Discover more from Into The Fountains
The Sunday Ramble
Salvy reaches a milestone, a web gem, Keller returns, the Wild Card races are heating up, the Nationals embarrass themselves and David Wells surpises absolutely no one with his opinions.
It’s been a while since we rambled on a Sunday, but I’m trying to get my act together for the stretch run, so here we are.
Today, I’ll start with some Royals news before pivoting to some Major League happenings that caught my eye.
Before that, though, the usual housekeeping. If you’re a regular visitor, but not a subscriber, it would be incredibly kind of you if you decided to sign up for FREE, semi-regular emails about the Royals. No spam, I promise. (Unless you want to classify emails about a 100-loss team as spam. I won’t argue that point.)
I’ve decided the best way to build this newsletter is on the recommendations of regular readers. If that’s you (thanks!), I would appreciate it if you could help me spread the word by sharing this site with your Royals friends.
As always, thank you for your support.
Salvador Perez caught his 10,000th inning in his career on Saturday in Toronto. He’s the first Royal catcher to hit that mark. It’s a fantastic testament to a player who has been pivotal to this franchise for over a decade.
Perez is the 45th player in Major League history to reach the 10,000-inning mark as a catcher. With 19 games remaining and now that Nick Pratto is back to handle first base duties and with Freddy Fermin on the IL, it’s safe to assume Perez will get the majority of the reps behind the plate these last three weeks. At the close of 2023, he will probably have the 42nd most innings caught, just ahead of Rick Cerone (10,113), Joe Girardi (10,060) and our old pal Mike Matheny (10,053).
Perez has reached that point that was similar to George Brett at the end of his career where seemingly every time Brett did something, he was passing a legend on some all-time list. Perez is doing it more on a franchise level than in the major leagues as a whole, but there are still moments, like this innings-as-a-catcher list, that make you continue to appreciate the career he’s had in Kansas City.
Just a special player.
We need to take a moment to marvel at this play from Saturday:
A gif is a fantastic way to consume this content. It needs to be on a loop. Michael Massey and Bobby Witt Jr. have a sixth sense for each other when playing up the middle. It’s a special defensive paring that at times, like on Saturday, borders on the spectacular.
It’s not unusual to see one flip the ball to the other for a play at first. But that Massey is able to maintain control while sliding toward left and tumbling backward and that Witt has the presence of mind to quickly collect the ball, spin and throw a strike to Nick Pratto at first…it’s the kind of defense that takes your breath away.
The Royals made some roster moves on Saturday that included putting Fermin on the IL with a right middle finger fracture. Austin Cox joins him, after injuring his knee as he was covering first base. Cox felt a “pop” according to manager Matt Quatraro and is traveling back to Kansas City for an MRI. He’s going on the 60-day IL, so his season is officially over.
In corresponding moves, the Royals reinstated Brad Keller from the 60-day IL and selected catcher Tyler Cropley from Double-A Northwest Arkansas.
It’s a great moment for Cropley, who’s a 27-year-old minor league grinder who, until now, had yet to get past Double-A, although he has been part of the Royals’ spring catching corps as a non-roster invitee the last couple of seasons. In 43 games for the Naturals, he was hitting .234/.329/.359.
Keller has been on the 60-day IL since mid-May. He did one rehab stint that went incredibly poorly before resetting and recalibrating for the one he just completed. In 8.2 innings at Northwest Arkansas, Keller walked four and struck out eight while allowing four runs.
Pardon me if I can’t get behind recalling Keller at this point. Yes, his rehab time was winding down so the Royals would have to do something. With his service time, he could refuse a minor league option. It would be a bad look for the Royals to designate him for assignment coming off an injury with just three weeks left in the season. So we’re left with a guy with no future in the organization coming in for a handful of innings as the season mercifully draws to a close. Keller will be a free agent at the end of the season and I’m sure some team will toss him a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.
I just wish the roster spot could go to anyone else.
With their 5-1 defeat to Toronto on Saturday, the Royals are at 99 losses on the season. They are currently a half-game worse than Oakland. Ugh.
I’m going to go out on a limb and predict a victory in the finale in Toronto. It would be dumb to bet against Cole Ragans. So they will head into next week sitting at 99 losses. With that in mind, here’s how I think the rest of the season will go:
at Chicago White Sox — 2-1
vs Houston Astros — 0-3
vs Cleveland Guardians — 1-2
at Houston Astros — 1-2
at Detroit Tigers — 2-1
vs New York Yankees — 1-2
That’s a record of 8-11 over the last three weeks. As I was breaking it out by series, it sure didn’t feel that optimistic. Still, that would put them at a final record of 52-110 which would be the worst in franchise history.
I cannot believe they are still battling with the A’s for the worst record in baseball.
I’m still navigating this jumble of a Wild Card with six teams in each league qualifying for the postseason. It’s kind of a mess to track.
I’ll say it…it was easier to follow pennant races in what Baseball Reference refers to as the “Divisional Era,” which was when my baseball consciousness fully formed. Two leagues, two divisions in each league, the top teams in each division go to the postseason. Easy peasy. Some years, the October participants were all but settled before September. Other years, it would go down to the wire. Excitement wasn’t guaranteed, but there could still be something interesting about a team that just steamrolled their way to a division title.
The split into three divisions was fine and the one Wild Card was easy enough. Another race to follow, but still relatively simple in its construction where the best team of the non-division winners would qualify. Hell, I could even get behind the addition of the second Wild Card team because it brought a single-game playoff to see who would advance to the Divisional Series. There should always be some sort of penalty built in for teams that qualify for the postseason without winning a division.
Now, though? Three teams? It’s too much for me. In the National League, there are six teams within shouting distance of collecting a Wild Card. How does one follow all of this (while still watching a team on pace for 110 losses, naturally)? I heard this week that the Giants are slumping and falling out of contention. OK. I didn’t know the Giants were in the mix. As of Thursday, they won just three of their last 10 and were an even-steven 70-70 on the season. That put them…two and a half games back from the last spot. Just ahead of them are the Reds at 73-69, the Marlins at 72-68 and the Diamondbacks at 73-68.
The worst part of the expanded playoffs is that Major League Baseball got rid of the tiebreaker games. Now there’s a whole system in place. With the possibility of total chaos, MLB decided to be boring. I can’t say I’m surprised.
As much as I enjoy yelling at that cloud, I understand the reality that expanded postseason is here to stay. So with three weeks left in the season, I think locks in the AL at this point are the Orioles and Rays coming out of the East and the Twins winning the Central. The Astros look good from here for the Western Division crown. The Mariners, Blue Jays and Rangers are currently battling for the other two Wild Card spots, but Texas is fading.
For personal rooting interests, I’m extremely happy for Baltimore and they’re a crazy fun team to watch. Get ready for some Ryan O’Hearn in your October. I’m tired of the Astros; the Rays are regulars, too. The Mariners are enjoyable enough. I’m ambivalent on the Jays and really dislike watching games played at that sporting goods store in Texas, so I’ll always actively root against the Rangers.
I’m much more content with the National League where it looks like outside of regular participants in Atlanta and Los Angeles, there’s going to be plenty of new postseason blood. Yes, I realize last year’s NL pennant winner is looking good in Philadelphia, but they remain enjoyable to watch. I’m fine with the Brewers, the D-Backs, the Marlins and Reds. Less fine with the Cubs, but it’s whatever.
The best thing? No Yankees. No Red Sox. No Cardinals.
The Yankees held their hallowed Old Timer’s Day on Saturday. Let’s see which of their former players is the biggest asshole. Surprise! It’s David Wells.
“We’re in a different world,” Wells said Saturday, which was Old-Timer’s Day at Yankee Stadium. “It sucks. That’s why everyone should carry a gun.”
As Wells spoke, he wore a piece of medical tape over the Nike swoosh on the chest of his Yankees jersey. He said that if he were playing today, he would have cut a hole into his jersey and worn it on the field like that rather than display Nike’s logo on his body.
“I hate Nike!” he said. “They’re woke!”
You will also be surprised to hear that today’s players are “coddled,” analytics are “ruining the game” and he just really believes in “sending a message.” No word exactly on what that message is. He just likes to send ‘em! I’m assuming it’s something like “Don’t suck” and “Be a man!”
I love Old Timer events where random guys show up and steal the show with their rants about the state of the world and baseball. I’m sure when Wells was in his prime in the 1990s, some old guy from the ‘60s was complaining about how the current players were soft. They probably did it while wearing Nikes and slamming Bud Lights. Maybe things are different in baseball now.
Wells strikes me as kind of a fourth-rate Curt Schilling. And now he disappears from our collective consciousness until the next Yankees Old Timer’s Day. Good.
I missed this over the Labor Day weekend, but Rays reliever Robert Stephenson pitched what Jayson Stark calls an immaculate non-immaculate inning.
What, exactly, is an immaculate non-immaculate inning? Well, thanks to Rob Manfred it happened in the 10th inning in a tie game against the Guardians in Cleveland. With the Manfred Man on second, Stephenson struck out the first two batters on six pitches. He then intentionally walked the third batter before striking out the fourth batter faced on three more pitches. So, nine pitches were thrown, all strikes, three outs and one intentional walk. Oh, and two runners left on base!
Of course, as Stark points out, these days you could strike out three guys on less than nine pitches.
Manfred’s baseball has gotten kind of strange.
Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like baseball clubs around the majors are pushing all-in on stupidity these days. From the White Sox to the Angels to the Brewers to the Orioles (and yes, even the Royals with their fumbling of a new stadium), owners are showing that you don’t have to be smart to be filthy rich.
The latest idiocy comes from Washington where the Nationals were supposedly planning to pay the balance of Stephen Strasburg’s contract, throw him a retirement party and retire his number. Then days before the event, the Nats pulled the plug and cancelled everything.
Strasburg, you will recall, signed a new contract with the Nationals after leading his team to World Series glory in 2019. The final numbers checked in at seven years and $245 million. A lot of cabbage, but at the time the dude was a franchise cornerstone. Unfortunately, since then Strasburg battled myriad injuries, had thoracic outlet syndrome surgery, and he’s basically finished. Since signing that extension, he’s thrown just 31 innings.
And then things suddenly changed. The retirement press conference was canceled. The jersey retirement was mothballed. For now, it looks like Strasburg will remain on the roster. The Nats issued a statement saying they looked forward to him reporting to camp next February. Can you believe that?
Just a brutal turn of events that is entirely on the Nationals.
There’s a lot to unpack. Strasburg’s contract is guaranteed, so he’s due every cent he signed for after that ’19 season. That means he has to occupy a roster spot this winter when players are required to be removed from the 60-day IL. If the Nats want that spot for another player, they’ll have to convince Strasburg to retire which means they’ll need to either agree to pay him his entire contract or negotiate a slightly smaller package. Scott Boras is his agent, so guess the amount they will need to pay. Remember, what Gil Meche did for the Royals after Trey Hillman saw to it that Meche’s shoulder was shredded, is an anomaly. Players fought for guaranteed contracts and as such, have every right to collect every penny that is due. When the news broke that the Nationals would be honoring Strasburg, it looked like they were going to pay him the balance of his contract.
Until they decided they wouldn’t.
While this was unfolding, the Nationals were laying off scouts, their president of baseball operations, Mike Rizzo is unsigned beyond this season and the Lerner family is supposedly exploring selling the team.
My god. How embarrassing. Just another day for a major league baseball organization. These guys can’t get anything right.