Game 1 of the NLDS might be just a few days away, but the AL and NL Wild Card games are much closer … and the Cubs don’t even have to participate!
So, let’s do what we do and step away from the North Side for a moment to talk about the news from the rest of the league …
- … Starting with one of the most surprising, yet somehow expected stories of the week: the firing of D-Backs GM Dave Stewart and Manager Chip Hale. In short, after another hugely disappointing season in Arizona and a number of recently publicized uninformed decisions, the Diamondbacks have decided to part ways with their GM and manager (you can read more about the situation here). Interestingly, the team has not decided to part ways with Chief Baseball Officer Tony La Russa, who has been held equally accountable for the team’s mismanagement in the recent past, but his role will reportedly be significantly reduced. According to Steve Gilbert of MLB.com, the discussions of what that new role might look like are ongoing, but the one certainty is that he will no longer be atop the baseball ops department. Ouch. One might speculate if this demotion will be enough for La Russa to step down, but it’s not easy to tell at this time.
- Stewart, on the other hand, has been rather candid since his removal from the job, but hasn’t said anything overly negative about D-backs ownership. There is a popular quote going around of Stewart suggesting that he has “better things to do,” but it may have actually been in reference to blasting the front office, as opposed to being a GM. In fact, the majority of his comments were simply about how he is jut sees things differently than owner Ken Kendrick – likening themselves to oil and water. This will be a story to keep an eye on for many reasons (including two more high-profile executive openings in MLB).
- Stewart and Hale weren’t the only high-profile dismissals on Monday afternoon though, the Miami Marlins had one of their own. According to Jon Heyman, Barry Bonds will not be returning to Miami as the hitting coach for the 2017 season. Instead, current co-hitting coach, Frank Menechino, is believed to be his sole successor. The reason, according to “a source,” is that the Marlins prefer a more traditional hitting coach who’s willing to study tape all day and work around the clock – an implicit dig at whatever Bonds’ methodology was. There were a number of examples of Bonds’ tutelage paying dividends throughout the 2016 season (Christian Yelich and Marcel Ozuna each improved upon their 2015 OPS by 72 points and 88 points respectively), but there is even more anecdotal evidence that he wasn’t the right match for the Marlins. No one said it was easy!
- More from the dismissal/exit file: the Colorado Rockies also had one of their own. According to Thomas Harding on MLB.com, Walt Weiss has stepped down from his position as the Rockies manager and GM Jeff Bridich “concurred with the decision.” Weiss’ contract expired at the end of the season, but the working relationship between him and Bridich was apparently not a “cohesive one or a productive one,” so no extension was worked out.
- The Rockies are apparently considering both internal and external candidates, but there is an early favorite in Triple-A Albuquerque manager Glenallen Hill – whom you might remember from his monstrous rooftop blast at Wrigley Field. Third-base coach Stu Cole and first-base coach Eric Young are other early candidates for the job.
- The Rockies managerial vacancy (and subsequent search) is joined by the Atlanta Braves this offseason, who are working on filling a skipper position of their own. At MLBTR, Charlie Wilmoth writes that the Braves are planning to interview Ron Washington and Bud Black for their vacancy, after already having interviewed interim manager Brian Snitker, bench coach Terry Pendleton, first-base coach Eddie Perez, and third-base coach Bo Porter. The early favorite, Wilmoth suggests, might be Snitker who received praise for his work as acting manager down the stretch. What the 2017 offseason lacks in high-profile free-agents, it makes up for in high-profile executive and managerial openings. And there could still be more coming.
- At Yahoo Sports, Jeff Passan has an entirely enjoyable read, running down some of the biggest (and most contentious) award races around baseball, including the AL MVP (which he suspects will not go to the most deserving candidate in Mike Trout, even if he’d prefer it that way). He also touches on the NL MVP (for which he believes Kris Bryant might be a shoe-in), NL Cy Young (in which Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks come up just short), and the AL Cy Young (the winner of which might surprise you).
- At the Washington Post, Chelsea Janes discusses the impact and relationship between professional athletes (specifically on the Nationals) and social media. As you can imagine, the interactions are quite ridiculous, extremely tiresome, and often offensive. Bryce Harper, in one extreme example, was said to be “worse than Hitler” – the internet’s go-to for anyone they don’t like. Most of the players say that the don’t let it get to them, but they probably shouldn’t have to deal with that level of insanity and negativity in the first place. You might have the benefit anonymity on the internet (and a deep, but inexplicable hatred for someone you’ve never met), but don’t use it for evil. Instead try to be, you know, better.
- According to the Hardball Times, the collective MLB strike zone has finally tightened up a bit in 2016, after five straight seasons of a precipitous expansion (especially at the bottom of the zone, which fell by as much as the width of a baseball since 2010). Take a look at their deep statistical and graphical analysis here to get a better sense of how and when things changed and how it might affect the future.
- At FanGraphs, Paul Swydan has a nostalgically titled (and intelligently written) article called “The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad 100-RBI season,” which is a very fun read. In short, Swydan wants to examine whether or not Eric Hosmer just had one of the worst 100-RBI seasons in the history of baseball. In short, he wasn’t quite the leader of the pack, but he was certainly in the conversation.
- In theory, this would be a really steep challenge for Tim Tebow, given the talent in the league – then again, the pitching is not quite as strong, and the offensive environment is great for hitters:
Mets say Tim Tebow will play in the Arizona Fall League and report there on Sunday.
— James Wagner (@ByJamesWagner) October 4, 2016
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.