1. David Ross's All-Star Game chances (Last Week: Not Ranked)
Chicago Cubs left-hander Jon Lester is endorsing catcher David Ross for baseball's All-Star Game, and it's not entirely ridiculous. Ross announced before the 2016 season that it would be his last as a major leaguer, which means he has one final chance to be an All-Star. Not a huge deal at first blush. It isn't surprising that Ross hasn't been an All-Star yet, given not only his career statistics but also the fact that he's been a right-handed platoon player for most of his time in the majors since 2002.
And yet, his ability to "handle pitchers" on defense, along with a penchant for mashing lefties at the plate, has made him a valuable player on many a 25-man squad. Back in April, a Cubs fan started an online movement to get Ross some traction for the All-Star Game in what must have seemed like a gag at the time. But, lo and behold, Ross, at age 39, is having his best season in about six years. He came into Thursday batting .250/.348/.461 with four homers in 94 plate appearances. When you manipulate the parameters to allow for Ross not having played as much as full-time catchers, he compares fairly well to other squatters:
Not exactly a position that's overachieving on the whole. In addition to swinging a decent bat, Ross does all of that other "catcher stuff" that's difficult to quantify yet we know means something. Or perhaps it's not that difficult to quantify:
How about them small sample of apples? Ross, however, usually is rated as gifted on defense. Lester is biased, of course, but Ross is having a good enough season for Lester to endorse him on Twitter, the place where they make endless fun of you for saying stupid things:
2. Matt Albers at the plate (LW: NR)
Albers getting a hit and running the bases was described aptly on a New York Mets message board as being like when a fat guy scores a touchdown in the NFL. Another person said, not as nicely, that Albers was in fact "John Candy's corpse." Albers, a pudgy journeyman relief pitcher with one career plate appearance to his name since the start of 2008, turned in one of the best at-bats of the season for the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday. He lined a key double on a 2-2 pitch in the 13th inning, also scoring the go-ahead run and getting the win by pitching two scoreless innings in a 2-1 victory against the Mets.
Earlier in the season, Albers screamed that he was "like a fucking cat!" after he made a nice defensive play, giving everyone a preview of what the big-boned are capable of.
3-t. Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Manny Machado (No change)
Or should this be Trout, Harper, and Madison Bumgarner? MadBum hit a home run Thursday against the Atlanta Braves, giving him as many long ones lately as Trout and Harper.
And how does Manny Machado rank over his past 191 plate appearances? Ten homers.
6. Clayton Kershaw's K/BB ratio (LW: 7)
It's 105-to-five after a ten-strikeout, zero-walk performance against the Mets this past Sunday. He did allow two runs, which raised his ERA to 1.56. Kershaw has issued three walks over his past nine starts, which covers 71 2/3 innings.
7. The ire of Ron Fowler (LW: NR)
The owner of the San Diego Padres ripped his own team for being "miserable failures." Hey, that's the media's job! Fowler's not wrong, though. It's just that few expected the Padres to be good after GM A.J. Preller scaled back on the team's makeover. Regardless, these comments (via the San Diego Union-Tribune) are always fun when an owner says them:
"It's been embarrassing. I don't know how else to put it," Fowler said. "Our performance on the road trip, 1-7, was pathetic.
"I'm a very competitive individual. I think I've won a lot more than I've lost in my life. This baseball experience has been very frustrating, very embarrassing.
"The performance by our team (Tuesday), I can understand how (former owner Ray) Kroc would have grabbed the microphone. It's that frustrating."
The Padres are 20-33, the third-worst record in the National League. Fowler singled out right-hander James Shields, who allowed 10 runs in 2 2/3 innings on Tuesday in a 16-4 loss at Seattle.
"To have a starter like Shields perform as poorly as he did yesterday is an embarrassment to the team, an embarrassment to him," Fowler said. "It's about as frustrating as it can get. But we've got to get through. We've got a draft coming up. … We've got international stuff going on. I know A.J. (General Manager A.J. Preller) and our guys are very busy."
He sounds a little like Donald Trump, were Trump able to admit being wrong. Do all rich people sound alike? Just imagine The Donald ripping the New Jersey Generals:
"Embarrassing. Pathetic. I've won more than I've lost in my life. Very frustrating, very embarrassing. Embarrassment. International stuff. Very busy."
8. Tom Brady could have saved the Expos (LW: NR)
It's the 21st anniversary of the Expos taking Brady in the 18th round. Had he played professional baseball, and succeeded, and not enrolled at Michigan before getting picked by the New England Patriots 199th overall in the 2000 NFL Draft, would this have saved Montreal's baseball franchise? Did I take this job for a quick buck? Seriously, imagine Brady pitching perfect games and scoring rouges for Les Expos when the franchise began to tank in the late 1990s, precipitating its move to kind of Puerto Rico and then, finally, the District of Columbia. Things might have been different! But probably not.
**9. Jason Kipnis's attacks on mascots *(LW: NR)***
The only thing better than a baseball mascot is a player or manager who likes to foil a baseball mascot. Like Tommy Lasorda used to do with the Phillie Phanatic, slugger Jason Kipnis, of the Cleveland Indians, is developing a reputation for messing with mascots.
Here's Kipnis knocking over a hot dog with ketchup:
Here he is stealing the Phanatic's ride:
Here he is with teammate Francisco Lindor beating the snot out of the Tampa Bay Rays mascot, Raymond:
And here he is being stalked by Southpaw, the hairy peanut of the White Sox:
No doubt Southpaw soon found himself in a dark alley, regretting ever tangling with Kipnis.
10. Marlon Byrd's pee (LW: NR)
It's powerful stuff, but it's gotten him in trouble again at age 39. MLB suspended Byrd, an outfielder for the Indians, for 162 games following a second failed PED test. Byrd got caught with Ipamorelin in news broken by Cleveland Scene Magazine. His opponents, including former major leaguer Dan Haren, are not happy to hear it:
Ipamorelin, a peptide that reportedly helps to release human growth hormone, also is a funny name for something, as VICE Sports' own David J. Roth points out. It's also reminiscent of a song that has nothing to do with PEDs:
He's been banned for PEDs
The boy who takes Ipamorelin is gone from MLB
He'd been passing, all the while been stacking
Makes Dan Haren go "argh"
On that note, here's a vintage performance of "The Girl from Ipanema" by Frank Sinatra and composer Antonio Carlos Jobim, who looked a lot like Athletics GM Billy Beane in the 1960s: