TSN Baseball Insider Steve Phillips answers several questions each week. This week's topics include the Blue Jays All-Stars' plea for help, a supposed soft-toss to Derek Jeter at the Mid-Season Classic and the odds of the MLB returning to Montreal.
1. During the All-Star Break, both Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista and pitcher Mark Buehrle spoke to the media about their hopes that the club adds some players to help with their playoff push. As a GM what impact if any do player's comments to the media have on what you do or not do in the trade market?
There is peer pressure and then there is veteran star pressure. You think it's tough being a teenager? Try being a general manager at trade deadline time when the veterans covet players on other teams.
I understand why veterans like Batista and Buerhle want to see upgrades. They aren't getting any younger. They see their window of winning closing. In a season when the Red Sox, Yankees and Rays are all at the bottom of the division, the players know this is a year to go for it.
The fans recognize this is a year to go for it.
The media recognizes this is a year to go for it.
Everyone sees this is a time to go for it.
General managers are wired to always look for ways to improve the club. Generally, the bigger the better but they know that any incremental improvement can make a difference. Improving the team by acquiring a star player is significant but so too is adding a role player like a reliever or speedy outfielder. Improving the club by one game can be the difference between going to the playoffs or not.
General managers tend not to like having additional pressure heaped upon them. The jobs are tough enough. When players call for personnel moves, it empowers the media and fans to do the same thing; columnists write stories, fans call talk radio shows and players look at the GM with longing eyes.
On rare occasions, general managers appreciate a nudge from star players, particularly when the owner may be reluctant to expand the payroll budget.
Outside pressure impacts owners more than general managers. GMs are wired to do make the best baseball moves possible to help their team win the most number of games over the longest period of time within whatever financial parameters they are given.
Alex Anthopoulos isn't stupid. He recognizes that his team needs help. He understands that this is a rare moment in time when the Yanks, Sox and Rays are all sunk. He knows this is the time to go for it.
Whether he makes deals or not will come down to: his evaluation of how realistic the Jays chances are of making the playoffs with the move, whether he has the financial flexibility to make it and the cost (player personnel) of the deal.
The need calculation is an easy one: if the Jays make improvements to their starting rotation (with two pitchers) they can make the playoffs.
The cost is the only issue. Do the Jays have the willingness to part with dollars and prospects to win this year? Anthopoulos is responsible for the decision about the prospects and ownership is responsible for the decision about the money. By far the bigger issue is the money.
So here is my advice: if the players, fans and media want to apply pressure apply it to ownership.
2. Adam Wainwright admitted, then retracted the fact that he 'grooved' a pitch to Derek Jeter in his final All-Star Game. What are your thoughts on this, and is it time for the MLB to end the home field advantage element of the Mid-Season Classic?
I was the general manager for the Mets at the time MLB made the decision that the All-Star Game would mean something. I got a call from Sandy Alderson, who at the time was working in the Commissioner's Office. Sandy said the Commissioner was looking for ways to help our broadcast partner (FOX) improve TV ratings for the game. He wanted to know my feelings about making the game count for home field advantage for the World Series. I told Sandy that I was totally against it. I didn't think that a game that has always been an exhibition should now count for something, especially if it was effectively still going to be managed like an exhibition game. Why should players on a last place team impact whether a team had home field advantage in a series they were not going to participate in at all.
Alderson thanked me for my thoughts. He confirmed that my opinion was the same as every other GM he had spoken to. He then said our opinions didn't really matter because the Commissioner was moving forward with connecting home field advantage for the World Series to winning the All-Star Game anyway.
This isn't going to change. My opinion hasn't changed about it but I have come to accept that the game “means something.”
Adam Wainwright told us he intentionally “piped” a pitch to Derek Jeter. He confirmed it in the questions asked immediately after his unsolicited proclamation. Only later, when he felt the disgust of the masses, did he claim to have “mis-said” his approach with Jeter.
Every time I hear that clip it reminds me of Roger Clemens' claim that Andy Pettitte mis-remembered how Clemens shared his steroid use. From this point on I will always be skeptical when a player puts “mis-“ in front of anything.
Wainwright made multiple mistakes. Firstly, he should not have grooved a pitch for Jeter. The All-Star Game means something, therefore, anything less than complete effort compromises the integrity of the game. It is not fair to his teammates that he did that.
Second, Wainwright should never have admitted publicly what he had done. It diminishes Jeter's accomplishment of getting a hit against him. It sounds like an excuse for giving up the hit. Plus, he made it all about himself and not Derek Jeter or the other players.
Third, he should not have done the interview later in the game with Erin Andrews, FOX's dugout reporter, and denied his earlier statements. His claims that his humor was misunderstood, just aren't true. In listening to his earlier interview he clearly states a fact about piping the pitch to Jeter. Plus blaming social media for the controversy is ridiculous. The responses on social media were only a response to what he said.
Adam Wainwright seems like a good guy. He clearly made a few mistakes at the All-Star Game. He just needs to own his side of the street. Take responsibility for the mistakes. Don't treat the rest of us like we are stupid.
Take it from an expert at making mistakes; it is much easier when you just say: “I messed up.”
3. Bud Selig suggested this week that Montreal was a great baseball market and might be a considered it viable option in the future. Do you believe that?
I believe Bud Selig means what he says. I think he believes what he says as well. Montreal will be among a list of cities in consideration if baseball were to ever expand or have relocation needs.
Montreal has proven itself as a more than viable baseball market in the past. Clearly, a new stadium would have to be part of the consideration. The fact that there is a team in Washington now after past failed attempts is a sign that baseball is willing to go back to the well if it is the right thing to do.
Here is the problem. Bud Selig's tenure as Commissioner is coming to an end in January 2015. So his opinion is only that. It just doesn't hold any weight. It may give false hope to fans unnecessarily. Bud Selig will have no say in whether baseball ever returns to Montreal.
The Commissioner also stated that Pete Rose, who is under lifetime suspension from MLB, could play a role in the 2015 All-Star Game. That is nice of him to say but he really doesn't have that authority, as he will be retired when it takes place.
I am a fan of the Commissioner. I think he is a Hall-of-Famer. Under his leadership revenues have grown exponentially. New stadiums have been built everywhere they need them. Interleague play and the Wild Card have been great successes. The second Wild Card team is a great idea and the addition of replay challenges has advanced the game. He has had unparalleled peace with the Players' Association and under his leadership baseball has the most stringent drug testing program in all of professional sports.
But let's remember that Bud's days are numbered and his thoughts about 2015 and beyond are exactly the same as yours and mine. They have no juice.
No pun intended.
As we head into the second half of the season there is so much that can and will happen. I want to have some fun with Bold Predictions for the trade deadline and the final results of the season.
This is going to be a very active trade deadline. A general manager could end up being the most valuable “player” in baseball. One or two big moves can separate teams in the playoff chase.
Here are some Bold Predictions for where players will end up being traded:
David Price will be traded from Tampa Bay to St Louis: The Cards have enough impact prospects to give the Rays what they want. This will give the Cards a playoff rotation of Wainwright, Price and Wacha (if his shoulder heals) which would be the best in baseball.
Ben Zobrist will be traded from the Rays to the Reds: Zobrist's versatility and offensive production fit the Reds perfectly as Zach Cozart has struggled terribly this year and Brandon Phillips is injured.
Marlon Byrd will be traded from the Phillies to the Mariners: Byrd will give the Mariners the right-handed power bat they need behind Robinson Cano.
Joaquin Benoit will be traded by the Padres and make a return to the Detroit Tigers: He adds length to the Tigers pen and protects them if Joe Nathan struggles as he has at times this season.
Phillies' closer Jonathan Papelbon will be traded to the San Francisco Giants: Giants' GM Brian Sabean is one of the best at fortifying the bullpen on the fly. The Giants will need that as they have little margin for error.
Twins All-Star catcher Kurt Suzuki will be moved to the St Louis Cardinals to replace the injured Yadier Molina: Suzuki has Cards written all over him especially with his character and leadership qualities.
Chase Headley and Ian Kennedy of the Padres will both end up in New York with the Yankees: Headley will try to stabilize the lack of production at 3B and Kennedy will try to do the same to the disabled starting rotation.
The Red Sox will waive the white flag on the season and trade Mike Napoli to the Royals: Kansas City needs leadership and power. Plus Napoli will bring his patient offensive approach to an underperforming lineup.
The Phillies' A.J. Burnett will return to Toronto as the Jays go for a guy they know from the past: Anthopoulos brought back to Gibbons to manage and now he will bring back Burnett to deepen the rotation.
The Chicago Cubs will trade Starlin Castro to the New York Mets for Zack Wheeler: With the emergence of rookie Jacob deGrom in the rotation the Mets use the inconsistent Wheeler to get the shortstop they desperately need.
The Pirates will acquire Houston Street from the Padres to fill the gaping hole at the end of the game: The Grilli-for-Frieri deal didn't quite work out for the Pirates. Street is a reasonably priced solution.
Jimmy Rollins will waive his 10/5 rights and accept a trade to the Brewers: Milwaukee makes the move for protection as Jean Segura has struggled on the field and now is struggling off the field with the death of his infant son.
My prediction for the Blue Jays is that Alex Anthopoulos will try hard to upgrade his team. He will make a deal to get Burnett and maybe another small piece here or there. Good news is the Jays will finish in second in the division. The bad news is they won't win enough to be a Wild Card team. Too much inconsistency in the starting rotation will be their ultimate downfall. The Jays offence will not be able to score enough to overcome the lack of pitching. Too many injuries on the offensive side make it difficult to do so.
Jays' fans won't be the only disappointed fans at the end of the season as it will not end with the same division leaders and Wild Card leaders as we have now. Here is how it will change:
The teams that are not currently in the playoffs but who will make the playoffs are both in the NL Central. I predict the Cardinals to win the division and the Reds to be a Wild Card team. That means that despite the nice first half the Brewers will fade in the second half.
I believe the Nats will pull away in the NL East. They have a ton of talent that will come together under first year manager Matt Williams.
The Braves and Giants will come down to the final weekend fighting for the second Wild Card spot. The Giants will beat the Padres while the Braves struggle with the Phils. The Giants get the playoff berth.
AL Division Winners/Wild Card
AL East: Baltimore Orioles
AL Central: Detroit Tigers
AL West: Oakland A's
AL Wild Card #1: LA Angels
AL Wild Card #2: Seattle Mariners
NL Division Winners/Wild Card
NL East: Washington Nationals
NL Central: St Louis Cardinals
NL West: LA Dodgers
NL Wild Card #1: Cincinnati Reds
NL Wild Card #2: San Francisco Giants
End of Year Awards
NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, LA Dodgers
NL MVP: Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies
NL Rookie of the Year: Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds
NL Manager of the Year: Mike Matheny, St Louis Cardinals
AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
AL MVP: Mike Trout, LA Angels
AL Rookie of the Year: Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox
AL Manager of the Year: Lloyd McClendon, Seattle Mariners
The second half of the season is set to be exciting as we have 17 teams within four games of a playoff spot. Hold on tight. Here we go!