Bucknor’s strike four; or, immune umps versus vulnerable players, continued

C.B. Bucknor, Jayson Werth

C.B. Bucknor (far left, next to Nationals manager Dusty Baker) can’t be held accountable for his malfeasance, but Jayson Werth (far right) could have faced a fine or suspension if he’d criticised Bucknor by name after strike four Tuesday night.

Try for a moment to imagine you could be reprimanded or prosecuted for criticising a Supreme Court justice, for whatever reason you saw fit. Of course that’s absurd, because you can’t be reprimanded or prosecuted for criticising a justice. Or a judge, so long as you don’t do it in open court.

Birthday boy subjected to immediate use, misuse, and abuse

Guthrie, looking every inch like a pitcher being beaten to within an inch of his life Saturday.

Guthrie, looking every inch like a pitcher being beaten to within an inch of his life Saturday.

It’s bad enough if and when a young pitcher gets the call to the Show, gets the start under whatever circumstances, and gets slapped around. It’s almost worse if you’re a veteran who hasn’t seen major league action in almost two years and you got a call up to take a spot start.

Jeremy Guthrie would never kid you that he’s been one of the greats of his time. But he might have told you he was serviceable enough to pitch in all or parts of twelve major league seasons prior to Saturday.

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.

Tuesday night at the races

Sliding home safe with his first major league homer---an inside-the-park job padding a very temporary Braves lead Tuesday . . .

Sliding home safe with his first major league homer—an inside-the-park job padding a very temporary Braves lead Tuesday . . .

How Tuesday ended with one National League club all but eliminated from the postseason, another contender setting some home run records, a third contender showing a couple of vulnerabilities that might prove fateful come postseason time, and a couple of crazy (and heretofore unlikely) American League wild card sharps getting a little crazier . . .

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?

Thor outpitches Mad Max

Thor drops the hammer on the Nats . . .

Thor drops the hammer on the Nats . . .

How do you follow up a game in which you nailed twenty strikeouts? If you’re Max Scherzer, who punched out twenty Tigers in a start last week, you go to New York, face Noah Syndergaard—the lightning Met who hits 100 on the radar gun with frightening regularity—and come up short despite matching Thor ten punchouts to ten punchouts.

It’s not that you pitched horribly against these Mets. It’s just that you threw two pitches you shouldn’t have. Two pitches that flew out faster than you threw them. And on a night Syndergaard was Thor to the tenth power, and the Mets bullpen didn’t have an arsonist among them, that isn’t enough.

Papelbon’s apology amplifies the Nationals’ unreality

Papelbon's choke attempt . . .

Papelbon’s choke attempt . . .

Jonathan Papelbon struggles with at least two things off the mound, apparently. He isn’t as good as he thinks with public apologies, and he’s no historian of Washington baseball. He showed both when he faced the press at the Nationals’ Space Coast Stadium spring digs and owned up over trying to choke Bryce Harper in the dugout on last September’s Fan Appreciation Day.

It may have been nothing compared to the Nats themselves showing how out of touch with things like reality they may well be.

What the Dodgers may not have learned from the Nats

Going for Chapman may have made Jansen a very unhappy camper . . .

Going for Chapman may have made Jansen a very unhappy camper . . .

Set aside for the moment that the Aroldis Chapman trade to the Dodgers may fall through thanks to a domestic violence investigation involving the Cincinnati closer and his girlfriend. It┬ádidn’t come to light until the winter meetings launched and it looked like Chapman was going west. And it’s thrown the winter meetings into a partial loop.

Now, ask yourself whether the Dodgers learned nothing from the 2015 Nationals.

Let the intrigues begin in earnest . . .

They barely have the streets swept clean following the Kansas City Royals’ World Series parade, and the off-season intrigues have begun in earnest. OK, a couple began when it barely began sinking in that the New York Mets had blown a Series they actually could have won, or when Don Mattingly left the Los Angeles Dodgers and became the Miami Marlins’ new manager. But let’s start looking:

Rios, who forgot how many outs there were when he caught this Game Four fly . . .

Rios, who forgot how many outs there were when he caught this Game Four fly . . .