For the second consecutive season, the Chicago Cubs are headed to the NLCS!
… and a bunch of other things are happening around baseball, so let’s talk about those!
- The high-profile executive seats continue to open up around the league, with the San Diego Padres being the latest entrants. According to report from Dennis Lin of the San Diego Tribune (via MLBTR), the Padres have parted ways with President and CEO Mike Dee. Apparently, the firing has nothing to do with the team’s recent controversy surrounding the team’s purposeful withholding of player medical information that led to a 30-day suspension for GM A.J. Preller, but most find it hard to believe it didn’t play some sort of role. But that’s not all. In addition to Dee, the Padres have also parted ways with senior advisor Randy Smith. Smith has spent more than 20 years in the Padres organization (including some time as GM from 1993-1995). Apparently, the move away from Smith was also unrelated to the controversy and to the departure of Dee. But again, you can understand how some of these things might be related.
- As an aside, the fact that the Padres are fine parting ways with a senior advisor and President while their GM is currently suspended serves to underscore how unimportant/uneventful this time period is for non-playoff teams (and thus how weak of a punishment MLB handed down). All of which, if you recall, is a good sign for the Cardinals’ eventual hacking discipline.
- More bad Padres news: after a tough season for Tyson Ross – in that he made the Opening Day start for the Padres and not one more thereafter due to injury – the right-hander is scheduled to undergo surgery in St. Louis for thoracic outlet syndrome. If successful, the recovery is expected to take 4-6 months, putting him just barely on track for Spring Training 2017 – his last under contract with the Padres. Chris Young, Matt Harvey, and Clayton Richard all underwent the exact same procedure from the same doctor, over the past few years. Given the expected uncompetitiveness of the Padres in 2017, you have to assume the plan is to take it slow with Ross and hopefully get him rolling by the time the trade deadline comes around on August 1. Then, with any luck, his expiring contract and former All-Star pedigree can net a nice package for San Diego as they continue to retool their organization both on and off the field.
- Speaking of Matt Harvey and his thoracic outlet syndrome surgery in July, Scott Boras believes that he’ll be 100% healthy and ready to go by Spring Training 2017, as well. Apparently, Harvey felt immediate and significant relief directly following the surgery. As a fan of baseball, I hope Harvey comes back and dominates soon (except when he faces the Cubs).
- In general, it’s customary for teams to allow their non-player personnel to interview for jobs within other organizations while under contract as long as it’s a promotion from their current role (like the Cubs recently did for Jason McLeod). So, as you can imagine, a few eyebrows were raised when the Atlanta Braves hired Ron Washington away from the Oakland A’s without a promotion (he’ll be the third base coach). According to John Shea (San Francisco Chronicle), the A’s gave permission for the Braves to interview Washington for their opening managerial gig, but he is ultimately coming aboard as just a coach. They may have some trouble requesting similar permission in the future.
- At the Washington Post, Chelsea Janes has an interesting article on Bryce Harper’s unusual season and Stephen Strasburg’s injury – with plenty of comments from agent Scott Boras. On Harper, the story is particularly interesting, given that he’s been questioned of playing through an injury, but will never confirm or deny those reports (all the while, everyone around him is denying such an injury). Of course the mystery comes in, because he’s still playing and playing hard, but the production is a bit down from his MVP 2015 season. But even to that end, many are wondering if it’s just his impatience to adjust to the new way the league is handling him (a ton of walks and intentional walks) – I’m not quite sure.
- On Strasburg, the story impacts the Cubs a bit more directly (that is, if the Nationals succeed tonight). According to Janes, Strasburg “threw his second bullpen since partially tearing the pronator tendon in his throwing arm Sept. 7.” In fact, he even worked in his curveball, during his 30 pitch session, which is the pitch suspected of giving him the most arm trouble. It remains unclear whether or not he’d be available in the NLCS (and to what extent that would be), but the Nationals have not yet taken it off the table. [UPDATE: The Nationals just announced that he won’t pitch in the NLCS.]
- And since we did just loosely tie in the Chicago Cubs, how about this Championship drought tale from Craig Calcaterra at Hardball Talk. In short, of the five remaining playoff teams (Cubs, Dodgers, Nationals, Indians, Blue Jays) the most recent World Series victory was nearly 25 years ago (Blue Jays – 1993), meaning that a championship drought will end this fall. Calcaterra also checks in on each team’s most recent pennant win and LCS. I’ll bet you’re surprised to see how long it has been for some of these organizations … but I bet you won’t feel bad for any of them.
- There’ve been a number of arguments (none of them convincing, in my opinion) made that Orioles closer Zach Britton should win the 2016 AL Cy Young award for his admittedly amazing performance in 2016. For me, there’s almost (I’ll leave myself an out) no scenario in which a reliever should win the award over the dozens of capable starting pitchers, but it has happened before and it’s not all that unlikely to happen again. That said, even if you subscribe to the theory that a reliever can/should take home the honor, he better be the very best reliever in his league. And according to Tony Blengino, Britton may not have been that guy (spoiler: Andrew Miller). Good read.
- With Game Five of the NLDS between the Dodgers and Nationals set to kick off shortly, Oliver Macklin (MLB.com) takes a look back at the most dramatic Divisional Series Game 5s in the Wild Card era. Splitting the games into 1) walk-offs, 2) crazy comebacks, 3) nail-biters and more, Macklin’s journey through the postseason is pretty fun. That said, I’m glad the Cubs don’t need to add their names to the list this season.
- Lastly, how would you feel about squaring up against a 186 MPH fastball (yeah you read that right) … one Japanese baseball player tried, and doesn’t come particularly close.