Joe Maddon manages a team which is 43-19 entering play Tuesday night, so he hasn’t been wrong often this season.
Here’s one time he was, from last week’s Chicago Tribune, after the Orioles’ Manny Machado took a 99 mph Yordano Ventura fastball in the back and made the return trip to the mound to deliver a right cross rather than a new baseball.
From the Chicago Tribune: “Based on the published accounts, Maddon said Machado’s charging of the mound was ‘absolutely warranted. Why would I not want him to do that?’”
For one, because Machado was suspended four games. If you’re his manager, you’re writing Ryan Flaherty’s name in the lineup card in Machado’s absence. The Orioles are 36-26 and tied for first place in the AL East entering play Tuesday, and Machado is a big reason why: he’s batting .308, slugging .600 and is tied for sixth in MLB among position players with a 3.3 WAR.
You can argue that Machado should rank even higher, given that he moved from third base, where he won a Gold Glove last year, to shortstop when J.J. Hardy was hurt and played it as if he’d been there before, which he has for more than 200 minor-league games.
That kind of versatility and first response is hard to measure.
It’s hard to blame Machado for charging Ventura or Maddon his empathy. But if the Orioles lose the pennant by a game, there’s a chance one of them might have been won by Machado in his absence.
Ventura got nine games, which is, in essence, one, given his position. He’ll make a start, and then serve his sentence: four days he wouldn’t pitch, one he would have, and four more he wouldn’t.
It hardly seems equitable. Given Ventura’s rap sheet, he deserved about 20 games more and maybe that’s, in part, why Machado meted out his own justice. There was never much doubt MLB’s wouldn’t hit Ventura as hard as Machado.
From the Tribune: “Maddon said umpires have all the ‘tools’ to determine what’s intentional. ‘All the rules are in place.’” He’s right. Umpire Adam Hamari used them to eject the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard when the latter threw behind the Dodgers’ Chase Utley. Mets fans squawked but maybe if Hamari had been behind the plate last Tuesday, Ventura wouldn’t have been permitted to keep throwing farther and farther in on Machado until he hit him (there were at least three pitches on Machado’s previous at-bats that were dangerously far inside).
Everyone knew what Ventura was doing, because he’s done it before. “The guy has electric stuff but between ears, there is a circuit board off balance,” said Machado’s teammate Adam Jones, according to a tweet from Mid-Atlantic Sports Network’s Steve Melewski. (Rumor is the Royals are trying to trade Ventura but it can’t be easy: it seems there’s nary a team he hasn’t offended with his antics or hit batters.)
There’ve been two pretty good punches landed this year in baseball fights, which is two more than in most years. From the Washington Post: “‘You go to a hockey game, and everyone who goes to a hockey game that’s not a big hockey fan is saying, ‘Oh, I hope I see a fight,’ ” said Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo …. ‘I’m not saying you want that with baseball. But the two fights this year have been pretty healthy, in my opinion.’”
Rizzo sounds a lot like a guy who’s sorry the hockey season is over. Maybe healthy wasn’t the right word, because the two fights certainly weren’t, for Ventura or Jose Bautista, who took an even better right hand than Machado’s from Rougned Odor.
Maybe Rizzo meant they were cathartic, and maybe in some way, they were for Odor and Machado, who corrected perceived wrongs (Machado was, maybe Odor was, but he was swinging at the first pitch).
Maddon said he “loved” Machado’s answer, but maybe he should temper his enthusiasm even if we can understand it. Hitting opponents in the face is hardly the answer for getting hit by a pitch.
“I really prefer less legislation as opposed to more legislation,” Maddon told the Tribune, and if Ventura’s nine-game suspension is any indication, you can understand why.
But maybe it’s less about the volume of the legislation but the fairness of it. And MLB erred on Ventura.
Also of note (stats through Monday’s games):
- Toronto’s Aaron Sanchez gave up four home runs in his first 80.1 innings, then gave up four in five innings on Sunday to the Orioles. Sanchez had given up one homer in eight starts — 55 innings — before Sunday.
- Boston’s Dustin Pedroia had a 16-game hitting streak snapped on Saturday, but not for his teammates’ lack of trying. Pedroia was 0-for-4 when he lined out leading off the ninth inning. Streak over? Presumably. But the Red Sox scored five runs to give Pedroia a second chance. He popped up. Despite Pedroia’s 0-for-6, the Red Sox scored 15 runs.
- The league leaders in average entering play Monday are both middle infielders: second baseman Daniel Murphy’s .367 leads the NL and shortstop Xander Bogaerts’ .359 leads the AL. Second baseman Jose Altuve, at .344, gives middle infielders a sweep of the top three.
- The Twins are 20-43, through no fault of Eduardo Nunez. He’s never had more than 309 at-bats (Yankees in 2011), mostly because of his defense, but he’s already had 213 this year and is having his best season: .324 average, a career-high nine homers, 15 steals, and an .861 OPS. His defense isn’t any better. Nunez has a -0.6 defensive WAR.
- The Orioles are first in MLB in homers — no surprise since they were third in 2015 and first in 2013-14 — but the Rays, who were 14th last year with 167, are third with 90. Some of that is because of .194-hitting Corey Dickerson, who has just 14 singles but 11 home runs.
- The Mariners, who are second in home runs, already have five players in double figures: Robinson Cano (18), Nelson Cruz (15), Kyle Seager (11), Leonys Martin (career-high 10) and Dae-Ho Lee (10 in 108 at-bats). Lee has 10 extra-base hits, all homers.
- Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin is struggling at the plate, where he’s hitting .201, but behind it, too. Martin has thrown out 32% of base stealers in his career but just 14% this year. He’s just 5-for-36 in 2016.
- It was a rough week for young pitchers: the Phillies Vincent Velasquez, the Padres’ Andrew Cashner and the Pirates’ Gerrit Cole all left starts early. So far Cole is the only one to avoid the disabled list, perhaps because he’s the only one who might affect a pennant race. The Phillies said Velasquez had a “biceps strain,” and 15 days on the DL will help limit his innings, Cashner has been there before; in four previous seasons, he’s never topped 184.2 innings. The Pirates say Cole has a strained triceps, and will miss only a single start. Here’s hoping. Cole went from 138 innings in 2014 to 213 last year (208 in the regular season and five more in the postseason). If anyone is wondering why major-league teams so closely monitor innings pitched, that kind of jump is why. (Update: Cole went on the DL Tuesday night. He’ll miss more time than Ventura).
- Cubs’ run differential is +159 after 62 games. Blue Jays led MLB with a +221 last year for the whole season. And the Jays +221 was the best in MLB in more than a decade.