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Ronald Acuña Jr. made history, the state of Ohio won the waiver-wire deadline, and the White Sox made the predicted hire — was it the right one? I’m Levi Weaver, here with Ken Rosenthal — welcome to the Windup!
Ronald Acuña’s 30/60 season: I go hard, I go fast, and I never look back
I’m just old enough to remember when Jose Canseco became the first big leaguer to post a 40-40 season in 1988. (Alfonso Soriano, Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds have done it since.) Skew the homers by 10 in either direction, and Eric Davis (1987) and Bonds (1990) are the only 30 (HR) / 50 (SB) players in big-league history.
Well, there’s a new unprecedented homer/steal combo: Ronald Acuña Jr. hit his 30th home run last night (a grand slam, no less) against the Dodgers to become the first 30-60 player in big-league history. He also stole his 62nd base, for good measure, and — oh, by the way — got married earlier in the day.
RONALD ACUÑA JR. IS THE FIRST PLAYER IN MLB HISTORY WITH A 30 HOME RUN/60 STOLEN BASE SEASON!
He does it with a grand slam at Dodger Stadium.
— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) September 1, 2023
Acuña’s performance came in a game that felt more like an ushering in of October than a farewell to August. The Braves and Dodgers have the two best records in baseball (and the two best players in the NL). The first game of a four-game series absolutely delivered. The Braves jumped out to a 7-1 lead before the relentless Dodgers battled back to within a run at 8-7 before — with two runners on base in the ninth inning — Raisel Iglesias shut the door for the Atlanta win.
By the way, nobody who has hit 50 home runs has ever stolen even 25 bases — Rodriguez (54/24, 2007) and Willie Mays (51/24, 1955) came the closest. But Shohei Ohtani might have a shot this year; he’s at 44 home runs and 19 stolen bases.
Ken’s Notebook: Balancing diversity and hiring from within
Two executives from diverse backgrounds reached out to me Thursday shortly after the White Sox announced their promotion of Chris Getz from farm director to general manager. Both posed essentially the same question: Did the White Sox interview a diverse group of candidates?
The answer is no.
After firing executive vice-president Ken Williams, a Black exec who had been a principal decision-maker in the organization since 2000, and general manager Rick Hahn, who like Getz, is White, and had been in his role since 2012, they did not interview any outside candidates at all.
The White Sox did not violate Major League Baseball’s requirements for diverse hiring. Owner Jerry Reinsdorf has what MLB considers a strong track record with high-profile hires in this area; the team, for example, has employed a manager from a diverse group in 21 of the past 26 seasons.
But the two executives from underrepresented backgrounds, who were granted anonymity in exchange for their candid thoughts, questioned the fairness of the team’s process. One called it a “complete inside job,” adding, “People should feel access to every role of prominence.”
Reinsdorf told reporters that he “owed it to the fans” to improve the team as quickly as possible and that an outside candidate would need a year to evaluate everyone in the organization. And commissioner Rob Manfred, in a memo distributed annually to high-ranking club officials, addresses the sometimes difficult balance clubs face when deciding whether to hire diverse candidates or promote from within.
The memo says, in part:
“We recognize that providing internal career paths for employees is an important characteristic of many successful organizations, and that clubs normally do not undertake an external or internal interview process prior to making a promotion decision. We also recognize that requiring a ‘sham’ interview undercuts the intent of our policy when a club has already determined to promote an internal candidate who has been groomed for the position. That being said, a club’s policy or practice of promoting from within can impede progress in diversifying our leadership ranks if a club does not have a sufficient number of diverse employees already in its pipeline who are being groomed for leadership positions.”
In an attempt to address both considerations, Manfred maintains a series of requirements when a team wants to promote a White male to a senior baseball operations position without conducting an external or internal interview process.
The club must inform the commissioner’s office of the internal promotion and rationale for not conducting interviews, and also provide the office with a succession plan for all of the club’s senior baseball operations positions. That succession plan must include individuals from underrepresented groups for future leadership roles.
Manfred’s “expectation,” when a White male is promoted to a senior baseball operations position, is that a person from an underrepresented background will be promoted or hired to the vacancy created by the promotion. After reviewing the club’s plan, the league will decide whether to exempt the club from the diversity interview requirement for an internal promotion.
The White Sox received that exemption. To adhere to Manfred’s requirements, they likely will need to hire a farm director who is a woman or person of color to replace Getz, and/or candidates from underrepresented groups to other senior baseball operations positions. Again, the team maintains a strong track record in making such hires. That doesn’t mean that when hiring a GM, they should have been allowed to conduct a closed process.
Ohtani still hitting with UCL injury: I wasn’t ready at all to say anything about anything interesting
Picking up the Ohtani thread, you may have noticed it’s been nine days since the Angels announced his UCL tear. But Ohtani has not undergone Tommy John surgery, nor has there been a decision announced as to whether that surgery will even happen.
Instead, he’s continuing to tear up opposing pitchers, playing out the string on an otherwise lost Angels season. On Tuesday, he went 3 for 5 with two RBIs … in a loss to the Phillies.
Ken dug into the conundrum today, filling in the gaps left by the radio silence from Ohtani and his camp. It’s possible that Ohtani is hoping to avoid surgery altogether — after all, we still don’t know just how severe the tear is, just that it exists.
It’s also possible that Ohtani is simply hoping to put the finishing touches on what could be a historic season before going under the knife at season’s end. After all, it’s not like he couldn’t come back and hit next season — there’s a recent precedent for such a thing (including another likely future Hall of Famer).
It’s rare to have this level of mystery around something so important to one of the biggest stars of the game, but that’s where we’re at. He hasn’t had surgery, he hasn’t explained why, and the entire baseball world is left to wait and see what the plan is when the season is over.
Ohio wins the waiver sweepstakes: Constant seeking, will you ever find?
I did not have the Cleveland Guardians as the favorites to win the trade deadline scavenger hunt, picking up Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo López and Matt Moore from the Angels. (I thought it would be the Giants.)
It’s not all dismal: Cleveland’s pitching has been pretty good this year. They have the fifth-best team ERA in baseball, and have allowed the sixth-fewest runs. So sure, why not pick up three more pitchers?
But they’re last in home runs, 26th in runs scored and OPS, and their 64-70 record is, unbelievably, the same as the Angels, whose disastrous August led to all this mess. They’re 11 1/2 games back in the wild-card race, but … that’s not the race they’re trying to win.
See, the Guardians have one thing going for them that the Angels don’t: They’re in the AL Central, just five games behind the 69-65 Twins (who dropped two of three to Cleveland this week).
How must Giolito and López feel right now? They started the year with the supposed-to-contend White Sox, only to become trade deadline fodder, destined to join a contender. Instead, they landed with the Angels, who failed in their attempt to shoot the moon.
OK, placed on waivers; maybe now we’ll be on a contender, they thought …
Look, It’ll be a great story if it works out.
Meanwhile, in the NL Central, the Cincinnati Reds — only 1 1/2 games back in their wild-card race — needed pitching. Instead, they were left to pick up outfielders Hunter Renfroe and Harrison Bader.
Handshakes and High Fives
Ohtani isn’t the only ailing Japanese pitcher. Fortunately for Yu Darvish, there’s no structural damage to his UCL. But that doesn’t mean there’s not still some uncertainty.
There’s another 60-30 candidate this year, of sorts. That, and all the other Weird & Wild storylines to watch, from Jayson Stark — these are always a treat, but this one is a real banger.
Cody Stavenhagen has a truly inspirational story about how a team of volunteers revitalized Hamtramck Stadium — a historic park once used for Negro Leagues games.
When we start assessing upcoming free agents, maybe we should be considering Brewers manager Craig Counsell, says Ken.
Cole Ragans was throwing 92 mph last year. This year, the southpaw — traded from Texas to Kansas City for Aroldis Chapman — is hitting triple digits. How’d he do it?
Why did Anthony Volpe sign with the Yankees after being drafted? Thank … Alex Bregman?!
The Mets had a front-office shake-up; perhaps to be expected, given the results of this season.
On The 3-0 Show: Derek VanRiper, Eno Sarris and Britt Ghiroli discuss the Cubs hanging around. Also the hot Dodgers, Rays and Mariners.
The Windup Weekly Playlist
Every day, we borrow song lyrics for our subheaders. Every Friday is the reveal and link to the monthly playlist. Thanks to our Blue Jays writer Kaitlyn McGrath, who filled in for me Monday and, in typical Canadian fashion, led us off with three locals.
- “Complicated” — Avril Lavigne
- “Limelight” — Rush
- “Forever” — Drake, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Eminem
- “Get Inspired” — Genesis Owusu
- “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” — Daft Punk
- “Lucky” — Radiohead
- “John David” — Commitment Bells
- “Already Gone” — filous, feat. Emily Warren
- “Three’s Company Theme” — Dominik Hauser
- “It Don’t Matter To The Sun” — Chris Gaines*
- “One (Monster & Infinity)” — SuperM
- “Make Room at the Bottom” — Sara Evans
- “Charlie IO” — Ellevator
- “Next Level Charli” — Charli XCX
- “Tropic Morning News” — The National
(*Garth Brooks’ alter-ego is not on Spotify, so you get the Rosie Thomas cover.)
(Top photo: Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images)