THREE UP, THREE DOWN

WHAT’S TREND­ING IN MLB

Los Angeles Times - - INSIDE BASEBALL - — Bill Shaikin

Dutch treat: The best dou­ble-play duo this year? That would be Jose Al­tuve and Car­los Cor­rea of the Hous­ton Astros. Next best? Our vote goes to the un­her­alded duo of Jonathan Schoop and An­drel­ton Sim­mons, the sec­ond base­man and short­stop for the Nether­lands in the World Base­ball Clas­sic. The Nether­lands did not win the WBC, but Schoop (Bal­ti­more Ori­oles) and Sim­mons (An­gels) are hav­ing ca­reer years. Schoop — born in Willem­stad, Cu­ra­cao, same as the Dodgers’ Ken­ley Jansen — en­tered play Sat­ur­day bat­ting .300, rank­ing sec­ond in the Amer­i­can League with 84 RBIs and lead­ing ma­jor league sec­ond base­men with 25 home runs. Sim­mons is at .305 and, con­sid­er­ing his usual su­perla­tive glove, Fan­graphs ranks him as the third most valu­able player in the AL, be­hind Al­tuve and Aaron Judge.

Pitch­ing poor: We hes­i­tate to pub­li­cize the Bos­ton Red Sox and New York Yan­kees — you prob­a­bly hear enough about them al­ready — but the two teams you love to hate are fight­ing for first place in the AL East. As with the Dodgers, money is im­por­tant, but it’s not ev­ery­thing. Chris Sale, the front-run­ner for the AL Cy Young award, starts Sun­day for Bos­ton. He’s mak­ing $12 mil­lion this sea­son. The other five sched­uled start­ing pitch­ers in this week­end’s se­ries — Drew Pomer­anz and Ed­uardo Ro­driguez for Bos­ton; Jaime Gar­cia, Jor­dan Mont­gomery and Luis Sev­erino for New York — are be­ing paid a to­tal of $6 mil­lion by the teams. (The dis­abled list in­cludes Bos­ton’s David Price and the Yan­kees’ CC Sa­bathia and Masahiro Tanaka, at a com­bined $77 mil­lion.)

Show­ing off: When the league un­veiled its Play­ers’ Week­end uni­forms, with two-tone tops and player-cho­sen nick­names on the back, the re­sis­tance came quickly from the tra­di­tion­al­ists and so­cial me­dia snark artists: gim­micky, tacky overkill. But ev­ery nick­name tells a story — Kyle Sea­ger is wear­ing “Corey’s Brother” — and ev­ery uni­form in­cludes a patch for the player to ded­i­cate to a per­son or group that helped him reach the big leagues. That’s an­other story to tell. For a sport that has strug­gled to mar­ket its per­son­al­i­ties and reach out to kids, this is well worth a shot. There are far more po­ten­tial cus­tomers in­ter­ested in get­ting to know the ath­letes and their sto­ries than there are in­ter­ested in exit ve­loc­i­ties and catch prob­a­bil­i­ties.

Tread­ing wa­ter: The Seat­tle Mariners are stay­ing afloat in the AL wild-card race — the .500 Derby — but they might run out of arms be­fore they get to the fin­ish line. The pitch­ing has been poor enough — the starters have a 4.79 ERA, atro­cious in pitcher-friendly Safeco Field — and Felix Her­nan­dez and James Pax­ton just went on the dis­abled list within a week of one an­other. Hisashi Iwakuma, who has not pitched since June be­cause of a sore shoul­der, had a set­back last week. The Mariners have used 15 starters this sea­son, and Pax­ton (12-3, 2.78 ERA) is the only one to start at least twice and per­form above the league av­er­age. The moral of the story: The Dodgers’ ob­ses­sion with depth is of­ten mocked, but depth in both qual­ity and quan­tity is dif­fi­cult to as­sem­ble.

Astro funk: Might be a blip, but the Astros’ out­look has down­graded from “Sports Il­lus­trated was right to pick us to win the World Se­ries” to “How are we go­ing to win any post­sea­son se­ries?” The Astros have lost 10 of 13 games, in­clud­ing a three-game sweep at the hands of the tank­ing Chicago White Sox. The Astros’ ERA since the All-Star break: 5.32, last in the AL. Ace Dal­las Keuchel is 0-2 with a 10.75 ERA since com­ing off the dis­abled list. Lance McCullers Jr., the No. 2 starter, had a 9.64 ERA in July, then went on the DL be­cause of a bad back. The Astros held tight to their prospects at the trade dead­line; Keuchel and out­fielder Josh Red­dick is­sued rare pub­lic re­bukes to the front of­fice. On the team web­site, where a dis­cour­ag­ing word sel­dom is heard, this head­line: “Astros’ slide hardly cause for con­cern.”

If he’s out, speak up: In 2014, when um­pire Joe West was sus­pended for grab­bing the jer­sey of pitcher Jonathan Papel­bon, the league an­nounced the de­ci­sion. But, when the league sus­pended West this week for pub­licly la­bel­ing Adrian Bel­tre as base­ball’s big­gest com­plainer, the an­nounce­ment came from the um­pires’ union — in a news re­lease protest­ing the de­ci­sion. That was a bad look for West, who is the pres­i­dent of the um­pires’ union. It was a worse look for the league, which still has said noth­ing. There was no se­crecy in West’s of­fense; it just came in a news­pa­per in­ter­view rather than on a base­ball field. If the league wants its jus­tice to be per­ceived as fair, it needs to treat umps the same as play­ers and man­agers.

Jae C. Hong As­so­ci­ated Press

Jonathan Schoop

Stephen Bras­hear Getty

James Pax­ton

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