You’d be surprised how difficult it is to write a daily column, particularly one with a lot of meat on the bone and a good number of rabid readers. Michael Canter has been handling The Rundown for quite a while now and it anchors our coverage so well that there are days I think I could let it stand on its own as our only content. But since Mike remains bedridden as he battles C-19, I’ve been trying to step into his shoes.
And I tell you what, it’s not easy. That’s why I’ve just been scrapping the entire format and hitting a few topics without trying to copy what he does. Imitation may be the highest form of flattery, but it also means falling well short of the goal more often than not. In that spirit, here are a few nuggets for your Thursday reading.
QO decisions done
As expected, George Springer and J.T. Realmuto have turned down their qualifying offers, joining DJ LeMahieu and Trevor Bauer as free agents. Mets righty Marcus Stroman actually accepted the $18.9 million deal to remain in Queens for a year, which wasn’t really that surprising, and Giants righty Kevin Gausman likewise opted to stay with the Giants.
It’s interesting that both players who accepted were pitchers, but it makes a lot of sense when you consider their respective career paths and future trajectories. The 29-year-old Stroman had a resurgent 2019 campaign in which he was traded from the Blue Jays to the Mets, then opted out of the 2020 season. While it’s likely he’d have gotten more total money than the QO in a multi-year deal, he’s banking on a solid season netting him even more in a better market next season.
Gausman is just a few months older than Stroman and can reasonably be expected to pitch for a while longer, but he has gotten mixed results over the last few seasons. He looked really good for a while in Baltimore, then fell off, then looked great in Atlanta before falling off again. It’s surprising that the Reds didn’t try to retain him after picking him up last season, so their loss was the Giants’ gain.
The draft-pick compensation will hamper the market for the four players seeking bigger deals, though only slightly because we’re talking about elite players. Or, in Bauer’s case, very good players who found out how to become elite through the use of foreign substances to enhance his spin rate and effectiveness. Still, earning a Cy Young will get you paid.
McLeod not in Angels forecast
Cubs senior VP of player personnel Jason McLeod had been among five finalists for the GM vacancy in Anaheim, but he is reportedly no longer in the running. Former Cubs assistant GM Jared Porter is out as well, and Ken Rosenthal tweeted Wednesday night that Braves AGM Perry Minasian is the frontrunner.
Braves assistant GM Perry Minasian is the front-runner for the Angels’ GM opening, sources tell The Athletic. Decision expected tomorrow.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 12, 2020
Bauer’s sticky situation
I hated the CYA results and truly believe Darvish deserved to win, but the funny thing about the voting process is that you have to accept the results even if you don’t like them. Contrary to my tweet last night, I’m not planning to launch any legal challenges in this case because I’m neither a sore loser nor a grifter.
My suspicion from the start was that Bauer would win because he’s a media darling and everyone seems to overlook his caustic character traits in favor of this perceived workmanlike approach. There’s also his transparency and willingness to reveal trade secrets to the media, like when he shared that using pine tar or other sticky substances is the only way to max out spin rate.
He publicly taunted the Astros about team-wide use of foreign substances, then apparently figured it was better to join them than try to beat them. After seemingly plateauing with aggregate spin averages of 2,438 and 2,456 rpms in the two previous seasons, Bauer generated 2,852 rpms this year. That kind of jump simply isn’t possible without a little help.
It’s not just Bauer who’s loading up in order to get better results, the use of sticky substances is widespread among professional pitchers. Eno Sarris has an excellent piece on this topic over at The Athletic, including information about how pitchers concoct their own recipes by reducing various sodas or opting for the more tried and true mix of sunscreen and rosin. These practices are said to be better than steroids when it comes to performance enhancement.
One interesting thought not noted in the above piece is that pitchers can reasonably explain the application of sunscreen in order to protect tattoos that are ever more prevalent. There’s also the idea that organizations are very much complicit in the practice, instructing young pitchers coming up through the system to choose gloves that match the color of their preferred sticky substance.
As for other ways of doctoring the ball, pitchers have been known to head to the local home improvement store and find a brand and grit of sandpaper that closely matches their skin tone. Then they cut pieces to fit the thumbnail on their pitching hand in order to scuff the seams a little. If the umps or opponents get wise to it, all the pitcher has to do is bite off the sandpaper and swallow it.
Anything for an advantage.
Other news and notes
- Dodgers beat writer J.P. Hoornstra left Yu Darvish off of his Cy Young ballot, ranking the Cubs’ ace sixth behind Bauer, Jacob deGrom, Dinelson Lamet, Aaron Nola, and Devin Williams. Hoornstra said little proactively, other than coyly retweeting the BBWAA’s results, but explained to commenters that he’s going to write a “thoughtful explanation” today. Bro, you knew damn well what you were doing and any contrived explanation of it should have been prepped in advance.
- Trey Mancini is cancer-free and intends to be ready for spring training in 2021.
- The Cubs finalized the trade for José Martinez Wednesday, sending cash to the Rays after having already parted with 19-year-old infield prospect Pedro Martinez. That trade was incredibly lopsided for the Rays, who were able to allocate the elder Martinez’s at-bats to postseason hero Randy Arozarena.
- USA Today’s Bob Nightengale embarrassed himself thoroughly on Chicago radio Wednesday, comparing the possibility of Tony La Russa missing games because of a jail term to David Ross missing some spring training contests with the flu. Nightengale also said managers have done a lot worse than getting popped for a DUI. While true from a literal sense, it was an ugly defense of a man Nightengale considers a friend and, perhaps more importantly, a source.
What to watch, hear, & play
- The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix – You don’t need to care about chess to enjoy this show, which is a tremendous period piece about a young orphan’s attempt to become a chess champion while also battling emotional struggles and substance abuse. It’s riveting.
- The Kingcast – This is my new favorite podcast because I’m a huge Stephen King fan and the hosts are King/movie/pop culture geeks who are roughly my age. Each episode invites a guest of at least moderate repute to dive into a King property that has been adapted for TV or the screen. Some of those feature writers and producers who had been tasked with creating what would have been massive projects, like Glen Mazzara’s disappointingly defunct Dark Tower series.
- Oculus 2 – VR gaming is tremendously fun, as I’ve discovered recently. Well, I knew that already but just purchased an Oculus 2 for my family and we’ve enjoyed it a great deal over the last week or so. With cooler temps keeping folks inside for the most part over the coming weeks and months, this is a great option even for those who aren’t into traditional video games.