It's been a disappointing first quarter of the season in Los Angeles, for both the Dodgers and the Angels.
Both teams have huge payrolls and big expectations in 2013, and both are struggling. They both won on Wednesday, however -- the Dodgers are 19-26 after a win at Milwaukee on Wednesday, and the Angels are 19-27 after beating Seattle.
But there's a long climb back to the top of their divisions, especially for the Angels, who are already 10.5 games behind the Texas Rangers. And the Dodgers, with the largest payroll in history, look like a fantasy team on paper but have little actual chemistry on the field. Only the Marlins have scored fewer runs, and this is a team with Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford. Kemp has hit just two home runs.
On Wednesday before the game in Milwaukee, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly seemed to be ready to crack.
It's not just all, 'Let's go put an All-Star team out there and play games, and the team with the All-Star team wins,' Mattingly told reporters. "... All grit and no talent is not going to get you there, and all talent and no grit is not going to get you there. There's got to be a mixture of both."
The Dodgers are off on Thursday, returning home. It would almost be a shock if the team didn't make a move.
Wrote USA Today's Bob Nightengale: "Mattingly will be baseball's first manager to be fired this season. He knows it. The players know it. And, yes, the front office is bracing for it."
And over in Orange County, Angels owner Arte Moreno gave Mike Scioscia a vote of confidence last week.
"Mike has zero problems, OK?" Moreno said to FoxSports.com. "This is his 14th year. Mike goes beyond what he does on the field. He's a good person. He's a good person in the community. A very good baseball guy. You don't have to ask me. You just ask other managers, other baseball people. Look at 14 years' worth of productivity. Look at his record. He has two World Series rings with the Dodgers. He has one with the Angels. We've been to the playoffs."
Roy Halladay has played in the major leagues for 15 seasons and has one of the smallest transaction histories of any modern player. He was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in 1995 and was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in 2009. That's all. Only franchise guys like Derek Jeter have moved around less.
With Halladay's career at a crossroads after shoulder surgery that will put him out until at least after the All-Star break, let's look at that one trade -- as part of our weekly series evaluating blockbuster trades of recent history -- and pick a winner.
Dec. 16. 2009: Toronto Blue Jays trade Roy Halladay and cash to the Philadelphia Phillies for C Travis d'Arnaud, RHP Kyle Drabek and RF Michael Taylor.
Halladay had finished in the fop five of the American League Cy Young Award voting for four consecutive years. But with his contract set to expire after 2010 and the Blue Jays languishing in the toughest division in baseball, Toronto decided to strike while the iron was hot. But Halladay actually got hotter in the National League. He threw a perfect game on May 29, 2010 against the Marlins and then just the second no-hitter ever recorded in postseason play against the Reds in the National League Division Series. He was the first Phillies pitcher to win 20 games in 28 years and was the unanimous winner of the NL Cy Young award.
The only down side? The Phillies lost in the NLCS and haven't gotten any closer to the World Series since then. So it's feasible that the upside for this trade for the Phillies is over.
So what did the Blue Jays get? It was a pretty good haul, but with a catch.
d'Arnaud was a 20-year-old catcher in Single-A at the time of the deal, a former first-round pick. He progressed through the Blue Jays' system over the next two years and had a great season in 2011 at Double-A New Hampshire, hitting .311 with 21 homers. But the Blue Jays then traded him this past offseason to the New York Mets as the centerpiece of the R.A. Dickey deal. So if Dickey ends up doing well in Toronto -- he seems to be turning things around after a slow start -- there's upside there.
Drabek was another first-rounder, and he spent chunks of the last two seasons in the Toronto rotation, going 4-7 with a 4.67 ERA in the first half last year. However, he underwent Tommy John surgery at midseason -- the second of his career -- so his future is as sketchy at this point as Halladay's, although Drabek is 10 years younger.
Taylor was dealt immediately to the Oakland Athletics in a straight-up deal for first baseman Brett Wallace, who was then traded in 2010 to the Houston Astros for outfielder Anthony Gose. Gose, 22, is currently in Triple-A in the Toronto organization, where he is batting .227 with two homers.
On the financial side, the Phillies are paying Halladay $20 million per season. Dickey is getting $5 million from the Jays this year and $12 million in each of the next two years.
So in summary, It's now pretty much Dickey, Drabek and Gose for Halladay. It was by far a better trade over the last three years for the Phillies. But today, I'd probably rather have the Blue Jays' side of the deal. So because the Phillies haven't won a championship with Halladay (and it's very doubtful the Blue Jays would have done much better without making the deal), let's call it a fair and decent trade for both sides.
It's only happened twice this year -- on Friday, April 19 and Monday, April 29.
Through seven weeks of the Major League Baseball regular season, those were the only two days in which the Houston Astros and Miami Marlins both won.
In contrast, there have been 19 dates in which both Houston and Miami lost on the same day. And there will undoubtedly be many more.
Houston's baptism into the American League has not gone well. Their roster is so young that they don't have enough wives to hold an annual charity event that's been a team staple over the years. The Astros entered Sunday dead last in pitching with a horrendous team ERA of 5.58, which was 0.73 worse than any other team in the majors. Houston has given up 261 runs; no other team has yielded more than 227.
And Miami? We all knew their lineup would be pretty bad, but they're bordering on historically bad. The Marlins' team batting average is .221, and they've scored just 115 runs in 43 games. The second-worst is the Dodgers, who have scored 140. The Colorado Rockies already have scored 101 more runs than Miami this season.
After Sunday's games, both the Marlins and Astros are 12-32, a winning percentage of .273, which projects to a record of 44-118. Only one team in the last 50 years has finished with a worse winning percentage, the 2003 Detroit Tigers (43-119, .265).
Sadly, or perhaps thankfully, the schedule doesn't call for the Astros and Marlins to play each other this season.
On to this week's Monday Morning Manager:
David Ortiz, Red Sox: Big Papi's still got the great stroke. The Boston DH hit three home runs and drove in 12 in 19 at-bats last week.
Scott Van Slyke, Dodgers: Andy's son is in the majors and off to a hot start. He hit three home runs in his first 15 big-league at-bats this season.
Bronson Arroyo, Reds: Few pitchers are as quietly good as the Cincinnati right-hander. He hasn't given up a run in his last two starts, both wins.
Ike Davis, Mets: There's talk of sending the 26-year-old first-baseman to the minors. He had an 0-for-24 skid that ended Friday and is batting just .156.
Danny Espinosa, Nationals: Washington's second baseman is in a dreadful slump, going 1 for his last 24. He's hitting .163 and has 38 strikeouts and just three walks.
Jim Johnson, Orioles: The Baltimore closer had saved 35 consecutive chances heading into the week, but the Padres and Rays each let him have it this week as he blew two chances, giving up seven earned runs in 1 1/3 innings.
1. Texas Rangers (29-15, last week No. 1)
2. St. Louis Cardinals (28-15, last week No. 2)
3. New York Yankees (27-16, last week No. 4)
4. Boston Red Sox (27-17, last week unranked)
5. Cleveland Indians (25-17, last week unranked)
26. Chicago Cubs (18-25, last week No. 28)
27. Milwaukee Brewers (17-25, last week unranked)
28. Los Angeles Angels (17-27, last week No. 27)
29. Miami Marlins (12-32, last week No. 29)
30. Houston Astros (12-32, last week No. 30)
Don't like the proposals for expanded instant replay in baseball? Blame the NFL.
"Now we're addicted to instant replay," writes Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post. "The NBA stops the flow of the game so a referee can check to see which player touched the ball last before it went out of bounds. Major League Baseball wants to greatly reduce the authority of umpires by expanding use of replay in 2014. Where does it all stop?"
The answer, nowhere yet. MLB commissioner Bud Selig says his position on instant replay has "evolved" and that the owners will hear proposals at an Aug. 14-15 meeting in Cooperstown, N.Y., according to the Associated Press.
One show I always like to catch on MLB Network is "Prime 9," which is a countdown show with a subject and then nine answers, such as the nine best second basemen of all-time, the nine best teams of the 1990s, etc.
A fun one I saw recently was the Top 9 Could Have Beens, with guys like Bo Jackson, Tony Conigliaro, Herb Score and Pete Rieser, whose travails earned a modern day comparison this week from several sources.
When the Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper ran face-first into the Dodger Stadium wall on Monday night, it was a scary sight that reminded people of Rieser, who was also one of the best young hitters in baseball in the 1940s, but played with a reckless style in the outfield and often ran into walls in much the same way as Harper did on Monday. Harper needed 11 stitches and felt a little woosy; Rieser's promising career with the Brooklyn Dodgers, which began with a batting title at age 22 in 1941, never hit full stride.
These days, warning tracks are pronounced and walls are much softer than in Rieser's day, but there's still a lot of damage that can be done. Harper's play on Monday night is also a reminder that Harper didn't play a lot of outfield as a youngster -- he is a converted catcher -- and perhaps that is a factor.
As ESPN.com's Buster Olney wrote: "Harper is a student of baseball history, admirably, and knows a lot about Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth and others, and if he's too sore to play Tuesday, he might want to take a few moments to read about Pete Reiser."
As part of our Wednesday series re-grading big baseball trades of the past few years, let's go back to a trade from December 2010 that promised to remake the Boston Red Sox. And then a year-and-a-half later, he was dealt again. First baseman Adrian Gonzalez has been involved in two blockbuster trades in the past few years, but it's a little too early to grade the one that sent him to the Dodgers. But we can do a little bit of prognosticating based on that deal.
Let's pick a winner.
Dec. 6, 2010: The San Diego Padres trade 1B Adrian Gonzalez to the Boston Red Sox for LHP Reymond Fuentes, RHP Casey Kelly, 1B Anthony Rizzo and LF-2B Eric Patterson.
Boston's end of the deal: The Sox got a hitter who was seemingly built for Fenway Park, and in his one full year in Boston, he didn't disappoint. He led the American League with 213 hits and hit .338 with 27 home runs and 117 RBI. Perhaps the Red Sox were looking for a little more power -- he actually had more homers with home games in San Diego's pitcher's paradise, Petco Park -- but the production was there. In 2012, Gonzalez was hitting .300 with 15 homers and 86 RBI in 123 games when he was dealt to the Dodgers in a huge blockbuster in which the Red Sox sent four veterans the Dodgers' way for five players. And financially, the Red Sox were paying Gonzalez very well in 2012: $21 million. They're still paying the Dodgers $3.9 million a season to help cover that contract through 2015. The deal runs through 2018. So it doesn't look great from the Boston end.
San Diego's end of the deal: The centerpiece of the deal was Rizzo, a 21-year-old who had a horrible rookie season with the Padres, hitting .141 with one homer in 128 at-bats in 2011. The Padres gave up on him before the 2012 season and dealt him to the Chicago Cubs for a Korean minor-league outfielder named Kyung-Min Na and young pitcher Andrew Cashner, who shows some promise (2-2, 3.23 ERA this season). But it absolutely looks like the Padres gave up on Rizzo too fast. He hit 15 homers in 87 games for the Cubs last season and is among the National League leaders in home runs with nine so far this season.
Fuentes, a first-round speedster in 2009, is still in Double-A at age 22. He hit .218 last year, but is at .333 in 138 at-bats in 2013 at San Antonio. Kelly made six starts for the Padres last season, going 2-3 with a 6.21 ERA. However, he injured himself in spring training and had Tommy John surgery on April 2. Patterson played in 16 games in San Diego, then was released that December. He's playing in an independent league.
So the winner? It's not the Red Sox or the Padres, unless Cashner somehow becomes an ace. Less than three years since the blockbuster, the centerpieces of the deal were dealt elsewhere. Guess the real winner is the Cubs, who fleeced the Padres to get Rizzo and effectively nullified any advantage San Diego seemed to receive in the trade.
ESPN.com has a theme this week built around the best baseball uniforms, and has set up each MLB team's uniforms in a bracket-like format. Should be fun to see who comes out on top. Some thoughts on the seeding:
Totally agree with the No. 1 seed in the National League, which I think is the best of all of them: the St. Louis Cardinals. It's a classic, with the bird on the bat across the chest.
Similarly, the top two seeds in the American League are classics: The Tigers and the Yankees. I might switch their order, but agree that they're the top two.
As far as the ones they seem to hate, I think they're giving too much hate toward Chief Wahoo and penalizing the Indians. And the Dodgers as a No. 6? No way they should be that low. I like the Orioles a lot better than a No. 13 seed, too. The worst in the NL are the Padres and Diamondbacks, and on that point I'll agree.
Perhaps they'll knock off one of the most overrated, the Houston Astros, which somehow received a No. 4 seed.
Anyhow, go vote on ESPN.com and chime in yourself in the comments.
The Colorado Rockies and St. Louis Cardinals just finished one of the oddest three-game series in recent memory. Fans who had tickets to any of the three games almost saw a no-hitter.
It started Friday night, when the Cardinals' Shelby Miller gave up a leadoff single to Eric Young Jr., then retired the next 27 batters in a row for a one-hit shutout that was one pitch from a perfect game. The Cardinals won 3-0.
Adam Wainwright picked up right where Miller left off, taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning. The Cardinals won 3-0 again as Wainwright threw a two-hitter. That's two games and three hits for the Rockies, and a span of 16 hitless innings. The Rockies at one point made 40 consecutive outs, which according to ESPN.com tied a record set by the Texas Rangers, who also recorded 40 straight outs in a series against the Detroit Tigers in 1996.
Then on Sunday, the tables turned. Colorado's Jorge De La Rosa took a no-hitter into the seventh inning before David Freese hit a single. The Rockies won 8-2, beating Jaime Garcia.
A look at the rest of the league in this week's Monday Morning Manager:
Evan Longoria, Rays: Hit a walk-off home run on Saturday, one of three homers he hit this week, raising his numbers to .333 with nine homers and 26 RBI.
Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks: Becoming the power hitter everybody envisioned, the Diamondbacks first baseman hit four homers this week, also giving him nine for the season and raising his average to .304.
Ubaldo Jimenez, Indians: Turning things around a bit, he beat the A's and Tigers last week and allowed seven hits and struck out 16 in 11 2/3 innings. And the red-hot Indians are suddenly tied for first in the AL Central.
John Buck, Mets: Cooling off a bit after a scorching start, he was 1 for 19 last week. But he still has 10 homers this season.
Adam Dunn, White Sox: Chicago is in last place in the AL Central and Dunn is in the doldrums again. He was 2 for 19 last week and is hitting .137 on the season.
Philip Humber, Astros: Seems like a long time ago when he pitched that perfect game. He's getting pounded and is 0-8 already with a 9.59 ERA. Teams are batting .354 against him.
1. Texas Rangers (24-13, last week No. 1)
2. St. Louis Cardinals (23-13, last week No. 2)
3. San Francisco Giants (23-15, last week No. 3)
4. New York Yankees (23-13, last week No. 5)
5. Baltimore Orioles (23-15, last week unranked)
26. Toronto Blue Jays (15-24, last week No. 27)
27. Los Angeles Angels (14-23, last week No. 26)
28. Chicago Cubs (15-22, last week No. 28)
29. Miami Marlins (11-27, last week No. 29)
30. Houston Astros (10-28, last week No. 30)
It evolved way before my time, but I imagine Valentine's Day used to be a pleasant little holiday celebrating love. Then somebody in the advertising world decided you had to buy expensive gifts and flowers and everything else.
Likewise, when Major League Baseball players started using pink bats on Mother's Day in 2006, it was a cool little homage to mothers and a nod to breast cancer awareness. But like everything else, it seems, it gets spoiled when it becomes marketing. And now it's totally tarnished.
Nick Markakis of the Baltimore Orioles and Trevor Plouffe of the Minnesota Twins both have mothers who survived breast cancer. They also use bats that are not made by Louisville Slugger. And the bats made for them by MaxBats are black with pink logos. And MLB has decided that those bats are not allowed on breast cancer awareness day, because Louisvlle Slugger makes the pink bats. (Apparently, players are allowed to use plain pink bats by other manufacturers without any logos, provided the players then make a donation themselves to the Susan G. Komen Fund for the Cure. That's a marketing deal that Louisville Slugger made with MLB.)
So that puts Markakis and Plouffe in a tough spot. And players are practically manic about their bats -- they have to feel just right and familiar. It's hard enough to hit a 95 mph fastball, right? So do they use a bat they're not comfortable with in order to celebrate their mothers? Or do they just use their regular bats? And isn't it awful that it's come to this?
As Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports writes: Since when is breast cancer awareness for sale?
"From a business sense, of course Louisville doesn't want its competitors putting labeled pink bats in stores and claiming they're just like the ones major leaguers swung. Then again, for such good friends of cancer research, Louisville seems far more concerned with ensuring a monopoly on that market than painting the batter's box pink with every bat possible, manufacturer and label be damned."
This story is gaining traction nationwide, a black eye on pink bat day. If Louisville Slugger doesn't let Markakis, Plouffe and others use another bat, they don't look so charitable anymore. And MLB looks stupid as well for agreeing to brand exclusivity for a charity program.
It's a great cause and great that they raise so much money for the Komen Foundation. But then the marketing people get involved, and it all gets tainted.
As part of our Wednesday series re-grading big baseball trades of the past few years, let's go back to two trades that were roughly eight months apart, but were linked by the same centerpiece: outfielder Matt Holliday. So it's not a three-way deal, but it has a definite characteristic of it. And we'll pick a definitive winner.
November 10, 2008: Colorado Rockies traded Holliday to the Oakland Athletics for OF Carlos Gonzalez, LHP Greg Smith and RHP Huston Street.
July 24, 2009: Oakland Athletics traded Holliday to the St. Louis Cardinals for RHP Clayton Mortensen, 1B Shane Peterson and 1B Brett Wallace.
Colorado angle: I'll admit I didn't like this for Colorado initially. But there's a reason I'm a baseball writer and Dan O'Dowd is an executive. The Rockies did very, very well in dealing a player who was second in MVP voting just two years earlier. They picked up Gonzalez, who was a .242 hitter with four homers in 85 games in Oakland, and two years later, he was every bit as good as Holliday. Smith didn't pan out, going 1-2 with a 6.23 ERA in 2010, but spending the rest of the time in the minors. He was released in 2011 and has bounced around with five organizations since then. But Street became the Rockies' closer for the next three seasons and was reasonably effective before being traded to San Diego for a minor-leaguers after the 2011 season..
Oakland angle: The A's weren't going anywhere in 2009, so dealing Holliday before his contract expired that offseason made sense, and they even kicked in some money to the Cardinals in the deal. And the talent they got back, at the time, looked good. But since then, not so much. Dealing Gonzalez has to hurt a bit, but he was only with the A's organization for a months after coming up in the Diamondbacks' system.
Wallace and Mortensen were first-rounders and Peterson a second-rounder. But none of the three have become stars. Mortensen started seven games and went 2-4 before he was flipped to the Rockies for an anonymous minor-league pitcher named Ethan Hollingsworth. (The Rockies, a year later, then flipped Mortensen to Boston for Marco Scutaro. Mortensen is now in the Red Sox's bullpen.) Peterson has percolated in the minors since then (he batted .326 last season between Double-A and Triple-A) and just made his big-league debut last month, so he's still got a shot. Wallace didn't last in Oakland at all, and was traded that December to Toronto, then the next season to Houston. He's a great Triple-A hitter, but just a .243 hitter in the big leagues. He's back in Triple-A after a slow start this season for the Astros.
St. Louis angle: Holliday has been an All-Star in each of his three full seasons and is hitting .306 with 95 home runs and 356 RBI since being dealt to the Cardinals. He was a big part of a their 2011 World Series championship team and has three postseason home runs in his time with the Cardinals. And the talent they gave up (see above) looked good on paper, but not so much in the real world. They did have to spend some money, as Holliday commands $17 million per season through 2016, with a 2017 option.
So with money being a part in the equation, let's give the Rockies the best grade, by just a hair over the Cardinals: 1. Colorado; 2. St. Louis; 3. Oakland.