The World Cup kicked off Thursday in Brazil with the glitz, pageantry and worldwide attention one would expect from our truest global competition. The purest sporting event on the planet guarantees the best athletes from every country will be competing in a competition in which one true cham... Wait, what’s that? Major League Baseball also features the best players from every country? They play every year, not once every four? They play 162 times per year?!
On Saturday afternoon, the 10 most searched baseball players on Rotoworld over the past week were: Kendrys Morales (Cuba), Gregory Polanco (Dominican Republic), Carlos Gonzalez (Venezuela), Jon Singleton (California), Danny Santana (D.R.), Grant Balfour (Australia), Michael Cuddyer (Virginia), Mat Latos (Florida), Yasiel Puig (Cuba) and Matt Adams (Pennsylvania). Masahiro Tanaka spent some time on that list late last week after Wednesday’s complete game domination of the Mariners (Robinson Cano’s two-run ninth-inning homer spoiled the shutout), but was ushered off; the Japanese sensation’s mastery is already beginning to have a stultifying effect on our American audience. MLB’s three-highest HR totals have been hit by non-Americans, and the same could be said of RBI collectors. On the pitching side, Tanaka is tied with Missouri-bred (but potential southpaw alien) Mark Buehrle for most wins with 10, while California’s Sergio Romo and Alabama’s Craig Kimbrel will have a dogfight to keep the saves crown stateside from Venezuela’s Francisco Rodriguez this summer.
The television in Week That Was headquarters played plenty of soccer over the past 48 hours—in fact, your humble correspondent obnoxiously celebrated Costa Rica’s 3-1 upset over Uruguay on Saturday after spending the totality of the 2006 W.C. schedule in the country’s capital of San Jose—but this particular WTW dispatch would like to make one thing clear: Until soccer can mobilize itself into having one year-round professional league that features the best of the best, Major League Baseball is the purest form of sporting globalization we have seen. The league doesn’t lay on the car horn advertising that fact, it isn’t celebrated for that fact, and it doesn’t stage a contrived “global” competition to pretend that it’s... sorry? World Baseball what? World Baseball Classic, you say? Never heard of it. I’ve heard of the World Series, though. And I can tell you this about it: You must be a genetic mutant to even have a chance to play in it, the thin layer of snow on the peak of Mount Everest that represents the world’s 7.2 billion population. Watching Costa Rica upset Uruguay is fun, but it’s a little disingenuous to pretend Costa Rica is represented by players that would compete for a championship in an open market system. Let’s cut down on the verbal embellishment razzmatazz, mmkkaay World Cup announcers?
Under the radiance of this newfound appreciation—your correspondent, while deriding others for doing so, reserves his column-given right to employ razzmatazz as he sees fit—let’s celebrate the understated grandeur of a day-in, day-out global sport that only employs the best of the best in the Week That Was...
- The Hot Stove is roughly one month away from turning into an inferno, but every new season requires a few pieces of sacrificial kindling to get tossed in early on to stoke the thing into the conflagration that threatens to turn Ken Rosenthal into the Human Torch each July 31. This year, Cubs’ GM Theo Epstein was kind enough to order an intern to coat starters Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel in butane while he called the Chicago Sun-Times with an “anonymous” tip that both were available.
The newspaper fingered the Braves, Mariners and Blue Jays as interested, perhaps after hacking into Epstein’s laptop to see the Baseball America player pages of Lucas Sims, J.R. Graham, D.J. Peterson, Austin Wilson, Aaron Sanchez and D.J. Davis under the bookmark tab “porn.” ESPN’s Buster Olney believes Hammel could garner more interest—and be traded first—because he won’t cost as much money or prospects. The scribe identifies the Blue Jays, Pirates, A’s, Orioles and Marlins as potential players for Hammel. The veteran right-hander, who signed a one-year, $6 million deal in February, is 6-4 with a 2.81 ERA over 13 starts.
Samardzija, of course, has been one of the unluckiest pitchers in baseball with a 2-6 record despite an outstanding 2.77 ERA. Both would be better off elsewhere, though pitching in a better environment in front of an offense that will provide more runs and wins might only serve to offset the regression that I see coming from the pair. Hammel’s WHIP is .42 points below his career average right now, due in part to allowing an opponent’s batting average .62 points below his career norm. Samardzija’s peripherals don’t scream for a step back to the same degree, but expect him to end the season with an ERA a bit north of 3.
- Lonnie Chisenhall hit three homers and knocked in nine runs on Monday. If you hadn’t heard, show yourself the door. The column bouncer—your clicking finger—will escort you to the “Back” button on your browser. For the rest of you, did you think, coming into this season, that the Hall of Fame would call Lonnie Chisenhall asking him for an artifact that they would display with pride? No? Because it happened last week—his bat is Cooperstown bound.
This is the time where I turn into a Debby Downer and cite Chisenhall’s ludicrous .418 BABIP (he was horribly unlucky with a .243 BABIP in 2013), and tell you that his success is unsustainable and advise you to sell high. Only I’m not going to do that. First off, you need a dance partner to execute a sell-high, and I would need to be offered top 10 third baseman value to pull the trigger—who’s going to do that? Chisenhall’s mom? On the other hand, could you name with confidence 12 third-sackers you’d rather have in fantasy from this day forward? Go ahead, I’ll wait. Manager Terry Francona is one of the believers. Despite Thursday's return of Nick Swisher from the DL, the skipper will continue to find Chisenhall everyday at-bats.
Chisenhall would lead the majors with a .377 average if he qualified. Over his past two games, that average has fallen from .393. It will continue to fall. That’s fine. Chisenhall has cut his strikeout percentage from 18.2% to 13.5%, and boosted his line drive rate from 19.7% to 28.3%. His success is both explainable and sustainable; not to this degree, but still. When we last spoke about Chisenhall in this column a few weeks back, I proposed that you refrain from trading him because the return of his power (he had 3 HRs at the time; 7 today) would offset the tumble of his batting average. That logic holds. The 25-year-old, a former stud prospect, has boosted his isolated power by almost 50 points this season (keep in mind that Chisenhall is still younger than the average age of a Triple-A player, which is 26). If you scooped up Chisenhall—I did in Rotoworld’s staff league; don’t tell the others I’m bragging—congratulations are in order. Now sit back and cross your fingers—he’ll likely remain on your roster through September.
Time for the speed round, where we begin with our always popular Forgotten Mariners’ Batters segment:
- Logan Morrison returned from the disabled list Wednesday, and Jesus Montero’s banishment to the minors ended roughly 24 hours later. Both are owned in essentially zero fantasy leagues. Morrison deserves a look in AL-only formats so long as Justin Smoak is on the disabled list, and Jesus Montero is an option for any owner desperate for a catcher. I signed Montero in our 2-catcher Rotoworld baseball league last week on mere speculation. I’m sure Welington Castillo and Brayan Peña will be there waiting for me on the waiver wire if things don’t work out.
- R.A. Dickey exited Saturday’s start versus the Orioles in the seventh inning with right groin tightness. He didn’t sound terribly concerned after the game.
- Jorge De La Rosa was yanked from Friday’s game against the Giants with lower back tightness, but he expects to avoid the DL and make his next scheduled start Wednesday against the Dodgers.
- Cliff Lee, who hasn't pitched since May 18 due to a strained flexor pronator tendon, is expected to ramp up his throwing program in the coming days to include bullpen sessions. A simulated game would follow that, probably with a rehab start shortly thereafter. Assuming he doesn’t aggravate his elbow strain, expect to see Lee early next month. A minor setback would likely still have him back shortly after the All-Star game.
- Baseball America’s No. 30 prospect, Andrew Heaney, was held out of a start last week to control his innings, and the Marlins say they will continue to skip him every now and again for the same reason. Most see this as a sign that Miami wants to save him for a playoff push later this year. The 23-year-old left-hander has a limit of 160-170 innings, 76 2/3 of which he’s used to go 7-2 with a 2.47 ERA between Double-A Jacksonville and Triple-A New Orleans. The Miami Herald’s Manny Navarro believes Heaney is coming soon, perhaps as early as this week. He should be owned in most fantasy leagues.
- Mat Latos shut out the Brewers over six innings in his 2014 debut on Saturday, allowing only two hits. Activate him, and leave him in your starting lineup until the end.