Category Archives: MLB

Pirates officially hire Ben Cherington as new GM

The Pirates made official the hiring of Ben Cherington as the 13th general manager in their history on Monday morning. The Pirates will introduce Cherington with a noon press conference at PNC Park.

Most interesting in the statement were the thoughts given by Cherington and those in Pirates management about the longtime member of the Boston Red Sox. Cherington, charged with charting the Pirates’ new direction, most recently was working as vice president of baseball operations with the Toronto Blue Jays.

“This is an important step forward for our organization,” Pirates owner Bob Nutting said in a statement. “Ben has an incredible track record of success having been a part of three world championship teams in Boston, one as general manager, and setting the table for a fourth. “His passion and ability to identify, infuse and develop talent at every level, including at the Major League level, is exactly what we need to be successful in Pittsburgh.”

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Cherington has done a little bit of everything throughout his career while specializing in scouting and player development. Although Boston clearly spent a bunch of money, Cherington was adept at discovering talent and developing it the right way.      

One of Cherington’s first/biggest tasks will be rebuilding the Pirates farm system. He did plenty of that in Toronto.

The Blue Jays farm system was ranked third-best in the industry in 2019, according to Baseball America.

“Ben is exactly what we need,” Pirates president Travis Williams said in a statement. “He knows how to develop a winning culture. He also has a track record of attracting and developing talent, both on the field and in the front office.

Ben is constantly challenging himself, his people and the processes that are in place. He knows that our ability to drive innovation and stay ahead of the game will be important to our long-term success.”

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Astros´ Justing Verlander wins second career AL Cy Young Award

For the second time in his near undeniable Hall of Fame career, the honor goes to Justin Verlander after a vote by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

In the NL, Jacob deGrom made history by becoming just the 11th pitcher to win back-to-back Cy Youngs.

Verlander edged out teammate Gerrit Cole by 12 points. It’s the first time teammates have received all 30 first and second-place votes. Verlander was named first on 17 ballots. Cole on 13. Their former teammate, Charlie Morton, finished third. Morton currently pitches for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Verlander is the fourth Astros pitcher to conquer the award, joining Mike Scott (1986), Roger Clemens (2004) and Dallas Keuchel (2015). Verlander previously won the award in 2011 as a member of the Detroit Tigers. He’s finished top three in the Cy Young voting on four other opportunities, including runner up finishes in 2012, 2016 and 2018.

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Performance-wise, not a lot separated Verlander and Cole from one another. Verlander remained dominant and durable in his age-36 season, leading MLB with 223 innings pitched and finishing with exactly 300 strikeouts. That mark was a new career-high for the 15-year veteran.

Verlander also pitched his third career no-hitter, won 21 games, posted a 2.58 ERA and for the second consecutive season posted the best WHIP in MLB at 0.803. That is despite allowing a career-high 36 home runs.

Cole, 29, led the league with a 2.50 ERA while setting a franchise record with 326 strikeouts. Despite missing one start because of an injury, Cole enjoyed a stronger finish to the season. Over his final 22 starts, Cole was 16-0 with 226 strikeouts over 146 2/3 innings. During that stretch, Cole joined Hall of Famer Martinez as the only pitchers to post at least 14 strikeouts in three consecutive starts.

Both résumés are impressive. As is the résumé of Charlie Morton. The 35-year-old right-hander joined the Tampa Bay Rays in free agency and filled the role of ace after 2018 Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell missed time with injuries. Morton won 16 games, posted a 3.05 ERA and was vital in helping the Rays clinch a wild-card spot.

The dispute between Verlander and Cole is one that will likely continue far beyond Wednesday’s announcement. But there was no clear wrong choice on the matter.

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Giants name Gabe Kapler as Bruce Bocky´s replacement

Kapler has been hired as San Francisco’s manager a month after being fired from the same job by the Philadelphia Phillies. Kapler received a three-year contract to replace Bruce Bochy, a beloved figure who retired at the end of the season following 13 years and three championships with San Francisco.

The Giants made the statement late Tuesday and planned a formal introduction Wednesday afternoon at the ballpark. Kapler is the second big hire in a matter of days by Zaidi, the Giants’ president of baseball operations. On Monday, Zaidi introduced new general manager Scott Harris, most recently an assistant GM for the Chicago Cubs.

Zaidi and Kapler are now reunited from their time with the Los Angeles Dodgers, where Kapler served as director of player development and Zaidi the general manager.

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“The most important trait, if we could have summarized it in one sentence for the next manager, was somebody who was capable of building trust and relationships with both the players and the front office,” Zaidi said. “And in my experience with Gabe, and as we went through the interview process and got to learn more about him, it became clear to us that he was the person who could best execute on that.”

The 44-year-old Kapler was fired Oct. 10 after going 161-163 over two seasons with the Phillies.

With slugger Bryce Harper their blockbuster asset, the Phillies ended 81-81 this year for their first non-losing season since 2012.

Harris said he was impressed with the reference checks done on Kapler around the game. The Giants also received feedback from current San Francisco players.

A former outfielder, Kapler played parts of 12 major league seasons with six teams and was a career .268 hitter. Bochy stated in February at spring training that he would retire after the season. He managed the Giants to World Series championships in 2010, ’12 and ’14. San Francisco went 77-85 in his final year.

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Yankees hire Matt Blake as pitching coach

The New York Yankees didn’t waste any time finding their new pitching coach, as they have hired Matt Blake to fill the role Larry Rothschild left behind. Blake was formerly the pitching coach of the Cleveland Indians and is known for developing big-league pitchers.

Blake’s ability to refine pitchers and his familiarity with the Yankees system, having worked as an area scout for them in the past, makes him a terrific candidate for the Bombers moving forward. He takes a more analytical approach to the game, while Rothschild depends on his gut and old-school mentality.

This is a step forward for a Yankees team that did have a great bullpen last year but saw their starters struggle at times. Blake should increase the efficiency of both units if he can manage to make the most of the pitching presently on the roster.

Blake comes over from the Cleveland Indians, where he previously served as the team’s pitching coordinator. The Yankees parted ways with longtime pitching coach Larry Rothschild earlier this offseason. New York also interviewed David Cone for the position.

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Of the four known candidates for the job, three (with former Yankees star David Cone as the outlier) were younger names in their 30’s without much any direct coaching experience on an MLB staff. 

University of Michigan pitching coach Chris Fetter and Arkansas pitching coach Matt Hobbs were the two other names linked to the Yankees’ search.

It will be up to Blake to modernize the Yankees’ handling of their arms, and it perhaps isn’t surprising that New York hired someone from a Cleveland organization that has excelled at developing homegrown pitching in recent years. 

Indians manager Terry Francona just praised Blake’s work in preparing young hurlers such as Jefry Rodriguez, Zach Plesac, and Aaron Civale, with the latter two making their Major League debuts in 2019.

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Stephen Strasburg opts out of deal with Nationals

As expected, Washington Nationals right-hander and reigning World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg has opted out of his contract, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.

The Nationals have not yet established the news. Strasburg is walking away from four years and $100 million. Saturday was the deadline to opt out.

Strasburg, 31, threw a National League leading 209 innings during the regular season, and ended with 3.32 ERA and 251 strikeouts. He then threw another 36 1/3 innings with a 1.98 ERA during Washington’s postseason run, including 8 1/3 innings of two-run ball with the season on the line in World Series Game 6.

The Nationals signed Strasburg to a seven-year extension worth $175 million in May 2016.

The contract included heavy deferrals, as big Nationals contracts often do. Because a dollar today is worth more than a dollar five years from now, the present day value of those four years is much less than $100 million. Strasburg would come out ahead financially simply by re-signing a new four-year, $100 million deal with no deferrals. 

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The Nationals will almost certainly try to re-sign Strasburg, who they selected with the No. 1 overall pick back in 2009. He is the second best starting pitcher on the free agent market behind Gerrit Cole and could command upwards of six years and $150 million this winter, even at age 31 and with injuries throughout his career. That might even be selling him short.

Washington will also try to re-sign third baseman Anthony Rendon this winter. Should they lose Strasburg to free agency — I imagine his hometown Padres will make a big push to sign him — the Nationals would still have Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin to front to the rotation going forward. 

The Nationals will undoubtedly make Strasburg the qualifying offer prior to Monday’s deadline, ensuring they receive draft pick compensation if he signs elsewhere.

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Nationals defeat Astros to win Franchise’s first World Series

Howie Kendrick, Anthony Rendon and the Washington Nationals finished their amazing comeback journey — fittingly with one last late rally on the road.

Kendrick and Rendon homered in the seventh inning as the Nationals overcame a two-run deficit, rocking the Houston Astros 6-2 Wednesday night to win the first title in franchise history.

With all eyes on Scherzer and his remarkable recovery after a painkilling injection, these Nationals truly embraced their shot in the only Series when the road team won every game.

Even more against the odds: Juan Soto and Washington came from behind to win five elimination games this postseason, an unprecedented feat.

“What a story,” said Ryan Zimmerman, the only player who’s been a part of every Nationals team.

“The way this game went is the way our whole season went,” he said.

Strasburg, new lefty Patrick Corbin and the Nats brought the first World Series championship to the nation’s capital since ol’ Walter Johnson delivered the crown for the Senators in 1924. This franchise started out as the Montreal Expos in 1969 when the major leagues expanded beyond the border, putting a team with tricolor caps at jaunty Jarry Park. They moved to D.C. in 2005, ending Washington’s three-decade-plus wait for big league baseball after the Senators left town to become the Texas Rangers.

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But the unbelievable path these wild-card Nationals with the curly W logo took, well, no one could have imagined.

Because in one topsy-turvy week, they put aside the pain of past playoff failures.

“Resilient, relentless bunch of guys,” manager Dave Martinez said. “They fought all year long.”

Having lost star slugger Bryce Harper in free agency and beset by bullpen woes, Washington plummeted to 19-31 in late May. It got so bad there was talk around town the Nationals might fire Martinez and trade away Scherzer.

Instead, they stuck with the mantra that sprung up on T-shirts — Stay In The Fight.

“That was our motto,” Scherzer said.

And months later they finished it, indeed. The Nationals became the first wild-card team to acquire the Series since Madison Bumgarner and the Giants in 2014. Starting with San Francisco’s win, the last six champs have clinched on the road.

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Nationals force World Series Game 7

It’s been an unusual road to Game 7 of the World Series for Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals.

Seizing the October spotlight he missed out on as a youngster, Strasburg pitched another postseason gem into the ninth inning Tuesday night as the Nationals defeated the Houston Astros 7-2 to tie this Fall Classic at 3-3.

Juan Soto ran all the way to first base with his bat following a go-ahead homer, the same way Houston slugger Alex Bregman did earlier.

Yep, these wild-card Nationals have matched the heavily favored Astros swing for swing, hit for hit – even home run celebration for home run celebration.

Now, it’s onto a winner-take-all Game 7 on Wednesday night to resolve the only Series in which the visiting team won the first six.

”It’s weird, really. You can’t explain it,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said. The Nationals will try their ultimate comeback in a year when they were written off time after time, hoping for the first title in the 51-season history of a franchise that started as the Montreal Expos and the first for Washington since the Senators in 1924.

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Visiting teams have won three straight Game 7s in the Series since the Cardinals defeated Texas at home in 2011.

”I don’t think there’s a person in the building that would have assumed that all road teams were going to win,” Houston manager AJ Hinch said. ”We’ve just got to make sure that last one is not the same.”

Washington rebounded from a 19-31 start – the Nats were given just a 1.6% option to win the Series on May 23 – to finish 93-69. They rallied from a 3-1 eighth-inning deficit against Milwaukee in the NL wild-card game, a two-games-to-one deficit vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Division Series and a 2-1, fifth-inning deficit in Game 6 vs. the Astros.

Outscored 19-3 at Nationals Park while going 1 for 21 with runners in scoring position, the Nationals got the strong outing they needed from Strasburg, who allowed his only runs in the first inning, struck out seven and walked two while throwing 104 pitches. ”It was a mental grind out there, especially after the first,” Strasburg said. ”Just got to keep fighting.”

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Astros hammer Nationals to take 3-2 lead in World Series

The Houston Astros handed the ball to Gerrit Cole, and he gave them a firm grip on the World Series.

Minus ailing ace Max Scherzer, the Nationals were no match in this Washington wipeout.

Cole looked exactly like the stud who dominated baseball most of this season, bouncing back from a Game 1 clunker to pitch the Astros to a 7-1 win Sunday night and a 3-2 lead.

Slumping rookie Yordan Álvarez and Carlos Correa hit early two-run homers off emergency starter Joe Ross, George Springer added another postseason drive and Houston won its third straight at Nationals Park.

What a turnaround, too — outscored 17-7 overall at Minute Maid Park, Houston hammered Washington 19-3 at Nationals Park.

Scherzer beat Cole in the opener, and was the Nats’ best hope to slow Houston. But he was scratched just 3 1/2 hours before game time because of an irritated nerve near his neck, an injury that could finish him for the Series.

With the road team winning every time so far, Houston heads home with two chances to claim its second title in three years.

Justin Verlander gets the first try when he starts against Stephen Strasburg in Game 6 on Tuesday night. Cole threw three-hit ball for seven innings, nicked only by Juan Soto’s home run in the seventh, and struck out nine.

Justin Verlander gets the first try when he starts against Stephen Strasburg in Game 6 on Tuesday night. Cole threw three-hit ball for seven innings, nicked only by Juan Soto’s home run in the seventh, and struck out nine.

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Cole’s mix of 99 mph heat and sharp breaking balls induced a bevy of bad swings from the Nats as he improved to 4-1 with a 1.72 ERA this postseason. It might’ve been his final start for Houston — he’s eligible for free agency and figures to command a steep price.

Standing tall on the mound, Cole was unflappable in the face of 43,910 fans who went from fired up to furious to flat-out frustrated.

The crowd gave Ross a huge ovation when he walked onto the field for warmups, sympathetic to his situation — he had pitched a total of two innings in almost a month.

Cole ended his outing by getting Victor Robles on a called third strike, a pitch the TV zone showed to be off the plate. Robles chucked his bat, helmet and gloves, and crowd soon began a derisive chant at umpire Lance Barksdale. Cole led the majors in strikeouts this year, was second to Verlander in wins and topped the AL in ERA. Yet he hardly looked like an October star in Game 1, giving up five runs over seven uneven innings.

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Astros fire assistant GM Brandon Taubman

The Houston Astros fired assistant general manager Brandon Taubman on Thursday after firstly denying a news article that Taubman had taunted female journalists in the baseball team’s clubhouse about the signing of a pitcher accused of domestic violence.

“We were wrong,” the Astros said in a statement, referring to the club’s first claim that Taubman’s “inappropriate comments were not directed toward any reporter.”

Taubman’s “conduct does not reflect the values of our organization and we believe this is the most appropriate course of action,” the Astros said.

The team also directly apologized to Sports Illustrated and its reporter Stephanie Apstein, who on Monday broke the news of Taubman’s heckling of the reporters about pitcher Roberto Osuna. The reversal by the Astros came, the team said, after a two-day investigation by officials from Major League Baseball, who questioned members of the media.

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Taubman repeatedly yelled “Thank God we got Osuna, I’m so f—— glad we got Osuna” in the direction of three female reporters Saturday night after the Astros defeated the Yankees to win the American League pennant and secure a World Series berth, according to Sports Illustrated’s article.

One of the reporters subjected to the taunts was wearing a purple domestic-violence awareness bracelet.

That reporter, according to a subsequent account by NPR, has tweeted continually about domestic violence in recent years, and Taubman complained last year that her tweets of domestic violence hotline phone numbers had been posted “moments after Osuna entered several Astros games in relief.”

Osuna, while playing with the Toronto Blue Jays, was arrested for alleged domestic violence in May 2018 against the mother of his young child. He later was hired by the Astros.

Although his criminal case later was dropped after the alleged victim went to Mexico and declined to testify against him, Osuna was suspended for 75 games by Major League Baseball. The Astros presently are down 0-2 in the World Series against the Washington Nationals

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Aaron Hicks returns to Yankees’ lineup

Giancarlo Stanton was on the field for batting practice previous to Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to the Astros in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, but the Yankees slugger is unclear when his right quadriceps strain will permit him to play the outfield or run the bases. In the meantime, Aaron Hicks got the start in center field, playing there for the first time since Aug. 3.

“It’s pretty similar to 48 hours ago. Just going to see what we can do,” Stanton said. “It’s not the best, but I’m able to hit. We’re at least that far right now. I don’t have much time. Time is not on my side right now. I’m doing what I can.” Stanton sustained the injury legging out a second-inning infield single in ALCS Game 1 at Houston’s Minute Maid Park on Saturday night. He played six more innings before being removed for defense, slugging a sixth-inning home run, but he did not appear in the Yanks’ 3-2, 11-inning loss to the Astros in Game 2 on Sunday night.

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Yankees manager Aaron Boone said that if this were the regular season, Stanton’s injury is significant enough that it would require a stint on the injured list.

New York is reluctant to substitute Stanton on the ALCS roster, because doing so would render him ineligible to play in the World Series.

“We’re trying to strike that balance,” Boone said. “I feel like we’re in a good spot, lineup-wise. Obviously, it gets tougher the further you go, especially when you only have a three-man bench anyway. So those are all things that we have to consider.” If the Yankees were to make an injury substitution, their candidates include infielder/outfielder Tyler Wade — who was on the ALDS roster, but later subbed out in favor of Hicks — or a pair of first basemen in the right-handed-hitting Luke Voit and left-handed-hitting rookie Mike Ford.

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