Archive for Baseball Talk
Calm with a 70% chance of question marks.
As we swiftly approach the MLB Trade Deadline at 3 P.M. Eastern Time, it appears more and more likely that the Marlins will stand idly by.
According to ESPN’s very own Buster Olney, the Marlins are in a “holding pattern” and will likely hold onto relief pitchers Randy Choate and Leo Núñez as well as second baseman Omar Infante.
Many Marlins fans are wondering why the Fish weren’t more proactive in the trade market when their current standing in the N.L. East and Wildcard race means any playoff hopes are effectively dashed.
Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria feels that the players coveted by other teams are all valuable pieces for the new era beginning next season in South Beach.
Despite the Marlins inactivity prior to the July 31st deadline the pond will assuredly be stocked full of talented Fish in what promises to be an exciting 2012 season in brand new Sun Life Stadium.
With the MLB trade deadline swiftly approaching, the only thing hotter than MLB Executives phones lines is U.S. Women’s Soccer Star Alex Morgan.
Despite the flurry of activity around the league and several inquires from teams looking for relief pitching down the stretch, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has elected to stand pat and appears content to do so beyond the July 31st trade deadline for non-waiver trades.
The lackadaisical nature of both the personnel on the field and in the front office has shifted Marlins fans attentions to 2012, specifically who will manage the Fish into brand new Sun Life Stadium?
According to ESPN Insider’s Doug Miitler, current Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen may be the man for the job, throwing more fuel on a fire that continues to burn.
Ozzie’s tell-it-like-it-is and do-as-I-please attitude has clearly worn Sox General Manager Ken Williams patience thin over the years and a grossly underachieving White Sox team could lead to Ozzie’s final act in Chicago.
Guillen’s teams have always played hard for the fiery former shortstop and his nonsense style and undying loyalty could be the spark the talented young Marlins need for a successful 2012 season in their new stomping grounds.
Whether it’s a discussion about sports, a co-worker’s promotion or the girl a friend has a crush on, I’ve long been accused of being the person to poop in the proverbial punch bowl. It’s kind of what I do. I tend to look at things realistically and not let my emotions cloud my judgement. So, when I started to hear people say that the most important part of Emilio Bonifacio‘s hitting streak is that the team is now winning, well, let’s just say I upped my fiber intake.
There is no argument to be made that Boni reaching safely in the last 26 games hasn’t helped the team win; that’d just be stupid. But, there are some other important factors to consider when you look at the Marlins 18-8 record during this hit streak. Let’s have at it, shall we?
It helps when your opponent is more inept than you. Of the Marlins 18 wins, 12 of them have come against the likes of Oakland (47-58), Houston (35-70), Chicago (42-63) and Washington (49-55). That’s two-thirds of their victories coming against teams whose combined record is 173-246 (.413). Imagine if they DIDN’T get swept by the Padres…
Mike Stanton, as you know, is a boss. Bonifacio may have a 26-game hitting streak, but in that time, Mikey Boss has 8 homers and 18 RBI.
I don’t know who you are, but you’re not Javy Vazquez. In his last six starts, Vazquez is 4-2 and has given up just 11 runs. If you were to take away his horrendous game against the Padres – and I know it counts, but it was such an awful game that it unfairly skews his stats – you’re looking at a 4-1 record with just 5 runs allowed.
Trade Hanley! Or, you know, maybe we should hold off on the pitchforks and flaming torches routine right now. This is what Hanley Ramierez’s slash line looked like just before the streak and what it looks like today:
I’m pretty sure his OPS has jumped, like, a bazillion points, too (.608 to .725).
Of course, none of this is to say that Emilio Bonifacio isn’t helping the team win, because he certainly is and I love him for it. You can’t reach base safely that many times and still be considered a non-factor, obviously. But, let’s not pretend, even for a second, that there aren’t other reasons – INFINITELY MORE IMPORTANT REASONS – for the Marlins current resurgence.
Now, nobody drink the punch, ’cause I done pooped in it.
Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat. When Jeff Conine was asked, last week, if he would trade Hanley Ramirez and he responded by doing something other than laughing in the face of the person asking the question, he gave the wrong answer. You don’t trade Hanley Ramirez. Ever. You’re not going to get fair value in return, no matter what you get back, so no, you don’t trade the man. Especially not with a handful of years still left on his Swap Shop bargain of a contract.
We clear on all that? Good. Because, now that I’ve said that, I’d like to get into a more interesting discussion. Is the Captain America of Marlins really wrong? And, well, should it ultimately matter?
To understand where Jeff Conine is coming from, you’d first have to understand his life. As every player at that level of the sport has to be, Conine was a supremely talented athlete. In order to get to that level, though, he had to work his hardest all day, every day. It’s true that professional sports are a collection of the top 1% in the world at their given craft, but even within that 1%, there are different levels of talent. It’s the reason a player like Jeff Conine has to spend hours upon hours every day honing his skills, while a player like Hanley can show up 20 minutes late to practice and still be worlds better. Conine admitted as much:
I think obviously Hanley is a phenomenal talent, but as a guy — I’m a probably jealous too because I didn’t have that kind of talent, but I had to work extremely hard on a nightly basis to put my talent on the field — there are some nights he doesn’t work as hard as he should.
Michael Jong of Marlin Maniac argued that it shouldn’t matter, that the only thing that should matter is production:
Yes, Hanley Ramirez is struggling this season, which is why he is being vilified to an extent by Conine here. But if and when he does well (and he has been doing well recently), why do we question his hustle, effort, or “respect for the game?” Shouldn’t the ultimate thing that matters to Marlins fans and ownership be how well Ramirez plays, regardless of effort level? Hanley Ramirez at 85 percent of his effort level is still miles ahead of other players, including Jeff Conine at 100 percent of his effort.
The problem is, they’re both right. I would take Hanley at 85% over the majority of Major League Baseball, but that doesn’t mean that it’s any less exasperating to think about what Hanley could be if he were to actually give max effort. And for a guy like Jeff Conine, a guy who had to put forth that kind of effort all of the time? Yeah, I can understand his frustration.
There’s more to this conversation than just on-field production, though – and I freely admit that I’m not entirely sure I’m the right person to start this discussion, but I’m going to try, anyway.
One of the more significant differences between players like Hanley and players like Conine isn’t the talent gap that separates them; it’s the sociological gap. A staggering 42.2% of the Dominican Republic lives below the poverty line. In the United States, that number is just 14.3%. So, generally speaking, it isn’t much of a stretch to think that, when it comes to professional sports and the millions upon millions of dollars one can potentially earn, the white ballplayer growing up in middle America has different goals in mind than the kid growing up in the Dominican Republic.
Work harder than everyone else, give 147%, and maybe someday you can be the best. It’s a nice thing to strive for, and it’s exactly what my parents taught me growing up, but what if my life were different? What if I grew up living in poverty and giving 85% turned out to be good enough to earn me a 70-million dollar contract? Would I still try to be the best ever? Would I even care about that label? Or would I just enjoy my life playing a game the same way I always have – the way that was good enough to get me that sweet contract in the first place – and provide my family with all of the things they could never afford? I think I might be okay with not being Babe Ruth at that point.
We all want to criticize players like Hanley for not caring enough, but maybe he does care enough, just not about the things we want him to care about. And would that be wrong? Considering the talent we’ve witnessed, considering that his current level of caring has made him one of the best baseball players in the game today, are we only being selfish for wanting more? Shouldn’t that be enough?
I get it. Here’s a guy who’s already great, but could possibly be so much more if he just tried even harder than he already does. As a fan, or as a guy like Jeff Conine, you feel cheated because of that, like you’re not getting everything you could or should be getting. But, Hanley Ramirez is more than earning the money on his contract and, beyond that, he doesn’t owe anything to anyone except himself. And if he’s content with that, then why aren’t we?
None of this is meant to explain Hanley Ramirez, specifically. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t; I won’t pretend to know anything about his family situation or his childhood. All I’m saying is that, when it comes to what we expect of certain extremely gifted professional athletes, maybe we need to begin understanding that our lives are different, our circumstances are different, and that the ultimate prize, the validation we’d so desperately crave if put in their shoes, might not mean as much to them.
And that it’s perfectly fine that way.
• They tried to make me go to rehab, I said, “Noooo. Noooo… Fine. Packing his glove, his cleats and his 5.58 ERA, Chris Volstad headed to Triple-A New Orleans this weekend to try and fix whatever it is that’s been broken. Now, I don’t claim to know everything about baseball, but I’m pretty sure the answer to Volstad’s problem doesn’t involve shorter fences.
• I told you I was trouble. You know that I’m no good. Except for Sunday, when John Buck drove in the go-ahead run in the Marlins 5-4 victory over the Mets. But, yeah, other than that, we kinda know that he’s no good.
• Over futile odds and laughed at by the gods… and bloggers. Emilio Bonifacio continues to prove us all wrong, running his hit streak to 23 games and ensuring that there’s no way this team will ever get rid of him. Ever. No matter how much I beg. When the meteor eventually hits and humans go the way of the dinosaur, Emilio will be the surviving cockroach. I’m sure of it.
It is officially time for the Fish to raise the white flag on 2011.
After the lowly San Diego Padres finished off a devastating three game sweep of the Marlins at Dolphins Stadium, the 2011 picture has come into focus.
According to Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun-Sentinel, the Phillies and Fish have had discussions regarding Marlins closer Leo Núñez. If Núñez is dealt, Jack McKeon informed the Miami Herald that Edward Mujica will assume the ninth-inning responsibilities.
In a report from ESPN Insider’s Jason Churchill, another Marlin likely to be dealt before the July 31st deadline is utility infielder Omar Infante. The versatile middle infielder could be on his way to the Midwest and a Milwaukee Brewers team in desperate need of an upgrade at shortstop.
Even the best efforts of legendary manager Jack McKeon, a recent July hot streak, and the optimism of Florida Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria couldn’t stop a sinking ship from going down.
The Marlins will likely be watching the MLB playoffs from home this fall. As a result, the Fish need to continue shaping the roster that will bring the Marlins into their inaugural season at brand new Sun Life Stadium in 2012.
Hate takes a lot of energy, especially when it’s genuine. It’s powerful that way. That’s why when you truly detest something – like, say, Ben Affleck movies, for instance – it’s almost impossible to break free of that seething hatred and see things from the other perspective.
This is how I’ve felt about Emilio Bonifacio since his arrival in Florida in 2009, but with a bunt single in the 5th inning Tuesday night, the bane of my existence stretched his hitting streak to 18 games and, for the first time in three years, forced me to step back and reconsider my deep-rooted hatred.
Once upon a time, Speedy Mc[BLEEP]face was the poster child for futility. A ground ball here, a called third strike there, mix in the occasional failed bunt and you’ve got yourself the recipe for a day at the park with Emilio Bonifacio. Something changed this year, though. At the beginning of the season, I chalked it up to a small sample size. After all, Hanley was batting, like, .143, so anything was possible. But, here we are, 97 games into a 162 game season and Bonifacio has the highest BA (.290) and OBP (.364) of any Marlins regular. And he can bunt! Extended statistical fluke? It’s possible, but we’re certainly beyond that small sample size argument. Which kind of scares me.
As I said earlier, nobody likes to reassess hatred. I’ve spent too many blogging hours and an unreasonable amount of tweets sculpting my feelings into a beautiful statue for me to decide to break it down now and start from scratch because I just noticed an unsightly edge or two.
Dan Le Batard has stated multiple times on his radio show that he believes Hanley Ramirez‘s numbers will be better than Bonifacio’s when the season finally comes to an end, that basically, the world will right itself, because when it comes to statistics, it always does. I’m not sure I’m 100% on board with that sentiment – Hanley’s slump lasted way too long and I’m not entirely convinced his recent success isn’t just a little bit of the opposite extreme – but I do agree with the premise.
I don’t believe, not even for a second, that this is the Emilio Bonifacio we should expect to see going forward. I can’t believe it. I won’t. These last 293 at-bats aren’t going to erase the memory of the previous 833. But, I’m willing to call a truce. Sure, the hatred is still there, it’s just buried a little deeper right now. And I’m sure it’ll resurface the moment he strikes out three times and bunts a pop-up back to the pitcher.
For now, though, Emilio and I are cool. No hard feelings, bro. Just try not to suck again, okay? I can only suppress this rage-filled hate for so long.
Geoff Young of Ducksnorts fame and Baseball Prospectus was kind enough to stop by and help us preview the upcoming series against the Padres. The Padres are surprisingly worse than the Marlins this year, but like the Marlins they’ve been playing better of late. Geoff offered up some interesting Friar tidbits, so be sure to read through the interview’s entirety.
Q: After a mildly successful June in which the Padres avoided last place at times throughout, they currently find themselves back in the cellar. Especially as of late, what has gone wrong with the Friars?
A: Everything. It has been a true team effort. Poor situational hitting, sloppy defense, bullpen implosions… about the only thing that hasn’t faltered of late is the starting pitching. Take away Saturday’s 11-3 victory over San Francisco and you could use last week as an instructional video on how not to play baseball.
Q: The trade deadline is approaching, and while it doesn’t look like the Padres will buy, will they sell? If so, who are some pieces that might be traded?
A: The obvious candidates are Heath Bell, Ryan Ludwick, and Chad Qualls. Less obvious, but also possible, are Aaron Harang, Dustin Moseley, and maybe Mike Adams. Given Adams’ contract status and general awesomeness, presumably it would take a lot to pry him away from the Padres.
Q: Cameron Maybin is enjoying a pretty good year at the plate. How much of an impact has Cam had on the Padres, and how much of an impact will he have on them going forward?
A: Maybin has been outstanding. He arguably has been the club’s best position player this year. There are holes in his swing, which we expected, but he gets on base, runs, and occasionally knocks one out of the park. Defensively, he’s the best center fielder we’ve had since Mike Cameron. I couldn’t be happier with Maybin, and I expect him to be part of the foundation for the next contending Padres team.
Q: One of the pitchers the Marlins will face in this upcoming series will be Mat Latos. Lately, he’s been pitching fairly well. Can you talk about his progression and what needs to continue to take place in order for him to finish off the year on a strong note?
A: The kid from Florida is still learning, although maybe not as fast as folks had hoped/expected based on his fine 2010 season. He throws hard, features good secondary stuff, and is aggressive. The biggest issues for him this year have been spotty command and occasional bouts of immaturity, which is a label he has had since the Padres drafted him and which he hasn’t yet completely shed at age 23. Latos mainly needs to get reps, maintain his focus, and stay healthy. If he can do that, he should be fine at the top of the rotation for a while.
Q: If the season ended now, who would be the Padres MVP?
Q: Lastly, can you give us a series prediction?
A: Attendance will be poor, Mike Stanton will hit at least one ball that makes everyone’s jaw drop at the same time, and the Padres will take two out three.
What you missed this weekend while wondering if that last glass of water tasted funny…
• Javy Vazquez had another solid outing on Saturday, in a 13-3 route of the Cubs. We’re now at 37 days since Vazquez has given up more than 3 runs in a game. C’mon, Javy, help a brother out. Jokes are way easier to write when you stink.
• Also on Saturday afternoon, Mike Stanton went 3-for-5, smacked two homers, drove in four runs and delivered a baby during the 7th inning stretch. I, on the other hand, spent Saturday afternoon successfully navigating my way through Babies”R”Us. I’m still not sure which one of us accomplished a more impressive feat.
“Boy, that’s embarrassing. I don’t even know who that is. That’s embarrassing.”
Not at all embarrassing? Openly admitting you have no idea who an opposing player is. We should all strive to work as hard as those two.
• You sitting down for this one? Chris Volstad didn’t allow a single homer on Sunday! He did give up back-to-back-to-back doubles to start the game and lasted just three innings, but NO HOMERS! Baby steps, people. Baby steps.
After an atrocious 1-19 June stretch under Edwin Rodriguez, many considered the Marlins dead in the water and a potential seller at the July 31st deadline.
Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria recently put that sentiment to rest.
The Marlins had their season high six-game winning streak under interim manager Jack McKeon snapped against Ryan Dempster and the Chicago Cubs, but the Fish are not about to concede the 2011 season.
“I haven’t counted us out yet,” Loria said. “I hope you guys (the media) haven’t. I know it looks tough, but what are we now, four under? Jack says as soon as we get (to .500), you never know what can happen. I would never bet against Jack McKeon.”
According to Loria, the Fish will be trolling the market for both an established third baseman and more starting pitching with sights on the inaugural season in their new stadium.
Cubs 3B Aramis Ramirez is likely available for the right price, would the Fish bite at the right offer? The more likely scenario would be coveting the 33 year-old slugger’s services this off season to solidify the middle of the order.
One of baseball’s scarcest commodities, quality starting pitching, is also on Marlins radar.
The Marlins firmly believe they can still contend in 2011, so a deadline deal is a possibility, if not a priority.
For more on the Fish from Loria: ESPN AP