Could there have been a better “passing of the torch” moment than Manny Machado hitting three home runs in the first three innings this afternoon mere hours after Alex Rodriguez announced his retirement?
Machado, of course, is the 23-year-old “wunderkind” in Baltimore. A once-and-future shortstop, Machado transitioned to third base on the fly at age 19 to break into the Major Leagues because his position was already taken. He’s won two Gold Gloves at third, made the All-Star team three times, and is one of a few electric young shortstops in baseball ready to take over the sport in the coming decade.
Of course, Rodriguez was once a 23-year-old wonder. Also a three-time All-Star at 23, Rodriguez was among his own class of future stars at short for the coming generation along with Nomar Garciaparra and Derek Jeter. Nothing ever went according to plan for Rodriguez, though. He may be the most unpopular player of his generation, even more than Barry Bonds. Rooting against the evil monstrosity of Bonds felt fun. He was the super-villain with the big head and cartoonish home run numbers. A-Rod just felt kind of “icky”.
No one knows how these promising young players’ careers will play out, but let Rodriguez’s ignominious career-arch serve as a gentle reminder to cherish these days in the sun for the young Machados, or Lindors or Correas.
The Week Ahead
@ Washington Nationals (Tuesday and Wednesday)
65-45, 7 games ahead of Miami
The Nats haven’t announced their starters for next week’s games, but the Indians should be relieved to know that they’ll miss Stephen Strasburg this time around. Strasburg pitched, and lost, on Saturday against the Giants so even Wednesday’s game would be just three days rest. The loss to the Giants dropped Strasburg to 15-2, which is still the best winning percentage in the league.
Meanwhile, what’s going on with Bryce Harper? He’s followed up an MVP season in 2015 when he hit .330/.460/.649 with a .233/.374/.438 line this season. The walks are still there (his 82 leads the league) but not much else is going his way. After hitting .323 with nine home runs in the season’s first 18 games, Harper has hit just .214/.368/.350 with 11 home runs in 87 games since.
Harper will sit out Sunday’s game and hopes to return to action on Tuesday when the Indians visit the nation’s capital.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (Thursday thru Sunday)
49-61, 14.5 GB of Texas
The Angels have been busy wasting another of Mike Trout’s peak years this season, but it’s always good to check in on the future Hall-of-Famer whenever he’s in town (yep, totally irresponsible early-career HOF prediction. Sue me – it’s my article).
The game’s most well-rounded player has pulled ahead of Bryce Harper again after Harper’s brief challenge last season of “best ballplayer in the game” title. Trout leads the AL in walks (75) and OBP (.431) and is slashing .319/.431/.560 overall with 21 home runs.
As usual, no one particular stat jumps off the page at you, but Trout’s 7.0 WAR leads the majors by a comfortable margin. In November, we’ll have the annual debate to define “valuable” as writers will convince you that Mookie Betts or Josh Donaldson were irreplaceable to playoff contenders while Trout can thank his team’s front office for surrounding him with inferior talent.
In related news, the Angels have mercifully released two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum. Seeking help for a depleted rotation, the Angels gave Lincecum nine starts and 38 innings and watched him go 2-6 with a 9.16 ERA (2.374 WHIP). It’s a sad season for the 32-year-old who once pitched a complete game, two hit, 14 K shutout in his first postseason start back in 2010 on the way to the first of three titles that he enjoyed in San Francisco.
Projected Starting Pitchers
Thursday, 8/11, 7:10 PM ET – TBD vs TBD (not Lincecum)
Friday, 8/12, 7:10 PM ET – TBD vs TBD
Saturday, 8/13, 7:10 PM ET – TBD vs TBD
Sunday, 8/14, 1:10 PM ET – TBD vs TBD
Around the AL Central
Detroit Tigers – Zimmermann Ailing
The Tigers stood pat at the trade deadline, counting instead on the return of a few veterans to help bolster them for the pennant race. Their $110 million pitcher, Jordan Zimmermann, is heading right back to the DL after one lousy start this week against the White Sox.
According to the Detroit Free Press, Zimmermann told the Tiger brass that he was ready for his Thursday start, but didn’t look well in giving up six runs in 1 2/3 innings. Zimmermann was electric in April, going 5-0 with a 0.55 ERA. He stood at 8-2 with a 2.58 ERA as recently as June 3rd but has posted an 8.42 ERA and an opponents batting average of .349 in his last six starts.
The Tigers are 15-6 since the All-Star break and have crept within two games of the division-leading Indians. The two teams square off two more times this season – a weekend series in Cleveland beginning Friday, September 16th and a four game weekday series in Detroit beginning Monday, September 26th.
Chicago White Sox – Limping Along
The 2016 White Sox hit their high-water mark on May 9th. They stood at 23-10 and lead the Central division by six games. They then lost 15 of their next 19 games and had coughed up first place, which they never seemed destined for anyway, by May 28th. A 45-43 first half has dissolved into a 8-14 second half, and the Sox are looking towards 2017.
The prospects lists aren’t particularly kind to the White Sox on their mid-year reports, though. On MLB’s updated mid-season top 100, only two White Sox farmhands make an appearance – 22-year-old pitcher Carson Fulmer (#67 overall), who is getting his first cup of coffee this summer out of the big league bullpen and catcher Zack Collins (#93), the 10th overall pick this summer with an estimated arrival of 2018.
Kansas City Royals – What’s Next?
Today’s Kansas City Star has written what amounts to a lengthy eulogy for the Royals’ 2016 season. In the article, they mention the possible closing of this competitive window after 2017. After next season, the Royals will have several key free agents (Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Danny Duffy and Wade Davis), of whom they’re certain to lose at least a few due to their budget limitations.
Injuries and a return to form for many stars will dictate how 2017 will play out for the Royals. After that?
Will they return to that 24 year wasteland that they experienced from 1990 to 2013 when they finished as high as second once and finished in last place eight times with rosters stocked full of Blake Steins and Matt Stairs-type players?
Minnesota Twins – They’ll Be Back
The Indians may want to be through with the Twins, but the Twins ain’t through with us (hat tip to Magnolia).
The Twins lit up Tribe pitching for 35 runs in the first three games of last week’s four-game series. And watch out, the Twins have won seven of their last ten and were 15-11 in July. They’re not totally helpless anymore as their young offense continues to develop. The Twins next come to town at the end of August and please excuse me if I spend those three days with my head under my pillow.
Sunday Night Matchup at Dodger Stadium
David Price (9-7, 4.30) faces off against Brandon McCarthy (2-2, 2.76) on ESPN’s game of the week tonight. Price, in the first season of a seven year contract, has posted the highest ERA and WHIP (1.248) of his career since his age-23 rookie season in 2009. Price has been on his game the last two times out, however, walking just one and allowing four runs over 15 innings. The Red Sox lost both games, though.
The newly-acquired but oft-injured Rich Hill was supposed to make his Dodger debut tonight, but he’s, well, injured again. A “little remnant of a newly formed blister”. Hmmm.