I’m working on the final major transaction review, but two stories sidetracked me.
No. 1: Questions about the World Series ball
Tom Verducci is a big part of baseball’s postseasn production, and he used his access to come away with a ... gripping? ... story about the baseballs used in the World Series.
It’s already been an awkward year for Major League Baseball in this regard, as it hasn’t come up with compelling counterarguments to outweigh the growing evidence that the ball is juiced, with lower seams and a harder composition. Now pitchers and coaches from both the Dodgers and Astros have remarked that the World Series ball is smoother than the regular season edition:
[Astros pitching coach Brent] Strom showed SI two baseballs side by side: a baseball used in World Series Game 4 and a regular season baseball. The regular season ball had not been prepared for a game with the specialty mud that umpires or their attendants rub into baseballs to reduce the shine and slickness. Even accounting for that difference, the leather grain of the World Series ball looked and felt noticeably different. It was slicker to the touch. [...]
Said Houston pitcher Justin Verlander, “The World Series ball is slicker. No doubt. I’m telling you, we’re in here signing [World Series] balls before the game, and it’s hard to get the ink on the ball sometimes. You know when you sign a receipt at Starbucks, and if you don’t hold the paper down with your hand, the pen just slides across the paper and the ink doesn’t stick to it? That’s what it’s like sometimes trying to sign these balls. That’s how slick the leather is.
It might explain the difficulties pitchers have had throwing sliders this series. Yu Darvish threw some ugly floaters in his Game 3 starts. Ken Giles can’t get through an outing unscored upon anymore. Kenley Jansen gave up a homer on one. Justin Verlander only got one swinging strike on his. Brad Peacock threw almost all fastballs during his 3 2⁄3-inning save despite the breaking ball being his go-to pitch.
If the ball has neutered the slider, it greatly affects pitch selection for the guys on the mound and pitcher selection for the guys in the dugout. Between this and Yuli Gurriel’s dumbassed slanty-eyes gesture at Darvish, there’s plenty of stuff to distract from what’s been an exciting World Series on the field.
No. 2: Dave Martinez is finally getting a job?
The news was broken by Wade Boggs, of all people...
Congrats to former teammate Dave Martinez on the Nat 's job great baseball guy good luck— Wade Boggs (@ChickenMan3010) October 27, 2017
... and confirmed by the Washington Post.
BREAKING: Nationals have finalized deal with Davey Martinez. Three years and an option, according to a person familiar with the situation.— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) October 29, 2017
Assuming the deal goes through — never a certainty with the Nationals, as Bud Black will remind you — it’s a pretty notable decision. Martinez, 53, has never gotten a chance to manage at the major-league level, even though he’s had a fair amount of exposure as Joe Maddon’s bench coach over the last 10 years. He was considered a potential candidate for the White Sox job that went to Robin Ventura, but he’s been connected to numerous other vacancies in a similar fashion, and none of them had panned out until now.
In his first gig, he’ll get a chance to oversee one of baseball’s most volatile gigs. On one hand, a postseason appearance is virtually guaranteed given the shape of the NL East. On the other, Bryce Harper is in his walk year and ownership stumbles into avoidable controversies on a fairly frequent basis, so his finesse will likely be tested.
With the Nationals choosing Martinez and Boston Alex Cora, Rick Renteria is no longer the only manager of Latin descent, which is a development that seems overdue.