Melancon’s straw stirs the closers’ market drink

Melancon goes to the Bay to begin fixing the Giants' broken bullpen . . .

Melancon goes to the Bay to begin fixing the Giants’ broken bullpen . . .

We talk much, and often hyperbolically, about the worst kept secrets in baseball. But in 2016, the Giants’ bullpen was an easy candidate for the absolute worst-kept secret in the game. In a word, the Giants’ pen was a wreck populated by arsonists.

They went from baseball’s near-best record at the All-Star break to lucky to be in and win the wild card game against the Mets. Few thought they were better than long shots to keep their too-often spoken even-season championship streak alive.

The Washington Strangler asks for and gets his release

The smirking strangler, captured against the dugout rail shortly after he tried choking Harper last September . . .

The smirking strangler, captured against the dugout rail shortly after he tried choking Harper last September . . .

When the Nationals reached out and landed then-Pirates closer Mark Melancon two days before the non-waiver trade deadline, I wondered aloud whether that meant incumbent Jonathan Papelbon’s days in Washington were numbered. They were. The Nats granted his release Saturday afternoon.

According to ESPN Saturday morning, Papelbon himself sought to put paid to those numbered days, reportedly asking the team to release him. The move ends a tenure that wasn’t exactly an overwhelming favourite in the first place.

Does landing Melancon number Papelbon’s days as a Nat?

Mr. Melancon goes to Washington, but . . .

Mr. Melancon goes to Washington, but . . .

Maybe the Nats really are looking to open the trap door through which Jonathan Papelbon will fall away. You don’t trade for the other guy’s star closer unless you’ve just about had it with your incumbent, for whatever reason.

Wasn’t that the reason the Nats themselves dealt for Papelbon a year ago Thursday? Because they’d just about had it with Drew Storen despite Storen having what should have become a bounceback for the ages, or at least for the Nats’ ages?

Season on!

Take that, Donaldus Minimus!!

Take that, Donaldus Minimus!!

Let history record that the first run batted in of the 2016 season was delivered by a pitcher. At the plate. A pitcher who’d had only three runs batted in in his entire career (nine seasons) prior to last year, when he drove in seven. And his name wasn’t Madison Bumgarner.

Let history record further that Clayton Kershaw was the beneficiary of the worst Opening Day blowout in major leaguer history a day later. And, that Bryce Harper rocked the best postgame cap around the circuits. So far.

It’s Trout’s All-Star Game, everyone else is just along for the ride

Mike Trout launches in the first. And what's with the gold trimmed gear on Buster Posey?

Mike Trout launches in the first. And what’s with the gold trimmed gear on Buster Posey?

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.