On Tuesday night, we were treated to yet another example of Yordano Ventura’s desire to start fights.
The fuse was lit in the second inning when Ventura threw a couple of fastballs up and in to Manny Machado, who responded with a stiff glare and some trash talk after he flew out. Then in the fifth inning and trailing 5-1, Ventura sent a fastball at 99 MPH — his fastest pitch of the night — right into Machado’s back.
A melee ensued. Machado immediately charged at Ventura, hit him with a right and then basically DDT’ed Ventura into the mound. It was ugly and it certainly could have been avoided.
But this is what Yordano Ventura does when he’s not striking batters out at a declining rate or issuing walks at a rising rate. A similar incident occurred last April when Ventura, once again on the losing side of things, decided to drill Brett Lawrie with a 99 MPH fastball.
A week before that, Ventura got in Mike Trout’s face for … some reason. In his start directly following the Lawrie beaning, Ventura instigated a brawl with the White Sox after mouthing off to Adam Eaton because … I really don’t know why. It’s quite difficult to identify Ventura’s modus operandi all the time. He was tagged with a seven-game suspension for his role in that donnybrook, a ban that felt like a make-up call on MLB’s part after it only fined Ventura for throwing at Lawrie.
And now he has done it again to one of the biggest stars in the game. Already frustrated with the look of his box score, Ventura decided to take it out on Machado at ninety-freaking-nine miles per hour.
What’s to come of this? It’s tough to say. Baseball has sent a message in recent years with its penalties — or lack thereof — for beanball pitchers. Since the start of 2012, only two pitchers have been suspended more than six games for intentionally throwing at batters. That’s one fewer than the number of pitchers who have received such suspensions for using pine tar. The Diamondbacks’ Ian Kennedy set the recent high-water mark in 2013 when he was banned for 10 games after throwing at the heads of Yasiel Puig and Zack Greinke.
Perhaps Ventura won’t get 10 games (I mean, he tried to hurt only one batter). But he should. He is now a repeat offender, choosing on multiple occasions to throw as hard as he can with the intention of inflicting pain on another baseball player. The fact that he did it to an MVP-level player this time should carry some weight as well.
Ventura was compared to Pedro Martinez as he made his way through the minors for his delivery, slight build, eye-popping velocity and nasty offspeed stuff. He’s got another thing in common with Martinez now*. People romanticize how Pedro would pitch inside and intimidate hitters. Shortly following the brawl, I heard some TV broadcaster say, in relation to Ventura, at least Martinez never tried to hurt anyone (Hey, Gerald Williams! Hi there, Karim Garcia!).
That is ridiculous. This shouldn’t be dolled up “old school” baseball. This is dangerous and could be construed as criminal. Yordano Ventura can continue to jabber and piss off opponents and likely some of his teammates when he tries to get under a batter’s skin. The larger issue is the 25-year-old has hit a batter in consecutive years on purpose with a 99 MPH fastball. That really, really needs to be seen as more egregious than scuffing the ball with pine tar.
*Actually, an affection for the beanball should be considered the only thing Ventura and Martinez share as pitchers currently because Yordano has been one of the league’s worst on the bump this season and hasn’t come close to living up to the hype.
You know the adage that is hammered into every team preview column at this time of year: Hope springs eternal. That hope is then extinguished pretty early for some teams. Really, really early for others. But we should all be optimists in March. So, here’s what I consider to be the best-case scenario for each team on the field this season.
However, I’m also a realist. “Winning the World Series” isn’t a down-to-earth possibility for everyone. Conversely, there is no chance that the Cubs — even the Cubs — will lose 100-plus games. Consider this list a sensible results spectrum for each team. “Sensible results spectrum” just doesn’t sound catchy as a title.
Best Case: All that action in December pays off as Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller head a staff with a good amount of complementary talent. Patrick Corbin more closely resembles his 2013 form. The offense remains potent, and 36-year-old Brad Ziegler follows up a solid 2015 by continuing to make hitters pound the ball into the dirt. A division crown is very possible, and a trip to the NLCS isn’t out of the question.
Worst Case: This is basically a repeat of the 2015 Padres: Winning the offseason doesn’t promise success over the summer. Miller has an understandable regression, turning the rotation into Greinke followed by a bunch of guys. The offense will still be productive, but the likes of David Peralta and Yasmany Tomas don’t do enough to support Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock. Who knows if this will all mesh? If it doesn’t, third place is where they will land.
Best Case: For some teams, winning right now isn’t really what’s best for the club. The Braves are one such team. What’s best for them is seeing some of their young players (Ender Inciarte, Julio Teheran, Matt Wisler, Aaron Blair, etc.) provide hope for the future, a healthy Freddie Freeman, and a lot of losses so they can maximize their draft pool and couple Dansby Swanson with another No. 1 overall pick.
Worst Case: Freeman battles more injuries. Atlanta’s green pitchers get thoroughly battered around the league. Coming out to Turner Field only serves to remind fans how the Braves are technically deserting Atlanta and a relatively young ballpark to get their hands on some more sweet, sweet public money where a lot of rich white folks live. No hope.
Best Case: Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Manny Machado, Matt Weiters, J.J. Hardy, Jonathan Schoop, Mark Trumbo, Pedro Alvarez. This team should lead the sport in home runs, so that’s cool. If the starting rotation can be league average collectively, the O’s can slide their way into a Wild Card spot.
Worst Case: The starting rotation is as much of a tire fire as many expect. That unit lost Wei-Yin Chen and basically replaced him with a Yovani Gallardo who is becoming more hittable. Weiters still can’t shake the injury bug. In the game’s deepest division and bereft of an arm they can depend on to stop a losing streak when the strikeout-happy bats are slumping, Baltimore could find itself in last place comfortably.
Boston Red Sox
Best Case: What was supposed to be in 2015 comes to fruition in 2016. All of the vets are able to stay healthy. Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez endear themselves to Red Sox Nation. David Ortiz gets one more shot at October magic. The duo of David Price and Clay Buchholz dominate, and the back end of the bullpen with Craig Kimbrel is no longer a point of great consternation for the Sawx. This squad has World Series potential.
Worst Case: Another huge letdown. Price remains great, but the rotation otherwise is a mess. Buchholz hardly makes it past 100 innings again. Carson Smith’s elbow injury subtracts a critical late-inning weapon. First base becomes Ramirez’s latest comical defensive venture. With Sandoval, people talk more about his fat than his bat. Father Time continues to wear on Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia. Fourth place and another finish behind the Yankees.
Kids today, they grow up so fast.
Bryce Harper and Mike Trout have shown that they belong at the MLB, and they are barely out of … high school (More on that in a few graphs).
Another man joined their ranks Friday night, Baltimore Oriole Manny Machado. Machado, 20, went 2-for-4 with a triple in his big-league debut Thursday.
By Friday, he was already putting his name in the franchise’s record book, no matter that this record is probably pretty close to the index in the Baltimore Orioles’ record book.
Machado, at 20 years and 35 days, joined Orioles greats, such as Brooks Robinson and Boog Powell, on the list of youngest player to hit a home run in team history. The last time someone younger than Machado hit a homer for Baltimore, it was 1965. And the player was Hall of Famer and three-time Cy Young Award winner Jim Palmer.
Yep. Jim Palmer.
We have no say. Opinions are meaningless. R.A. Dickey is our overlord now. Resistance is futile.
The Master pitched his second consecutive complete-game one-hitter Monday night against the Baltimore Orioles. In what has clearly been his best season as a major leaguer, Dickey may have pitched the best game of his career on Monday night.
Well, other than the game he pitched just five days ago.
Dickey struck out a career-high 13 Orioles to move his record to 11-1. That strikeout total topped what was Dickey’s career high of 12, which he set Wednesday versus Tampa Bay. In that game, he gave up one unearned run. Outside of that one hit allowed, Dickey’s only blemishes Monday — if you really want to nitpick and call them that — were the two walks he issued. Still, his game score of 96 was one better than the 95 he registered versus the Rays.
Continuing with what I said I was going to write Tuesday night, I should have gotten to this yesterday. Alas …
Tuesday night was a big one for triples. At least, it was the biggest one in about 15 months. There were 12 triples coming from five different games and nine players. The total was the most on a single night since May 29, 2010. There were 14 triples that night.
Half of Tuesday’s triples came from just three players as the White Sox’s Alejandro de Aza, the Padres’ Nick Hundley and the Marlins’ Bryan Peterson recorded two each. Prior to that, July 27, 1958 was the last time three players tripled twice in the same day. That trio had a couple familiar names involved — the Athletics’ Roger Maris and Bill Tuttle, and the White Sox’s Luis Aparicio.
Yes, Tuttle and Maris tripled twice for the same team in the same game. That hasn’t happened since 1966, and only once in Baseball-Reference.com recorded history has a team ever had three players triple twice in the same game.
But with everything said about triples on Tuesday, de Aza and his White Sox teammates owned the night. They beat the Indians, 8-7, in 14 innings with the help of five triples. It was almost shocking that it lasted “only” 14 innings. I thought we were definitely headed for another 19-inning marathon with all of the runners who were being left on base after each damn inning. “Hawk” Harrelson was almost ready to cry in the booth.
Those five triples were the most in White Sox franchise history since 1920 when “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and Co. recorded six triples twice — May 20 and Sept. 17. Of course, Eddie Collins was the only player who tripled in either of those two games to play baseball past that season. The Black Sox Scandal marked the end for Jackson, Happy Felsch and others.
In a broader scope, the White Sox were responsible for the 42nd game with at least five triples from one team since 1919. It was the most in a game since 1986 when the Phillies recorded five versus the Cubs. The White Sox share the American League record with those six triples — they’ve done it at least three times that I can find.
The Baltimore Orioles had nine triples in a game versus the Cleveland Spiders on Sept. 3, 1894. In more modern times, the Pittsburgh Pirates put up eight triples against the St. Louis Cardinals on May 30, 1925. That came about a month after the Pirates had seven triples versus the Cubs, the game in which Pie Traynor, Clyde Barnhart and Johnny Morrison became the first and only trio of teammates to each notch two triples in one game.
Here’s something that I am a couple of days late on, mostly because I spent the majority of the weekend exploring the Cal State Northridge campus. And my, it’s a purdy one. But I couldn’t pass this up because, as you may have noticed, I have a thing for talking about really bad first-inning pitching.
The New York Yankees defeated the Baltimore Orioles, 17-3, on Saturday in the second game of a doubleheader. The Yankees scored 15 runs in two innings, 12 in the first inning, and seven in between the time it took to record out No. 1 and out No. 2.
I wanted to examine all of that first-inning offensive craziness and where it stacks up in baseball history (when was the last time a team scored seven runs without an out being recorded? In the first inning?), but either Baseball-Reference doesn’t have such a tool or I’m the tool who’s not knowledgeable enough about the Play Index to get what I want. Either way, I moved on to the pitchers.
Zach Britton started the game for Baltimore, and that name sounded familiar. Oh, yeah — he was a part of that “first-inning pitching” link a couple of graphs above about starting pitchers giving up at least eight runs in less than one inning. Britton allowed eight runs — six earned — in two-thirds of an inning against the Red Sox on July 8.
Well, he did it again. Britton allowed nine runs — six earned — on seven hits and a walk versus New York. He recorded one out before getting the hook.
I’m not sure why, but this spring training season has gotten out of the way pretty quickly. Last year, it seemed to linger forever. But we’re just two days away from the first regular-season game, three days away from “opening day” and five days away from the first 30-team schedule date. In anticipation of a new dawn for the greatest sport around — no arguments — I’ll be touching on each division with a not-so-thorough preview.
The American League East is loaded once again. So which deserving squad will be left out of the playoffs this year because of its unfortunate position in said loaded division?
1. New York Yankees
I’m not going to project a win total, but the Yankees will take the American League East again. I feel like there’s not much I can say about the Yankees that everybody doesn’t already know. Did you hear they have this really good infield? Yeah, I like the prospects for this Jeter kid.
You know about him, Teixeira, Cano and A-Rod. Jorge Posada won’t be a great fantasy bet this year because the team wants to rest him every few games, so get ready to see a good dose of Francisco Cervelli. And if he has to miss time, no sweat; four of the Yankees’ top-10 prospects are catchers.
Curtis Granderson should have a great year with that short fence in right, even if he does bats sixth. In a similar vein, Nick Johnson batting second is a great idea. He is a great fit with his .402 career on-base percentage. There may be a bit of a problem with the Brett Gardner/Randy Winn platoon in left, but that’s nitpicking. Either one of those guys will bat ninth.
The rotation got deeper with the acquisition of Javier Vazquez. His first stop with the Yankees wasn’t very successful and he won’t be a Cy Young candidate as he was with the Braves last year. But as a No. 4 starter, Vazquez is a terrific value. Phil Hughes won the fifth starter job, but he won’t be needed until late April, thanks to the Yankees’ awkward early season schedule.
Thus, Joba Chamberlain is back in the bullpen for another year. He may not love it, but it certainly has worked for the good of the team. Who knows when Mariano Rivera will finally start to fall off, but he’s still not hinting at such an event. Behind him are a quality group of relievers, including Chan Ho Park, Damaso Marte and Dave Robertson, who was one of the team’s best relievers late last season.
One thing you may not realize about the Yankees is they are not as geriatric as you may think. The right side of the infield is still under 30 (although Teixeira hits that 3-0 in a couple of weeks). CC Sabathia is still not yet 30, nor is Granderson, Gardner or Nick Swisher. Obviously, Hughes and Chamberlain aren’t even close. Vazquez and A.J. Burnett are 33, which isn’t too bad for pitchers. So if people believe this is the year that age becomes painfully evident in the Bronx, they need to take another look at a critical 40 percent of their opening-day roster.