In the first blockbuster trade of this offseason, the Detroit Tigers sent Prince Fielder and $30 million to the Texas Rangers for Ian Kinsler. This deal makes a ton of sense — for both teams.
Still, a one-for-one trade has rarely been so complicated. Given all the repercussions likely to follow, let's simplify this by examining the impact one team at a time.
What This Means for the Tigers
The Tigers had the most inflexible roster in baseball last year, and it wasn’t even close. In Miguel Cabrera, Fielder, and Victor Martinez, they carried three designated hitters who all needed to be in the lineup. That meant Fielder playing below-average defense at first base and Cabrera showing statue-like range at third. It all came to a head during the playoffs. Groin and abdominal issues further degraded Cabrera’s already poor defense, but the Tigers couldn’t shift their injured but still potent star to DH with Martinez raking and Fielder providing their biggest source of left-handed power. Trading Fielder loosens that logjam. Now Cabrera can move back to first base, where he’ll do less harm to Detroit’s defense. And if new manager Brad Ausmus decides to give Cabrera a bit of a breather, he can slide the two-time MVP to DH and let Martinez play first base, a position he has shown he can play semi-competently.
In case you were busy clearing your name in the best place for levelheaded legal analysis: sports talk radio, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
The Knicks failed to make a late lead stand up, as Paul George and the Pacers topped New York, 103-96, in overtime. "But dad," a young boy in Queens said after the game, as he held his head in his hands. "All they had to do was not foul Paul George on the 3. Why would they foul him, dad? Why?" His father sat on the couch, staring forward, his gaze extending through the television, out to infinity. "Because, son," the father said, mindlessly crushing a beer can in his left hand. "Because the world is a cruel and ugly place. Because the universe bends toward entropic chaos. Because man is nothing more than a wad of rotten flesh stretched over an angry skeleton." The boy was crying a little now, but he managed to mumble, "But I don't understand." The father turned to his boy as he said with profound clarity, "Because Knicks, son. Because Knicks."
Despite a season-high 33 points from Dwight Howard, the Houston Rockets
fell, 123-120, at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks, who improved to 6-0 at home. "Ha-ha, yes!" Howard said after the game despite his team's loss. "What a night! What a night!" When asked if he was talking about his own breakout performance, Howard replied, "Nah, man. Did you see when Dirk totally slipped and fell over? And I was all like, 'Nirk!' And he was all like, 'Nirk?' and I was all like, 'Yeah, Nirk D'oh-witzki!'" Howard then collapsed in hysterics before gathering himself and saying, "He didn't get it, but man, he got covered in Dwight-Out."
In 1990, Nolan Ryan bought a bank in Alvin, Texas. It was an era of financial chicanery, of Michael Milken and Ivan Boesky. Ryan entered the industry as a folksy CEO. “When I was growing up,” he remarked, “customers knew their banker by name. That’s the way it should be.” Nearly two decades later, Ryan ran the Texas Rangers almost exactly as he had the Express Bank. You knew where he sat during games. You knew the plain and sensible thoughts that crossed his mind. And until his jarring resignation Thursday, everyone in baseball knew the Rangers team president by name.
Ryan says he “resigned”; the Rangers owners say “retired.” The distinction isn’t important. The Rangers came to the conclusion that GM Jon Daniels was doing the hard work of organization-building and Ryan was a useless figurehead. I want to alter that line of thinking only slightly. In six seasons with the Rangers, Nolan Ryan was an extremely useful figurehead. His mere presence offered the possibility of optimism, which is the second-best thing to signing Yu Darvish and Adrian Beltre.
These days, the Rangers are described as a “model franchise.” So let me take you back to the two times Ryan landed his spaceship in Arlington. The first was 1989. Ryan was 42 years old and still a baseball player. The Rangers had never won a playoff game, let alone appeared in a playoff series. That offseason, they traded for Julio Franco and Rafael Palmeiro and gave $1.8 million to Ryan.
“Probably the most important byproduct of all that change is a change in their image and self-image,” Sandy Alderson told The Sporting News.
In case you were busy frantically shorting Arian Foster futures, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
Mike Napoli hit a monster home run as the Boston Red Sox got to Anibal Sanchez and beat the Tigers, 4-3, to take a 3-2 ALCS lead back to Fenway Park. When asked how big a moment the home run was for him, Napoli shrugged, scratched his hairy face, and said, "Smallish? Scale of 1-10? I honestly don't care enough to rate it." When asked where he'd place the team's win in the context of Red Sox franchise history, Napoli yawned, drooled a little into his mustache, and said, "I couldn't care less about history. The only thing more boring than new baseball is old baseball." When asked why he has devoted his life to a pursuit he apparently thinks little of, Napoli stroked his beard and said, "Duh, beards." When told he didn't have to play baseball to grow a beard, Napoli chortled, filling his beard with spittle and sunflower-seed detritus, and asked, "Now who's being naive?" Napoli then ignored a text message from his girlfriend and said, "Now if you don't mind, my beard and I would like a little alone time," before walking into a supply closet at Comerica Park carrying a gilded comb.
In a reversal of past failure, the Rays finally took down the team that has absolutely dominated them in the postseason (read: beat them two years in a row in 2010 and 2011 by narrow margins) to advance to the wild-card round. They weren't fazed by the return of Nelson Cruz, or the icy glare of Nolan Ryan behind home plate, or the intimidating towels waved by the Ranger fans who probably thought they were at a football game. As they move on to face the Indians on Wednesday in yet another do-or-die game, here are five quick thoughts to vault us into the actual postseason.
In case you were busy watching Senator Ted Cruz do his best Eli Manning impression, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
The New Orleans Saints outclassed the previously unbeaten Miami Dolphins in a 38-17 win, sending a message to the rest of the NFL that they are prepared, after a down year, to return to the ranks of the league's elite. Fortunately we here at ALN got an exclusive leaked copy of the text of that message; here it is in its entirety:
Dear Denver, Seattle, New England, and San Francisco, um, Kansas City? Sure, why not. Kansas City,
Hey, guys, it's the Saints. How are you? We feel like we really lost touch with ya'll last year. And that's our fault. We hate to lay blame or make excuses, but in this case we really feel we must. So much was going on with us, and our coach, and Roger. It's always hard when you get hurt by the ones you love, especially when they aren't being paid to hurt you. But we've moved on, and we'd like to think you guys have too. I heard some of you are even still friends with Roger. That's fine. Seriously, it's fine. That's fine. It's all just fine. Fine. Whatever. You are the company you keep, is what we say down in New Orleans, but do what you must.
On Sunday, Ron Washington walked to the mound and did one of those things that makes us Rangers fans start moaning and lighting votive candles in front of a shrine of Oddibe McDowell. The Rangers were facing the Angels, whom — I think I've got this right — they needed to beat so they can beat the Rays so they can beat the Indians so they can face the Red Sox. Suffice it to say, Texas had to win. It was the top of the sixth. The Rangers were leading, 2-1. Their ace, Yu Darvish, had thrown 84 pitches. There were two outs and runners at first and second. Noted Rangers émigré Josh Hamilton was batting. Wash — this is what everyone calls him, so that’s what I’ll call him here — went out and removed Darvish.
Huh. Why did Wash pull one of the best pitchers in the American League with the season on the line? The Rangers reliever, Neal Cotts, came in and gave up a game-tying single. (To Hamilton! Jesus.) But then the Rangers scored four more runs, finished a sweep of the Angels, and will play past the 162nd game for the fourth time in four years. This — the strange mix of strategic ineptness and aggregate success — is the riddle of Ron Washington.
In case you were busy arguing that Lane Kiffin really hasn't gotten a fair chance to prove himself as a head coach with a particularly stubborn stop sign, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
Tom Brady finally synced up with his young receiving corps, as the New England Patriots built an early lead and held on late, beating the Atlanta Falcons 30-23. "It's tough to beat them when Brady is back on track, but we gave it our all, and I'm impressed with my team," said a gray-haired man claiming to be Atlanta's head coach. "Wait, seriously, I'm Mike Smith," the man said, giving a clearly fake name, before adding, "You've heard of Dan Reeves? Well, I'm the most successful coach this franchise has ever had. We were in the NFC title game last year." The man, likely a deluded extra who wandered off the set of Boardwalk Empire, then added, "No, I'm not the mayor from Boardwalk Empire. For chrissake, come on, are you messing with me?"
The Major League Baseball regular season ended, but there's yet more to be decided as the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers finished the season tied for the second AL wild-card slot, and will play a one-game playoff. That game will determine which team will face the Cleveland Indians in another one-game playoff, which will determine who will be the AL wild-card representative in the postseason. This will be followed by a series of three-inning "mini-games" to determine home-field advantage in each round, which will be followed by a series of three-out home run derbies to determine which manager will be forced to turn in his lineup card first. Then, naturally, will come the dizzy bat competition, which will be just for fun, followed by a three-legged race, which will supplant this year's World Series, and for which, naturally, the Boston Red Sox are the favorites to win what with their flashy red socks likely to be advantageous for maintaining a three-legged race rhythm.
It's the last weekend of the regular season, which means it's also the last MLB Weekend Top 10. That would be sad, in its way, if I weren't just drowning in Coca-Cola right now. I don't have any emotions except alert, and so I can't write a proper eulogy for the Top 10 until this tremendous wave of energy has crested and fizzled, at which point it will be too late. However, I can damn well make a list that correctly counts down from 10 to one. It's my main ability, and I'd like to exercise it now as we search for whatever bits of drama remain in an underwhelming playoff race.
10. The Last Champagne Party (CHC-STL)
Do you think the Cardinals waited to clinch the division until the last series on purpose, just so they could celebrate in front of the Cubs and really rub it in? I, for one, hope so. I also hope they invite Steve Bartman to the game and let him throw out the first pitch.
With five days to go in the regular season, three teams are vying for two playoff spots in one league, while three more jockey for position in the other. With help from our friends at ESPN Stats & Information, here's what we're watching for four of those teams. (Don't fret, Pirates and Rays fans, we'll have plenty to say about your teams soon.)
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
Games ahead in NL Central race: 2
What's happening: One of the biggest and most successful youth movements by any playoff team in the expansion era.
Michael Wacha became the third pitcher this season to lose a no-hitter in the ninth inning. It was a heartbreaking play, with Ryan Zimmerman rapping a chopper to short with two outs in the ninth, an off-line throw allowing him to sneak in with an infield single.
It was also the 51st start by a Cardinals rookie. Shelby Miller has led the way among St. Louis rookie starters, posting a 3.12 ERA, with a three-to-one strikeout-to-walk rate and a strikeout an inning over 30 starts. Wacha's near-no-no dropped his ERA to 2.78, with a 2.92 FIP over nine starts. Tyler Lyons (eight starts), John Gast (three starts), and Carlos Martinez (one start) have also repped St. Louis first-years. That puts the Cards in rare company.
In case you were busy finding out what really happened when your cousin broke your grandmother's collection of valuable plates, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
Cardinals rookie Michael Wacha became the third pitcher to lose a no-hitter with two outs in the ninth inning this season, but still collected a crucial win as St. Louis beat the Washington Nationals, 2-0. A disappointed yet upbeat Wacha addressed the media after the game, saying, "The most important thing is that we won; the no-hitter was secondary. Now I'll take questions from anyone who isn't Fozzie Bear." But when the assembled media began to yell his name, Wacha stormed off the podium, yelling, "Stop following me around, you stupid puppet bear! You're ruining my life!"
The Yankees found themselves short on bobbleheads for Mariano Rivera Bobblehead Night, causing a commotion outside of Yankee Stadium while inside the stadium the team was short on power, losing 7-0 to the Tampa Bay Rays. "You can't have him, you can't," a wild-eyed Yankees general manager Brian Cashman yelled as he sat atop a stack of boxes of Rivera bobbleheads, armed with a shotgun and a bottle marked with three X's. When told by team president Randy Levine that he had to get off the boxes to allow the fans to have them, Cashman threw his bottle at Levine and yelled back, "Let's ask Mo. Do you want to go to the fans?" Cashman then pulled out one of the bobbleheads and tapped its brim. A heartbroken Cashman looked at the small nodding Rivera in his hands with wild eyes and said, "I thought you'd never do this to me. If I can't have you, no one can!" before firing his shotgun wildly into the stack of boxes below him.
In case you were busy trying to shake off seeing the Raider Rusher, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
For the first time in 21 years, the Pittsburgh Pirates will be playing postseason baseball after clinching at least a wild-card berth with their 2-1 win over the Chicago Cubs. "Congratulations, I'm so happy for you guys," Cubs manager Dale Sveum told Pirates manager Clint Hurdle after the game, "we're doing great too, really, really, really great. Me and Theo, and everyone here. We're really happy." Hurdle opened his mouth to talk, but Sveum continued to speak, "and we're happy for you. But really we're just happy, so, so happy. And sure, we don't have everything you have. Who does? I mean, Andrew, what a kid. What a kid. We know all about Andrew and his exploits. I mean, our Anthony is great, but he's no Andrew. No, no he isn't." Hurdle nodded sympathetically as Sveum briefly lost his train of thought. "I'm sorry, what was I saying? Oh yes, how happy we are here as Cubs. That's the important thing; that we're happy. And you're happy. Everyone is happy." Sveum smiled, content with his self-presentation, and Hurdle didn't have the heart to tell him that his jersey had been tucked into his underwear the entire time.
Peyton Manning led the Broncos to their 14th straight regular-season win as they easily beat the Oakland Raiders 37-21 at home. Things got even worse for the Raiders as quarterback Terrelle Pryor was knocked out of the game with a concussion, or as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell referred to it, "Terrelle who? What are you talking about? Never heard of the guy in my life, have you, Mark? Terrelle Pryor?" to which NCAA president Mark Emmert responded, "Nope, Roger. Me neither. Never heard of this 'Terrelle Pryor' before. Weird."
Only two more weekends left in the regular season, and to use one of my favorite clichés, these guys have EVERYTHING to play for! Let's get to it.
10. How the Nationals Will Destroy the NL Central (MIA-WAS)
At exactly the moment in the season when it was pretty much too late, the Nationals started winning like fiends. Going back to September 3, they've put together a 13-3 streak and salvaged a very remote chance of snatching the final wild-card spot. It's still a huge long shot; with nine games remaining, they find themselves five back of the Reds. We're at the point where one Reds-win-Nats-lose night will basically sink them. On the other hand, the Reds have six games remaining against the Pirates, and as long as Pittsburgh has a shot at the NL Central title, thus avoiding the wild card, they won't be laying down for anyone. The Nationals don't have it much easier, finishing with the Pirates and Diamondbacks, but they do have three games against the Marlins this weekend. In theory, it's not insane to imagine that they could be two back with six to play on Monday. And that's a very different outlook.
So, this is how the Nationals could destroy the NL Central. First, they finish in a tie with the Reds for the final playoff spot. That would result in a one-game playoff. If the Nationals won that, they would then play the wild-card game against whoever loses the Pirates-Cardinals battle for the NL Central for argument's sake, let's say the Pirates. If they won that game, and St. Louis maintained a lead in the standings over the Dodgers, the Nats would then play the third NL Central team in the divisional round. It could be a clean sweep! Five games, and a whole division destroyed! If that happened, I would add the NL Central massacre to this Wikipedia page over and over until they let it stay.
In case you were busy wishing you could just be a linebacker, and not the go-to name when someone gets tricked on the Internet, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday:
Chris Davis's 12th-inning single gave the Orioles a 5-3 win over Boston, leaving the Red Sox's magic number for clinching the AL East at three. "Yeah it is. Oh, three, is a magic number," Red Sox manager John Farrell sang after the game before leading his team in a Schoolhouse Rock sing-along that both raised team morale and clarified for second baseman Dustin Pedroia exactly how a bill becomes a law.
Desmond Jennings's walk-off single was the final blow in the Tampa Bay Rays' back-and-forth extra-inning 4-3 win over the Texas Rangers. "Even if we have a lot of kids and other team's rejects, we have a great team spirit that I think is going to bring us into the postseason," said Rays manager Joe Maddon, who was dressed as Oscar the Grouch in a strange bit of morale-draining one-upmanship. "Because we here in Tampa love trash. We love it because it's trash."
In case you were busy being quietly content with Greg Schiano, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
The Texas Rangers broke a seven-game skid and reasserted themselves in the AL wild-card race with a 7-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. When asked how snapping the losing streak felt, Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler shrugged and said, "Eh, not so great. Really, I thought it would be better, but at this point in the year, all these games are pretty much the same." When asked if he hoped the momentum from this game would carry the team into the playoffs, Kinsler replied, "Nope," before catching himself and adding, "Which isn't to say I don't want to make the playoffs; I just don't care either way. If we make them, great. If not, meh."
Red Sox closer Koji Uehara's streak of retiring 37 consecutive hitters was snapped as he took the loss in the Baltimore Orioles' 3-2 victory over Boston. Uehara was in good spirits despite the rare loss, saying after the game, "Tomorrow is another day for me to start a streak." Then, after a brief pause, the 38-year-old Uehara frowned and added, "Actually, man, that streak was really hard. Really, really hard. I doubt that I can start another one like that at my age. Is the best of me in the past?" Uehara let his mind cast back to his youth, when he was a top student, when he first picked up a baseball as a child. Then forward to the pride he felt getting into the Osaka University of Health and Sport Sciences. "Was that almost 20 years ago?" he mumbled to himself as he let his mind cast forward to his streak of 15 consecutive wins in 1999 as a Yomiuri Giant, when he won the Rookie of the Year and Eiji Sawamura Awards. Then his two Japan Series titles in 2000 and 2002. "Over a decade ago," he said out loud to no one in particular. Then his unbeaten run in international play came back to him, including his World Baseball Classic title in 2006. "I was old then now?" And now this run. What was left in that right arm of his, he thought to himself, what was left to prove? "Well, we better win the whole damn thing," Uehara exclaimed, snapping back to the present: an empty Fenway Park locker room, as he had been left alone in his reverie, a tired body worn down by decades of pitches. "Yes," he said, this time in a more reserved tone, "the whole damn thing."