Author Archive

The Case For Sam Hilliard, Everyday Left Fielder

Sam Hilliard
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Braves are the team of stability. At six of nine offensive positions, they have locked an above-average-to-star-level player down to a contract that will keep him under club control for at least the next five seasons. We could probably get away with literally not writing any Braves roster construction thinkpieces until 2026 or so. Nevertheless, I want to pick at the one imperfection in Atlanta’s cavalcade of cost-controlled stars: the whole left field/DH situation. Specifically, I want to propose an idea that isn’t a joke, or a bit, or a troll… but it’s also not not a joke, or a bit, or a troll: Make Sam Hilliard the starting left fielder. Read the rest of this entry »

Is the Old Germán Márquez Still In There?

German Marquez
John Leyba-USA TODAY Sports

The Rockies are what would happen if a baseball team were run by the guy on your block who raises pygmy goats in his yard. Sure, this is a suburban subdivision outside of Columbus, Ohio, and there’s no real purpose to having goats. But the noise and smell aren’t as bad as you feared, neighborhood kids think the goats are cute (correctly — look at their little ears!), the goats only infrequently climb onto your neighbor’s roof and escape to the street, and apparently nobody had goats in mind when the township zoning ordinances were written because there’s no rule against it. Is it weird? Absolutely. But it’s not hurting anyone, so who cares? The world is a little more interesting with little goats running around.

Spare a thought, then, for one of the goat farm’s more decorated denizens, Germán Márquez, who’s entering a pivotal season of his career. Read the rest of this entry »

In Which I Talk Myself Into Adolis García

Adolis Garcia
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers are a bit of an odd team. Every offseason, someone does a thought experiment to build the best team solely out of free agents; in fact, some months ago I posed a similar question about the Orioles. But even my hypothetical 2023 O’s had three top-10 prospects to throw into the mix. What does a team look like if it’s starting entirely from scratch?

A little awkward, as the Rangers can attest. When they traded Joey Gallo to New York in 2021, the cupboard was basically empty. Since then, they’ve done an admirable job acquiring talent in trades and on the free-agent market, but they haven’t made much progress on the road back to playoff contention. A 94-loss campaign in 2022 got manager Chris Woodward and longtime baseball ops head Jon Daniels fired, and new manager Bruce Bochy surely would not have come out of retirement so he could compete for third place in the AL West.

The Rangers have plenty of star power, particularly after adding Jacob deGrom in free agency, but plenty of questions remain about their ability to fill out a competitive lineup. And Adolis García might be the player upon whom their success hinges. Read the rest of this entry »

Hunter Brown Is Framber Valdez in a Justin Verlander-Shaped Container

James A. Pittman-USA TODAY Sports

Sportswriters are a miserable bunch. We slog through box scores and transcripts of quotes from practice and write about games that will be forgotten in hours. Then Hunter Brown falls out of the sky.

The Astros’ new starting pitcher not only has a windup like Justin Verlander’s, he grew up outside of Detroit and idolized Verlander as a kid! Can you believe it? That’s a human interest story fit to make J. Jonah Jameson spit out his stogie and forget all about those pictures of Spider-Man.

Even their repertoires look similar: An upper-90s four-seamer thrown about half the time, accompanied by a slider and a curveball. It’s the meat-and-two-sides combo you’ll find at most barbecue joints. There are differences, of course. Verlander throws his slider more than his curve, while Brown is the opposite. Brown also throws everything harder than Verlander does; his secondaries clock in about 6 mph faster than the three-time Cy Young winner’s.

Regardless, people look at Brown and say the baseball equivalent of “he has his mother’s eyes.” So why does Brown perform more like Framber Valdez? Read the rest of this entry »

Gunnar Henderson Explores the Rolen Zone

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

On September 7, 1996, Scott Rolen’s journey to the Hall of Fame took a painful, but perhaps ultimately fortuitous twist. That afternoon, the Phillies played the Cubs at Veterans Stadium. Rolen had recorded his 130th at-bat of the year in the bottom of the first: With the bases loaded and one out, he struck out on four pitches against Steve Trachsel. Two innings later, Rolen came up for what was supposed to be at-bat no. 131. Instead, Trachsel hit him in the forearm with a pitch, breaking the ulna in Rolen’s right forearm.

The 21-year-old Rolen took his base, then tried to gut it out in the field in the top of the fourth. He lasted three batters, then could continue no longer. Jim Fregosi pulled Rolen and replaced him with Kevin Sefcik, one of the dozens of interchangeable Kevins who filled out the rosters of the mid-90s Phillies. Rolen took no further part in the 1996 season.

The following year, Rolen played 156 games, hit .283/.377/.469 with 21 home runs and 16 stolen bases, and cakewalked to a unanimous victory in the NL Rookie of the Year race. It was Rolen’s first piece of individual hardware, and one that would not have been possible had Trachsel not plunked him the previous September. Read the rest of this entry »

Cuba’s WBC Roster Is Fit for a Confusing Time

Luis Robert
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Rooting for Team USA in international sports can be a little… touchy. America’s great rivals vary from sport to sport and come from every corner of the globe. Ours is a nation of vast influence and combative people, so adversaries pop up everywhere. (At one point, the U.S. women’s national soccer team had a vicious rivalry with Norway. Norway! You must really want a fight if you have beef with Norway.)

But our most intense rivalries were forged in the Cold War, when American politicians and media painted Communist nations as an unknowable other against whom we were pitted in a battle for survival. Before glasnost, the internet, and the professionalization of Olympic sports, teams from Communist countries were so mysterious they could only be feared. We did not see Soviet stars in the NBA or NHL as we do now, nor Cuban baseball players and boxers in western competition. We only encountered them as they appeared every four years to pit their mettle against that of American college athletes at the Olympics. That’s how the Miracle on Ice became such a definitive part of American mythology; rare is the scenario in which an American team — much less an American men’s team in a relatively popular sport — can credibly claim to have faced and overcome an insurmountable opponent. But what the Soviets were to hockey, Cuba was to baseball.

That history makes Wednesday something of a momentous occasion. That night, Cuba’s 30-man roster for the upcoming World Baseball Classic was announced. And for the first time in the modern history of international baseball, Team Cuba will include major league players. The three biggest names on the list are White Sox teammates Yoán Moncada and Luis Robert Jr. Also along for the ride: Yoenis Cespedes, three players from the affiliated American minor leagues, and two more from NPB. Read the rest of this entry »

Before We Discover Where Bryan Reynolds Is Going, We Must Discover What He Is

Albert Cesare/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

The one constant this offseason is that Bryan Reynolds is probably going to get traded. We all knew this, because he’s a good player on a bad team that doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere anytime soon. Players like that get traded, or at least they get talked about as trade candidates. In December, Reynolds turned circumstantial evidence into an actual news story by requesting a trade.

A month and a half later, there’s still no movement, which isn’t really a surprise. Reynolds is under team control through 2025, and the Pirates — if they decide to move on from Reynolds at all — shouldn’t be in any rush to get rid of their best player. A couple weeks ago, Jon Heyman cited a rival executive who compared Pittsburgh’s ask for Reynolds to what the Padres gave up for Juan Soto last August.

If you’ve been around baseball, followed it, watched it, or even become generally aware that there’s a sport behind cultural idioms like “ballpark figure” and “getting to second base,” you know how this dance goes. Player requests a trade, team negotiates with rivals both privately and through leaks to reporters, a price is eventually agreed upon, and the trade is executed.

But I find this process particularly intriguing for Reynolds, because it involves determining a public consensus over how good he actually is. Read the rest of this entry »

Yandy Díaz, Artificial Turf, and Earl [Expletive] Weaver

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Insofar as I’ve given thought to who my favorite manager of all time is, my favorite manager of all time is Earl Weaver. He exemplified the ideal shouting, dirt-kicking, umpire-haranguing baseball boss; every image and video of a red-faced Weaver screaming up at an umpire a foot taller than him is a blessing upon our society. But the man was legitimately a tactical mastermind; if baseball could be influenced by coaches the way other sports can, we’d talk about Weaver the way soccer people talk about Rinus Michels.

A lot of “great managers” really just manage a lot. Weaver, despite his hyperactive and combative personality, knew to keep his hands off his offense and let the multiple future Hall of Famers on his roster cook. Weaver’s overall recipe for success usually gets cited as “pitching, defense, and three-run homers” or something similar.

Take it from the man himself, in a (mock) radio interview for a Manager’s Corner segment with Tom Marr in 1982:

Marr: Bill Whitehouse…from Frederick, Maryland, wants to know why you and the Orioles don’t go out and get some more team speed.

Weaver: Team speed! For Christ’s sake, you get [expletive] [expletive] little fleas on the [expletive] bases gettin’ picked off, tryin’ to steal, gettin’ thrown out, takin’ runs away from you. Get them big [expletive] who can hit the [expletive] ball out the ballpark and you can’t make any [expletive] mistakes.

Marr: Well, certainly this show is gonna go down in history, Earl!

Read the rest of this entry »

Sign a Good Free Agent Outfielder, While Supplies Last

Jurickson Profar
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

I am, it brings me great shame to admit, an inveterate procrastinator. Last summer, the air conditioning in my car stopped working, and instead of taking it in to get fixed, I just waited until the weather cooled off and look, now I don’t have to worry about it all winter.

Perhaps you’re the same way. Perhaps you’re the same way and you run the baseball ops department of one of the 30 MLB teams. Need an outfielder? Eh, we’ll figure that out later. Bryce Harper signed his megadeal in March, for cryin’ out loud. There will always be help left on the market, one might reasonably infer.

But that’s not really the case anymore. Two things struck me when I was writing up the Tommy Pham signing last week. First, very few teams only need three competent outfielders. Even the Mets, who signed veteran starters to long-term contracts at all three positions, still had enough of a hole in the lineup to warrant going out to get a top-notch fourth outfielder/platoon DH.

Second, Pham was one of the last good options on the board. Read the rest of this entry »

The Mets’ Outfield Looked Crowded, but There Was a Tommy Pham-Shaped Hole

Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Tommy Pham has only played in nine major league seasons, accruing a little more than seven and a half seasons’ worth of service time. It feels like it should be more. This man has drifted to so many ports, made headlines for conduct meritorious, ignoble, and points in between. He has lived and died a hundred times in a baseball uniform, and every one of those lives has been fascinating. Pham is as close as you’ll get among millennials to one of those old-timey ballplayers with an unbelievable backstory, like Dazzy Vance or Turkey Mike Donlin. Now he’s a New York Met, signed to a one-year, $6 million deal with another $2 million possible in incentives.

I’ll leave the fantasy football jokes to the comment section, but I will mention what Andy Martino of SNY noted as the news broke:

Read the rest of this entry »