Waxing Poetic on Kershaw’s ASG Snub, Hamels, and the Nature of Blogging

Here at The Stain, we’re bloggers. And like most bloggers, we’re fans too. I realize now, after many years of relying on the words of columnists/bloggers/”experts” etc. for news on my beloved teams, all these folks are are fans with a computer and an opinion. I still read all the blogs, for entertainment, appreciation of different writing styles, and even breaking news about my teams. But recently, the reality than many grains of salt must be taken with this information has set in. And by no means am I saying copious grains of salt should not be taken with what we write. But for the following, I’m going to do my best to be as objective as possible. 

We are not a “Dodger” blog, but as fan, I’m aware that a disproportionate amount of my commentary does revolve around them. Recently, there’s been no shortage of up-in-arms-ness about Clayton Kershaw being snubbed from the National League all-star team. 

Sure, the notion that the best pitcher in baseball for the last half decade not making the squad seems preposterous on the surface. He wouldn’t be the starter, and as a Dodger fan, do you really want your all-Universe pitcher risking injury pitching an inning of relief (a role he’s not accustomed to) in what amounts to a borderline meaningless exhibition game? 

But just for argument’s sake, let’s say that bit of rationale is not sobering enough for you, and you DO want to see your favorite pitcher in the Mid-Summer Classic. Which of the starters selected do you snub in his place? Nobody with a shred of common sense could say that Max Scherzer and Zack Greinke don’t belong. Gerrit Cole is probably the early front runner for the Cy Young Award. Teammate AJ Burnett has been arguably even better with his sub-2.00 ERA. The Cards’ de facto ace Michael Wacha has more than earned his spot, stepping up after Wainwright’s injury. Jacob DeGrom has been spectacular. So has Shelby Miller. Madison Bumgarner, well, apart from being excellent, is a Giant and Bruce Bochy is the manager. So, who do you cut? Sure, you could argue that a reliever like Francisco Rodriguez seems like a logical choice, but the pesky “each team must be represented” rule pops up, and the modern game values excellence in relief close to as highly as it does goodness in starting. 

Speaking of goodness in starting, that is what Kershaw has been. Good. His last eight starts have been outstanding, with a sub-2:00 ERA even if the wins haven’t been coming. But his first 8 starts were entirely pedestrian. That averages out to, well, good. Now, you have bloggers coming in with their hair on fire, citing stats like FIP that purportedly show he’s been every bit as good this year as he has the last five, even if the “old-fashioned” stats don’t show it. Then you have people like me who have watched each of his starts this season telling you that while he has been good, he is leaving more pitches up in the zone this year, falling behind more hitters, and his walk rate is up. I can guarantee you all of that is going to be corrected, but at the moment, he’s not been as good as the other guys correctly selected ahead of him.

The bottom line is, every year, somebody gets boned. And this year, it may be Kershaw if he doesn’t get the final fan vote. So ask yourself, what is the worst thing that comes out of that? He comes through the break healthy and possibly with a chip on his shoulder? What do you think the rest of the league thinks about that possibility?

On to another pitcher – Cole Hamels has been the subject of more trade speculation than any other player this season, with the Dodgers being one of the most popular landing spots. I’ve seen dozens of blogs titled “A Trade Package for Hamels that Would Work,” or some variation thereof. But really, they’ve all been hogwash. A perfect example of this would be a recent one I saw on Bleacher Report that suggested the Dodgers could prise away Hamels from Philly for the package of Grant Holmes, Darnell Sweeney, Austin Barnes and Juan Jaime. Really?

Ok, let’s operate under the postulate that top prospects Corey Seager and Julio Urias are untouchable. Can a deal even be reached without including one or both of those two? Well, if the answer was no, we would have heard something by now out of Philly like, “if Urias and Seager are both out of the discussion, there is no discussion.” We haven’t, so you’d have to think, yeah. But let’s take a look at the aforementioned package.

Holmes is a former first-round pick who has advanced pretty rapidly, and profiles as a potential future number 3 or even number 2 starter. That’s pretty good. So he fits.

Darnell Sweeney is an athletic prospect who can play the infield and outfield, and has an attractive combination of pop and speed. But, there are concerns with his swing and ability to get on base. In a best case scenario, he could become a poor man’s Ben Zobrist. There’s value in that, so let’s not dismiss his inclusion. 

Austin Barnes is a curious case. He can catch, or play second base. He reportedly defends both positions competently, but not excellently, and his hitting profiles as potentially adequate at the big league level. He’ll most likely have a nice career as a back up. Moving on.

Juan Jaime. He throws 100, so there’s that. He can’t throw strikes, was given up on by the Braves, and if memory serves correct was thrown into the Callaspo for Uribe deal from earlier this season. Guys who throw 100 don’t grow on trees, but the road to unemployment is paved with million dollar airports that have ten cent control towers. 

Who in their right mind thinks that Philadelphia would take a package of one good prospect, along with one okay prospect and two throw ins for their ace? Can we please knock it off with this preposterous suggestions?

Now, if you’re curious for my take on what it would take to land Hamels, here it is. Behind Urias, Holmes and Jose De Leon are the two top pitching prospects in the organization currently. De Leon has only recently become a commodity, but his quality stuff and improved command project well as legitimate middle of the rotation starter some day. So he’d have to be included with Holmes. That’s a start.

Then along with Sweeney, who could legitimately belong in the discussion, you’d probably have to include a guy like Alex Verdugo, a former second round pick and an infielder with a potentially excellent bat. 

THEN, you have to start rounding out the package with some “spare parts,” so to speak. Chris Anderson and Chris Reed are both former first round picks who haven’t quite panned out as hoped, but still could carve out quality big league careers as relievers some day. You could include one, but not both. 

AND THEN, you look at the big league roster and a guy like Alex Guerrero jumps out at you – a legitmate power hitter without a position to play in Los Angeles. 

Now you have real talking points. Philly will probably want to get rid of Jonathan Papelbon too, and maybe the Dodgers will throw in quality lefty reliever Paco Rodriguez, made expendable by the emergence of Adam Liberatore and surprising excellence of JP Howell. But all that stuff is sprinkles on the donut. 

Does that sound like a lot to give up for what amounts to one starting pitcher? Look at what Detroit gave up for David Price – that package was lambasted in many circles as not being enough even though it contained Drew Smyly, and what was suggested the Dodgers could fleece Hamels for comes nowhere close to what Price fetched. 

Anyway, so, have I ranted enough? I think so. 

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