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Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Baseball Historian's Notes for April 14, 2013

The 2013 baseball season has gotten off to a rollicking start. From Yu Darvish’s near-perfect game to the exciting emergence of young players like New York Mets’ pitcher Matt Harvey, there has been a lot of good stuff for fans to digest. For all the fun baseball provides, the game also sometimes has a darker side. This week seemed to have ongoing negativity popping up around baseball. Hopefully these moments represent the worst the season will experience and fans can get back to enjoying some great action.

***In the big story from last week, Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitcher Zack Greinke hit San Diego Padres outfielder Carlos Quentin with a pitch. Quentin charged the mound and in the melee, Greinke broke his collarbone and will miss the next  two months.

Dodgers’ star outfielder Matt Kemp seemed to be the angriest person in the entire brawl. It took several minutes to calm him down, sort out the mess and eject the appropriate players before the game could resume. It wasn’t finished there, as Kemp confronted Quentin in the players’ parking lot after the game and had to be restrained by an on-duty police officer.

Greinke and Quentin have a divisive history going back several seasons. Grantland’s Jonah Keri did an excellent job of breaking down the brawl and going over what led up to the unfortunate incident.
Quentin was suspended eight games but many have said he deserves to be out until Greinke can return.

Nobody but Greinke can say for certain if the pitch was intentional, but generally speaking, brawls in baseball are stupid. They serve no purpose other than putting testosterone-fueled bravado on display and making grown men look like petulant children on a playground. MLB needs to take note and develop a harsher strategy in dealing with this problem. The NBA and their zero-tolerance policy for players leaving the bench during a game may be a good starting point for such a policy.

***The Toronto Blue Jays’ hopes for contending this season took a major hit on Friday when shortstop Jose Reyes severely sprained his ankle sliding into second base on a stolen base attempt. The replay of the injury was gruesome, and Reyes was in tears as he was attended to on the field. A subsequent MRI showed no structural damage, but the sprain was bad enough that he is expected to be out of action until the All-Star break.

Reyes was the centerpiece of a massive trade this past offseason with the Miami Marlins that reinvigorated Toronto’s roster for a presumed playoff run. Although the team was just 4-6 at the time of his injury, his .395 batting average and five stolen bases led the team. His extended absence will be a huge blow, so the team will have to try and stay on track until their star can return.

***The Oakland A’s, off to a scorching 9-4 start, lost one of their best players when outfielder Yoenis Cepsedes was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained muscle in his hand after making an awkward catch. Perhaps the team’s best all-around player, his presence in the lineup will be missed.
The 26-year-old Cuban was hitting .200 with three home runs and seven RBI at the time of his injury.

It may be too soon to start assigning labels, but Cespedes missed 33 games last season and is already making a trip to the DL in his second year as a major leaguer. He is so important to Oakland that hopefully he can shake what is becoming an alarming trend of injuries.

***The honeymoon appears to be over for new Boston Red Sox closer Joel Hanrahan. Acquired this past offseason in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates, he was expected to lock down the ninth inning for Boston after suffering through the inconsistencies of Andrew Bailey and Alfredo Aceves last year.

Hanrahan has been horrible so far in 2013, allowing three walks and three home runs in just 4.2 innings, while sporting an 11.57 ERA. The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham tweeted that he has permitted 11 of the 25 batters he has faced to reach base.

Although Hanrahan had 36 saves and a 2.72 ERA last year with the Pirates, other numbers suggest he actually had a poor season. His walks and home runs allowed per nine innings were his highest since his rookie season. Additionally, indicates his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) was 4.45. That number seeks to evaluate a pitcher’s performance if pitching with a league-average defense. Hanrahan’s mark is considered well below average.

Initially, Boston manager John Farrell emphatically stated no change would be in the offing. However, it was announced the following day that an ailing hamstring was affecting Hanrahan’s mechanics and that Bailey would be taking over for a few days to give him a break.

***Now, for a lighter moment. In the age of the internet, dozens, if not hundreds, of fans are embarrassed annually when video footage of them flubbing catching a ball in the stands is put on full display. Quite the opposite happened for Johnny Turk, who made a jaw-dropping play on a foul ball at a Seattle Mariners-Houston Astros game last week.

Loathe to drop a beverage he undoubtedly spent a pretty penny on, Turk instead used his plastic cup of beer as an impromptu glove to make the catch. He then proceeded to down contents of his cup (minus the ball) amid uproarious cheers from the Seattle crowd.

Offering further proof that this is the age of the internet,’s Jim Caple reported that by the time of the first pitch of the Mariners’ game the following day, Turk had already launched a website that was selling t-shirts commemorating his catch for $22 (or about 20 ounces of beer at an average MLB game). 


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