Unfiltered MLB Anaysis. Mon, 21 Aug 2017 17:40:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Peter Gammons: Carl Yastrzemski is the toughest player I’ve ever covered Mon, 21 Aug 2017 17:18:33 +0000

Fenway Park  10/5/1967 

Yaz is 78 this Tuesday, August 22. I covered him the night Dick Williams was fired in 1969, a kid in his first year at the Boston Globe, right through to that final game in 1983, when Indians pitcher Dan Spillner tried to lay in a BP fastball, missed thrice, Yaz popped it up and later bid adieu by being the first player to do a farewell, thank you tour around Fenway. Then was still signing autographs two hours later.

Carl Yastrzemski was not a man to wear his emotions publicly, although he once buried home plate in dirt. He grew up on a potato farm during World War Two, when there were famines and droughts and wartime poverty, and he was ever proud, he may have also been the last of The Depression ballplayers.

He was never flamboyant. He left whatever clothes he took on a road trip and left them at his Fenway locker, and when it was time to go the clubhouse kids, whom he always took care of, had the suitcase packed with the same clothes. One time in Seattle Dick Drago spilled salad dressing on his nice leather jacket, couldn’t remove the stain and threw it in the trash can in the visiting clubhouse.

Yaz pulled it out of the trash can, took it to the cleaners and wore it for the next three years.

He used to like me to leave my New York Times on the chair at his locker, home and away, saving him 50 cents.

In the 46 years I have regularly covered major league baseball, I can unequivocally say he was the toughest man I have ever known. And I say that with the greatest of respect. I wish I’d been there the first time the Carl faced Bob Gibson in spring training, 1968, after they’d faced one another in the previous World Series. “I remember when I came up, he walked down towards home plate and said, ‘I’m going to strike you out,” Yaz recalls. “I said, ‘no you’re not.’ He was even competitive in a spring training game.” So was Yaz. They admired one another because they were so much alike.

“I think my toughness put me in the Hall of Fame,” Yastrzemski said this April. “When I came to the plate, even though I knew I was going to get thrown at, it never bothered me. I never was hit in the head, which was fortunate. I used to think, ‘this pitcher is not going to bother me. I tried to raise myself to another level.”

One night late in his career the Red Sox were playing in Anaheim, the Red Sox had the bases loaded, with Jerry Remy on third, and Gene Mauch brought in a lefthanded reliever named Angel Moreno.

Understand, Gene Mauch loved Yaz like a son. He was the manager of the Minneapolis Millers when Yastrzemski was brought up from Raleigh, where he’d batted .377, to the Red Sox triple-A Minneapolis team for the playoffs (Haywood Sullivan was a backup catcher on that team).

Moreno threw a pitch behind Yastrzemski’s head. The next day, Remy recalled “Carl was like an assassin—don’t get even, get revenge. He stepped out, gathered himself, took a few deep breaths, seemingly ground part of the bat into sawdust, then got in the box.”
The line drive actually ticked Moreno’s ear as it went through the box and into center field, tying the game. Mauch came up, straddled Moreno laying on the mound, waving to the bullpen for another reliever without even speaking to his pitcher. Instead, Mauch was yelling, ‘I told you never to throw at him.”

“I remember that,” says Yaz. “I heard Mauch say that.”

That wasn’t my favorite Yaz revenge memory. In 1978, the Red Sox were on them climb back from 14 game lead to 3 ½ game deficit. It was the second-to-last weekend of the season, and they were playing the Blue Jays in Toronto, down 7-5 in the ninth inning with two runners on base. The Jays brought in a young, fireballing lefthander named Balor Moore, who got ahead of Yaz 0-and-2.

Then threw consecutive pitches at what looked like 100 MPH in the vicinity of Yastrzemski’s head.

“Number one, I was behind in the count,” Yaz remembers. “When it got to one-and-two, I didn’t expect to be thrown at, and he threw behind me, which is difficult because if you fall backwards, you get hit. I fell forward. I was a little irritated, and I kept saying, ‘hit it hard somewhere. He threw me a slider and I hit it—off the top of the center field fence.” Game tied, and eventually won.

“When I got to third I called time and started walking towards him and I remember calling him every name in the book, figuring he’d come towards me. That was probably the first time in my career I was looking to fight.”

Moore turned his back and walked towards first base. Yaz spit in his direction, then walked back to the third base bag.”

After the game, Yaz told me, “that may have been the closest I’ve ever come to death.” If you think, at 78, he’s lost any memory, he recalls where I used the quote in my story.

In April, as we went through that moment, he looked at me and said, ‘that was my finest at-bat. I think of all the at-bats I ever head, because of the balls being thrown at my head then hitting an outstanding pitch on the outside of the plate, I’ll always remember that as my greatest at-bat.”

Yaz still loves to talk about the sequence with Dean Chance when he stayed on the hard sinker down and away, lined the ball into center and keyed the winning rally on the final day. He well remembers how they had to wait to see what happened with the Tigers playing the Angels and whether or not there would be a playoff with Detroit, how the entire team pulled up chairs and sat in a circle in the Boston clubhouse listening to the Tiger-Angel game on a radio. And how Angels manager had three pitchers warming up in the bullpen.”

Carl Yastrzemski admits he thought about going to general manager Dick O’Connell to ask to be traded in the 1966-67 winter “because It was hard to play with no one in the stands.”: Yes, Yaz was the left fielder on Sept. 16, 1965, when Dave Morehead threw his no-hitter before 1257 fans.

He lived for the crowds, and the competition. First time up against 25-3 Ron Guidry in the ’78 game he smoked a homer to right field, and Ken Harrelson holted out of the TV booth and yelled, “can you believe that old SOB? He’s incredible.”

I wasn’t all that surprised. Late in his career, Yaz had me shag for him as he prepared at 3 p.m on the road. He changed his stance each game according to the pitcher, would tell me where to park myself and why. It was never about mechanics. It was about what he planned to do to beat that night’s pitcher. He had the mechanics down; play him in tennis, and he’d run all over the court to hit backhand with the same swing with which he torched Guidry.

It’s been a half-century since he went 7-for-8 on the last two days to beat the Twins, to go 23-for-46 down the stretch and capture the triple crown. He was the only American League player to hit .300 in 1968. He hit 40 homers three times in four years. He led all major league position players in Wins Above Replacement in 1967, 1968 and 1970, in the process of winning nine gold gloves.

He was a man who some thought hard, but he never let childhood famines or a damaged wrist (which caused him to go nearly a calendar year in 1971-72 without a home run).

Today’s millennial fans lump him in the retired number club as an afterthought to Ted Williams and David Ortiz. But, remember, he began his first game as a rookie in 1961 was the first game played at Fenway by the Red Sox after Ted’s final at-bat, and with an empty park and dreadful teams, he spent six years being compared to Ted. That, of course, was not fair. Ted, Yaz, Papi and all the other great Red Sox players are all dramatically different.

But I know this: I grew up in the town of Groton, 2000 people when I was in first grade, and for years I heard how a famous columnist in Boston killed Williams, writing that in the 10 biggest games of his career (the 1946 world series, the 1948 playoff against Cleveland, the final two days of the ’49 season when they lost the pennant in Yankee Stadium) Williams was 8-for-34; never mind that he was hit by a pitch in an exhibition before the ’46 series and couldn’t swing the bat right.

So, in lieu of any comparisons, I offer THE 24 BIGGEST GAMES OF CARL YASTRZEMSKI’S CAREER:

–The final two games of the 1967 season. Twins went to Boston, the Red Sox won both games, and there was pandemonium on the field. 7-for-8, one homer, 6 RBIs

–The 1967 World Series, lost to St. Louis in 7 games. Batted .400 with a 1.370 OPS

–Oct. 2-3, at Detroit, Red Sox went in tied with the Tigers for the final three game series, the Tigers won the first two 4-1, 2-1, and clinched. He had two hits and a homer in the games.

–The 1975 ALCS, World Series. Swept Oakland in the ALCS, lost to the Reds in 7 games of the World Series. Batted .455 with a 1.318 OPS in the ALCS, and .310 against the Reds.

-The 1978 A.L. playoff, lost 5-4 to the Yankees. Homered, singled.

In those 24 games, Yaz’s record:

84 AB

35 H

.417 AVG

21 Runs

6 HR

19 RBI

.738 Slugging %

Assists from Left Field: 4

I think about what might have been had he played for teams like the 1995-2001 Yankees, then I think about that at-bat against Balor Moore in Toronto in September, 1978, what today he calls the greatest at-bat of his career, the at-bat that best defines a 78 year old man who is the toughest player I’ve ever covered.

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Carl Yastrzemski on Tony Conigliaro Fri, 18 Aug 2017 21:04:05 +0000
Carl Yastrzemski was in the on deck circle when Jack Hamilton’s pitch hit Tony C in the eye.
“We were all afraid for him,” says Yaz. “It’s like he almost lost the ball. He never moved. It hit him flush, and we didn’t have the ear flaps then. When he went down, I thought it was the end of our chance for the pennant.”
Yaz was asked if Tony C were a guy who’d have joined him in Cooperstown.
“Without a doubt, without any doubt. He was an extremely talented hitter and in ’67 he became a great defensive player. There’s no doubt that if he didn’t get hit in the eye, he could have been in the Hall of Fame.”
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Peter Gammons: Lester shelved, Astros’ pitching, Marlins ownership, and more Fri, 18 Aug 2017 20:52:07 +0000

Of course Cubs fans were dispirited Friday morning after Jon Lester had to leave Thursday’s game after five outs and nine runs with a lat strain that required an MRI. The Cubs starters were already 21st in innings, had a 4.19 ERA that bested the Brewers’ 4.20, and, after all, from the time he won the World Series clincher a year off beating cancer, he’s won nine post-season games, including a 4-1, 1.77 mark in winning three world series rings.

Of course Yankee fans are concerned about Aroldis Chapman, who at his best makes a really good bullpen great and a huge October factor. Of course the Red Sox fans believe they need a decent September from David Price, who in his career is 25-8 in that month. Of course Nationals fans, now conditioned in a very short history to worry about October, this year the rehabs of Bryce Harper and Trea Turner

All of which is part of the most important storylines we’ll watch for the next five weeks, which brings us to the final nine days of the regular season:

  • Lester’s health. The initial thought was that it will keep him out for a couple of starts, maybe through Labor Day, and that he’ll have a month to prepare for the post-season, presuming the Cubs make it. The diagnosis is “general shoulder fatigue,” which obviously is vague because they don’t have a timetable. Front office sources indicate that whatever is the Lester timetable, “there is nothing available. Mike Montomery goes into the rotation,”   

The two inning, five walk performance by three relievers Thursday may have been an indication that, like to many heavily-used bullpens, especially one that pitched an extra month’s intense pressure in 2016, may be weary, especially with more than 400 innings this season and starters that are 21st innings pitched. Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks have pitched better, and are capable of strong finishes, and both John Lackey and Jose Quintana always post it up. Lester, however, is special.


  • Chapman’s stuff. He’s hit 103 MPH this week, but his last three outings he’s run 3.1 3 5 5 4 5 including a monster opposite field homer by Rafael Devers that had an exit velocity of 108 MPH. Look, he threw a ton right down to Game Seven in Cleveland, and we’ve seen how Andrew Miller, Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen have shown signs that their weariness could use a power nap before the post-season.

Even with Chapman off his norm, the Yankee bullpen is very good. “They have a lot of guys who are really good at the 4-seam high fastballs/breaking balls combination,” says one opposing team’s evaluator. Then they have guys like Adam Warren who can really pitch and execute. But if Chapman is as good as he can be, they and the Dodgers are in another league.”

Tommy Kahnle, acquired by taking on the salaries of David Robertson and Todd Frazier, has 75 strikeouts and 9 walks in 47 2/3 innings. Chad Green has 74 strikeouts and 13 walks in 50 2/3 innings. That, friends is infrastructure. And with C.C. Sabathia, the Yankee starting pitching is getting better.


  • What will the Nationals look like come the playoffs? Harper is one of the small handful of truly great players. Turner makes them go. Give them a healthy Strasburg and consistent work by their bullpen-by-committee with Sean Doolittle at the end holds up. This is a team that deserves good fortune in the post-season. Ryan Zimmerman is someone who deserves to play in a World Series. So does Anthony Rendon. Above of all, the Nationals need to be whole. When they are on September 22, they will have a week and a half to be what their fans expect them to be.


  • How good is the Houston pitching? The Astros team in the field is deep, it is really talented and they’ve played long stretches without Carlos Correa and George Springer. Dallas Keuchel appears to be returning to his 2015 Cy Young form, but their starting pitching is 11th of 15 AL teams in innings pitched, 12th in quality starts. Which in October may mean a lot of bullpen juggling. Not playing particularly well in August is not a big deal, but come the post-season, swing-and-miss pitching can be.


  • Is Price able to come back, or is he headed to surgery?

Talk to players, they don’t think Price is a distraction. They want him pitching. He’s made but 11 starts because of the odd elbow injury, which has never been fully explained to the public. When he pitched, he touched 96, better than what he threw last season, he goes deep into games and keeps the bullpen fresh. Price hears his winless post-season record day in, day out, but there is more pressure pitching in September, because there is no post-season if you don’t make it out of September, which makes his 25-8 record in that month significant. Price pitching every fifth day keeps Chris Sale and Rick Porcello from having to go on three days rest. As good as Drew Pomeranz and Eduardo Rodriguez have been been, neither has ever thrown 175 innings in a season. There is increasing optimism that the five miles per hour Brandon Workman has added during the season could make him a reliable eighth inning guy—and he pitched the eighth in the 2013 clincher against the Cardinals—with Craig Kimbrel behind him and Addison Reed, Joe Kelly and Matt Barnes before him.


  • Has the time off because of his back problems given Clayton Kershaw a chance to catch his breath before October? The best pitcher of his time—and most others—is only 4-7, 4.55 in the post-seasons. This Dodger team is deep in starters, deep in the bullpen and has the best bench in the game, which put a lot less pressure on the meaning of every one of Kershaw’s starts. If the back issue comes up, it’s a different scenario with Rich Hill, Yu Darvish, Alex Wood and Kenta Maeda. It will be fun to see Walker Buehler if he is doing 2-3 two inning blowout stints.


  • Can Matt Harvey and Steven Matz convince the Mets they are capable of being 25-30 start compliments to Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard? Matz’s 3.1 7 7 6 2 4 line against the Yankees Thursday brought his season to 2-7, 6.08, not what they expected. At this point, they know Syndergaard and deGrom will be part of their rotation in 2018. Otherwise? No idea. Matt Harvey has two outings in the New York-Penn League, is in great shape and throwing strikes, but he is a ways away from pitching for the Mets. He will take $6.5M in arbitration this winter, his starts have gone from 29 to 17 to 13, and sometime next season a decision will get made on what he means to the franchise longterm.


  • Are Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco going to become huge factors in September and October? It is still remarkable that the Indians went to the 10th inning of the seventh game of the World Series using four starters in the post season—Corey Kluber, Josh Tomlin, Trevor Bauer and Ryan Merritt. Tomlin is hurt, but Carrasco throws the way he has his last two starts (one run, 19 strikeouts, 3 walks) and Salazar keeps growing off the five starts he’s made since coming off the DL July 22 (32 IP, 18 H, 9 BB, 46 K), their September rotation will give Miller, Allen and Shaw more rest and can be post-season swing-and-miss starters with command.


  • What will Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter do to the Marlins? The front office has some very smart, talented, experienced people. There has been a great deal of inconsistencies; Jefferey Loria is a kind man, but he’d get upset at players and demand the front office unload them, like Brad Hand. In the last few months David Samson, who wanted to stay on, was ordering money off the playroll, useful players like A.J. Ramos.

Sherman has admitted to those in the organization with whom he’s talked that he knows little about baseball and, frankly, Jeter knows little about the complexities of organizations, and the integration of scouting, development, analytics and 21st century neuroscience.

They can try to find a president of baseball operations versed in all that, like Mike Hazen, Derek Falvey or David Stearns (Ned Rice of the Phillies and Zach Rosenthal of the Rockies will get recommended, as will David Forst of the A’s, but it’s unlikely he would leave the Bay Area. They can find organizational and business minds and hire an exceptional baseball evaluator, like Tim Naehring of the Yankees.

The agenda for the new ownership will be to overhaul their draft and international scouting departments. Since the tragic passing of Jose Fernandez, none of their their ensuing first round picks—most of them near the top of the draft—are with the Marlins. Two high school pitchers have had Tommy john Surgery. Loria essentially ignored the international market; if Sherman hasn’t noticed, the top eight prospects on are international signings.

And none of that addresses a central issue: can South Florida ever support baseball? Or should they have Jeter, Don Mattingly and Giancarlo Stanton sign autographs for three hours a day?

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Video: Peter talks Red Sox hot streak Fri, 18 Aug 2017 15:22:39 +0000 Peter Gammons joins the Mad Dog on High Heat to discuss the Red Sox recent hot streak and more…

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Video: Peter discusses playoff contenders Wed, 16 Aug 2017 16:22:14 +0000 Peter Gammons joins the RUndown on MLB Network to discuss the state of the Indians’ pitching staff, the Angels’ Wild Card push, Boston’s young core of contributors and more

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Audio: Peter joins Mike Francesa Wed, 16 Aug 2017 16:17:08 +0000 Peter joins Mike Francesa on WFAN to discuss the renewed Yankees Red Sox rivalry…

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Audio: Peter joins 670 AM The Score in Chicago Fri, 11 Aug 2017 16:38:00 +0000 Peter Gammons joins Mully and Hanley on 08/11/2017…

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Video: Peter on organizations’ development of young pitchers Fri, 11 Aug 2017 14:27:58 +0000 Peter Gammons joins MLB Central on the MLB Netowrk to discuss the way teams are developing their young pitching and prospects…

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Video: Peter on Indians’ concerns, memories of Don Baylor, and more Wed, 09 Aug 2017 15:49:11 +0000 Peter Gammons joins the Rundown on MLB Network to highlight some concerns for the Indians and share some fond memories of Darren Daulton and Don Baylor…

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Peter Gammons: Buying and developing starters in an inefficient market Wed, 09 Aug 2017 15:03:30 +0000

We all get it. There is Chris Sale and Corey Kluber, Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner, when they are healthy, but wins are not what they were when Bob Welch won 27.

But begin an analytical lecture with the Astros, because they used the first pick in two drafts to take Mark Appel and Brady Aiken and when this regime took over they believed Dallas Keuchel was a fungible organizational guy.

Look at Boston. No one knows how much David Price’s elbow has played in his sometimes quizzical, often criticized clashes with media and HOF media, but attached to every question about him is his adopted name $217M and, besides his performance prior to signing with the Red Sox, he was a necessary sign because the team simply has not signed and developed starting pitching. They are in first place, and have had five starts and two starters’ wins out of pitchers they either drafted or signed at the July 2 International Deadline, all by Brian Johnson.

In fact, two starting pitchers who were signed and developed by their teams have a dozen wins, Kershaw, 15, James Paxton 12.

Now, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer appreciated the chance involved in using their high first round picks on pitchers. They made wise free agent signings in Jon Lester ($155M) and John Lackey, they used superior professional scouting to get Kyle Hendricks and Jake Arrieta and used their position player minor league inventory to trade for Jose Quintana this July, Aroldis Chapman and the World Series last season. The big international signings from Japan, Korea, and Cuba do not get included in the drafted/signed/developed category, and not only did they win that World Series without one starter victory from one of their self-developed pitchers, but this season they are in first place without a start from anyone they signed and developed.

The Indians were within a bobble of the world championship last season and are back in first place in 2016, and have 11 wins from starters they developed; John Tomlin is their leader at 7, and he is out for the season.  Now Danny Salazar looms vital in their run at another pennant. Arizona has six wins from organizational starters. Houston has nine wins from their Cy Young, Keuchel, 11 from Lance McCullers and Joe Musgrove.

Then go back to what it costs on the free agent market. Boston had to pay $217M to Price, several elite prospects for Chris Sale. It can work. Max Scherzer may have two Cy Youngs by the end of this year for $210M, well spent. Lester was a wise investment.

But think of the 5/$90M to Jeff Samardzija, 5/$80M to Anibal Sanchez, 5/$110M to Jordan Zimmerman, 5/$75M to C.J. Wilson, 7/$126M to Barry Zito

In reality, developing starting pitchers has become baseball’s most costly market inefficiency. Granted, whether it’s Appel, Aiken, Tyler Kolek (Miami’s 2014 pick with the second selection, who went through Tommy John Surgery and this year in 5 games has a 3.2 4 13 12 14 1 line, there inherent physical and emotional risks. “Part of it is that we are too impatient developing pitchers,” says one NL GM. “We try to get them to the big leagues quickly based on raw talent, then if they don’t win right away they’re the reason the team doesn’t win. A position player can struggle if the team is winning. Same with a reliever. Not with a starter.”

“We’re also too quick to see good young arms and project them as relievers because they’re easier quick fixes,” says a personnel director. “Patience is a key to letting starters develop. Pittsburgh is doing a great job. Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Chad Kuhl and Tyler Glasnow have been given time to learn, and next year they might have the best rotation in the National League, with Felipe Rivero a big-time young power closer they got in a smart trade. It will be fun to watch the White Sox patiently develop all their young pitchers with Don Cooper.”




BAL:    46,    19,        Bundy 11

BOS:     5,       2,        B. Johnson 2

NYY:    46,    17,        Severino 9

TBR:    52,    15,        Cobb 9

TOR:    31,    11,         Stroman 10

(AL:    178,   64)



HOU:   62,   15,         Keuchel 9

CLE:     34,   11,         Tomlin 7

KCR:    35,    9,          Duffy 7

SEA:     38,   18,        Paxton 12



WSH:    31,   10,        Strasburg 10

CHC:      0,    0,         none

MIL:      32,  12,        Nerlson 7

STL:      89,  35,        Wainwright 11

LAA:     28,   15,        Kershaw 15

COL:     48,   25,       Freeland 11

ARZ:     19,     6,        Godley 5

One more element to this is that while the Royals and Indians have been so successful in post-seasons with their bullpen usage, the Indians’ run last season raised the issue of how much the ups, downs, innings, and leverage situations wear on them when they virtually pitch to November.

Andrew Miller was willing to remain active in the Indians bullpen, but his right knee had been aching, he was exhausted. Everyone understood that, hence their run at Zach Britton in the final hours before last Monday’s trading deadline; Dan Duquette had indicated the names were close to what the Orioles required, they exchanged medical information, but the Orioles general manager went dark and neither the Indians or the Dodgers, who also thought they were close, could reach Duquette. If this was a Peter Angelos decision, we’ll see if he wants to pay Britton $14M to close in 2018.

Miller is expected back in plenty of time for the post-season, but think of the wear on him beginning with last October. He pitched in 10 games with 30 strikeouts in 19 1/3 innings on the run through Game 7 of the World Series, then he pitched in March in the World Baseball Classic, and is back pitching anytime and anyplace they want him.

His earned run average is up only from 1.45 to 1.67, but his strikeout-walk ratio down from 13.67 to 5.20, and if they maintain their American League Central lead, the feeling is that this time off can be a blessing.

Check the other prime Indians relievers who went through October, as well as Aroldis Chapman:

Pitcher:  2016 ERA—-2017 ERA

Cody Allen:     2.51——-3.22

Bryan Shaw:  3.24——-3.53

Dan Otero:      1.53—-3.46

Chapman:       1.55——-2.87

Chapman’s strikeout rate is down, his walk rate down, testify to the affect of the way bullpens are used today in October.

The Yankees have an astoundingly deep bullpen for an October run. They have developed a front end starter in Severino. If Boston is without Price, whose career is 25-8 in September, they face the reality that neither Drew Pomeranz or Eduardo Rodriguez has ever thrown 175 innings in a full season. Hence, they went and got Addison Reed—who since going to the Mets at the deadline in 2015 has a 1.61 ERA, allowed two steals and not made an error, to go with Joe Kelly, Brandon Workman, Matt Barnes, et al.

But the idea was to have Sale, Price and Rick Porcello getting 19-21 outs in every one of their starts. If Price’s elbow is a longterm issue, they don’t know where the unknown takes Pomeranz and Rodriguez and whether their bullpen—which has been very good—can pitch four or five leverage innings a game in the stretch and in October. And if Price needs surgery, no one knows if they can pay the market price for a replacement starter.

Because the market is inefficient.

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