Spending at at least a year and a half as the subject of trade speculation, while insisting he really didn’t want to leave Denver, Troy Tulowitzki—swapped to the Blue Jays this week, for former Mets shortstop Jose Reyes—says he was blindsided almost completely by the deal. Apparently, he had a gentleman’s agreement with Rockies owner Dick Monfort that he wouldn’t be dealt without his prior knowledge and approval. Until he didn’t, of course.
To call Jonathan Papelbon the beleaguered Phillies’ beleaguered closer until Tuesday isn’t to say Papelbon himself was under pressure or struggling. It’s to say that he was fed up with remaining on a team going nowhere faster than the speed of a Federation starship at warp, unable to bring itself just yet to admit that it’s time to blow it the hell up and start over, from the farm up.
On the day where the big news should be a staggering group of pitchers (Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz) and a sneaky-great infielder (Craig Biggio) entering the Hall of Fame, the Reds dealing Johnny Cueto to the Royals, right after Cueto knocked down health concerns with eight shutout innings against the Rockies in a park that normally vaporises pitching, threatens to equal it.
Unless you’re a Delta Quadrant citizen, you know that the Houston Astros aren’t just a little bit ahead of their rebuilding schedule, they’re so thick in the thick of this year’s pennant races that you could afford to talk about them in such terms as, “What they need most right now is a starting pitcher who belongs in the front end.” And if the Oakland Athletics were willing to part with one, the Astros weren’t leery about dealing for him Thursday.
What to take away from the All-Star Game other than the American League’s 6-3 win and thus home field advantage for this year’s World Series? The Mike Trout Show?
* Trout (Angels) became the first player in 38 years to lead off an All-Star Game going deep, hitting Zack Greinke’s (Dodgers) fourth pitch the other way, into the right field seats next to the Great American Ballpark visitors’ bullpen. Add scoring ahead of a powerful throw by Joc Pedersen (Dodgers) on Prince Fielder’s (Rangers) single in the fifth, and Trout—who’d reached base in the first place by beating out what might have been a double play finisher—joined Willie Mays, Steve Garvey, Cal Ripken, Jr. and Gary Carter as baseball’s only two-time All-Star Game MVPs.
Thirty years ago, LaMarr Hoyt—in the Padres’ silks, following a winter 1984-85 trade that made a White Sox of Ozzie Guillen—became the almost unlikely All-Star Game MVP. A month and a half later, what began as a tiny shoulder twinge had exploded into something making it difficult if not impossible to pitch.
And thus the beginning of the end for a pitcher who’d recently ruled the American League, winning its 1983 Cy Young Award and leading the league in wins in back to back seasons, and who’d become infamous soon enough for a series of drug issues that we know now to have been tied directly to what ended his career somewhat prematurely.
As regards the final All-Star voting—fans, players, etc.—minus the Last Man online vote, a few sobering thoughts:
1) Four Royals turned out to be voted as starters, after all, compared to eight Reds voted but six left remaining in the 1957 ballot box stuffing scandal. (Then-commissioner Ford Frick, we repeat, removed Wally Post and Gus Bell from the starting lineup in favour of Willie Mays and Hank Aaron.) Apparently, the Kansas City stuffers just didn’t quite have what it took to set a new record for voting perfidy.
How much does it hurt to go from pennant-winning hero to gone in what’ll seem like a blink soon enough? Travis Ishikawa is about to find out the hard way.
He’s going back to the Pirates the same way he left them in the first place last season, a waiver claim. The Giants, his first organisation, picked him off the waiver wire a year ago April and got better than they’d bargained for last October. Now the Pirates have taken him back, after the Giants designated him for assignment Friday.
In his 1970s days with the Milwaukee Brewers, George Scott, the big colourful first baseman who’d been a Red Sox favourite, had a chat with the team’s then co-owner Edmund Fitzgerald, about whose team Gordon Lightfoot did not write “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” “If we’re gonna win,” Scott told Fitzgerald, “the players gotta play better, the coaches gotta coach better, the manager’s gotta manage better, and the owners gotta own better.”