Gammons Notes: Cole Hamels to Boston?, Alex Rodriguez, Royals, Mariners and Game Changes

alex rodriguez yanks

No matter what has passed, and one can argue Alex Rodriguez probably doesn’t recall everything that has happened since he signed that original $252M deal with the Rangers, it is his bargained right as a major league baseball player to try to come back and collect the rest of the contract he signed during the 2007 World Series. There will be no Treaty of Fontainebleau, no Isle of Elba where he could go and play pickup games the way he did when he was a second grader, and just have fun.

At some point in his life, the insecurities that have tattered him have to becalm. At some point, when he’s hit one more home run than Willie Mays and is rewarded with derision and scorn, he’s got to realize that his need for the public eye, to be on Page Six and TMZ and be lampooned by yet another hysterically clever battle of the covers of The Post and Daily News, has worn him down to the point where there are no miracle cures, no hangers-on, no one who actually needs him more than his daughters Natasha and Ella, who probably need him less than he needs them.

No matter what he did to enhance his career/insecurities ratio, Alex Rodriguez was a very good baseball player. Many times he’s been asked why that never was enough, and he always acknowledged the question and its overriding issues, but like so many other things, while he answered in the moment and with a sense of reality, he never became a truth. And, come July 28, he cannot have a posse telling him he’s an over-forty victim of fate.

He doesn’t need to be a distraction or be driven to distraction these final three years. He needs to go back and play baseball the way he did when he was ten and focus on pleasing himself, not everyone else. Just have fun coming to the road parks early and taking batting practice and ground balls with Didi Gregorius and run out every ball as best his hip and back and hamstrings allow, and not talk about it or himself, just talk about his teammates and how great it is to play with Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner and Chase Headley. Create his own Elba and have fun playing baseball and don’t try to erase the videotape, just live in the present and the future and say nothing that someone won’t believe.

Part of the greatness of Derek Jeter and Chase Utley and George Brett is that they all reduced baseball to its simplest. Alex has spent his baseball life cutting out a maze from which he cannot escape, and if he chooses to make a public apology—no matter if he selects Yankee Stadium or St. Peter’s Basilica—it will only be words, with no meaning. At this point, Alex Rodriguez simply needs to put his head down and play baseball like Kevin Kiermaier.

If he does, he can ride off into the baseball sunset without needing to answer to anyone, humming “you can’t please anyone if you can’t please yourself.”

Will Boston trade for Cole Hamels?

It was suggested to Ben Cherington Monday that he set up a website with a daily statement on Cole Hamels. Cherington was far more interested in watching a bullpen session by 21-year-old lefthander Eduardo Rodriguez, who in six starts after being acquired for Andrew Miller had a 1.59 ERA and 39-8 strikeout-walk ratio in 37 1/3 innings. And opened John Farrell’s eyes at the January Rookie Development Program.

Could the Red Sox eventually trade for Hamels, pick up his option to waive his no-trade and make it a $110M five year contract? Maybe. If one of their five presumed starters goes down and Rodriguez, Henry Owens or Brian Johnson needs at least half a year? Yes. It won’t involve Mookie Betts, it won’t involve Blake Swihart, but as Peter Abraham has pointed out, given the Phillies needs and the Boston system, they can talk (theoretically) an Owens and a Manuel Margot and see how much money the Phillies will pick up to buy prospects, because Boston is not going to take on all of Hamels’ $23M.

When the Red Sox know the health and the predictable production of all their outfielders this spring, they may well make a trade or two; the Braves have called and made it clear they have strong interest in Jackie Bradley, but that is a post St. Patrick’s Day discussion.

Dayton Moore lauds the White Sox for filling “two of the most important elements of an offense, leadoff and cleanup” before last season with Adam Eaton and Jose Abreu. That’s what Boston feels this season about Mookie Betts leading off and 39-year old David Ortiz batting cleanup. The Baseball Prospectus ballpark factors list Fenway as the worst home run park in the majors for lefthanded hitters. At ages 37 and 38, Ortiz hit 42 homers on the road, 23 at Fenway. FWIW.

Yankee Stadium is listed as the best park for lefthanded power. Hence the three lefthanded power arms in the Yankee pen—Miller, Justin Wilson, Jacob Lindgren—may be significant factors in the AL East.

Royals look to continue the ride

There is no forgetting the ride the Royals took, and how a small market Kansas City remembered it was like in the 1976-1985 decade when their team was as good as any and the park was filled to see George Brett, Hal McRae, Frank White, et al. But being a small market has its limits, and so while James Shields was a major figure in their first October run since Shields was three years old, it was inevitable he would move on. And that while Dayton Moore would patch with Rios, Kendrys Morales and Edinson Volquez that in a division where the Tigers have finished first four straight years and the Indians, White Sox and the Twins are trending up, they would have to rely on their best young players to continue to defend and improve and, by September, the farm system Moore so carefully nurtured will have to produce another starting pitcher, or two.

They saw Eric Hosmer take to the spotlight leadership role in the post-season, so did Salvador Perez. Alex Gordon, whose wrist surgery doesn’t seem a concern, is a premium player, and Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas took to the lights. “We have to have them take another step forward,” says Moore. “We believe they will, but it has to happen.”

Once again, the Royals have an extraordinary bullpen, one that could be even better with Luke Hochevar coming back off Tommy John Surgery, Brandon Finnegan maturing and the Greg Holland/Wade Davis/Kelvin Herrera/Jason Frasor/Tim Collins army.

Danny Duffy’s experience puts him in an important starting role, and Volquez takes Shields’ spot. But things can change come summer:

  1. Moore can afford to trade an established power reliever for either a starting pitcher or a need in his everyday lineup. It doesn’t matter if it’s the Brewers, Tigers, Giants, Mets—whoever—a Holland or Herrera will have a huge market.
  2. If Omar Infante doesn’t bounce back from his ,252/.295/.337 season, the Royals clearly believe former first round pick Christian Colon is ready to step in and play second base every day.
  3. Finnegan will be stretched out as a starter in spring training, and when they head North they can decide whether or not he slots immediately into the bullpen, or whether he goes to the minors to throw innings and eventually take a starting or relieving role in Kansas City.

Then, too, keep an eye on Sean Manaea. He would have been one of the top picks in the 2013 draft out of Indiana State, but a labrum issue in his hip dropped him. The Royals took a chance, gave him a hearty bonus and in his last 10 starts on the A level had a 1.45 ERA. He is a beast in the Carlos Rodon mold, a talent so good the Braves offered Justin Upton for Manaea before doing the Padres trade. Come August, Manaea could be a factor out of the pen or in the rotation.

Watch out for the Mariners

The Mariners won 87 games in 2014, sixth best in the American League. Their +80 Run Differential was fourth, behind the Angels, A’s and Orioles. This year’s prognostications have them the best team in the league by FanGraphs, the third best by Baseball Propectus, fourth by ESPN’s David Schoenfield, sixth by Vegas. In other words, this team that hasn’t been in the post-season since 2001 (when they led the majors in attendance with 3.57M) has a legitimate chance to make it into October for the first time since 2001, and, if they do, ride Felix Hernandez, the pitching staff that allowed the fewest runs in the league, the game’s most underrated bullpen (they led the league in BP ERA) and improved depth deep into the post-season.

They need Taijuan Walker, who clocked 100 in the Fall League, to slot into the rotation with James Paxton. They need Nelson Cruz, Austin Jackson and Ricky Weeks to hit lefthanded pitching.

There’s also an intriguing possibility that if Chris Taylor, who hit ,287, can play 140 games that Brad Miller becomes their Ben Zobrist. Miller had a rough year (.221/.288/.365), but Lloyd McClendon believes he can and will hit, and last August suggested that he could hit enough to be a corner outfielder. In September, Miller worked with Andy Van Slyke in center field, and they were pleased with the progress, so if Taylor has a good spring, Miller could platoon in center with Jackson and play short, second and even a corner outfield position on occasion.

The Tom Brady Angels

As for the Angels, coach Rico Brogna has a great line about their team makeup. “We have a bunch of guys who have the ‘I’m Tom Brady, I got drafted in the sixth round and I’m going to spend every day showing you,” says Brogna.

The Game Requires Changes

Traversing snowpiles and dealing with streets wide enough to essentially allow one car at a time with only Sirius for entertainment, jumping back and forth between College Channel 91 and MLB Radio Network, there was the exact same discussion. On MLB, Jim Bowden and Casey Stern were discussing the monotone of ideas to increase run scoring, like changing the strike zone, limiting shifts, etc. On College Sports, the discussion was quickening the shot clock and trying to get more offense into college basketball.

Baseball does have a pace of game problem, but before changing rules to create more 11-7 games, please remember that those games usually have three final innings that grind to a halt, with pitching changes and matchups and mound conferences, stalling to get relievers hot and managers pouring through data and catalogues of sidearming lefthanders to insure that we will not see David Ortiz, Joey Votto, Robinson Cano, Eric Hosmer or Anthony Rizzo bat against anyone but the Randy Choate Generation with games on the line.

Some of us have lobbied to limit the number of relievers teams can have active, so that 1. Pitchers have to be able to get out hitters from both sides of the plate, eliminating the long slow walk of the late innings, and 2. Managers have legitimate benches that can result in a pinch hit or a superb defensive play; and, by the way, a web gem is preferable to an intentional walk.

Limit the number of trips a manager and/or his pitching coach can make to the mound during a game to two. Limit the number of visits a catcher can make to the mound during a game to six (there are some who are constantly in the 10-15 range). Some very smart people who have caught suggest baseball do what football does and allow catchers to have headsets for instant communication with the dugout; and get colleges to adopt this, so there are interminable games where catchers are looking to the bench to get signs for what signs to put down and they keep looking and crib sheets running up and down their arms, so they get used to it.

Then make hitters stay in the box, be prepared to begin games when commercial breaks are completed between innings. Refining and standardizing the strike zone is worth studying, and the more Rob Manfred listens, the more good ideas he will get. Balls don’t need to be juiced, but the supply of wondrous talents like Andrew McCutchen, Giancarlo Stanton, Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw, et al does need serious examination, because when you watch college baseball today, the lack of high level athletic talent is shockingly absent.

There needs to be a review of teams being forced to play night games on getaway days, and the impact the schedule has on in-game energy, injuries and health.

Comments

  1. Jason Chalifour says:

    Great ideas to improve the pace of play Peter. What kills the pace late in games are the mid-inning pitching changes. The rule should be that a pitcher has to face three batters or finish the inning before he can be removed. If that helps offense pick up then even better.

  2. Nicholas Schneider says:

    FYI, the Adam Eaton link goes to the wrong Adam Eaton.

  3. Chuck Lasher says:

    The strike zone is the place to start. It is easy and does not change the game as I know it, and having watched my first game at Fenway in 1948, I know it. Hitters cannot handle ankle high “strikes”. The umpiring is so bad that baseball is turning into cricket where the ball bounces to the batsman.

  4. Maybe limit the visits to the mound to 2 per inning?
    Or maybe 3 per pitcher?

  5. TarHeelJohn says:

    Peter, I think we all agree that baseball has slowed down, thanks to the time it takes for batters to step out, step in, step out and pitchers to hem and haw on the mound. However, has anyone done a study to see how many more commercials have been added per half inning, say, from the 1970’s to now. I’m willing to bet at least a minute or more has been added over that period of time. That likely means anywhere from 20-30 extra minutes for games. So before we belittle the players and the game too much, we might want to throw television and commercials under the bus, too.

  6. Bob Thacher says:

    Instead of changing the strike zone,let the plate umpire wear a head set from which he will hear the correct call by computer. This would improve the game and eliminate umps from having their own strike zone,or giving hitters who know the zone, an automatic ball if it’s close.

  7. Joseph Burbidge says:

    i like limiting visits to the mound . but to me , more than anything else, i’ve been saying for yrs. , that a relief pitcher must pitch to a minimum of 2 [maybe 3 ] hitters . it’s not even about time, altho it would save 5 minutes or more in most games . it’s more about being tired of watching a total nonathlete whose not even good enuf to pitch to a righthanded hitter make a couple mill a yr and eat up my time simply because he’s lefthanded . it compares to having a designated free throw shot specialist – a high school level talent who can’t cant jump or anything else, can just make freethrows. dont like idea of pitch clock – we’ll be watchin clock instead of game . if you limit mound visits and eliminate one hitter relief pitcher , i would guess it would save 10 to 15 mins . also, eliminate managers stalling before deciding on replay or not. make decision within 5,6,7 seconds after call . relief pitchers must be ready within 30 secs of being called – 1 or 2 short commercials and back to the game . this is not hurtful to the reliever, managers know 90% of the time who they’re using .

  8. Joseph Burbidge says:

    if anyone’s interested , i also have idea to help revitalize popularity of baseball . i’m guessing that about 70% or more male baseball fans played little league . this is gonna sound archaic, but i’m guessing a good portion of female fans became fans thru husbands or boyfriends . a lot of nonfans that i’ve talked to will credit negative little league experience, mainly minimal innings played, for their lack of baseball interest . if you have an 11 plyr roster . A : you have an 11 player batting lineup . B : you have rotating substitutions [ void rule not allowing plyrs to renter game ] so that each player plays in the field 5 [1 plays 4 ] innings per game .this would increase the interest 2fold : A; LL coaches would be forced to coach everyone to their best to have a more competitive team . B: children would have more playing time , success , and feel like part of the team . thus- happy experience means more fans . sidenote – this is not coming from someone who sat on the bench . as far as women fans , my guess id that a good portion also played softball

  9. Chris Charron says:

    Mr Gammons love your take on the Mariners. Questions on offence ,but as the Giants have shown put a great pitching staff in a short series the skys the limit!

  10. Some good ideas Peter, especially limiting mound visits. Some of the comments suggested forcing a RP to pitch to 2 or 3 batters, but how would this practically work if the RP gets injured? Or even worse, guys start faking injuries to not have to pitch to 2 or 3 batters. Therefore I’m not sure it would work to force RP to pitch to 2 – 3 batters.

  11. I thought his last name was Gammons not Gammoms.

  12. Tony Passaretti says:

    ARod was thebest ss the AL ever had, second only to Wagner in history( and maybe better than Honus). If Jeter was a team player he would have moved from ss when Rodriguez, the better ss, arrived.

  13. You want to make games faster, limit the amount of commercials.

  14. Jethro Toumme says:

    Peter, what makes you think the Red Sox wouldn’t include Swihart in a trade for Hamels? To what degree, if at all, have sources within the organization indicated that to you?