Week 1 over­re­ac­tions

The slide rule, the red-hot Ori­oles, Cubs’ key in­jury & more

Cecil Whig - - INSIDEBASEBALL -

Base­ball is a long sea­son. Very long. That doesn’t stop fans and me­dia from for­mu­lat­ing strong opin­ions af­ter just a few games de­spite a painfully small sam­ple size. Here are some over­re­ac­tions from Week 1 that need to be re­assessed. 1. The Ori­oles started 5–0: Hand them the AL pen­nant How sig­nif­i­cant is it to start 5–0? The last time Bal­ti­more did that came in 1970, when it won the World Se­ries, and the Roy­als, who started 5–0 last year, also won the World Se­ries. But the team’s 10 runs al­lowed in Week 1 (the low­est in base­ball) is a mi­rage, and star outfielder Adam Jones is hav­ing a tough time shak­ing a rib cage in­jury.

It’s not that the Ori­oles are bad, but let’s see if they can de­velop pitch­ing be­hind Chris Till­man be­fore we get too ex­cited, a key to that be­ing get­ting Kevin Gaus­man healthy 2. The new rules around slid­ing are bad for the game Play­ers must now make a “bona fide” slide, which means that a player must touch ground be­fore he hits the base, must rea­son­ably be able to touch the base and re­main there at the com­ple­tion of the slide (ex­cept­ing home plate) and not go out of his way to make con­tact with a fielder. Tra­di­tion­ally, the “neigh­bor­hood play,” in which um­pires would award an out if a fielder came close to tag­ging the bag, was the counter-mea­sure to pro­tect in­field­ers. Now, the fielder ac­tu­ally has to touch the bag.

The new rules were en­forced sev­eral times in the first week, in­clud­ing con­tro­ver­sial plays in­volv­ing Toronto’s Jose Bautista in a game with the Rays, and a slide by the Astros’ Colby Ras­mus in a game with the Brew­ers that was deemed il­le­gal and ac­tu­ally ended the game. Tra­di­tion­al­ists protested those calls, es­pe­cially the Ras­mus slide, where no con­tact was made.

It’s tough for play­ers to change old habits im­me­di­ately. But the changes are a nec­es­sary evil.

The old rules put um­pires in a bad spot. One per­son’s “safe” is another one’s “close enough.” If peo­ple didn’t like the Astros-Brew­ers end­ing, imag­ine if a judg­ment call un­der the old sys­tem de­cided a World Se­ries.

Sec­ond, al­low­ing a free-for-all on the bases re­cently cost us play­ers like Buster Posey, Ruben Te­jada and Jung-Ho Kang, who missed games due to in­juries stem­ming from col­li­sions. The trade-off wasn’t worth it.

It might not be pop­u­lar right away, but the com­bi­na­tion of sweep­ing changes on both sides of the is­sue was the way to go. 3. Kyle Sch­war­ber’s in­jury will crip­ple the Cubs The Chicago left fielder’s sea­son ended pre­ma­turely with a tear of his ACL and LCL. But Sch­war­ber was a catcher learn­ing to play the out­field — that came with grow­ing pains — and the Cubs can re­place his at-bats with a com­bi­na­tion of Javier Baez, Jorge Soler and Ben Zo­brist.

No one’s ar­gu­ing that the Cubs are bet­ter with­out Sch­war­ber, but if there’s one team poised to ab­sorb his loss, it’s Chicago. 4. The on-field im­pact of the in­evitable Jose Reyes sus­pen­sion While the Rock­ies’ short­stop awaited more con­crete terms to his in­def­i­nite sus­pen­sion due to an off­sea­son do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in­ci­dent, the Rock­ies had al­ready anointed Trevor Story their short­stop of the fu­ture. And that was be­fore Story’s in­cred­i­ble start.

Reyes will be 33 in June and posted ca­reer lows in on-base (.310) and slug­ging (.378) per­cent­ages last sea­son. Last week, Rock­ies’ owner Dick Mo­fort said that if Reyes “did some­thing wrong, he should pay for it.”

One won­ders if the re­build­ing Rock­ies are pri­vately root­ing for com­mis­sioner Rob Man­fred to is­sue harsh penal­ties, given that they’re not on the hook for a penny of his $22 mil­lion salary while he’s sus­pended. 5. Ken Giles re­moved as Hous­ton’s closer Yes, Giles strug­gled in the exhibition sea­son, and yes, giv­ing up two homers in Week 1 also didn’t help. It’s easy to un­der­stand why the Astros might turn to 31-year-old Luke Gregerson as a closer in that spot.

What’s hard to un­der­stand, though, is why Hous­ton had so much con­fi­dence in Giles as to trade tal­ented prospects Vin­cent Velasquez and Derek Fisher and start­ing pitcher Brett Ober­holtzer if it had so lit­tle be­lief in Giles that it de­moted him af­ter be­fore the first week of the sea­son ended. If the Astros planned to make him a long-term cen­ter­piece of their plans, one has to ques­tion if the mes­sage they sent their 25-year-old get­ting his first shot at clos­ing was counter-pro­duc­tive. 6. Fan­tasy own­ers giv­ing up on Byung-ho Park On Sun­day, April 10, among non-in­jured play­ers, our pre­sea­son AL Rookie of the Year pick was one of the most-dropped fan­tasy play­ers in Ya­hoo! fan­tasy base­ball leagues that par­tic­u­lar day, no doubt due to a .231 av­er­age and one RBI in his first six games. But that RBI came on a 433-foot home run at Kauff­man Sta­dium with the wind blow­ing in, and for what it’s worth, Park hit 105 bombs in Korea his last two sea­sons. Pa­tience, peo­ple! 7. Any­thing the Dodgers did Los An­ge­les started its sea­son with three shutouts, and later in the week, rookie Ross Stripling car­ried a no-hit­ter into the eighth be­fore be­ing re­moved due to a pitch count. But L.A. also blew four- and five-run leads and ended the week 4–3. The truth of what you are lies some­where in be­tween your best and your worst.

The Ori­oles, led by Manny Machado and his three home runs, raced out to a 5–0 start in 2016, but let’s hold off on those World Se­ries plans.

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