Reveille 7/7/14

by Jason Epstein

Good morning.

Here are several links from the past week that will make your post–Fourth of July Monday at the office a bit more bearable:

  • Via MLB Trade Rumors’ Jeff Todd: The trade deadline is more than three weeks away, but Billy Beane elected to set off his fireworks on the Fourth of July. Oakland acquired starting pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Cubs in exchange for its No. 1 prospect, shortstop Addison Russell, and two other highly rated youngsters, pitcher Dan Straily and minor-league outfielder Billy McKinney. David Schoenfield of ESPN’s SweetSpot believes the deal makes the A’s, the team with the best record in the bigs, favorites to win the World Series, while Mike Petriello of Fangraphs sees the deal as a win-win-win for the A’s, Cubs, and Rays, as the latter club “just saw two of the top available pitchers get moved while only one contender benefits, leaving the Mariners, Cardinals, Dodgers, Angels, Blue Jays and everyone else to fight for [David] Price.”

You can’t anticipate every eventuality when a new rule is put in place, but you can certainly move quickly to patch a hole. Major League Baseball needs to patch this hole immediately and acknowledge that the players can only act based on what they know at the time, so what is known at the time has to control. There needs to be an immediate tweak to the rule which goes something like this: if an umpire’s call on the field affects the subsequent decision-making of players on the same play, the call is not reviewable.

  • Troy Tulowitzki appears to want out of Colorado. The prized shortstop told Mike Riszka of the Denver Post: “I want to be somewhere where there’s a chance to be in the playoffs every single year.” Too bad, Troy: You are under contract with the Rockies through at least the 2020 season — there’s a team option for 2021 — and there’s no sign that the front office wants to deal away its franchise player.
  • Is the Red Sox–Yankees rivalry passé? According to Fire Brand of the American League’s Brett Cowett, it “is in a state of cryogenic sleep.” (Teddy Ballgame’s head sees what you did there, smart guy.)
  • Courtesy of Barry Petchesky of Deadspin, here’s news of leaked, sensitive information that we can’t pin on Edward Snowden (or so we think):

Two years ago, the Houston Astros constructed “Ground Control” — a built-from-scratch online database for the private use of the Astros front office. It is by all accounts a marvel, an easy-to-use interface giving executives instant access to player statistics, video, and communications with other front offices around baseball. All it needs, apparently, is a little better password protection.

Documents purportedly taken from Ground Control and showing 10 months’ worth of the Astros’ internal trade chatter have been posted online at Anonbin, a site where users can anonymously share hacked or leaked information. Found below, they contain the Astros front office’s communications regarding trade overtures to and from other teams, as well as negotiations—a few of which actually led to trades. You will find heavy efforts to get a big haul for Bud Norris at last year’s trade deadline (before settling for very little), pushes to acquire touted young talents like Dylan Bundy and Gregory Polanco, and even evidence the Astros rejected out of hand a blockbuster deal that could have brought them Giancarlo Stanton.

From a strict baseball perspective, all of this is really interesting just for the insight it offers into how baseball trades work on an operational level. As it turns out, it really isn’t too different from your fantasy league, with front office types kicking around ideas, making preposterous demands, gossiping, and discussing various contingencies.

  • According to the Baltimore Sun’s Eduardo A. Encina, John Lackey appears miffed that Nelson Cruz, who went 5-for-5 in Saturday evening’s game in Fenway Park, received an $8 million, one-year contract from the Orioles after serving, last season, a 50-game suspension related to performance-enhancing drugs, but wouldn’t get into specifics. Via’s Brittany Ghiroli, Baltimore skipper Buck Showalter responded, ”We need to all make sure we check our own backyard before we start looking at someone else’s,” perhaps referring to David Ortiz, who reportedly failed MLB’s survey test for PED use back in 2003.
  • Run-scoring per game is more than one run lower than it was in 2000. Tyler Kepner of the New York Times believes that the decrease is a result of “stronger testing program for performance-enhancing drugs, more sophisticated analysis of hitters’ tendencies, a changing amateur scene, and, especially this season, a sharp increase in defensive shifts.”
  • The All-Star Game rosters were announced last night and may be found here. The 85th Midsummer Classic will take place at Target Field in Minneapolis on Tuesday evening, July 15th.
  • While many of us were busy remembering the 75th anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s farewell remarks, apparently another historic, Yankee-themed anniversary took place over the weekend. According to the Fox Sports production crew broadcasting Saturday evening’s Orioles–Red Sox game, Showalter was filmed in the Seinfeld episode “The Chaperone” on July 5, 1994; the Yankee skipper went along with George Costanza’s recommendation that the players embrace the breathability of all-cotton uniforms.

That’s it. Have a walk-off week!

Right Field

Brief chronicles of our sporting times.