Right Field

Reveille 7/9/12

Good morning!

Here are several go-to links to make your Monday a bit more bearable:

  • USA Today’s Joe Posnanski describes today’s Kansas City, site of the All-Star Game, as well as the population’s penchant for the National Pastime:

See, people in Kansas City love baseball. They love all sports really — this is a great sports town. When the Chiefs were good (not great, mind you, but just good), no place in America cared more. This is a real college basketball hotbed, and college football captures the imagination when the teams show signs of life. But baseball fits the cities rhythms. Baseball goes back here to those years long before anyone thought Kansas City was major league. Lou Gehrig played his last game here, you know. Mickey Mantle almost quit baseball here. Jackie Robinson started his baseball career here. The 1939 Kansas City Blues might be the greatest minor league team ever. And the 1942 Kansas City Monarchs — with Satchel Paige and Hilton Smith and Willard Brown and the like — might be one of the greatest baseball teams ever, period.

  • Four pitches into his Saturday start at Minute Maid Park, Zack Greinke got ejected apparently for spiking the ball after a close play at first base. Dayn Perry of CBS Sports comments:

As others have noted, how is what Greinke did substantively different from a runner who slams his helmet to the ground after a bang-bang play at first or a hitter who ritually abuses his bat after an infield pop-up? Unless there’s more to the story, this seems like a very silly decision on [umpire Sam] Holbrook’s part.

  • Speaking of Greinke, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that the Orioles are very interested in acquiring the 2009 Cy Young Award recipient.

  • Ken Rosenthal and John Paul Morosi of Fox Sports report that, should the Diamondbacks continue to struggle, general manager Kevin Towers may attempt to deal Justin Upton.

  • Grantland’s Jonah Keri has a long post up on the potential buyers and sellers as the July 31 trade deadline draws near. For example, here is Keri discussing the Pirates, a presumed buyer:

Barring a cataclysmic fall, Pittsburgh figures to be in better shape this year than last. The question is, how hard do the Pirates push? Do they pursue players like the upside of league-average production, as they did with [Cliff] Lee and [Ryan] Ludwick (and could with Alfonso Soriano and his ilk in 2012)? Or do they dip into their pitching-rich farm system and target a top-flight pitcher like Zack Greinke or Cole Hamels, or even a talented (if slumping) outfielder like Shane Victorino? Young arms like Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon arguably rank among the top 10 prospects in baseball — not the kind of assets you’d expect a low-revenue team to give up for a player likely to leave via free agency three months from now. Then again, a deep playoff run could be just the catalyst a team with a 20-year streak of sub-.500 seasons would need to grab fan interest and juice revenues. And the new collective bargaining agreement change preventing teams from collective compensatory draft picks on players acquired via in-season, walk-year trades could drive down the price of elite talents just enough to make them attainable without sacrificing all-world prospects to do it. There’s a very real chance the Pirates get someone significantly more interesting than Derrek Lee this time around. . . .

Then a funny thing started happening: The Mets started winning. [David] Wright roared out of the gate with a .400 batting average. [Johan] Santana looked healthier and was more effective than anyone could have had any right to expect. Young players like Lucas Duda, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Josh Thole, ­Dillon Gee, and Ruben Tejada improved at a rate no one saw coming. The whole team discovered a very un-Met-like ability to come through late in games with the big hit, an unquantifiable but undeniable ­attribute of out-of-nowhere underdog teams. And, most of all, there was R. A. Dickey, the bearded, book-writing, Kilimanjaro-climbing, endlessly fascinating knuckleballer, who, after two perfectly fine seasons, somehow turned himself into Sandy ­Koufax. The Mets didn’t overwhelm anybody — how could they? — but they kept plugging away and winning against teams more talented and more highly paid than themselves. That is to say, they basically turned the rest of baseball into the Mets. . . .

. . . If, on the 50th anniversary, it could possibly be 1969 again.

Well, can it be? We’re late enough in the season that the Mets at least have to try, particularly now with two wild-card spots up for grabs rather than one. (Imagine: Had that second wild card existed in 2008; the Mets’ collapse would have never happened, and — who knows? — maybe [former general manager] Omar Minaya and [former skipper] Willie Randolph would still be here.) The goal of any MLB team is simply to reach the postseason and hope the randomness of the October format works for them rather than against them — ask the 2011 Cardinals whether it matters how you got into the postseason — so all the Mets need to aim for is to make it. The primary question would seem to be: Should [current GM Sandy] Alderson & Co. go all-in on a season that they seemed to be writing off?

That’s it. Have a walk-off week!

Jason Epstein is the president of Southfive Strategies, LLC. He was a public-relations consultant for the Turkish embassy in Washington from 2002 to 2007.


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