1. Big Papi, Bigger Flip
Quick, all of you who predicted that the edginess of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry one day would be overtaken by the Red Sox and, ahem, Rays (?!?), ray-s your hand.
Or better yet, toss your bat into the air (C’mon, is that all you got?).
Was David Ortiz’s Bat Flip Heard ‘Round the Hardball World over the top?
Call it borderline.
Was it overly flamboyant?
Puh-leeze, we’ve seen far more from Yasiel Puig even when he’s half-asleep.
Did it pay dividends in goosing one of the game’s most riveting grudge matches to an even higher degree of nastiness?
And from that angle, in a game more devoid of emotion with every instant replay that foils another manager from going full-metal-Earl Weaver on a man in blue, it’s difficult not to digest Ortiz’s toss and Chris Archer’s response and not smile and think: Isn’t this just fantastic?
Free agency, the designated hitter and economics over the past several years have sandpapered the bitter edges away from even the most hard-bitten rivalries.
One day, Juan Marichal is bopping Johnny Roseboro over the head with his bat in a Dodgers-Giants game (not that we’re advocating Ortiz, or anyone else, to do this with his bat in lieu of helicoptering it, if he must).
The next, Wade Boggs, Johnny Damon and Jacoby Ellsbury, instead of working to slay the hated Yankees, are crossing the Fenway Park moat and riding horses in Yankee Stadium celebrations.
Not that we’re looking for World War III here, but baseball should not be all milkshakes and banana splits.
Between the Cardinals grading the Dodgers on their comportment in last fall’s National League Championship Series that went all Mickey Mouse and Archer throwing a tantrum over Ortiz’s flip, we’ve clearly reached a New School vs. Old School point in the game that calls for an arbiter. Miss Manners or Adam Wainwright, please come on down.
And maybe it’s some impending eclipse, or perhaps he’s simply bored out of his batting helmet in last place this year, but Ortiz, one of the game’s most beloved teddy bears, suddenly is going all Looney Tunes. He backseat drives official scorers. He hits the roof when David Price plunks him. He sends his bat toward the roof when homering.
What’s gotten into Big Papi?
“Players today are too sensitive about things, you know?” Ortiz told reporters Sunday.
Right. You mean, like paying too much attention to official scoring decisions?
“I don’t know what makes him think that he can showboat the way he does, and then nobody can retaliate or look at him in a funny way, or nobody can pitch him inside,” Archer, who once kissed his own bicep after fanning Boston’s Daniel Nava, told reporters. “He feels like he’s bigger than the game.”
“Tell him to stop acting like he’s David Price,” Ortiz shot back.
Close your eyes, and you can picture Joe Maddon a la the late, great Don Zimmer rushing out of the Rays dugout to defend his guys, and Ortiz—or is it Pedro?—giving him the ol’ matador treatment.
This might not be the most mature behavior—or attitude—ever, but it sure is fun.
(P.S. The next time the Red Sox and Rays meet is Aug. 29 to Sept. 1 in St. Petersburg, so mark your calendar.)
2. Attention, kids: Get your Hall of Fame tutoring session right here
With young arms becoming more fragile than a politician’s promise these days, two Hall of Famers checked in from Cooperstown with some thoughts and advice.
Take it for what it’s worth, but have you ever known Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine to be very far off-base about much of anything?
“The only thing that I can come up with that makes sense is, well, two things,” Maddux said. “They throw harder, and they throw more growing up. And I just think that comes from not playing the other sports. I think it comes from playing year-round. That’s the only thing that makes sense to me.
“When we were 16, 17 years old, we were throwing 60, 70 innings a year. And I think the kids playing year-round are throwing, like, three times that.”
Said Glavine: “These guys are playing so much baseball before they ever get to the professional level that I think they’re getting worn out. Secondly, most guys in the big leagues to me today are max-effort guys, they throw it as hard as they can.
“I think we learned how to make the ball break, how to make it spin, how to make it sink, do all the things we wanted it to do without having to throw it as hard as we could.
“I think we learned how to pitch at 90, 95 percent effort level. Every now and then you let one fly, but for me, I think that’s the big thing. These guys don’t know how to pitch at 90, 95 percent effort level. It’s 100 percent effort on every pitch or they can’t make it do what they want it to do. And when you’re doing that to your arm time after time after time, I don’t think it’s built to take it.”
And, finally, some advice from Maddux, a 355-game winner, to young pitchers. And I love it:
“Really, have fun,” Maddux said. “And it’s OK if you play other sports. Everybody thinks you’ve got to play year-round now. It’s kind of funny because just over the last couple of nights, talking to some of the other Hall of Fame guys, they all played different sports.
“Everyone thinks now your kid’s gotta play club ball and get lessons from this guy and he’s gotta get in this league. It’s OK to play other sports and be a kid and have fun.”
3. San Francisco, where the circle is unbroken
The slumping Giants’ current problems extend well beyond the mound (second base, for one), but with Matt Cain down and uncertain to return this year, general manager Brian Sabean simply had to do something.
Is adding Jake Peavy the answer? Probably not the complete and full answer. But at 33 and far removed from his 2007 NL Cy Young days, Peavy is better than his current 1-10 record and 4.50 ERA.
For one thing, cashing in the fearsome bats of the AL East (Orioles, Blue Jays) for the pitchers’ parks of the NL West (Giants, Dodgers, Padres) will play to Peavy’s advantage.
For another, reuniting with his first major league manager, Bruce Bochy, won’t hurt, either.
“I’ve always admired how he plays the game,” Bochy told reporters after Sabean acquired Peavy from Boston. “He’s all-out, full-bore in everything he does.”
Having frittered away their NL West lead and coming off an embarrassing sweep by the Dodgers in San Francisco, not coincidentally, that’s pretty much how the Giants must handle the rest of their season, too.
4. Hanley Ramirez: Short-timer?
Upon arriving in Los Angeles last summer, via the deal with the Marlins, Hanley Ramirez immediately hung a sign above his locker: “Attitude is a choice, make a good one.”
While those in Florida were sure that came with a laugh track and a Whoopee cushion, Ramirez followed through, played hard, was all smiles and pretty much served as the club’s MVP down the stretch (.370/.462/.704 with five homers and 11 RBI in September).
What he cannot choose this summer is a new body, and aches and pains in his shoulder, hands and legs have zapped him of much of the electricity he wielded in 2013. The timing stinks, because Ramirez will be a free agent this winter and has been very vocal about hoping to stay in Los Angeles.
It does not sound like that is going to happen.
“We’ll see,” Dodgers president Stan Kasten said in Cooperstown over the weekend. “That’s been a very tough one. What is the rest of Hanley’s career going to be like, and what position does he play? Those are questions that today are unclear.
“But we know he has potential over the last 50 games to be the difference for us and to help us win a World Series.”
5. What will the Phillies do?
While the Rays work feverishly on ace David Price’s immediate future, the Phillies have stepped into the spotlight as one of the most intriguing teams in these final hours before Thursday’s 4 p.m. ET non-waiver trade deadline.
Multiple industry sources believe that the Phillies’ No. 1 priority is to deal closer Jonathan Papelbon, who is owed $13 million in 2015 with a vesting option for another $13 million in 2016.
Problem is, with the Los Angeles Angels having already acquired closer Huston Street from the San Diego Padres, and with the Detroit Tigers having landed Joakim Soria from the Texas Rangers, the list of potential landing spots for Papelbon has dwindled.
In the meantime, with Ryan Howard now no longer even an everyday player (not to mention that wretched .227 batting average), the Phils would love to unload him. But with $60 million remaining on his deal after this season, odds of that happening—even in an August waiver deal—are highly unlikely.
The core members of few contending teams have seemed to age as quickly as the Phillies’ Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley. Philadelphia GM Ruben Amaro has a massive retooling project on his hands with few attractive parts to sell.
Starter Cliff Lee, who has been so-so in two starts back from a strained elbow that sidelined him for much of the season, is believed to be of interest to the Yankees ($37.5 million remaining for 2015-2016, plus incentives). Starter Cole Hamels is drawing interest, but there are no indications that the Phils will deal him (Hamels could be a foundation piece of an overhauled Phillies club).
Hamels, who signed a six-year, $144 million deal two Julys ago, is very anxious these days. He has no-trade powers to 20 teams, and the Phillies are said to be (understandably) fielding much interest in him. A person close with the Phillies, though, says the team is very reluctant to deal Hamels.
The player it is most easy to envision being traded is outfielder Marlon Byrd, who is having a solid season and is owed only $8 million in 2015 (with a vesting $8 million option for 2016).
6. Searching in San Diego
The Padres last week finished second interviews with four general manager candidates, and sources say A.J. Preller, assistant GM to Jon Daniels in Texas, has emerged as the strong favorite to replace Josh Byrnes.
One thing that especially attracts the Padres to Preller is his high rate of success in delivering prospects from Latin American countries to the Rangers. The Padres have been abysmal in scouting and development internationally.
Billy Eppler, Brian Cashman’s assistant with the New York Yankees, also interviewed again last week and is viewed as a viable alternative to Preller. The other two finalists: Mike Hazen, assistant to Boston GM Ben Cherington, and Kim Ng, who oversees international issues in the Commissioner’s Office.
Given that the Padres’ profile for the position clearly is a young, up-and-coming executive who can develop into a star, the next very important question will be whom he (or she) hires as close advisors. Don’t be surprised if Preller brings veteran superscout Don Welke with him from Texas. The two previously worked together with the Dodgers before the Rangers.
Another strong possibility is that former Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers will return to San Diego in an advisor’s role, not unlike Gerry Hunsicker in Tampa Bay. So far, the Padres have not asked the Diamondbacks for permission to speak with Towers, sources say. But if they do, other sources say, the Diamondbacks, who now have Tony La Russa overseeing their baseball operations, will grant permission.
7. Great moments in managing
We know now that Bobby Cox is a Hall of Fame manager.
Now, next time you’re having a rotten day, maybe lost the car keys, cracked your phone, forgot to pay the mortgage, know this: Not even the great ones are perfect.
Cox, during one particularly enjoyable self-deprecating moment during his speech, said he’s been getting a lot of compliments regarding what a smart manager he was leading up to his Hall of Fame induction. Except, he wasn’t so smart.
During one of Glavine’s starts, it was tight and late with runners on second and third with two outs. At least, that’s what Cox was seeing when he trotted out to the mound for a conversation that soon included third baseman Chipper Jones.
“What do you think?” Cox asked Glavine. “Why don’t we just walk this guy [and] pitch around him?”
Replied Glavine: “Skip, that’s one of the better ideas you’ve had in the last month. But where are we going to put him?”
Cox: “So I looked at third, looked at second, there are runners there. And I glance over at first, and there happens to be a runner there, too. So I said, ‘Look, if this gets out to the press tomorrow, each one of you are going to be fined a thousand dollars.’”
8. From the Pete Rose Now-It-Can-Be-Told Files
One more from Cooperstown: During a conversation with Pete Rose as he was signing autographs inside a memorabilia store on Main St., he revealed a couple of very interesting offers he received during his free agency in November/December 1978.
Ted Turner, then the owner of the Atlanta Braves, offered him $1 million a year for four years. When that didn’t fly, according to Rose, Turner added an additional $100,000 a year for life.
“He wanted people to watch his television channel,” Rose said.
During negotiations that winter, then-Kansas City Royals owner Ewing Kauffman offered him a “working oil well,” Rose said.
Yes, a working oil well.
But the Braves had gone 69-93 the previous year. The Royals, they were in the American League.
So Rose picked the Phillies.
“I wanted to win,” he said.
And didn’t he always?
Now, if we were choosing a People magazine-like 25 Most Intriguing People of the Year, Rose absolutely would be on our list for the next 12 months.
Are you kidding? With the All-Star Game set for Cincinnati next July, you can bet none of us have heard the last of him.
Asked earlier this month whether the Reds will be allowed to include him in their festivities, Commissioner Bud Selig said that the Reds “know what they can do and what they can’t do.” He did not elaborate on what those restrictions are.
But know this: If Selig sticks with his plan to retire Jan. 24, Rose’s lifetime suspension becomes an issue for the new commissioner.
And while this certainly is not a prediction, chew on this: If baseball ever is going to reinstate Rose—at least, in his lifetime and ours—wouldn’t next summer at a Cincinnati All-Star Game be the absolute perfect place to do it?
9. Tulowis--, Tulowiz--, ah the hell with it: Tulo! Tulo! Tulo!
Did you see the Rockies’ giveaways Saturday? With shortstop Troy Tulowitzki headed to New York so a specialist could examine his latest leg injury (and he took in a Yankees game while he was there for one more peek at idol Derek Jeter), here is what 15,000 Denver fans received:
9a. Rock ‘n’ Roll Lyric of the Week
So true in areas beyond music, too, isn’t it? Like, even, baseball…
“Rock and roll means well
“But it can’t help telling young boys lies.”
--Drive-By Truckers, Marry Me
Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. He has over two decades of experience covering MLB, including 14 years as a national baseball columnist at CBSSports.com.
Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball here.