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.
Maybe it was the heat. Maybe it was an Olympics hangover. Maybe it was really good pitching. Maybe it was dumb luck.
Tonight, there were six shutouts around the league. That’s the largest number of goose eggs on one day since May 14 of last season. So here are some notes on each of the one-sided games.
Yankees 3, Rangers 0: Yankees beat writer Andrew Marchand said this during the second inning of Monday’s game. The Rangers haven’t scored since. Seriously, Texas? You get absolutely shut down by Derek Lowe, and then basically watch Hiroki Kuroda record the Yankees’ first CG-SHO with two or fewer hits allowed since 2006. That only means one thing for Wednesday:
Freddy Garcia is finally gonna get that perfect game he’s always wanted.
Reds 3, Mets 0: Cincy wins this one in with a walk-off home run from Jay Bruce after spending eight innings trying really hard not to win. They left 14 runners on base through that first eight. Mets starter Chris Young permitted 12 baserunners and gave up no runs in 5.2 innings. That’s the first 12-baserunner, no-run outing for any starter in fewer than six inning since 2010. It was the first for any Mets starter ever.
Mat Latos was strong again — seven innings, five hits no runs. He was pretty brutal in the first half of the season, but he now has a 1.83 ERA since June 18.
Dodgers 11, Pirates 0: The Dodgers’ most lopsided road shutout win in more than a year is the Pirates’ most lopsided home shutout loss in more than two years.
And I fear that the Pirates are turning into a pumpkin. They’ve lost five of six, are 5-8 this month and are suddenly six games behind the Reds. Oh, and they get Clayton Kershaw next. The Pirates are still in the lead for a wild card spot, but it’s just a one-game edge in front of the Cardinals, against whom they play a three-game set this weekend in St. Louis.
It’s Monday. I spent all day trying to find/buy a new phone after my most recent one found the bottom of a toilet over the weekend — again. No dice yet.
There were no NBA or NHL playoffs games on today. In fact, the schedule for the Heat-Bulls series is simply ridiculous. Unfortunately, we have all been forced to become accustomed to that stalling layout with the NBA.
I thought there wouldn’t be anything of much interest to write about tonight.
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 three days away from the first regular-season game, four days away from “opening day” and six 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 AL Central holds three competitive teams with many questions. The biggest one resides with the team I have winning the division.
1. Minnesota Twins
Ten days ago, I said that the Minnesota Twins’ season was a lost cause with the injury to Joe Nathan. Jumping to quick conclusions is something I’ve got to limit. Among the three teams that are expected to contend in this division, the Twins are still the most complete.
The starting staff doesn’t have a household name, but it’s extremely steady with a bunch of pitchers who pitch to contact and don’t hurt themselves with walks. Kevin Slowey and Scott Baker are two of the better relatively unknown pitchers in the American League, and Nick Blackburn and Carl Pavano are sufficient at the three and four spots. While I don’t like to take away too much from spring training stats, it’s worth noting that Slowey has felt no pain in his surgically repaired right wrist and has allowed just four runs in 21 innings of work.
I’m addicted to Francisco Liriano and I can’t help it. It looks like he is closing in on his 2006 form and may very well be the second-best pitcher in this rotation by the end of the season. If he can throw that slider with no ill effects, he’ll be fun to watch once again.
The Twins have a rotation they can live with, but they have the best lineup in the division. Denard Span is coming off a very good year and while Hudson isn’t a special player, he is definitely an upgrade at second and a cheap signing. I think J.J. Hardy will put up numbers resembling his 2007 and 2008 seasons more than his 2009 stinker. Sooner or later, Delmon Young’s sub-750 OPS will have to be moved out of the lineup so that the team can play Jason Kubel and Jim Thome together more. Throw in Morneau and Cuddyer and a tremendous defensive catcher, you’ve got a fearful rack of bats.
Oh, and Joe Mauer.
At least the Twins aren’t putting Liriano in the bullpen. That was a smart move, but the closer-by-committee decision isn’t along those lines. Just pick one to start the season and see what happens. If he succeeds, stick with him. If he struggles, move on to plan B. But you can’t mix and match closers. The position is so mental, it makes such an experiment always turn out rough.
I like Matt Guerrier to be the most effective in the ninth, but considering that the Twins have Jon Rauch, Jose Mijares, Jesse Crain and Pat Neshek, who was impressive in 2007 and 2008 prior to Tommy John surgery, this is a very deep group with a ton of talent.
In the past 72 hours, I’ve read some pretty stupid things stated by many sports columnists. It’s mostly been about how losing the Super Bowl has undoubtedly tarnished, trashed Peyton Manning’s legacy as an all-time great NFL quarterback forever. That’s absolutely ridiculous.
But not as ridiculous as this piece of excrement I saw yesterday from Kansas City Kansan sports editor/columnist Nick Sloan. I feel bad giving him any publicity, but anyone who can write something like that, say they believe in it without laughing until tears and look in the mirror the next day without a sense of shame deserves a salute.
Let’s break this down …
In the midst of a 1-15 season in 1989, Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson came to the conclusion the only way Dallas would be competitive long-term is to make a blockbuster trade.
THEY DID?! Oh, thank heavens! This was a huge rumor for such a long time, but fear not loyal readers! We can finally confirm that the Dallas Cowboys have made a blockbuster trade!!!
Wait, isn’t this supposed to be a column about baseball? I see names like Greinke and Soria in the headline. Those are baseball players the last time I checked. So why would this open with a line about a two-decade old football trade?
Uh-oh, I don’t like where this is going …
They traded Herschel Walker for eight draft picks, six of which would be eventually used. Although there were a lot of other pieces involved in the deal – Dallas traded four of their own picks while Minnesota traded five players – these draft picks were used to fuel a dynasty.
Well, the trade far more complicated than a running back for eight draft picks, but that’s like saying “Gamer” was ruined by one scene. That’s nit-picking. The whole movie was still really, really terrible.
Two of the picks were spent on Emmitt Smith and Darren Woodson, two staples of those great teams. Additional picks were used to trade up for Russell Maryland, who was awesome in his early years.
Dallas won three Super Bowls in part because of that trade and Johnson’s aggressive draft maneuvering.
Hey, remember the time when this column was supposed to be about baseball? Those were some good times, man. Good times. More than 130 words in and our boy Sloan still hasn’t stopped kissing Jimmy Johnson’s feet.
While that trade will never be duplicated again, it’s time for the Kansas City Royals (huzzah!) to develop that mindset.
I totally agree. I mean, think about it: When was the last time the Kansas City Royals actually won the Super Bowl? They have been seriously slacking. And you know they are at least the second-best football team in Missouri.
In an American League Central that features four more talented teams than the Royals, it’s time to shake things up.
Trade Zack Greinke and Joakim Soria.
OK, eight lines in and we’ve finally reached a relevant point in this article. Now let’s see here — Sloan says “Trade Zack Greinke and Joakim Soria.”
Give me just a second. I’m feeling a bit woozy …