So often, when you reference the big numbers of a pitcher from baseball’s past, you are dealing with results that have no modern relevance. They certainly have little use as a signpost for what some present-day hurler might do. Things have changed too much.
There are some obvious examples of that which come up in a records-never-to-be-broken debate, like Cy Young’s 511 wins or 749 complete games, figures compiled during baseball’s mythical-sounding past. You don’t even have to go back that far. The post-World War II record for innings pitched in a season was set less than 50 years ago: Wilbur Wood threw 376⅔ innings in 1972, edging out the 376 mark set the season before by Mickey Lolich.
What makes those kind of numbers seem so fantastical now is how impossible it feels that we’ll ever see anything like them again. And that’s not necessarily because a pitcher couldn’t do it. It’s more because through endless iterations of team-building strategies over the years — a process that has sped up exponentially over the past couple of decades because of technological innovation — organizations have realized it’s not smart to have pitchers even try for numbers like that. It’s not smart for exacting maximum value from the pitcher, and it’s not smart for winning games.
Enter Trevor Bauer: “Allowing me to pitch every fourth game is priority No. 1. Unfortunately I can’t accept less money for that because it affects future players and markets as a whole.”
That tweet, from Bauer to a fan, is more than two years old. It wasn’t the earliest incidence of him proclaiming his desire to become an every-fourth-day pitcher and it wasn’t the last. The idea on the surface of it seems like a lark. After all, such workhorses are long extinct in the big leagues and to revive them would entail the wealth-infused madness of a real-life John Hammond, of “Jurassic Park” fame. Right?
Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora happy to be back with team
Alex Cora spent the last year on the sideline following a suspension for his role in the Houston Astros‘ sign-stealing scandal. Now, sitting back in his manager’s seat with the Boston Red Sox after the team gave him a second chance to lead, Cora is soaking in every moment of being back in spring training.
“This is where I wanted to be. This is where I’m at,” Cora said last week. “I love every second of it, and I’m not going to take it for granted.”
Cora became one of Boston’s most popular sports figures after leading the Red Sox to a World Series championship in 2018, his first season in the Fenway Park manager’s seat. When Boston fired Cora after the unraveling of the Astros trash-can banging scheme, many Red Sox players expressed disappointment that Cora would no longer be their manager.
“He’s someone that we all enjoyed playing for and I loved to just sit and have a nice conversation with him baseball-wise,” Boston shortstop Xander Bogaerts said last January. “He’ll be someone we’ll miss a lot, me especially.”
If there was doubt about whether the Red Sox clubhouse would embrace Cora following the fallout of the sign-stealing scandal, those questions were quickly answered in the early days of spring training.
“You know everything we went through, winning the World Series in 2019, I just feel happy that he’s back,” said pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez. “He’s like a father, like a brother. Sometimes I feel like a teammate when I talk to him and that’s part of the relationship that we have together and we can make it better. We will make it better.”
Even when Cora was not managing the Red Sox, Chris Sale said he maintained regular communication with the skipper, especially as he was beginning his rehab from Tommy John surgery.
When asked to describe the impact of Cora’s return to the team, Sale invoked the words camaraderie, trust and passion. Around the Red Sox clubhouse, Sale is known as a leadership figure who brings an old-school approach to the game, regularly seen wearing an “All me, PED free” t-shirt, who doesn’t speak in clichés.
“He wants to win, he does everything to better himself, the coaching staff, the team, the organization,” Sale said. “Being able to have that trust in the captain, he’s the guy running the show, he’s the guy putting the lineups up, he’s doing pitching changes and having that trust in knowing that he’s got your back to the very end.”
This year, Cora brings a season’s worth of pent-up enthusiasm and excitement about baseball he wasn’t able to channel while watching games from his couch instead of the dugout, something he hopes can help Boston avoid a repeat of 2020’s last-place finish in the American League East.
“I’m going to do it the same way I’ve done it in ’18 and ’19,” Cora said. “Confident, with conviction, and trying to put these guys in situations to be successful. This is the way I know how to do it. This is what I do, and let’s see where it takes us.”
Go high on the Mets and Padres and other sure things in MLB over/unders
When my little brother was at the very end of his teenage years, he stepped over the Vermont moat and joined me for spring training in Arizona. Eventually we made our way to Las Vegas for some exhibition games. As we drove down The Strip for the first time, bathed in its bright, flashing lights, he spoke of the place with awe, with reverence, predicting many future trips to the casinos.
An hour later, he was slumped in front of a slot machine, his $200 allotment for the trip completely drained. I laughed without a shred of empathy, pointed at all the neon and asked, in so many words, “Sherlock, who do you think pays for all of that? You do!”
In other words: Always respect the folks who set the odds.
But every year, when the over/unders on baseball team win totals come out, I like to peruse and identify perceived soft spots.
Here’s what I see in the William Hill set of over/unders:
Chicago White Sox star Tim Anderson backs new manager Tony La Russa after 1-on-1 meeting
If there was any concern as to how dynamic shortstop Tim Anderson and old-school manager Tony La Russa would get along, Chicago White Sox fans can breathe a sigh of relief at the start of spring training.
Anderson, who laughingly said that he wouldn’t “change my style, the way I play” after the White Sox hired the 76-year-old La Russa in November, said he arrived at camp early just to sit down and talk with his new manager.
The 27-year-old Anderson, who hit .322 in 2020 after winning the American League batting title in 2019, said he’s gotten a chance to get to know him, and he likes what he sees.
“Just to see what page he’s on is definitely awesome,” Anderson told reporters on Monday in Glendale, Arizona. “Just have conversations with him, very motivating.
“The drive to want to win, he has that. I’m behind him 110 percent. That’s the ultimate goal, is to win and to win a World Series here. I’m behind him.”
La Russa, in his second stint with the White Sox 34 years after they fired him, is 2,728-2,365 with six pennants over 33 seasons with Chicago, Oakland and St. Louis. Only Hall of Famers Connie Mack (3,731) and John McGray (2,762) have more victories.
But he hasn’t filled out a lineup card since the Cardinals beat Texas in Game 7 of the 2011 World Series, and he’s very aware of that.
“One of the players asked me, ‘Hey, you were nervous [after addressing the team Monday]?'” La Russa told reporters Monday. “I said, ‘Yeah.’ … It means that you care and you understand that the unknown is out there. The challenge of the competition.”
Said Anderson: “I think he’s pretty solid. So far, everything has been great. The things he has been preaching have been good. I think we got the right man. I hope so.”
La Russa is no stranger to managing big personalities. He had Rickey Henderson and Jose Canseco in Oakland. And his closer there, Dennis Eckersley, was known to pump his fist, point at opponents and fire imaginary guns at them after strikeouts.
Anderson said he’s at a point where he “can tell him anything I want to” after their 1-on-1 meeting.
“I ain’t afraid of him,” Anderson joked. “Tell him that.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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