seasons, but hey, these awards are fake anyways. After two shaky outings to start his Ranger career, Darvish has been quite filthy.
NL MVP: Matt Kemp. That is all.
NL CY Young: Stephen Strasburg. Oh, that is like Beethoven to the ears. Five quality starts in five appearances, second in the NL in strikeouts, and he leads all NL pitchers with a 1.3 WAR.
NL Rookie of the Year: Kirk Niewenhuis. I don’t know what was more shocking. That it only took me two attempts to spell his name correctly or that Kirk Niewenhuis! is the early leader. He edges out Lance Lynn of the Cardinals but the yada yada in me could see it going either way.
Nationals’ MVP & CY Young: Strasburg. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the best pitcher on a team that has been led to its good start by its pitching should take home both awards. However, Adam LaRoche does deserve a Reserve MESPY for being by far and away the Nationals best positional player.
Nationals’ ROY: Bryce Harper. Lombardozzi has perhaps done a bit more, but I’m hoping Harper hears about his MESPY and in a moment of tearful gratefulness, hires me as his CPA.
And that’s all folks!
I can’t begin to describe to you how badly I wanted Matt Kemp in fantasy baseball last year. Think how much a Spaniard desires a job, alas with the same results. No Kemp and a putrid year from Hanley Ramirez translated to the first season in a long, long time without a championship. Flash forward to last night, bottom of the tenth, and the curse of Kemp struck again, this time in real life, as his walk-off home run downed the Nationals 4-3.
Am I bitter? Well, to put it in perspective, Kemp only ruined a sterling start from Stephen Strasburg (7 innings, 5 hits and 1 ER allowed, with 9 k’s), sabotaged a storybook debut by Bryce Harper (1 for 3 with a RBI sacrifice fly in the top of the ninth that put the Nats in position for the win), and destroyed my glorious dynasty in fantasy baseball. Yeah, I’m a bit bitter.
Of course, there was more to Washington’s loss last night than just Kemp, but I’m inclined to close strong on my anti-Kemp rant. I find it incredible that he has managed to post 11 home runs in the month of April so far, when for a good swath of it, Juan Rivera has been hitting clean-up behind him. Juan Rivera. He was last any good when your house actually had value. Kemp may be the best player in baseball right now, but I have a humble suggestion for all the genius managers in MLB: Pitch-around.
Game ball(s): Kemp. I wish he would start dating Rihanna again.
Goat(s): Henry Rodriguez. Like I alluded to above, the loss was attributable to more than just Kemp. H-Rod was staked to a two-run lead in the bottom of the ninth, but couldn’t close out the win.
Bryce Harper is here: Still working on a new name for this category, but that’s no excuse for not handing out the award. And it is only fitting that it goes to Harper, who more than held his own in his debut, stroking a double to the center field wall in the top of the seventh and then producing the then tie-breaking sacrifice fly in the top of the ninth.
Current Record: 14-7
After working on this for over two hours, I see it stretches on a bit, so let’s dispense with the usual not so humorous intro and go straight to the predictions:
Yankees – At some point, age will catch up to the Evil Empire, but a revamped pitching staff should put them at the top. Still don’t like swapping a top hitting prospect (Montero) for a top pitching prospect (Pineda).
Rays (wild-card) – Their lineup will probably be average, but wow that starting rotation.
Red Sox – I can’t see Ortiz hitting that well again, Youk is breaking down, and Ellsbury had a career year. Oh, and the pitching staff is not any better and is already hurting.
Blue Jays – Shame they are not in a different division, because they have talent. Oh, who am I kidding? They are a Canadian team. Ha ha.
Orioles – Their VP for baseball operations is Dan Duquette, who hasn’t had a major league front office job since 2002. He did establish the Israel Baseball League in 2007, which maybe the Orioles could have won.
Tigers – Their defense, which is sure to contend for worst in baseball, will hold them back at some point. It just won’t be from winning the AL Central.
Royals – Why the heck not? Have you seen the remaining teams in the division? I wish their pitching was better and Soria hadn’t blown out his elbow, but with the amount of young talent on hand, this isn’t as crazy as you think.
Indians – Honestly, I almost think you could put every team but the Tigers in a hat and draw lots for where each team will finish 2-5. Stating the obvious, Carlos Santana is a monster.
Twins – Below average rotation, bullpen, lineup, and defense = 4th place finish.
White Sox – You can put a terrible season on the board, Yes!
Angels – Strange enough, even with the addition of Pujols, their Achilles Heel will probably be their lineup, though here’s guessing a big year is coming from Howie Kendrick.
Rangers (wild-card) – I wonder how Darvish will hold up over the long, hot summer in Arlington. You can probably guess by my prediction.
A’s – Mr. Moneyball struck again, swapping Gio Gonzalez for a boatload of prospects and pawning off Handle with Care Andrew Bailey to the Red Sox. They still won’t be particularly good, but at least the A’s know which future stars other teams will sign away in 2017.
Mariners – They have a number of impressive arms in the minors, Ackley, Montero, and King Felix represent a nice foundation on which to build, but they will still struggle mightily to score and are a ways off from contending.
Phillies – Their top 3 starters are better than anyone in baseball, but injuries, age, and an average lineup will probably conspire to keep them from the World Series again.
Marlins (wild-card) – I think their lineup is better than the Nationals and their pitching staff while probably not equal, is at least good enough to edge them out for the wild-card, presuming they stay healthy.
Nationals – Ultimately, I think their downfall will be an inability to consistently get on base and generate runs. Sigh.
Braves – For a team counting on a lot of players bouncing back from injury (Hanson, Hudson), a poor season (Heyward), or both (Chipper), to make the playoffs, it is hard to see everything breaking right for that to happen.
Mets – Bringing in the fences at Taxpayer Bailed-Out Field only means the Madoff Mets will lose games 7-5 rather than 4-2.
Reds – While Joey Votto is all-world, I’m dubious of the virtue of signing him to a contract that pays him oh, $20 million or so when he is 40. For now, though, he’s 28 and the Reds should just edge out the Brewers for the division crown.
Brewers – Their pitching staff is better than the Reds, but they couldn’t get it done last year with Fielder or with Ryan Braun having a MVP season, so something scratches at me like a good old case of back acne telling me it isn’t going to happen this year.
Cardinals – If I could trust that Carpenter would be healthy just 4 months this season, I might move them up. But I just don’t see it happening.
Cubs – Picking between the Cubs and Pirates was a real conundrum. It really is a coin-flip between the two, as both teams lack offensive punch or much of a rotation. Then I realized the Cubs were the team that didn’t make a charitable contribution to the Evil Empire during the off-season.
Pirates – Sadly, 2012 is going to mark the 20th straight losing season for the Pirates. The lineup outside of McCutchen, Walker, and maybe Tabata lacks, well, competency, and counting on the physically soft Erik Bedard and mentally soft AJ Burnett to lead a rotation can’t end too well.
Astros – I heard NL Central executives have sent flowers and candy to Bud Selig asking him nicely to keep the Astros from moving to the AL West.
Diamondbacks – Just like last year, this is remarkably a very flawed team that will probably capture the division. They still strikeout a whole lot, and the back-end of their rotation leaves you wanting. Thankfully for the Snakes, the other teams in the division are just even more flawed.
Giants (wild-card) – Most of the talk about the Giants Big 3 centers around Lincecum and Cain, and for good reasons. Now watch Bumgarner become the best of the bunch. If only they could score a few more runs.
Dodgers – They probably have the best hitter and pitcher in the division, heck, the NL, in Kemp and Kershaw. But the supporting cast beyond the two stars is just not good enough to climb to the top.
Rockies – They are in the process of rebuilding their pitching staff, which will probably keep them down in the standings this year. But still very savvy of them to unload Ubaldo before everyone (cough, Indians) realized that the shine had rubbed off the star. And Tulo wants to pick a fight with the entry above.
Padres – Aaron Harang had a solid season last year in spacious Petco Park, proving that almost any pitcher can find success there. That’s why I like the trade of Latos to the Reds. But boy, unless they introduce coach-pitch, the Padres are going to struggle to score.
Angels over the Giants in 6. I know. I didn’t pick the Giants to win the NL West but in the playoffs, great pitching matters more than great hitting.
AL MVP – Miguel Cabrera, 3B (ha, ha), Detroit.
AL CY Young – Justin Verlander, SP, Detroit. Papa needs a return to fantasy glory.
AL ROY – Matt Moore, SP, Tampa. He is one bad, bad, man.
NL MVP – Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado. His defense is just gravy.
NL CY Young – Roy Halladay, SP, Philadelphia. Now watch his spring velocity dip be an omen…
NL ROY – Here is my final wish for the season. Let it be Bryce Harper.
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My apologies. I hope you will excuse
the lack of a post about last night’s Nationals game. It’s a long 1,000 mile
round trip to Miami and I was quite spent after my efforts to circumvent MLB
blackout rules. I may be in Tallahassee, but that shouldn’t dissuade me from
catching my favorite team at the local ballpark.
Anyhoos. The Nationals lost the series opener to the Marlins 3-2 in 10 innings,
with Drew Storen and the Nationals defense collapsing in concert in the final
frame. Perusing the listings for tonight, I see the game is on Fox Sports Net.
My $146 cable bill is finally paying off.
Game 4 Natties
Game Ball(s): Marlins bullpen. 4 and 1/3 scoreless
innings tends to keep you around long enough to win in extras.
Goat(s): MLB. Really? You fear attendance is
being held down at Marlins games because someone in Tallahassee can tune
in to the game on their computer?
Bryce Harper is a ways off: Ryan Zimmerman. On base 4 of 5 plate
appearances, score both runs and drive in yourself for one of them: Elite.
(I’ll overlook the error. For now.)