Millie’s song

2019-10-13 DanielHudson

Millie Hudson’s father and his team have their priorities straight.

Now I’m going to say it. Freshly minted Millie Hudson, daughter of Nationals reliever Daniel, exposed former Marlins executive David Samson as a horse’s ass.

When Daddy arrived at the delivery room for Millie’s premiere on the day of National League Championship Series Game One, Samson behaved more like the Philistines.

“Only excuse would be a problem with the birth or health of baby or mother,” Samson fumed in a Friday tweet. “If all is well, he needs to get to St. Louis. Inexcusable.”

So was Samson’s fuming. And he couldn’t wait to walk it back after Hudson bagged the final outs of the Nats’ Game Two win: “Happy to see Daniel Hudson get the save. I didn’t say he should miss the birth, & didn’t mean to judge his decision. I would have done everything possible to try to get him to St. Louis for game 1 of #NLCS, once health of baby & mom had been established. Respect his decision.”

Not so fast, Samson. You most certainly did mean to judge his decision because that’s what you did originally. “Inexcusable,” I believe was your word for it. If that’s not judging a decision, I’ve got two tickets to presidential impeachment hearings to sell you cheap.

If you want to put it in purely baseball terms, Hudson’s presence for Millie’s premiere didn’t exactly compromise the Nats against the Cardinals. Thanks in large part to Anibal Sanchez’s no-hit bid through seven and two thirds, the Nats won Game One, 2-0. And to a man the Nats had Hudson’s back.

None more emphatically than Hudson’s fellow back-end reliever Sean Doolittle. “If your reaction to someone having a baby is anything other than, ‘Congratulations, I hope everybody’s healthy’,” Doolittle snapped upon learning of Samson’s denunciation, “you’re an asshole.”

Never mind Hudson saying, “We didn’t exactly plan to have a baby in the middle of the playoffs.” Hudson knew long before the Nats even got to the postseason—you know, the one they weren’t supposed to reach in the first place after that 19-31 horror of a season beginning—that the only place he’d be when Millie debuted was by his wife Sara’s side.

“I heard somebody say one time: Baseball’s what I do, it’s not who I am,” the pitcher told the Washington Post‘s Barry Svrluga. “Once I had kids, it really resonated with me.”

The Hudsons actually thought they had it planned down to the nth detail going in. Millie Hudson wasn’t supposed to check in until 14 October. “That led Daniel and Sara Hudson to pull out their calendars and start mapping out days,” Svrluga writes. “If the Nats won the wild-card game and if the division series against the Los Angeles Dodgers was pushed to a decisive fifth game, maybe Daniel could shoot home to Phoenix, Sara could pop out the kid on command, and the Nats’ run could continue unhindered.”

Any father will tell you children have remarkable ways of changing the best laid plans in the tap of a smartphone app. They don’t do it maliciously, they do it because, well, they’re children. That’s what children do. Daniel and Sara Hudson will have time aplenty yet to teach Millie, when she’s teachable enough, that there is such a thing as perfecting the ratio between plan and execution.

But children in the womb don’t always behave according to plan or schedule. Millie is very normal that way. Her father high tailed it to Phoenix when learning she was liable to be induced the day before Game One. Hudson’s pitching repertoire includes a better than serviceable changeup. Taking her time until deciding Friday morning was her time to bow, his new daughter threw quite a changeup herself.

Nats manager Dave Martinez sounded as though he might be tempted to offer Millie a contract. “Apparently,” he cracked after Game One, “the baby didn’t want to come out until later on this morning.” After Game One, Martinez texted Hudson: “Hey, I got a name for your little girl: Anibala Sean Hudson.”

Thoroughly modern Millie will do just fine, thank you.

You’d have thought Samson took it personally when a baby girl not his own threw her changeup. Not that Millie Hudson was aware that the fate of the Nats rested so profoundly upon her exercising a woman’s perennial right to change her mind before she’d even poked her nose out from within her mother’s womb.

Neither was she aware that with one delivery she knocked Samson down and exposed as a baseball man who still seems to hold the ancient plantation mentality through which baseball executives considered their players commodities before humans.

Don’t go there about how much money Hudson earns as a pitcher. “A $90,000 slave is still a slave,” Curt Flood once said, once famously. Such baseball men as Samson today sometimes think the salient difference between players then and now is that Flood was a pauper compared to today’s slaves’ earnings.

“Samson’s [original] tweet did not seem to recognize–outside the scope of medical harm–that there was a need for any balancing test between family obligations and work obligations,” writes Forbes‘s Marc Edelman. “The analysis was entirely one dimensional as is sometimes the case with someone who spends their entire career in an executive position.”

Edelman also reminds you that Samson was still in office as the Marlins’s president when baseball agreed upon a postseason parental leave policy, instigated after Blue Jays pitcher Aaron Loup’s wife gave birth during a 2015 division series. “If Samson was really so opposed to the concept,” Edelman continues, “he could have encouraged the Marlins and other teams not to agree to the provision. Arguably, he should not be tweeting his objections years later.”

Who would have thought that one minute you’d hear people denouncing sports’ deadbeat dads, real or alleged, and the next you might find them denouncing a baseball player who thinks fatherhood is an honour?

Hudson—who signed with the Angels in February, was released in March, signed with the Blue Jays the same month, then was traded to the Nats at the new single mid-season trade deadline—certainly didn’t. “I went from not having a job on March 21 to this huge national conversation on family values going into the playoffs,” he told Svrluga. “Like, hey. Life comes at you fast, man. I don’t know how that happened and how I became the face for whatever conversation was going on.”

He became that face because a former baseball muckety-muck seemed to believe fatherhood is less important than throwing fastballs, sliders, changeups, and cutters at enemy hitters in the ninth inning. But don’t expect Samson to be a job candidate for the Nats’ front office anytime soon.

Asked about Hudson’s slightly unexpected Game One absence thanks to Millie’s dramatics, general manager Mike Rizzo said flatly, “It was a no-brainer.” Ask Nats owner Mark Lerner and he’ll tell you what he told Svrluga in support of his pitcher: ““Who could think anything else?”

“These decisions are easy,” Rizzo also said. “A happy player is a performing player. We’ve got to take care of our people. You have to treat this like a family. And the important thing is, we’ve got a new little member of the Nationals family.”

When was the last time you heard anyone around the Marlins, during or after Samson’s presidency, describe the floundering Fish as anything resembling a family?

Hudson, of course, returned to the Nats in St. Louis on Saturday, where he got to nail the final two outs in a 3-1 Game Two win that began with Max Scherzer taking a no-hit bid of his own into the seventh, where Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt ruined the no-no with a leadoff hit.

“Having a baby is the biggest blessing in the world,” the reliever said. “To come out here and get a save in a playoff game is second to that, but it’s pretty cool.”

Millie Hudson is a lucky little girl to have a father who believes fortune has to wait in the on-deck circle for family, and with colleagues and bosses who have his back without hesitation or apology. That’s one Natitude you should wish everyone else had.

Marcus Stroman and other trade deadline thoughts

2019-07-30 MarcusStroman

Marcus Stroman to the Mets—method to madness or madness to method?

As regards the Mets dealing a pair of mixed-reviews pitching prospects to the Blue Jays for their staff ace Marcus Stroman, and the coming trade deadline in general a few observations. Beginning with the one that tells me it seems at least three-quarters of baseball never saw this Stroman deal coming.

Anyone who thought Stroman’s new address would be New York by this year’s new single trade deadline figured it would involve the Yankees, leaders in the American League East, and not the Mets, strugglers to stay within reasonable sight of even the second National League wild card.

Or, if Stroman was going to move on from Toronto, he’d be more likely to land with one or another viable 2019 competitor—say, the Braves, where I seem to recall some observers thought he’d make a better mutual fit if the Yankees really were convinced Stroman was good enough to pitch but not necessarily fit.

But Stroman, who makes his living largely by way of his ability to lure ground balls, is now a Met. So where do we and they go from here?

1. Former major league general manager Jim Bowden, who now writes for The Athletic, says the Mets have no intention of landing Stroman just to flip him for a better package by the close of trade business Wednesday. And the two pitching prospects going to the Jays—Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods-Richardson—are considered solid but not elite prospects, but the Jays believed they weren’t going to get better than them for Stroman when all was said and done.

2. The Mets aren’t a team of elite defenders especially around their infield this year, and yet Steven Matz—returning to the rotation after a brief spell in the bullpen to re-horse—pitched a complete-game 3-0 shutout Saturday night in which his calling cards were a deft blend of breaking and off speed stuff and putting his fielders to work, which for a change they did rather admirably behind him.

3. Matz’s performance may well have had a firm impact on the Mets’ pitching thought. May. They’ve tried since 2013 to cultivate an arsenal of power arms in the rotation and seen, when all is said and done, only Jacob deGrom live up to any expectations. They watched Matt Harvey’s injuries collapse him from a power pitcher to one in search of a new cause and, now, a new team. They’ve seen Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler bring the power without delivering the consistent results.

If the Mets had eyes for Stroman before Matz took the mound Saturday night, Matz’s performance had to have told them it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to add another arm to the rotation that belonged to a young man who uses more than his arm to survive on the mound. Stroman isn’t a strikeout machine; he has the second highest ground ball rate among all Show starting pitchers.

4. Maybe acquiring Stroman begins to get the Mets re-thinking their incumbent defense, too, especially marrying him to Matz in their rotation. Rookie of the Year candidate Pete Alonso forced Dominic Smith off first base, but Smith in the outfield looks almost exactly like the un-natural he is out there even though he hits with authority. Rookie general manager Brodie Van Wagenen’s willingness to take aging Robinson Cano if he wanted closer Edwin Diaz from the Mariners last winter forced Jeff McNeil, their obvious second baseman of the future, likewise into an outfield where he’s about as comfortable as an elephant in front of a mouse much of the time.

5. Diaz has been a mess not entirely of his own making this season, mishandled, sometimes mis-deployed, and while the raw talent is still there the Mets are now rumoured to be shopping him. Cano has four years left on the contract the Mets took on from the Mariners, making him almost an immovable force. Whether the Mets’ contradictory ownership might be willing to take a bath on the deal in order to start moving defensive parts back where they belong is anyone’s guess.

6. With Stroman off the market eyes turned not just upon Syndergaard but the rest of this trade deadline’s pitching market.

The Giants’ unexpected resurgence means Madison Bumgarner isn’t likely to go anywhere the rest of the season, compared to a month ago when the observers and speculators pondered where, not if he’d move on. The Yankees need whatever starting pitching help they can get but the market now seems more constricted—and as much as they’re wary of dealing with the Mets, Syndergaard now might look like an attractive Yankee target. Might.

And the Nationals, like the Giants but at a higher level, have had an unexpected resurgence of late after they were all but written off as dying as late as early June. They ran into a buzzsaw in Los Angeles this past weekend, needing Stephen Strasburg to pitch the masterwork he did in seven Sunday innings to escape with even a single win, but now Max Scherzer—whom all the Smart Guys said had to go on the trade deadline block once upon a time, in large part to bring them badly needed bullpen relief—may find his barking back barking well enough into August.

At first glance, then, it would seem the Nats have a big problem as they prepare to square off against the National League East-leading Braves Monday night. Except that the Braves, who ran roughshod over the league before the All-Star break and still lead the Nats by five and a half games, have suddenly regressed to being only human. Not only have they lost seven of their last eleven, they’ve lost two critical elements—shortstop Dansby Swanson, resurgent veteran right fielder Nick Markakis—to the injured list. The Nats won’t have Strasburg or Scherzer to throw at the Braves this week but the Nats might still gain key ground, anyway.

7. The bullpen dominos began falling over this past weekend, too. Veteran Sergio Romo, once a key to a couple of Giants World Series winners, just went from Miami to Minnesota where the Twins, this year’s American League surprise, just bumped their bullpen up several notches by bringing him aboard. Jake Diekman went from Kansas City to Oakland, a sign the Athletics are gearing up for another wild card run. There are contenders aplenty who need help in the pen and few more than the Nats.

8. If the Jays are rebuilding in earnest, bullpen-longing eyes may be cast upon the surprising Ken Giles. After his 2017 World Series mishap (which wasn’t entirely his sole responsibility) and subsequent personal and mound meltdowns, Giles has rehorsed completely in Toronto. As in, a career year: a 1.54 ERA and a 1.60 fielding-independent pitching rate. Not to mention a 5+ strikeout-to-walk rate and a 14.9 strikeout-per-nine rate.

Yes, the Nats have eyes upon Giles and his Jays pen mate Daniel Hudson. But so may the Red Sox and any other contender who needs a bump among the bulls. Even the Twins, despite landing Romo, might still make a play for Giles at least or, if Giles eludes them, Norman, whose 2.87 ERA and June-July of only four earned runs in 21 innings’ work yanked his trade value up accordingly.

Bowden rates the Stroman deal a B+ for the Mets and a B- for the Jays. It wouldn’t hurt the Jays’ standing to try prying a slightly better haul back for Giles and/or Hudson. And although Giles is dealing with a slight nerve issue in his pitching elbow, wiping out the side as he did in a Saturday night assignment should make his suitors breathe a little easier, assuming they don’t fall tempted to overwork him while he works through it.

9. The Mets may or may not yet have a wild card long shot this year, but don’t kid yourselves: they were thinking as much about 2020 as now when they made their play for Stroman. And since Stroman is under team control through the end of 2020, don’t be surprised if they like what they see from him the rest of this season and start talking extension with him before 2020 begins.

Which might also mean that Syndergaard at minimum, and Wheeler at maximum, may yet have changes of address coming by Wednesday afternoon. And with whisperings that the Red Sox have eyes upon Diaz for their pen, which needs a little help but isn’t as badly mismanaged as the Mets pen has been this year, the Mets should be thinking smart and looking very closely at that Red Sox farm system.

Because the Mets could also use a third base upgrade from veteran Todd Frazier, who’s reliable but beginning to show his age. And as thin as the Red Sox system is for now, AAA third baseman Bobby Dalbec was named both the offensive and defensive player of the year for 2018 in the Red Sox’s minor league award valuations. If the Olde Towne Team wants Diaz for their pen that much, the Mets should all but demand Dalbec in the return haul.

10. Too many teams never quite do what they should when it counts. The Mets, alas, are notorious for that. Even when they’re winning.