Things are different today.
I don’t follow the rumor mill as obsessively as some seem to. I just don’t have the energy for it. In years when the Twins were in it, I might go through little crazy periods where I soak up every tiny bit of information, speculation or wild-ass guessing I can, but that’s certainly not been the case this year — I, not unlike TCM, had just been vaguely dreading this one — and I also have happened to have had much less internet access than I’m accustomed to, and there’s the Olympics and all that. So suffice it to say I’ve paid…some attention to the deadline this year, but less than your average totally-not-a-sports-person pays to the non-commercial parts of the Super Bowl.
When you take that approach, but still obsessively follow baseball in general, the day after the trade deadline — rather, I guess, the day of the deadline, in the hours after the deadline has passed — is like one of those disorienting dimensions they sometimes go to in TV shows or movies, in which everything is just a little bit off and has the cumulative effect of making everything feel way off. One I really can’t get my head around is Shane Victorino back with the Dodgers, the team that drafted him 13 years ago; I guess I had heard he was being shopped around and/or asked after, but he just seemed like a guy who was always going to be a Phillie. The Giants nabbing the Phils’ other star outfielder just a couple hours later is a particularly fun bit of one-upsmanship, if you don’t think about how much more comfortable the Giants might be right now had they bothered to spend the very reasonable sum to retain Carlos Beltran instead.
Outside the Phillies and the top of the NL West, and the Cubs rather quietly moving everything that’s remotely mobile, this trade deadline seems to be most notable for its lack of activity. I don’t know how often this page will be updated now that the deadline is long past, but right now, the vast majority of the entries are of the “Team X stands pat” variety. That’s disorienting in its own way, though, since we’ve spent most of the last month sure that Justin Upton would be traded, and Denard Span, and Stephen Drew, and Matt Garza, and James Shields, and…well, those things could still happen, but they didn’t, and we’ll hear a lot less about them now.
It’s a good day in baseball, though. A lot of good players are on better teams than they were at this time yesterday, Travis Snider was finally freed from Canada (as I advocated just a couple weeks ago).and I expect him to do very well in Pittsburgh. Francisco Liriano has been liberated and has continued looking great since returning from the disabled list, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he’s the best pitcher acquired around the deadline. Interesting stuff has happened, and it’s good for the sport. It’s just a hell of a thing to have to catch up on.
Pitcher of the Night: A.J. Burnett, 9 IP, 1 H, 2 BB, 8 K, 0 R
When a pitcher is on the verge of doing what Burnett was on the verge of doing last night, a crazily common joke (and I’m sure I’ve been guilty more than once) is something along the lines of: “it’s just the Cubs. Does that even count?”
And, sure, the Cubs were a shell of a team last night, after all the trades (and, before that, all the being the Cubs). They’ve also got Starlin Castro, who since he debuted in 2010 has been one of the best in baseball at, well, collecting hits; Anthony Rizzo, in his short 2012 stint, has been right there with him, and the lineup still had at least six big-league-quality players. More to the point, how often do you see no-hitters in Double- or Triple-A? It’s a hard/impressive feat at any level, especially so at the Major League level, even if not all nine of the guys you’re pitching to are really Major League hitters.
It was bizarre that pinch hitter Adrian Cardenas got the first and only Cubs hit, just the eighth hit of his fledgling MLB career.
Hitter of the Night: Albert Pujols, 2-5, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI
Just two solo shots, but no one else had more than three hits last night, and it’s just nice to see Albert back. He’s now at 20 home runs, and is over a 130 wRC+. In July, Pujols batted over .330 with over a 1.000 OPS.
Defensive non-Play of the Night: Bryce Harper is probably still debating himself over how he wants to eventually play this ball:
I love inside-the-park home runs, no exceptions (okay, I guess a serious injury to the responsible defender would be an exception), but this one was just a kid who had no idea how to play a ball off, or near, a wall, and an older guy who can still run really fast and make him pay for it.
Defensive non-Play of the Night, Too, Additionally: It’s not going to let me embed it, but this here is the worst first base play I’ve ever seen. With the bases loaded and one out, Paul Konerko is practically standing on the first base bag when he fields a ground ball, yet somehow never manages to step on the base. After stepping on first, he could likely have made a good throw to second for the tag-him-out double play to end the inning. Instead, after missing first, he throws home, where he had no chance to get the runner to begin with, and also throws wild, and only a blown call by the umpires keeps him from costing his team two runs rather than just one. Konerko also bobbled the final ball of the game, then flipped to first so badly that the pitcher had to bare-hand it as he staggered over the bag. Not a great day for PK.
Yankees: Ivan Nova, 5 IP, 10 H, 5 K, 1 BB, 1 HR, 9 ER
Yikes. Not actually that awful by FIP/xFIP/etc., but that’s pretty small comfort. They’re still the best team in the league, most likely, but Yankee fan chatter this morning has to pretty much be one big “should of traided 4 Demster.”
Phillies: Cliff Lee, 7 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 7 K, 0 ER
Lee out-Strasburgs Strasburg, who (Strasburg, that is) had what must have been one of the worst outings of his career (4 IP, 6 ER, 2 HR including Kevin Frandsen’s first in five years). We all hate wins and losses, for all sorts of good reasons, but there’s something pretty amazing about Lee’s 2-6 record, vis-a-vis what is now a 3.31 FIP and 3.11 xFIP.
Red Sox: Pedro Ciriaco, 1-2, R, RBI
What is there to point out about a 4-1 game postponed after five innings? The Sox scored their four runs on six singles and four walks, all against Verlander, with no extra-base hits. Ciriaco played in his 20th game and is now hitting .348/.357/.449.
Braves: Brian McCann, 2-5, 2B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI
Quietly a disappointing season for the guy who was once easily the game’s second-best offensive catcher: .243/.309/.459, the homer his 18th.
Padres: Jason Marquis, 6.1 IP, 8 H, 2 BB, 5 K, 3 HR, 7 ER
That’s much more like it.
Royals: Alex Gordon, 3-4, 2 2B, BB, 2 R, RBI
Gordon might be working his way into the “most underrated player” discussion. Meanwhile, his team beats Cleveland, where things are getting pretty sad and ugly.
Brewers: Aramis Ramirez, 3-4, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI
Homers are way down for A-Ram — that was just his 13th — but he’s seond in the NL with 35 doubles, and has remained a very productive hitter.
Twins: Denard Span, 4-5, SB, 0 R, 1 RBI
Four hits. No runs.Top of the lineup.
Cardinals: Matt Holliday, 2-5, 2B, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI
Up to a phenomenal .320/.404/.543 line. The homer was his 19th.
Rays: James Shields, 9 IP, 3 H, 0 BB, 11 K, 0 ER
Probably a better overall performance than Burnett’s, but Shields gave up one of the three hits in the bottom of the second, so there’s none of the drama. Have to love that kind of performance right after he found out he’d be staying in Tampa Bay after all.
Blue Jays: Aaron Laffey, 4.2 IP, 9 H, 2 BB, 0 K, 1 HR
Aaron Laffey? In the big leagues? Still? Well, good for that guy.
Diamondbacks: Paul Goldschimdt, 3-4, HR, 1 BB, 2 R, 4 RBI
With 46 extra-base hits and an wRC+ of nearly 140, Goldschmidt agin seems to be proving all the scouts wrong.
Giants: Tim Lincecum, 7 IP, 6 H, 1 BB, 7 K, 1 ER
He had a disaster start last time out, but in three of the last four starts, he’s surrendered two runs or fewer, and in those three starts, he’s pitched 22 innings with 23 strikeouts against only one walk, with one homer allowed.