When are the trade chips going to start falling?
Here we are July 10th and there are still no trades to speak of. We had a few minor trades earlier in the season such as the Mark Trumbo for Welington Castillo swap (a trade that has been a bit of a disaster for the Mariners) but there has yet to be any big game changing trades. By July 4th last year the Cubs and Athletics had already pulled off their blockbuster deal swapping Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel for Addison Russell among other prospects.
However this year all of the large trade chips still play for the same team, waiting for any sign that they could soon find themselves in a new home. Many of the buyers have already shown their cards and are lining up to see what other teams have to offer. The issue so far in this year’s market up to this point has been the willingness of teams to sell or at least the willingness for teams to call themselves “sellers” and effectively give up their playoff hopes and aspirations.
We’ll start with the Phillies. For the Phillies it’s not necessarily playoff aspirations that is holding them back; we all know that isn’t going to happen. For them it may be asking too high of a price for their prized trade chip Cole Hamels or asking too much for guys that no one really desperately wants, such as Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, etc. For the Brewers a recent surge has slowed the talk of selling, however they still will end up as sellers sooner rather than later. And for the Padres, after an offseason extreme makeover that has failed to bear fruit, the question is whether the team should buy more assets to attempt to win this year or blow it up and get rid of their tradable assets?
Finally the Reds, who are hosting an All Star Game next week, have held on to playoff delusions for as long as they can and will definitely be looked on to sell following the All Star Game with Johnny Cueto, Aroldis Chapman, and Jay Bruce as likely trade chips. It makes sense to wait until the All Star Game to sell but once its over they need to hit the gas hard and start their rebuild. The market has been slow up until this point but following the All Star Break teams will start to assess their positions further and the selling will most certainly come.
What is Pat Murphy doing?
Im going to give Murphy the benefit of the doubt here. This is his first managerial job in the MLB and not only that but he’s been placed in an almost impossible situation. He went from coaching a Triple A team with almost no expectations or pressure to coaching a team that had more expectations prior to the season than almost any other.
Not to mention he is replacing a guy that was well liked by the local Sports community and well respected among the players in Bud Black. Those are definitely tough expectations to live up to and tough shoes to fill. With that being said I am really not sure what Murphy is doing with the lineup on a daily basis. So far he has coached in twenty-one games and the Padres are 7-14 during that time. Obviously we cannot blame Murphy for the losing record, and not many people expected a gigantic turnaround with a new coach running the team, but Murphy has made some questionable decisions so far.
It seems like in that twenty-one game span he has tried a different lineup combination in nearly every game and almost nothing has worked up until this point. The Padres offense continues to crater and they seem to be only to score two to three runs maximum on an almost daily basis. Murphy has also tried just about everyone as a leadoff hitter save Justin Upton and that has not worked out either. I thought he finally had it right with Yonder Alonso at leadoff because of his high OBP but that changed after one day. Now he is batting Derek Norris at leadoff. A guy who has struggled to hit anything over the last month and strikes out nearly as often as he gets a hit. On top of that Norris does not get many walks and does not get on base enough to warrant being a leadoff hitter. I commend Murphy for trying, and he is clearly under immense pressure, but it seems like he is almost trying to be too outside of the box and it is harming his lineup construction greatly.
The Padres Offense
Over the last month plus the Padres offense has been an absolute joke. Derek Norris has gone ice cold. Justin Upton has gone ice cold. Melvin Upton has never gotten hot. When Matt Kemp has probably been the best hitter, after a miserable start to his season, you know you have some pretty big issues. This offense has consistently failed to muster more than two or three runs in almost every game over the last month or so. This team is looking more and more like the 2014 Padres, which is definitely not a compliment.
It is unfathomable that nearly every good player on a team could get cold at the same time but that is what is happening. Maybe it is for the best with the trade deadline looming closer but the Padres definitely need to step up their offense if they hope to win many more games this year. Justin Upton’s poor performance is the most infuriating of all given his impending free agency and the need for the Padres to trade him. Each day he struggles his value plummets further and further down and the Padres find themselves in a worse spot. It may be most prudent just to end the speculation now and start pulling the trigger on some deadline moves. It doesn’t seem like the Padres offense is getting any better and, at this point, it really cant get much worse either.
The All Star Game has become a Joke
More so than in any other year this year’s All Star Game has become a bit of a joke in a lot of peoples’ eyes. First of all it has always kind of been silly that the All Star Game decides which league gets home field advantage in the World Series. Why should a team’s entire season possibly hinge on whether or not their league was able to win the All Star Game? That makes no sense to me.
As if that wasn’t bad enough the fans get to decide who plays in that all star game and thus have some affect on the World Series outcome. Which is ridiculous. Utterly ridiculous. From its inception the All Star Game was just an exhibition where fans could see their favorite players, and the best players, go at every year to decide league supremacy. With this setup fan voting was fine and actually made the game a lot more fun and interactive for the fans.
But ever since 2003, when Bud Selig decided the All Star Game should mean something, the All Star Game has no longer been just a fun exhibition and has now been a game that means something. Letting the fans decide who starts in a game that means something. Silly. Aside from that obvious point it seems nearly every year the fan’s vote in a questionable player that either shouldn’t be starting on the team over another better player or really shouldn’t be on an all star game at all.
This year was a prime example of this going wrong. At one point nearly the entire Royals starting lineup were leading in votes for their respective positions. At the time a lot was made about this, however, when it came time for the voting to close only half of the Royals roster made it as starters. This was obviously a good thing for everyone involved but still demonstrated how broken the whole process really was.
There is no way that Omar Infante should have ever been the leading vote getter for second baseman. He is rightfully now not an All Star but the fact that he was even close to getting in is really quite awful. One final note about the All Star Game is the yearly talk of “snubs.” Nearly every single year fans from all 30 teams, and pundits, writers, critics, etc., whine and complain about how their favorite player didn’t make the final roster or has been disrespected by being among the final five who could be voted in. I am guilty of this as well. It is just ridiculous to me that so many people are in such an uproar about certain players not making. Even the best player cannot make an all star team every single season in this day and age and every single year there will be snubs.
There are only 25 roster spots for which league and many more than 50 players deserving of being called an all star. Aside from increasing the roster size to 30, which is something I have suggested and discussed, there is really nothing at all that can be done to minimize all this snub talk every July. The All Star Game is clearly broken and the MLB needs to do something about it ASAP.
Umpiring is also a Joke
I cannot remember another year where umpiring has been this terrible. Obviously the MLB made it a point to fix some of the bad umpiring when they instituted instant replay to fix many of the calls that could be fixed. This issue with this strategy is they have completely ignored bad umpiring behind the plate, and the strike zone has really gotten worse than ever before.
The average size of the strike zone is measured every year and each and every year for the past five year it has expanded by several inches every year. This would be well and good if it was consistent but it is anything but that. One umpire calls a high strike while another calls a low strike and same thing with pitches inside and outside. On any given night the batters could be getting a completely different strike zone from the one they experienced the previous night.
In an era where pitchers already have all the advantages this is truly unacceptable. What is even worse is the difference in the strike zone between left handed hitters and right handed hitters. The right handed strike zone is much larger than that of a left handed hitter and puts right handed hitters at an even further disadvantage than they would be at otherwise. The fact that Major League Baseball has let this go unchecked for this long is truly unacceptable. There needs to be a more uniform strike zone for every umpire and for every type of pitcher and hitter as well as more accountability when umpires do make mistakes.
I personally wouldn’t mind robot umpires but that will likely not occur in the near future so accountability is the next best thing. Rob Manfred is just getting adjusted to being the commissioner and he has already done great things with pace of play and advancing the replay system. The next step NEEDS to be creating a more uniform strike zone and holding all umpires accountable to getting those calls right on a nightly basis.