November 17, 2017

AL MVP: Betts and Sale Finish in Top 10

Jose Altuve is the 2017 American League Most Valuable Player. He received 27 of 30 first-place votes from the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Mookie Betts finished sixth. He was listed as #4 on two ballots: Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times and Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star.

Chris Sale finished ninth. His highest placement was #5, by Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram). (The Globe's Nick Cafardo listed Corey Kluber #3 on his MVP ballot, the only writer to list the Cleveland higher than #5.)

Sale finished second to Kluber in the AL Cy Young voting. Kluber received 28 first-place votes, with Sale receiving the other two (Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald and Bruce Levine of CBSChicago.com). Sale was named #2 on the other 28 ballots. Craig Kimbrel finished sixth, by being named #3 on six ballots.

Andrew Benintendi received 23 second-place votes and 6 third-place votes for AL Rookie of the Year. One writer did not feel Benintendi was one of the top three rookies in the AL. That writer was old friend La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

And when I say "old friend" I mean "asshole", because it was Neal - along with George A. King III of the New York Post - who screwed over Pedro Martinez for the AL MVP award in 1999. Neither writer had Pedro's name on his ballot at all. (And it's so perfect that both of these fatuous clowns now use their middle initials and "III" in their by-lines.)

When King was asked about his ballot, he said he did not believe pitchers should be eligible for the MVP (which is in violation of the BBWAA's rules and should have led to the revocation of his voting rights). Then it was revealed that King had included pitchers David Wells and Rick Helling on his ballot the year before. His snubbing of Pedro was obviously deliberate.

The 2017 breakdowns (individual ballots can be seen at the BBWAA link above):








November 14, 2017

The Worst Ball And Strike Calls Of The Season

Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs shares the worst ball and strike calls of the 2017 season:

The Worst Called Strike of the Season
The worst called strike of this season was thrown in the eighth inning of a game between the Astros and the Tigers on the second-to-last day of July. I measure these things by the distance between the location of the pitch and the nearest part of the rule-book strike zone, and, here, we have a called strike on a pitch that missed the zone by 9.8 inches.
Umpire: Ramon De Jesus

The Worst Called Ball of the Season
The worst called ball of the whole season was thrown on August 20.
Umpire: Dan Bellino

November 13, 2017

Mookie Bowls First 300 Game in PBA Event

Mookie Betts bowled what he believes is his 10th career 300 game on Sunday night, but it was his first perfect game in a Professional Bowlers Association event. Betts was competing in the final qualifying round of the World Series of Bowling in Reno, Nevada.


Photo from here.



November 10, 2017

Red Sox Obviously Doomed As Long As Judge Wears Pinstripes


Jesus. It's been only a few short years since the retirement of The Most Awesome Derek Jeter, but the sports media apparently cannot exist unless it has a Yankees player to constantly hold up as a shining example of how amazing and humble and wonderful and gifted and humble a single human being can be.

I can only hope Aaron Judge - who is quite a bit taller than the average player, did you know that? - falls flat on his ugly mug and flames out in a historic blaze of strikeouts or maybe somehow ends up playing for another team somewhere no one cares about (Milwaukee?), because, otherwise, it's gonna be a seriously long fucking slog for the many years he will play for our main rival.

ESPN frames the Red Sox's entire winter as a struggle to do what they can to counter The Judge Effect. (Because we know from history that Judge will only get better and better. He cannot possibly regress.) From two ESPN reports (Scott Lauber on the Red Sox and Andrew Marchand on the Yankees):
Boston Red Sox: Will they turn the power back on?

Home runs are en vogue again, but the Red Sox missed the memo. In the first year of their post-David Ortiz era, they hit only 168 homers, fewest in the American League. Of the 74 players who hit at least 25 homers, none were part of the Red Sox's lineup. Deposed manager John Farrell used seven different players in the cleanup spot, a testament to the fact that the team lacked a true middle-of-the-order power threat. As a result, the Sox scored 785 runs, a drop-off of 103 runs from 2016.

It's little wonder, then, that president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has already made several public declarations that he'll be shopping for offense this winter. Eric Hosmer and J.D. Martinez are the top names on the free-agent market, and they would fit into the Red Sox's lineup as either a first baseman or designated hitter, respectively. And then there's the really big fish: Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, who is potentially available via a trade now that Derek Jeter is running things in South Florida. As the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry heats up once again, it would be hard for Boston to find a more suitable counter to Aaron Judge.
Hey, look! We even got a Jeter reference in there!
New York Yankees: Will it really be a quiet offseason?

This winter is one that might be looked upon as a quiet one for the Yankees, except for the fact they will add a new manager, could add the "Babe Ruth of Japan" and may make a trade or two. Yankees GM Brian Cashman is looking for an "A.J. Hinch-type" to connect with the team's young players better than Joe Girardi could. Shohei Otani, the 23-year-old pitcher/outfielder, wants to come to the United States. As it stands now, if he does, he will not receive a huge contract because of the new collective bargaining agreement rules. That means the Yankees could have as good a chance as anyone to land him. Otani could be a sixth starter for the Yankees, while DHing and playing some outfield.

The Yankees will look to re-sign CC Sabathia, but for far less than the $25 million that the big lefty made in 2017. They will talk with Todd Frazier's representatives, but with Chase Headley already signed for 2018 it is unclear how much they will offer Frazier to play third. The Yankees could look to trade Headley, Starlin Castro and Jacoby Ellsbury.
Yes, there are likely many teams lining up for the privilege of grabbing Ellsbury, who has posted OPS+s of 87, 88, and 97 over the last three seasons and is due to be paid $63.3 million through 2020. Check out his total bases over the last two seasons as compared to 2011, the season that made the Yankees so excited to sign him as a free agent.
              GMS     PA    TB
2011          158    732   364
2016-17       260   1035   349
Sign me up!

November 9, 2017

You've Heard "Kars4Kids" Mentioned During Red Sox Games. What Is It?

If you listen to radio broadcasts of Red Sox games, you have likely heard about Kars4Kids. Listeners are encouraged to make a cash donation or donate their used car to help "kids in need".

Have you ever wondered who are these kids - and how are used cars helping them?

My partner Laura Kaminker did. What she discovered is here.

November 5, 2017

The Start Of The Off-Season

The Red Sox will officially announce that Alex Cora is the team's new manager tomorrow. And since the end of the World Series, Cora has assisted in assembling his coaches:
Bench Coach: Ron Roenicke
1B Coach: Tom Goodwin
3B Coach: Carlos Febles
Hitting Coach: Tim Hyers
Assistant Hitting Coach: Andy Barkett
Dana LeVangie returns as the bullpen coach. The team has yet to hire a pitching coach.

Roenicke managed the San Antonio Missions (AA) to the Texas League Championship in 1997; Cora, then 21, was a shortstop and the second-youngest player on the team. The 2011 Brewers, with Roenicke in his first season as a major league manager, won a franchise-best 96 games. The Providence Journal states that, during his time with Milwaukee, Roenicke was known "for his analytical bend, including aggressive shifting on the infield".

Febles, after a six-year career with the Royals, worked as a hitting coach for three Red Sox minor league teams from 2007-10. He then managed the Lowell Spinners (2011), Greenville Drive (2012-13), Salem Red Sox (2014-15), and Portland Sea Dogs (2016-17). During those years, Febles had plenty of experience working with and overseeing the maturation of several of the Red Sox's young players, including Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley, Mookie Betts, and Rafael Devers.

For Hyers, this job represents a return to the Red Sox. He was an area scout from 2009-12, then served as the team's minor league hitting coordinator from 2013-15. (He also filled in as interim hitting coach during 2014 after Greg Colbrunn suffered a brain hemorrhage.) For the past two seasons, he was the Dodgers' assistant hitting coach.

Barkett has managed in the minors and worked as an assistant hitting coordinator for both the Pirates and Marlins.

Also: Tony LaRussa has joined the Red Sox front office as a vice president and special assistant to the president of baseball operations, a position newly created by Dave Dombrowski, who worked with LaRussa with the White Sox. This report states LaRussa "will assist with player development and serve as a consultant to the major and minor league coaching staffs, including rookie manager Alex Cora".
Peter Gammons wrote (without offering any examples or evidence):
In many ways, [hiring Alex Cora] is a seismic shift for the Red Sox, who now must deal with the reality that the Yankees have become the Theo Epstein Red Sox and may be a major power for the next few years as Boston faces tough, critical decisions between now and 2019 to avoid the American League East resembling what it was from 1996-2001.
Gammons does not employ an editor at his website, so we get both run-on and partial sentences, like this: "But the wires that bound this franchise from 2004-2013 are frayed, requiring."

Also, when will people stop writing things like: "[T]hese are not your Mike Higgins Red Sox." ... For the record, Higgins last sat in a Red Sox dugout 55 years ago, when Gammons was still a teenager. A few things have happened since then.

Old Hickory is not the only writer touting the Yankees as the team to beat in 2018.

In mid-October, John Harper of the Daily News wrote that the simple act of Boston firing John Farrell meant the Yankees had overtaken the Red Sox as the AL East favourite. That made little sense, of course - and now that the Yankees will also have a new manager for 2018, it makes zero sense. From Harper's article:
"It's hard to win without power, and the Yankees have it while the Red Sox are a little short," was the way a major-league scout put it on Wednesday. "Boston has some good pieces but they do need a thumper to replace Ortiz. I'd rather have the Yankees' kids. They're going to put up some big home-run numbers in the coming years. And they have better young pitching." ...

[T]he Sox are short on pitching depth ... and the Sox don't have any phenoms immediately on the horizon.

Remember, they traded two blue-chip prospects, infielder Yoan Moncada and pitcher Michael Kopech, in the deal with the White Sox last winter, and while [Chris] Sale certainly lived up to expectations, it was a win-now trade that didn't produce a championship, while significantly weakening the Red Sox farm system. ...

As the scout said, young power-hitting is the area where the Yankees are separating themselves. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Greg Bird ... form the most formidable age 25-or-younger offensive trio in baseball. ...

All of which is a way of saying that, on the matter of young stars, things have changed more quickly between the Yankees and Red Sox than anyone would have anticipated.

A new manager in Boston isn't going to change the fact that it feels like the Sox, though two games better this season, are already trailing the Yankees going into 2018.
A little later in October, the Post's Joel Sherman offered "a peek at Yankees' potentially devastating 2018 rotation" and advised how the Yankees can finish 2018 in "The Canyon Of Heroes":
The 2017 Yankees came faster and went further than expected, reaching Game 7 of the ALCS. Their roster and farm system and future payroll are lined up to produce even better teams. But the step from promise to a parade is perilous. ...

[U]nlike 2017 next spring training is going to begin with the Yanks in their historically familiar position as the hunted, as a team with the overbearing expectations. ...

Joe Girardi talked about "mental growth" after his Yankees were eliminated by the Astros. ... What earmarked the dynastic Yankees that Girardi was part of as a player was that even as fame and fortune and pressure mounted for that group, hunger to win and unity to do so together never wavered. Their mental toughness and physical durability was special.
Most of ESPN's Dan Szymborski's article on early ZiPS projections for 2018 is behind a paywall, but the AL East is visible:

November 4, 2017

Phillies Hire Gabe Kapler As Manager; "Coconut Oil Is A Phrase"

The Philadelphia Phillies hired Gabe Kapler as their new manager last Thursday.

Todd Zolecki, MLB.com:
Of course, the Phillies also looked deep into Kapler's background, which included a handful of eyebrow-raising posts on his lifestyle blog about men's health.
Are you curious about what is meant by "eyebrow-raising posts"? I was.

As soon as word of Kapler's hiring leaked, the intrepid sports media trawled the internet, looking for information/dirt on The World's Strongest Jew. Kapler's blog KapLifestyle (to which he posted from December 2013 to February 2017) is still online. In June 2014, he posted "Coconut Oil - Beyond Cooking":
This post aims to save you at least $39. Go ahead and trash your body lotion ($8), chapstick ($3), teeth whitening mouthwash ($6), face cream ($15) and KY jelly ($7). Replace them all with pure, unrefined, organic coconut oil. ...

The sun has set, and the moon is out. Perhaps you have a friend nearby, perhaps it's just you by your lonesome...well, this is awkward. I've promised you authenticity, honesty and openness. Take this how you wish and I'll spare you the step by step. Coconut oil is the world's greatest lubricant. I can't help where your mind goes with this. Once the ball leaves the bat, I can't steer it.
Howard Eskin, a longtime Philadelphia sports talk radio and TV host, was not pleased. He tweeted his disgust in several tweets, including one that described Kapler as "a little to [sic] nutty". Also:
"Here he is .. your new #phillies manager Gabe Kapler. If his analytics don't work as a manager maybe he can be a model for leopard thongs."

"I wonder how much more will come out on Gabe Kapler. His ideas not exactly along lines of ownership."

"Call it what you want. He's not the kind of person you want as the new face of your #phillies franchise. He sure does love himself. Will players take instruction or laugh at him. Or will public laugh at him. If he didn't love analytics and sports science GM may be laughing too"

"Think kids that love to follow #phillies are ready to hear his ideas about use of coconut oil. Baseball is a family sport. Don't think parents are on board with hearing this stuff about the manager."

"Lots of things need to be addressed these days."
Some thoughts:

1. The picture that Eskin included with the first indented tweet is a decent example of soft-core gay porn.

2. Anyone else notice that Eskin's first sentence in the fourth tweet appears to say young Phillies fans are ready for Kapler's oil ideas? All it needs is an "I" at the beginning.

3. Eskin initially states that Kapler's ideas are "not exactly" the same as those of Phillies management, but then he implies that it's a good thing for Kapler that his ideas (love of analytics, for example) are similar to those of Phillies management. ... Oh, Eskin must have meant his ideas about masturbation!


And so Eskin took the brave step of bringing up this touchy subject at the Phillies' press conference:
Eskin: [Phillies general manager] Matt [Klentak], earlier you expressed there were no reservations with some of the things that you saw that Gabe had written on his blog and had tweeted. I'm trying to figure out if - you said there were none, there are none - and as far as Gabe, Gabe, are you proud of some of the stuff - you said you express yourself. I don't want to get specific, but I'm - there's an elephant in the room - people here, I mean, coconut oil is a phrase. I threw it out there. Gabe, any reservations? And Matt, any reservations? Gabe, for putting it out there, and Matt, while you were in the interview process?

Kapler (looks at Klentak): I'll take it first. Certainly, like I mentioned before, much of what I have written is several years old. And when I was writing, I was in a different mindset than I am now, as the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. Even with that said, if you look through the various posts, there is some tongue-in-cheek stuff that I had directed to players, because I thought it might make them laugh. Thinking through it, there are some things I might have written a little bit differently. Certainly, we all make mistakes and miss the mark from time to time, but if you go back and look at those posts, they were meant for health. They were meant to help people be more prepared and stronger. And so - they're imperfect, I'm imperfect, but I am also very proud of a lot of the content that I would encourage people to go back to and dig into and find the stuff that really does hit the mark.

Klentak: I would - I agree and support everything he just said, but I would kind of repeat what I said earlier, I think as we try to move the needle here, as we try to move this organization forward, some of that is - there's an element of risk and new behaviors and trying new things. That's inevitable. And I think that's part of what we are excited about with Kap's arrival here, is that this guy has demonstrated that, over the last handful of years with the Dodgers, with a tremendous amount of success. And I think, we can't project exactly how the next few years are going to play out, but boy oh boy, it's going to be fun, and as I said to Jim's question earlier, we are going to embrace a lot of his ideas and we're going to collaborate on them as we try to push this thing forward and bring the championship trophy back to Philadelphia.
It's not clear if this is one of the "new behaviors" and "new things" the 2018 Phillies will try in spring training.
If you want to be your strongest, get some sun on your boys. And by boys, I mean your testicles.
Too bad Eskin did not get a chance to ask a follow-up question.

November 1, 2017

WS7: Astros 5, Dodgers 1

Astros  - 230 000 000 - 5  5  0
Dodgers - 000 001 000 - 1  6  1
In an unforgettable World Series, who would have expected Game 7 to be fairly dull and anti-climatic? (Note: As long as you were not a serious fan of either team.)

The Houston Astros are baseball's champions, prevailing in a game whose course was set by the middle of the second inning. The Astros scored two quick runs off Yu Darvish in the first, aided by an LA fielding error. After the Dodgers left the bases loaded in the bottom of the first, Houston scored three more times in the second, capping the inning on George Springer's two-run homer.

The Dodgers continued putting men on base but were unable to bring them home. Through six innings, they went 1-for-13 with runners on second and/or third and left 10 runners on base. When they did finally score a run, on Andre Ethier's pinch-hit single with one out in the sixth, it seemed like maybe getting a run on the scoreboard would loosen up the Dodgers and they could get back in the game. As it turned out, that was the high point (such as it was) of their night. Charlie Morton retired the next (and last) 11 Los Angeles batters, allowing only two balls out of the infield.

Springer's home run was his fifth of the series and gave him the honour of being the only player in history to homer in four consecutive games in the same World Series. Springer also set World Series records for extra-base hits (eight) and total bases (29). He also had an extra-base hit in six consecutive WS games.

As it turned out, the June 24, 2014 issue of Sports Illustrated (pictured above) was right. The magazine even put Springer (the 2017 World Series MVP) on the cover! Ben Reiter wrote that story three seasons ago and last week, he explained why. Reiter also noted that the Houston Chronicle called SI's claim "more of an attention-grabbing, perhaps even tongue-in-cheek projection than a prediction".

Springer began the game by hitting Darvish's third pitch for a double into the left field corner. Alex Bregman grounded a ball to the right side. Cody Bellinger ranged far to his right, and his throw to first was behind Darvish and went for an error. Springer scored. Bregman stole third without a throw and scored on Jose Altuve's grounder to first. Darvish had thrown only eight pitches and the Dodgers trailed 2-0. Darvish got the final two outs, one of which was a 13-pitch battle against Yuli Gurriel.

In the Dodgers first, Chris Taylor led off with a double to right-center. Corey Seager struck out, but Astros starter Lance McCullers hit Justin Turner with a 1-2 pitch. After Bellinger - who set a new WS record with 17 strikeouts - whiffed, McCullers drilled Puig. With the bases loaded, Joc Pederson grounded an 0-2 pitch to second.

Darvish appeared to have struck out Brian McCann to begin the second, but home plate umpire Mark Wegner incorrectly called the 1-2 pitch a ball. McCann eventually walked. When Marwin Gonzalez doubled McCann to third, I could easily see Wegner's blown call making a huge difference in this game. If Wegner had made the proper call, perhaps Darvish doesn't allow any runs in the second and the Dodgers, feeling more confident down by only two runs, end up on top. It is not an outlandish proposition. A blown call changing the course of a Game 7 does not have to be on a late-inning tag at home plate. It could be a wrong call at any point that causes an inning to get out of control.

The Dodgers played the infield in and Darvish got two ground balls to second. The second one, off McCullers's bat, scored McCann. Darvish (1.2-3-5-1-0, 47) fell behind Springer 2-0, worked the count full, and gave up a 438-foot blast to deep left-center. Brandon Morrow got the final out.

(Morrow is now the second pitcher to appear in all seven games of a World Series, joining Darold Knowles of the 1973 Athletics. This was the first Game 7 in World Series history in which neither of the starting pitchers lasted three innings.)

In the bottom of the second, Logan Forsythe singled and after a groundout moved him to second, McCullers hit pinch-hitter Enrique Hernandez. The BABIP gods cursed the Dodgers when Taylor lined out to shortstop and Forsythe was doubled off second.

The LA third offered more of the same. Seager singled and McCullers hit Turner for the second time. It was McCuller's fourth HBP in 12 batters. After McCullers (2.1-3-0-0-3, 49) struck out Bellinger, A.J. Hinch went to his bullpen. Brad Peacock got Puig to fly to center and then he struck out Pederson.

Through the first three innings, the Dodgers sent 15 men to the plate - and 10 of them batted with a runners on second and/or third. None of those 10 batters got a hit.

The Dodgers also left two men on base in each of the fifth and sixth innings.

Clayton Kershaw took the mound in the third inning and threw four scoreless innings, allowing only two singles and two intentional walks. The walks came in the sixth after Carlos Correa led off with a single and reached third with two outs. LA manager put Gonzalez on first and then, when Evan Gattis was announced as a pinch-hitter for Josh Reddick, Roberts put him on base, too. The moves gave Kershaw no margin for error and if Houston could add to its 5-0 lead, that would likely put the game on ice. Kershaw got a called strike on Cameron Maybin, another pinch-hitter, and then got him to foul out to third.

So the score remained 5-0 and the Dodgers finally scored in the bottom of the sixth. They trailed 5-1 and had runners at first and second with one out. Morton had no problem striking out Taylor, who was anxious and hacking at everything. He took a strike, then swung and missed, fouled a pitch off, and swung and missed again. Seager grounded the first pitch to shortstop, shattering his bat. Correa ran in and had trouble getting the ball out of his glove, but made the play to end the inning.

Morton then retired the side in order in each of the last three innings. The last two outs in the ninth were ground balls to Altuve at second.

Lance McCullers / Yu Darvish

There have been 38 World Series winner-take-all games. The home team has won 19 and the visiting team has won 19. (Also, the World Series has gone to seven games in three of the last four seasons.)

This is the first World Series Game 7 between two 100-win teams since 1931, when St. Louis' "Gas House Gang" Cardinals beat the Philadelphia A's, who had won the previous two World Series under manager Connie Mack.

This will also be the 11th World Series game that has been played in November. The previous ten: 2001 (Games 5-7), 2009 (Games 4-6), 2010 (Game 5), 2015 (Game 5), and 2016 (Games 6-7).


Barry Petchesky, Deadspin: Get Ready For A Night Of Weird Bullpens
This series, this season is going to end tonight, or maybe early tomorrow morning. Just a few more outs left to get. It's been a while since the managers' decisions on who to get those outs felt like they carried so much weight.
Fangraphs' Jeff Sullivan discusses Rich Hill and "The Early At-Bat That Changed the Whole Game":
Hill knew if he could just get through Reddick, he might find a way mostly out of the inning. ... If Reddick could be retired, then, presumably, Verlander could be retired. Then it would be a matter of facing Springer or Alex Bregman. Nothing easy, to be sure, but better to get there with two outs than one. ...

Hill needed to focus on getting rid of Reddick. ... That was going to keep the Dodgers alive. ... Ball one. Then ball two. Then ball three. ...

Do you know what happens after 3-and-0 counts? Let me tell you what happens after 0-and-0 counts. Batters walked 9% of the time. They struck out 22% of the time. ... And, after 3-and-0? Batters walked 60% of the time. They struck out 7% of the time. ...
Hill's margin of error had been reduced right down to nothing. ... Hill didn't want to concede. He just had to be perfect. ...
Baseball Lets You Lose Your Mind
Lindsey Adler, Deadspin, October 31, 2017
[I]n baseball, there are a billion and four different outcomes in any single moment, and there is no clock limiting the possibilities. It's a game that people smarter than me have quantified in nearly every way imaginable, and yet, it's by its nature the game that allows for the most random deviation of what's expected based on the information about every batter, every pitcher, even every fielder now. To watch baseball is to submit to a reprieve from control. It's the ultimate antidote to control-freak tendencies. It's a game of suspense and chance, and when that outcome is a ball hit 450 feet through the park, it's a game of wonder.
Fun Fact, from Craig Edwards:
There have been two games in World Series history with 5 plays where win probability changed at least 25%
Game 2, 2017
Game 5, 2017
If you thought Hill stepped off the mound each time Yuli Gurriel came to the plate last night in order to give Dodgers fans more time to boo Gurriel for his racist gesture in Game 3, you are right. Hill said after the game "that was my silent gesture" to condemn Gurriel's actions.

Astros Game 7 starter Lance McCullers began warming up as soon as Game 6 ended.

Fox/Smoltz Note: In Game 6, Dodger pitcher Tony Watson had a 2-1 count on Marwin Gonzalez in the sixth inning. His next pitch was over the plate and low, but clearly within the strike zone. Home plate umpire Dan Iassogna called it a ball. Fox's John Smoltz started to say the umpire blew the call, but stopped. He probably realized he should not say that on the air. Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes had failed to catch the ball smoothly, so Smoltz jumped on that, saying that Iassogna made his call because the pitch "was not presented as a strike". There is absolutely nothing in the rule book about how pitches should be "presented" to the umpire. It doesn't matter if the pitch drills the ump in the nuts: if it passes over the plate within the strike zone, it's a strike. ... Have you ever been at a game and overheard some idiot behind you manplaining the game to his date and uttering the most ridiculous (and obviously wrong) things? Have you ever wondered where that guy could have picked up such silly ideas about how baseball works? Well, wonder no more.

Ben Reiter of Sports Illustrated has a lengthy article about David Ortiz's transition from the diamond to the TV studio and his relationship with fellow analyst Alex Rodriguez.

October 31, 2017

WS6: Dodgers 3, Astros 1

Astros  - 001 000 000 - 1  6  0
Dodgers - 000 002 10x - 3  5  0
And there will be November baseball in 2017!


The Dodgers rallied against Justin Verlander in the sixth inning, with Chris Taylor's double knocking in Austin Barnes, who began the inning with a single, which ended Verlander's string of 11 straight batters retired. It was also only the Dodgers' second hit of the game. Then Corey Seager's fly ball to deep right brought home Chase Utley (who had been hit with a pitch) with the go-ahead run. Joc Pederson's solo home run added an insurance run in the seventh, but Kenley Jansen did not need it. He pitched two perfect innings, striking out three of the six batters he faced.

Dodger Stadium will host the first Game 7 in its history (55 years) tomorrow night with Yu Darvish and Lance McCullers on the mound.

Rich Hill (4.2-4-1-1-5, 58) was solid once again for Los Angeles. He allowed only two baserunners in the first four innings, but one of them was a home run by George Springer with two outs in the third. In the top of the fifth, Brian McCann lined a single to right and Marwin Gonzalez ripped an opposite-field double down the left field line. Hill then fell behind Josh Reddick 3-0, but gathered himself and battled back to strike him out. Hill then fanned Verlander and after Dodgers manager Dave Roberts ordered an intentional walk to Springer - which loaded the bases - Roberts came and got Hill. (Despite saying before the game that he might allow Hill to face the Astros' lineup a third time in Game 6, Roberts did not. In Hill's four postseason starts, he faced 18, 19, 18, and 19 batters.)

Brandon Morrow - who threw only six pitches and allowed four runs in Game 5 - faced Alex Bregman. The day off must have done Morrow some good, as his first pitch, a fastball at 98, was fouled off, and then Bregman grounded out to shortstop.

Morrow retired the first two batters in the top of the sixth, but Yuli Gurriel - who was booed lustily all night - singled to center. Tony Watson came in and hit McCann with his second pitch. Gonzalez got ahead in the count 3-1 (home plate umpire Dan Iassogna blew the 2-1 pitch; the count should have been 2-2), but Gonzalez lined out to second.

Verlander had been cruising through the first five innings, throwing 69 pitches and allowing only a one-out single to Yasiel Puig in the second. But Barnes singled to left on a 2-0 pitch and Utley (0-for-his-last-29 postseason at-bats) was hit in the front/right foot. Chris Taylor fell behind 1-2, but lined a single over first base and down the right field line, tying the game. Seager, also behind 1-2, crushed a pitch to deep right that looked like it might carry over the wall. But Reddick caught it at the base of the wall - and Utley scored the go-ahead run easily. The Dodgers had a runner at third with two outs, but Justin Turner fouled to first and Cody Bellinger struck out (he whiffed four times (again) tonight).

(Even though Verlander (6-3-2-0-9, 93) had allowed the Dodgers to take a 2-1 lead, Fox's John Smoltz kept heaping praise on the Houston pitcher, as if he was still dominating and throwing a shutout. It was very similar to what Smoltz did in Game 7 of the ALCS, gushing on and on about the glorious Yankees, who were (even as he spoke) both being shut out and getting torched for multiple runs by the soon-to-be-pennant-winning Astros.)

Watson walked Reddick to begin the seventh. After Evan Gattis was announced as a pinch-hitter, Kenta Maeda came in from the pen. Gattis forced Reddick at second, but beat the relay. Roberts questioned whether Reddick's slide into second was legal - and it was. Springer reached on an infield single that Seager dove to his right and knocked down. At the very least, that may have prevented Gattis from going to third. Derek Fisher went in as a pinch-runner at second base, and he advanced to third when Bregman flied to center. With the potential tying run at third, Maeda got Jose Altuve to ground to third. Turner ranged to his left; his throw was low, but Bellinger made a fantastic scoop for the third out.

With his opposite-field home run off Joe Musgrove, Pederson gave LA a 3-1 lead and became the first player in Dodgers history with an extra-base hit in five straight World Series games.

Jansen - who had allowed one run in each of his last three appearances (Games 2, 4, and 5) - got the ball for the eighth. Carlos Correa flied to left on an 0-1 pitch. (That would be the last fair ball of the night for the Astros.) Gurriel fouled to first and McCann struck out on three pitches. After the Dodgers stranded two runners on base in their half of the eighth, Jansen went back to work. Of his 12 pitches in the top of the ninth, 11 were strikes. Gonzalez (csf) fouled to first, Reddick (cbs) struck out swinging, and pinch-hitter Carlos Beltran (fff) struck out swinging, chasing a high fastball (at 94) for the final out.

For the first time since 2001/2002, the World Series will go to a seventh game in two consecutive years.

Justin Verlander / Rich Hill

The Houston Astros can win their first World Series championship in their 55-year existence with a victory tonight. And they have Verlander - 2.05 ERA in this postseason (five games, four starts) - on the mound. (The Astros' only other World Series appearance came in 2005, when they were swept by the White Sox (who broke a World Series drought that was longer than the one the Red Sox broke the year before).)

On Sunday night, the Astros became the fifth team in history to win a World Series game by overcoming three deficits:

1914 Game 3 - Boston 5, Athletics 4 (12)
Athletics - 100 100 000 200 - 4  8  2
Boston    - 010 100 000 201 - 5  9  1
1986 Game 6 - Mets 6, Red Sox 5 (11)
Red Sox - 110 000 100 2 - 5 13  3
Mets    - 000 020 010 3 - 6  8  2
1993 Game 1 - Blue Jays 8, Phillies 5
Phillies  - 201 010 001 - 5 11  1
Blue Jays - 021 011 30x - 8 10  3
2011 Game 6 - Cardinals 10, Rangers 9 (11)
Rangers   - 110 110 300 20 -  9 15  2
Cardinals - 200 101 012 21 - 10 13  3
2017 Game 5 - Astros 13, Dodgers 12 (10)
Dodgers - 300 130 113 0 - 12 14  1
Astros  - 000 430 410 1 - 13 14  1
The previous four teams all won the series.

Yasiel Puig, Dodgers outfielder: "This is not going to be finished Tuesday. There's going to be a Game 7."

Bill Plaschke, Los Angeles Times: "It's Been A Crazy World Series, And We're Clamoring For More"
The World Series is driving you bonkers, and there's nothing you can do about it.

Every time you think the Dodgers have won, some wide-eyed Houston Astro swings from his fancy cleats, clangs a ball into a bleacher and dances all over your heart.

Every time you think the Dodgers have lost, Cody bellows or Corey flexes or Puig becomes Puiiiiig and suddenly you're clutching that scratchy rally towel and tugging on that faded blue T-shirt and hopping around the middle of your living room to the rattling of your Vin bobblehead.

You scream, you groan, you nearly pass out twice, then, early Monday morning in Houston, your world is turned upside down when the series shifts on a 10th-inning Astros single ...

The Astros' memorable, painful 13-12 victory over the Dodgers in Game 5 was yet another example of a week filled with both miraculous drama and unabashed kookiness. And though you can't take it anymore, you also can't get enough.

This cannot yet be declared the best World Series ever ... [but] this certainly qualifies as the craziest World Series ever, with balls flying, bats flipping, bullpens crumbling, legends dissolving, fans trespassing, players insulting, and a manager feuding with fans.
(That column also features the phrase "sunbathing their testicles".)

David Barron, Houston Chronicle: "Astros, With Justin Verlander On Mound, In Position To Win First World Series"
Minute Maid Park and Dodger Stadium, separated by 1,540 miles of Interstate 10, are opposite poles in a weeklong competition of attrition, success, failure, magic and calamity that is the 2017 World Series.

Five games of the best-of-seven series are in the books, and it will end - must end - on the western side of the commute, where the Astros will win their first World Series championship or the Dodgers will stage a historic comeback before their home fans at Dodger Stadium. ...

The Astros are in position to clinch the series ... because they prevailed Sunday night (and the wee hours of Monday) in one of the most extraordinary games in World Series history, a 13-12 win in 10 innings in which the teams combined for 25 runs, 18 hits, three ties and four lead changes. ...

The situation in which the Astros find themselves entering Game 6 also has historic punch. The Astros in 2004 traveled to St. Louis in search of their first National League pennant, leading the series 3-2 and flying high after a dramatic Game 5 victory, only to lose twice to the Cardinals, who went on to the World Series.

For that matter, these 2017 Astros faced a similar challenge against the Yankees, trailing 3-2 in the American League Championship Series, and returned home to win Games 6 and 7 to advance to the World Series. It was a triumph, but, this week, it's also a warning of what can happen.
Dylan Hernandez, Los Angeles Times: "Dave Roberts' Managing Skills Will Be Put To The Test In Dodgers' Must-Win Game 6 Of World Series"
For Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, running a game borders on a religious experience in that it's an act of faith.

Faith in his players. Faith in the organization's system. ...

The ultimate test is coming up. ...

"You just can't really get caught up in just chasing results," Roberts said. "You have to kind of really believe in the process and I know I do." ...

Roberts also has remained loyal to the organization's philosophy on how to run a pitching staff. Instead of counting on relievers to extinguish fires, he calls on them to prevent fires from even starting. This translates to fewer innings by starting pitchers, who, with the exception of Clayton Kershaw, are typically allowed to pitch to the opposing lineup only twice. ...

The line of thinking came under fire in Game 2 when Roberts removed starter Rich Hill after only four innings. Hill allowed only one run and the Dodgers almost ran out of pitcher in the 11-inning defeat. ...

Over the remainder of this World Series, the challenge for Roberts will be to balance his philosophical beliefs and the physical realities that have taken hold of his team. His bullpen is exhausted ... Roberts acknowledged that would make him more inclined to give Hill a longer leash in Game 6.
Astros: Since 1985, teams with a 3-2 advantage in either an LCS or the World Series have won the series 37 of 56 times (66%). But they have won only 14 out of 28 times (50%) when on the road for Games 6 and 7.

Dodgers: Since 1985, teams down 3-2 in either an LCS or the World Series have come back to win the series 19 of 56 times (34%). When those teams are at home, they have won 14 of 28 times (50%). And if that team won Game 6, they have won Game 7 14 of 16 times (88%). ... In the World Series, 20 teams have come back to win the series after being down 2-3; 14 of the 20 teams did it by winning Game 6 and Game 7 at home.

Recent history of coming back from 2-3: The 2017 Astros won Games 6 and 7 of the ALCS at home. The 2016 Cubs won Games 6 and 7 of the World Series on the road.

October 30, 2017

2004 ALCS Reunion At 2017 World Series

Kevin Millar posted this picture to his Instagram account:

kevinmillar15 Dave Roberts and I saying thank you to Mariano before the game today for being famous!!! 😂🙈 without the walk who knows what the hell we would be doing now!😂 #2004 #TheWalk #TheStolenBase
P.S.: Did you know that Millar wrote the foreword to Don't Let Us Win Tonight? Well, he did. So if you don't yet have copy, get one now.

"Just Because Baseball Is Broken Doesn't Mean It Should Be Fixed"

I have already pointed out the fantastic writing Grant Brisbee has been doing for SB Nation during the World Series. I know a tiny bit about writing on deadline and I'm extremely impressed with his ability, especially in the aftermaths of Games 2 and 5, to accurately recount numerous nearly undescribable events and our myriad thoughts and emotions in the wake of those events within a few hours.

Also, you have to appreciate an article that begins (with all sincerity, I believe) "Words fail", but then uses 1,537 words proving the complete inaccuracy of those first two words.
The Astros And Dodgers Broke The Game Of Baseball Into A Million Pieces
Game 5 of the 2017 World Series was baseball. Unless it was another sport entirely.
Grant Brisbee, SB Nation, October 30, 2017

Words fail. Analogies go limp. A common refrain for a game like Game 5 of the 2017 World Series is that baseball is drunk. Baseball is not drunk. Drunk people don't fall up the stairs, through a window, and explode upon contact with the moon. This is not a movie. Movies have plots, logical progressions from A to B. This is not an avant-garde movie, either, where the director was trying to be weird. Both the Dodgers and Astros really, really, really wanted to be normal, and they absolutely could not. ...

I would like you to consider two truths, both equally valid. The first one is that this is the best baseball has to offer. It was lead change after lead change. It was the absence of hope followed by redemption, several dozen times, on both sides. This was a Rocky movie, where the on-screen boxing didn't resemble real boxing, but nobody cared because it was so damned compelling. There were homers when you expected them and homers when you didn't expect them. ...

The second truth is this: That was unbelievably awful baseball. I have here in my hand a list of 205 stupid, dumb, irredeemable parts of this game. It was unthinkable calamity all around. ...

And yet it was the absolute best baseball game. And the absolute worst baseball game. But also the best! ...

Are the baseballs juiced? Or slick? Did the grind grind grind of relievers in the hook-happy postseason catch up to both teams? Does the season-long attention paid to pitch counts affect the stamina of pitchers trying to slog through an extra month of high-adrenaline baseball? Is this just how baseball is now, a cavalcade of unfathomably strong super-athletes waiting for mistakes that will inevitably come because pitchers have reached the upper limits of what the human body will allow?

It's yes to all of the above, unless it's no to all of them. Hell, I don't know. You don't either. It's just different. We'll get used to it just in time for everything to change again. ...

I figured Game 2 was the wildest game we would see for months. It didn't even take a week for baseball to get sillier and dumber.
I Fell Asleep During Game 5 Of The World Series And I Hate Myself
At least I'm well-rested unlike all of you, though.
Charlotte Wilder, SB Nation, October 30, 2017

I fell asleep. I fell asleep in the sixth inning. ...

I fell asleep before the rest of the most nutso, bizarro, insane, nonsensical — and one of the longest — World Series baseball games of all time. What I didn't see was somehow even more batshit crazy than what I did.

How do I feel about this? Terrible. I'm suffering from a horrible case of baseball FOMO, that devastating and crippling knowledge that you missed The Unbelievable Game Everyone Else is Talking About. While your friends, colleagues, and fellow Americans were riding the roller coaster of home runs, high fives, and heartbreak, you were fucking sleeping.

On the other hand, I got a solid eight hours, so I'm doing great.

Look, postseason baseball is a no-win situation when it comes to being a functional human. You either stay up to witness history with low-grade slumber anxiety ... or you go to bed and wake up the next morning ... and self-flagellate through the news cycle as you read about the incredible things you didn't feel.

[F]eeling is the point of the whole damn sport. Yes, you can always find out what happened the next day, but you can't feel it. ...

So you have to make choices. As an adult fan, you either accept that you're going to be a zombie for most of October and hope it doesn't interfere with your job, your family, your mortgage payments, etc. As a kid, you come to terms with the fact that your grades will dip and you might not get into college, but that it will be worth it in the long run ...

Or you could go to bed, be good at your job, get into a good school, and miss the gut punches and the soaring highs.
Whitney McIntosh, also at SB Nation, offers a recap of Game 5. It's entertaining, because just about any accurate thing you wrote about Game 5 would be entertaining, but the real fun is the two comments by Balmy Henry, the first of which (posted at 5:24 AM!) is titled: "Puig needs to issue a correction for his characterization 'f**king baby stadium'".

October 29, 2017

WS5: Astros 13, Dodgers 12 (10)

Dodgers - 300 130 113 0 - 12 14  1
Astros  - 000 430 410 1 - 13 14  1
Now that the second longest World Series game in history is over, I am very tempted to simply type "If you watched the game, you know what happened; if you did not, then you wouldn't believe me anyway" and go to bed. But I won't.

The first thing is: We did not get the pitching duel we were promised. Neither Clayton Kershaw nor Dallas Keuchel went five innings and I suspect that by the eighth, everyone had forgotten that either pitcher had even been in the game.

Keuchel threw 32 pitches in the top of the first. Chris Taylor singled and, with one out, both Justin Turner and Enrique Hernandez walked. After Cody Bellinger fanned, Logan Forsythe lined a two-run single to left. With Yasiel Puig at the plate, Forsythe took off for second as Keuchel threw to first. Yuli Gurriel's throw to Jose Altuve at second was well off-target, to the outfield side of the bag, and Forsythe was able to slide in ahead of Altuve's tag. Houston challenged the call, but it was upheld. Puig was retired catcher-to-first.

Kershaw looked sharp through three innings. The Astros' only baserunner was a leadoff single in the third by Evan Gattis, who was promptly erased in a double play.

After the Dodgers scored their third run, Keuchel retired the next eight batters. But Forsythe struck again, with a one-out double in the fourth. Austin Barnes knocked him in with a two-out single to left. (At that point, 16 of the Dodgers' 22 runs in the World Series had scored with two outs.) Charlie Culberson kept the inning going with a single and that ended Keuchel's start (3.2-5-4-2-4, 86). Luke Gregerson struck out Taylor to end the rally.

Perhaps the long wait on the bench bothered Kershaw, because he struggled in the fourth. He walked George Springer and Jose Altuve singled with one out. Carlos Correa doubled to left, scoring Springer. The Dodgers challenged the safe call at second, but it was upheld. Gurriel then crushed a first-pitch, three-run homer to deep left. The blast hit high on the back wall behind the bleachers – and the game was tied 4-4.

In the top of the fifth, Collin McHugh began his night by walking Corey Seager and Turner. (He had pitched only once in the entire postseason, throwing four innings in ALCS 3 on October 16.) Hernandez struck out, but Bellinger belted a three-run dong to right-center. The ball landed in the first row of seats, but it was enough to give LA a 7-4 lead. . . . For about 15 minutes. Kershaw (4.2-4-6-3-2, 94) got the first two outs in the bottom of the fifth, but walked Springer (eight pitches) and Alex Bregman (10 pitches). Kenta Maeda took over and Altuve went deep on a full-count pitch. It was the third three-run home run in the last three half-innings – and it re-tied the game at 7-7.

Both teams took a breather in the sixth. Turner opened the seventh with a double, but was forced at third on Hernandez's grounder to reliever Brad Peacock. Bellinger fell behind 0-2 and hit a sinking liner to center. Springer ran in and dove for it, but it skipped past him and rolled to the warning track. Hernandez scored easily on the triple. But the Dodgers could not do anything else, as Forsythe struck out and Puig flied to left.

Brandon Morrow came in for the home half of the seventh – and had one of the worst outings in World Series history. He threw only six pitches, but Houston did about as much damage with them as humanly possible:
Springer: First-pitch home run to left, tying the game at 8-8
Bregman: First-pitch single to center field
Altuve: Called strike 1; double to left-center, Astros lead 9-8
Correa: Ball 1 (wild pitch, Altuve to third); home run to left-center, Astros lead 11-8
Both teams scored in the eighth: Joc Pederson doubled and scored for Los Angeles (but they left runners at second and third) and Brian McCann hit a solo home run for Houston.

The Astros led 12-9 and Chris Devenski, who had recorded the final out in the eighth, was on the mound for the ninth. Three more outs and the Astros would have a 3-2 lead in the series. Devenski fell behind Bellinger 3-0 and walked him on five pitches. After a mound visit, Devenski got Forsythe on strikes. Then Puig homered to left for two runs and Austin Barnes doubled to left-center. Pederson grounded to shortstop for the second out, and Barnes went to third. Taylor fouled off a pitch and Devenski threw two balls. He evened the count at 2-2 with a called strike down the middle, but Taylor grounded the next pitch up the middle and into center field for a hit – and Barnes came home with the tying run. Seager flied to center to end the inning.

Kenley Jansen faced the heart of the Houston lineup in the bottom of the ninth. He got two outs on four pitches, but Gurriel doubled to left-center. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts visited the mound to talk things over. Jansen faced Josh Reddick, who flied to short left on a 1-1 pitch.

And it was on to extra innings! I would not have been surprised if, after such an offensive showing, both teams threw up zeroes for a while, but that did not happen.

Joe Musgrove allowed only a one-out single to Andre Ethier in the top of the tenth. Bellinger flied to center and Forsythe grounded into a fielder's choice.

As he did in the ninth, Jansen got the first two Astros in the tenth. McCann nearly won the game with a long, high drive down the right field line, but it was foul. On the next pitch, McCann was hit on the right arm near the wrist and trotted to first base. Jansen lost control of the strike zone and walked Springer on five pitches, though ball 4 might have been at the top of the strike zone. Derek Fisher pinch-ran for McCann at second base as Bregman – who had homered off Jansen in the ninth inning of Game 4 – stepped in. Jansen threw his 33rd pitch of the night – and Bregman lined it to left. Pederson threw home, but it was not in time as Fisher scored the winning run.

Seven home runs were hit in this game, making a total of 22 for the five games, and a new World Series record. (The 2002 World Series had 21 dongs.)

Way back when the Dodgers led 3-0 and 4-0, Fox gave a couple of factoids: In the last two seasons (including the postseason), when Kershaw has worked with a three-run lead, the Dodgers are 25-1. And since 2012 (including postseason games), when Kershaw has a four-run lead, his team is 49-1. . . . Well, you can make that now 25-2 and 49-2.

The game lasted 5:17, ending at 1:39 AM (EST). The longest World Series game in history was Game 3 in 2005 (5:41), when the White Sox beat the Astros 7-5 in 14 innings. That game tied Game 2 of the 1916 World Series for the longest game by innings (Red Sox 2, Dodgers 1, with Babe Ruth throwing a complete game in 2:32 (!!)).
Clayton Kershaw / Dallas Keuchel

The 2017 World Series is now a best-of-three, with a deciding third game, if necessary, at Dodger Stadium.

Kershaw pitched seven innings in Game 1, limiting the Astros to one run and three hits, while striking out 11 and issuing no walks. Keuchel allowed three runs and six hits (including two home runs) in 6.2 innings. This rematch marks the first time since the 2010 World Series (so not that long ago, actually) that former Cy Young Award winners faced each other twice in the same World Series.

Kershaw has allowed eight runs in this postseason, and all of them have scored on home runs. He's given up seven dongs in four starts. "I feel the homers I give up are pretty legit. As long as you're making your pitches, you might hit one off the wall that you're not supposed to or something, but other than that, you can't really change."

Some meaningless stuff: Since 1985, when the LCS expanded to a best-of-seven, there have been 28 LCS or World Series tied at 2-2. The Game 5 winner has taken home the trophy in 18 of those 28 series (64.3%).
For Dodgers fans: When a team wins Game 5 on the road and takes a 3-2 lead (with Games 6 (and possibly) 7 at home), it has won the series 9 out of 10 times.

For Astros fans: When a team wins Game 5 at home and takes a 3-2 lead (with Games 6 (and possibly) 7 on the road), it has won the series 9 out of 18 times.
Noted: Over at MLB.com, it appears that all of the writers are referring to the World Series now as simply the "World Series". Previews, game stories, opinion pieces, everything ... just "World Series". No mention of a corporate sponsor. I cannot imagine enough people complained to MLB to get it to stop the practice, so perhaps the sponsor paid MLB to force its writers to type the corporation's name after "World Series" for only the first couple of games.

Opinions On Manfred's Decision To Suspend Gurriel ... In 2018

Commissioner Manfred Must Act Now And Suspend Yuli Gurriel For His Racist Gesture
Ken Rosenthal, The Athletic, October 28, 2017
Rob Manfred faces one of his most difficult decisions since becoming baseball commissioner on January 25, 2015. Suspend Yuli Gurriel, and many Houston Astros fans will flip out, no small consideration with the next two games of the World Series at Minute Maid Park. Slap Gurriel on the wrist and many, many other fans will become angry over baseball turning a blind eye to a player who was caught on camera making a racist gesture.

Manfred is going to catch hell either way, so he might as well do the right thing. He should suspend Gurriel immediately for one game. Do not simply fine him. Do not delay his suspension until next season. Send a message as the leader of a sport that is growing ever more international, ever more inclusive. ...

Manfred cannot worry about the union. He cannot worry about the percentage of fans who will be upset. He cannot worry about any perception of bias. Gurriel's action was indefensible, and even the union officials who would fight his suspension know it.

Here's the problem for Manfred: Suspending Gurriel could dramatically affect the outcome of the Series, which the Astros lead two games to one after their 5-3 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night. ... In 57 plate appearances this postseason, he is batting .340 with a .933 OPS. ...

Gurriel's gesture and mouthing of the word Chinito, which he said is a description Cubans use for all Asians, were captured not by the FOX cameras, but by the international feed. The images spread quickly on social media ...

Even accounting for cultural differences, Gurriel, 33, should have been smarter. ... [A]s the son of Lourdes Gurriel, a famed Cuban player, he did not grow up in isolation. He followed his father into baseball, playing in numerous international tournaments before his brief stopover in Japan. ...

[I]t's probably unreasonable for Manfred to lay this on the Astros and ask them to suspend their own player. No, on the biggest stage the sport offers, it is the commissioner who must take responsibility. A one-game suspension for Gurriel is appropriate. Manfred needs to take a stand and offer leadership, send a message and do the right thing.


MLB Gives Yuli Gurriel Delayed Suspension For Offensive Gesture
Paolo Uggetti, The Ringer, October 28, 2017
Houston Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel will not face suspension during the World Series following being caught by TV cameras pulling back on his eyes and saying, "chinito" – Spanish slang for "little Chinese boy" – in reference to Dodgers starting pitcher Yu Darvish ...

Commissioner Rob Manfred ... announced that Gurriel will be serving a five-game suspension without pay to start the 2018 season, and that Gurriel will also undergo sensitivity training during the offseason. ...

Manfred said he wanted the punishment to come with the loss of salary. In addition, he said the penalty should fall to the wrongdoer and not the whole team because it was "unfair to punish the other 24 players on the Astros roster." ...
Initially, Gurriel responded to questions about the incident after Game 3 by expressing ignorance about the offensiveness of his actions.

"The truth is, I don't know, I didn't know how offensive it was. What I do know is that it wasn't my intention," Gurriel said in Spanish postgame. "I really feel, I feel ... I'm sorry because there were people that felt really offended, and that was in no way my intention, so I'm really sorry." ...

For his part, Darvish said postgame he was bothered by it, but that it was a learning experience. ... Darvish posted a tweet afterward ...

Manfred's Leadership Was Tested With The Gurriel Incident – And He Passed
Jerry Crasnick, ESPN, October 28, 2017
Manfred made the best of a bad situation ... To his credit, Manfred didn't bury the lead. Upon taking his seat in a packed interview room four hours before Game 4 of the World Series, Manfred laser-focused on the heart of the matter.

"There is complete unanimity – me, my office, both owners, both clubs and the MLBPA – that there is no place in our game for the behavior or any behavior like the behavior we witnessed last night," Manfred said. ...

The reactions of the two main parties helped lower the temperature. Gurriel was remorseful and contrite over his actions, and Darvish took the high road ...

So what could baseball do to send the proper message? If Manfred had tried to drop the hammer immediately, the union could have appealed, and the machinations of a grievance proceeding would have become an unwelcome sideshow to the sport's crown jewel event. Gurriel has already agreed to not appeal ...

Given the examples on the books, a five-game suspension for Gurriel seems like a logical progression. In 2012, Toronto shortstop Yunel Escobar received a three-game suspension for displaying a homophobic slur on his eye black. This year, Toronto's Kevin Pillar and Oakland's Matt Joyce were both hit with two-game suspensions for anti-gay slurs in May and August, respectively. ...

Manfred's response was authoritative and pragmatic in a way that marked his tenure as baseball's labor lawyer under Bud Selig and bodes well for his commissionership. ...

His leadership skills were tested on the fly, and he passed the test.
Manfred Whiffs On Gurriel Suspension
By Michael Baumann, The Ringer, October 28, 2017
MLB routinely suspends players for using identity-based insults during games (even if they immediately apologize as Gurriel did), but after 18 hours of inaction, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred ... bungled this in a way that's offensive all its own. ...

Gurriel's gesture and language – however benign he claims his intent to have been – is a verbal attack on every Asian and Asian American player and fan watching the game. How can you be comfortable watching this game if such behavior is tolerated? How can you feel like you're a part of that community when one of its most prominent members is sending that message on its biggest stage?

And insofar as the union has a duty to protect Gurriel from suspension, it also has a duty to Darvish – and every player of every race – to ensure that they'll be able to work with dignity, rather than having to face insults for who they are. ... In protecting Gurriel, they've failed many of their other members. ...

When someone does wrong, we expect him to apologize, atone, and not do it again. Gurriel apologized, and missing a World Series game would've been a fitting atonement precisely because it would have had the effect Manfred wanted to avoid: It would have penalized Gurriel's teammates for his ill behavior.

Athletes live in an insular community ... And the best way to change the hurtful language that gets tossed around casually in that environment is to provide an incentive for the players to police themselves: Incentives don't come much bigger than losing a middle-of-the-order hitter for a World Series game. ...

By pushing Gurriel's suspension to the regular season, Manfred is saying that promoting a world free of racist language is a less important goal than preserving the Astros' best chance to win the World Series. ... This isn't about baseball – it's about showing what kind of behavior you tolerate when the eyes of the world are upon you.

Perhaps this shouldn't be so shocking from a league that allowed a team called the Indians to put its redface caricature mascot on national TV throughout last year's playoffs. Chief Wahoo is just as offensive as what Gurriel did, even if we're desensitized to it by exposure, and MLB's stance could not be a better example of all talk, no action.
Yu Darvish Saves Yuli Gurriel From World Series Banishment After Racist Gesture
Steve Buckley, Boston herald, October 29, 2017
Despite what MLB commissioner Rob Manfred says, a little bit of me will always wonder if the magnanimity and diplomacy of Yu Darvish rescued Houston Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel from being suspended from the World Series.

In a vacuum, Gurriel should have been escorted from the Fall Classic premises and told not to rejoin the Astros until spring training. ...

It was blatantly racist. Please hold the cards, letters and emails about overdone political correctness, the "cultural differences" that arise from Gurriel being from Cuba and the fact that an end-of-the-night apology was offered. It was racist. Start there or stop reading. ...

Manfred's decision – a five-game suspension, without pay, to be served at the beginning of next season – will be viewed by some as a slap on the wrist.

It's not. It's the right call. Yes, Manfred could have made a more forceful statement by tossing Gurriel out of the World Series. The Players Association could have appealed, thereby allowing Gurriel to continue playing, but that's not the point. A World Series suspension, appealed or not, would have been history-making. Manfred chose not to unleash that level of power, partly, he said, because it would have been "unfair to punish the other 24 players on the Astros roster."
Baseball, Manfred Strike Out On Gurriel's Delayed Suspension
By Bill Plaschke, Los Angeles Times
The racist gesture made by the Houston Astros' Yuli Gurriel toward the Dodgers' Yu Darvish on Friday night called for somebody in power to swing for the fences.

Instead, baseball bunted. ...

Commissioner Rob Manfred needed to make a powerful statement Saturday that included an immediate suspension.

Instead, he offered words backed by weakness.

"There is no place in our game for the behavior or any behavior like we witnessed last night," announced Manfred.

Except, apparently, in the World Series, where Gurriel will continue to maintain his place without immediate punishment.

"There is no excuse or explanation that makes that type of behavior acceptable," Manfred added.

Except for the excuse that, hey, everybody chill, we don't want to mess up the mojo of our Fall Classic! ...

[I]t was announced Saturday that Gurriel will be suspended for five games next season. Yes, next season. Six months from now. When nobody cares. A statement nobody hears.

Manfred offered four excuses for why Guerriel wouldn't be suspended now, four lame rationalizations falling under a single description: Baseball was taking the easy way out. ...

[Manfred's] fourth [excuse] is absolutely bonkers: "I felt it was unfair to punish the other 24 players on the Astros roster," Manfred said. "I wanted the burden of this discipline to fall primarily on the wrongdoer."

Yeah, because that should be his priority, keeping a bunch of baseball players happy at the expense of his sport's social integrity. Forget the nation of fans who saw the gesture and were offended.

So, really, baseball will initially tolerate the mocking of millions of Asian Americans as long as it doesn't do anything to inconvenience 24 ballplayers?

Baseball wasn't so forgiving three Octobers ago when it came to the Dodgers. Remember the 2015 National League Division Series against the New York Mets? Remember what happened when Chase Utley's takeout slide into second base in Game 2 broke the leg of Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada?

Utley was suspended for two games. Immediately. There was no waiting for next season. There was no worry about impacting the other Dodgers. There was no fear of fooling with the postseason. The suspension was delivered on the spot.

Yes, Utley appealed ... [and] the suspension was overturned the following spring, so it also didn't cost him any money.

But the point was made that dangerous play would not be tolerated even on one of baseball's biggest stages.

When it came to racism at the World Series, sadly, stunningly, that point was lost.
MLB Suspends Astros' Yuli Gurriel For 5 Games Next Season But Not World Series
Associated Press/CBC, October 28, 2017
Manfred would not compare Gurriel's actions with the Cleveland Indians' decision to keep using their Chief Wahoo logo, which has been criticized by Native Americans and others.

"I see a difference between behaviour from one player directed specifically at a player and a logo," he said. "While both are problematic, I don't see them as the same issue. We continue to have conversations with the Indians about the logo, and it's an issue I intend to deal with in the off-season."

Dodgers And Astros Claim A Different Ball Is Being Used In World Series

Pitchers and coaches from both the Dodgers and Astros have told Sports Illustrated that the baseballs being used during the World Series are slicker than the ones used during the regular season

Astros pitching coach Brent Strom:
Why in the world would the baseballs in the World Series be different? ... It's obvious. You can see it and you can feel it. It's not the same. Someone's got to explain to me why.
Tom Verducci, who wrote the SI story, said Strom showed him both a regular season baseball and one from WS Game 4:
The regular season ball had not been prepared for a game with the specialty mud that umpires or their attendants rub into baseballs to reduce the shine and slickness. Even accounting for that difference, the leather grain of the World Series ball looked and felt noticeably different. It was slicker to the touch.
Verducci added that he had been told by members of the Cleveland team during the ALDS that the postseason ball felt different from the regular season ball.
Houston pitcher Charlie Morton:
Lance McCullers took the blindfold test in the bullpen. He could tell which ball was which with his eyes closed. It's that different.
Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt:
[G]uys have been talking about the ball. I also know that MLB has been talking for a while about maybe a ball that's more like the ball in Japan, where the leather is tackier so that you can use it right out of the wrapper.
Astros pitcher Justin Verlander:
The World Series ball is slicker. No doubt. I'm telling you, we're in here signing [World Series] balls before the game, and it's hard to get the ink on the ball sometimes. ... That's how slick the leather is. It's different. I noticed it especially throwing a slider. It didn't feel the same. The home run I gave up to [Joc] Pederson was a slider.
Verlander threw 17 sliders in Game 2 and got only one swing and miss.

Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish: "I had trouble with the ball throwing a slider. It was slicker."

Darvish lasted only 1.2 innings in Game 3. His best pitch is his slider, and he got no swings and misses on any of his 14 sliders, something that had not happened in any of his 34 starts this season. Verducci reported that Darvish's slider in Game 3 had an average horizontal break of only 8.42 inches, compared to 9.12 inches during the regular season.

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen gave up a home run on a slider to Alex Bregman in the ninth inning of Game 4, the first time all year Jansen had allowed a home run on a slider (96 pitches).

Astros reliever Ken Giles threw his slider 47% of the time during the regular season, but he has had such bad luck with it in the postseason that he threw it only twice (out of eight pitches) in Game 4. Not having to worry about that effective pitch in Giles's arsenal, the Dodgers have capitalized. They began their game-winning, ninth-inning rally with a single, walk, and double against Giles.

Game 4 was a 1-0 pitchers' duel through six innings between Morton and Alex Wood. Verducci notes:
Neither pitcher throws a slider. The seven relievers that followed them combined to throw only 12 sliders – and obtained no swings and misses on those sliders. Though he doesn't throw a slider, Morton said the slicker baseball did influence his pitch selection.
Morton:
It affects running my two-seamer in to righthanders. When the ball is slick you can't throw in with the same aggressiveness. If you don't have control of the baseball, you might end somebody's career. That's a very bad thought to have in your head. ... [I]t's the World Series. So you do everything you can to block out everything. You've got to focus with every pitch. ... But if that's what you're thinking about it does affect your conviction on certain pitches.
After the Astros and Dodgers combined to hit eight home runs in Game 2, a record for a World Series game, Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel said:
Obviously, the balls are juiced. I think they're juiced 100%. ... There are really powerful guys in this league and they're going to get theirs. But where you can tell a difference is the mid-range guy who's hitting 20-plus home runs now. That doesn't happen. That's not supposed to happen. ... That's what Major League Baseball wants. They want that exciting two home-run lead, and then they (the Dodgers) come back and hit another home run, and everybody's still watching. That's what they want. That's what they're getting.
A story in The Ringer from June 2017 stated that "new evidence has arisen that seems to [show] that much of the rise in home runs can be explained by the ball":
The testing revealed significant differences in balls used after the 2015 All-Star break in each of the components that could affect the flight of the ball, in the directions we would have expected based on the massive hike in home run rate. While none of these attributes in isolation could explain the increase in home runs that we saw in the summer of 2015, in combination, they can.
A report during the same month by 538 looked at air resistance on fly balls. The report also noted that the baseballs used since the middle of the 2015 season were slightly smaller and the seams are lower.

A record total of home runs - 6,104 - were hit during the 2017 regular season, obliterating the previous high of 5,693, set in 2000.
MLB senior vice president of baseball operations Peter Woodfork said the World Series balls are made from the same materials as the balls used during the regular season: "The only difference is the gold [rather than blue] stamping on the baseballs."

Bill Baer, NBC Sports:
Commissioner Rob Manfred has already gone on record disingenuously trying to blame anything else for the spike in home runs. Major League Baseball released a statement in early July claiming balls remain within established guidelines and that there is no evidence that the ball has been changed "in any way that would lead to a meaningful impact on on-field play." Later in July, he blamed bats. He said, "One thing that we're thinking about is bats. We've kind of taken for granted that bats aren't different. We're starting to look at the issue of bats." ...

On Friday, prior to Game 3 of the World Series, Manfred responded to claims of a juiced ball. Via Eric Fisher of the Sports Business Journal, Manfred reiterated that game balls have been tested and remain within specifications. Manfred also said that people analyzing a supposedly juiced ball based on one homer-happy game (Game 2) isn't really analysis.

Which, of course, is disingenuous. It's not a one-game sample. We have two and a half regular seasons worth of data, plus two well-performed studies. Keuchel thinks the balls are juiced. So does Justin Verlander. So do David Price, Dan Warthen, Brad Ziegler, Jerry Blevins, and Chris Archer. Meanwhile, Manfred has been unable to actually refute any amount of the overwhelming evidence. He has only attempted to deflect.

The game changes every so often. The mound gets lower. Stadiums get smaller. Players get bigger, focus on different mechanics. Rules get added, removed, and amended. Changing the baseball isn't a capital offense. ... Just admit the balls were changed so we have official context for recent statistics. That's all.