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Welcome back, I hope you all had a better weekend than Tim Anderson and/or the Los Angeles Angels. I’m Levi Weaver, here with Ken Rosenthal — welcome to The Windup!
Saturday night’s alright for fighting
There were two things, in my opinion, that made Saturday night’s fracas between the White Sox and Guardians unique.
• First, I don’t think I’ve ever seen players involved in such an extended square-up before the fists started flying. Usually, there’s less than a second between the time the decision is made and the first punch is thrown — if a punch is thrown at all. More often than not, baseball fights are more mosh pit than melee.
• The second is that I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone go full arms down after being punched. Not on a baseball field. But that’s exactly what happened when José Ramírez caught Tim Anderson on the jaw (while being pulled away in a headlock by pitcher Michael Kopech, no less) with a wild right hook.
In his postgame comments, Ramírez said it wasn’t a one-off that caused the fight, but that Anderson had been applying hard tags that Ramírez and others felt could cause injury.
“It’s not from yesterday or from before,” Ramírez said. “I even had the chance to tell him during the game, ‘Don’t do this stuff. That’s disrespectful. Don’t start tagging people like that.’ In reality, we’re here trying to find ways to provide for our families … (T)hen as soon as the play happened, he tagged me again really hard, more than needed, and then he reacted and said, ‘I want to fight.’ And if you want to fight, I have to defend myself.”
Anderson didn’t speak to reporters after the game. It’s been a difficult year for him for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is his .244/.285/.292 (.576 OPS) line, with just one home run (after hitting over .300 for each of the last four seasons). Becoming Twitter’s main character for the weekend — especially after the action was synced to Guardians radio broadcaster Tom Hamilton’s iconic call — certainly didn’t help salve the sting of the White Sox’s disappointing season and sell-off at the trade deadline.
Ken’s Notebook: Will Red Sox cut ties with Verdugo?
From my column today on the Red Sox:
For the sake of discussion, let’s assume Sox president of baseball operations Chaim Bloom was right to hedge at the deadline, right to concede that the roster he assembled was not worthy of reinforcement through the trades of prospects and/or absorptions of salaries. Fine. But can someone please explain why Alex Verdugo is still on the team?
As good a player as he can be, he has proven erratic and unreliable. Addition by subtraction might be too strong a term to describe how the Red Sox might have benefited from trading him. But maybe not.
Whatever Verdugo did to merit his latest benching on Saturday, he was not a first-time offender. Manager Alex Cora publicly challenged him at the end of last season “to be a lot better” with his base running and defense. He benched him on June 8 for a perceived lack of hustle on the basepaths. On Saturday, the manager’s anger at Verdugo’s latest indiscretion, which he declined to reveal, was palpable. After the game, which the Sox lost 5-4, Cora said it was one of his “worst days” since taking over the team in 2018.
Cora was conciliatory on Sunday and put Verdugo back in the lineup, not that he had much choice. The Red Sox were not about to release Verdugo, the centerpiece of the ill-fated Mookie Betts/David Price trade with the Dodgers in February 2020. But by moving Verdugo at the deadline, Bloom could have removed the distraction once and for all.
Considering Verdugo’s reputation, the Sox might not have gotten equal value for a player who ranks third on their team in fWAR. But Verdugo is entering his final year of arbitration, the same point at which the Sox traded Betts and Hunter Renfroe.
While few better hitters will be available in free agency, it’s highly doubtful the organization will commit to Verdugo long-term. If the Sox had just cut the cord and moved forward, they at least would have avoided this latest dustup.
Please have mercy and look away
The Angels defied convention, refusing to trade Shohei Ohtani at the trade deadline, and in fact, decided to push all their chips to the center of the table and see if it might be enough to get them into the playoffs before Ohtani hit free agency. It wasn’t a traditionally prudent decision, but for Angels fans, it had to be nice to see a Hail Mary instead of a boring punt.
Well, it was nice to dream. They have now lost all six games since the deadline and are 2-8 in their last 10 games, including a four-game sweep by the Mariners that vaulted Seattle to 5 1/2 games ahead of Los Angeles in the wild-card standings. The Angels are now seven games out of the final playoff spot.
But they aren’t the only wild-card hopefuls flailing after the deadline. The aforementioned Red Sox, 3-7 in their last 10 games, had a chance to knock the Blue Jays out of the final wild-card position. Instead, they were also swept, and are now five games out. The Yankees are 4-6 in their last 10. Cleveland has a better chance at the Central title (4 1/2 games behind the Twins) than a wild-card spot (8 1/2 back).
The NL wild-card race isn’t much crisper over the last 10 games.
The Reds and Marlins, by the way, will kick off a series tonight. Eury Pérez is reportedly coming back to the big leagues to start for Miami.
It seems like every team attempting to climb into a wild-card position is wilting at the same time.
Well … not every team …
You’re walking that talk and I love it, I love it
With the sweep of the Angels, the Mariners (who were sellers at the deadline) are 8-2 in their last 10 games and are riding a five-game winning streak that has them just 2 1/2 games behind Toronto for the final AL playoff spot. They’ll go head-to-head with the Padres for two games this week before welcoming the ever-dangerous Baltimore Orioles. After that, aside from a weekend series in Houston, the rest of their August schedule consists of AL detritus: they’ll play the Royals (twice), the White Sox and the A’s.
Meanwhile, the Cubs (7-3 in their last 10) have climbed into a tie for the last NL playoff spot, thanks to a “suddenly potent” offense that has been scoring runs in bunches. They just took two out of three against the mighty Atlanta Braves (with a little help from a former Brave), and they’re doing it while benching an ineffective Seiya Suzuki.
And lastly, there are the Padres. With the help of red-hot Juan Soto and Gary Sánchez, San Diego is 6-4 in their last 10 and is now just three games back. This is, of course, a bit overshadowed by the injury to Joe Musgrove.
Hot streaks — and cold ones, for that matter — come and go, but as teams turn their attention from the deadline to the pennant and wild-card races, one truth can’t be denied: the wins all count, and no one can take ‘em off the board. The Cubs and Mariners, at least, are stacking them up of late.
Handshakes and High Fives
How bad is the Reds’ cold streak? Rookie pitcher Lyon Richardson gave up home runs on each of his first two pitches in the big leagues.
While the Braves lost the series to the Cubs, there was one very encouraging aspect to the one win: Max Fried is back, baby.
Lance Lynn hasn’t had a great season, statistically. But he’s exactly what the Dodgers needed. Why? He pitches a lot of innings, something the Dodgers could desperately use.
In Queens, with Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander gone, a couple of young starters are getting an opportunity to audition for the 2024 Mets rotation. Meanwhile, between the Anthony Rizzo diagnosis and the Domingo Germán meltdown, it has been a super weird week in the Bronx.
The “reverse boycott” in Oakland wasn’t just a one-time event. On Saturday, 37,553 fans led another thunderous “Sell the team!” chant as the A’s beat the Giants 2-1.
Jon Singleton was once a can’t-miss Astros prospect. He hasn’t played for them since 2015. But after making it back to the big leagues with the Brewers earlier this year, he’s now on the verge of being called up to the team with which he debuted back in 2014.
Cole Hamels — who most recently pitched in the big leagues with one September outing in 2020 with the Braves — has officially retired.
Fantasy baseball: Gene McCaffrey looks at some surprises — both good and bad — from this year’s hitters.
Stephen Nesbitt and I talk about the fight and preview a couple of upcoming matchups on the On Deck podcast this morning.
(Top photo: Ken Blaze / USA Today)