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#pounditWednesday, March 3, 2021

Baseball

Sandy Alderson wonders if Mets are better off without Trevor Bauer

Trevor Bauer

The New York Mets were spurned at the last minute by Trevor Bauer, who instead opted to join the Los Angeles Dodgers. Now that that’s over, the Mets are wondering if that will turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

Mets GM Sandy Alderson confessed the team may have been naive to think it could have managed Bauer’s social media activity and said he might be even happier with where the team’s roster ended up after Bauer rejected them.

“We thought we could manage it. And maybe that was naive. We’ll see,” Alderson said of Bauer’s social media activity, via Ronald Blum of the Associated Press. “But look, we’re very happy with the roster we have, and I’m not here to say, wow, we dodged a bullet. I’m here to say we made an effort. We thought he would help our team. We understood what the risks were associated with some of the social media stuff. We actually had discussions internally with group or groups in our organization to talk about that, including women.

“And so I was happy with where we ended up, and he made a choice. And now maybe I’m even happier with where we ended up, given the fact that we were able to add someone like Taijuan Walker and others.”

Bauer is known for his Twitter presence as much as he’s known for his pitching, sometimes for negative reasons. The reigning Cy Young winner recently got into it on social media with Noah Syndergaard. In a 2019 incident, Bauer was also accused of harassing a female college student on Twitter.

Bauer is an elite pitcher, and the Mets would have been better off with him in their rotation. The silver lining for them might be that things might be a bit less dramatic off the field without him.

Tommy Pham reveals how serious stabbing incident was

Tommy Pham

San Diego Padres outfielder Tommy Pham revealed just how serious his offseason stabbing was, saying that it could have endangered his playing career and then some.

Pham told reporters on Sunday that he needed 200 stitches to close a stab wound he suffered outside a San Diego strip club last October. He added that a doctor told him that he could have been killed if he wasn’t as muscular as he is.

“The doctor here basically told me that if I wasn’t so muscular, I might be dead or paralyzed,” Pham said, via Bob Nightengale of USA Today. “So I’m lucky to even be able to play. I thought I wasn’t going to be able to play again.”

Pham added that he feared for his playing career in the immediate aftermath of the incident.

“When I got stabbed, and I was being rushed to the hospital, I was on the phone with [GM] A.J. [Preller] and the training staff,” Pham said. “I thought I wasn’t going to be able to play.

“When I got the CT scan, the doctor said, I got great news for you: ‘You can play. It’s going to be a little bit of a recovery.'”

The incident is still under investigation, and Pham is suing the strip club where it happened. He had recovered enough to feature in the Padres’ lineup for their spring training opener, which bodes well for his availability when the season starts.

Photo: Johnmaxmena2/Wikimedia via cc-by-sa 4.0

Cardinals announcers roast Angel Hernandez for questionable call

Angel Hernandez

MLB umpire Angel Hernandez has a reputation for his oftentimes mind-boggling strike zone, and it does not appear that is an issue he worked on during the offseason.

Hernandez was behind the plate for Sunday’s exhibition game between the Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals, and he appeared to blow a strike call in the first inning. A 1-1 pitch from Cards right-hander Jack Flaherty looked like it was right down the middle, but Hernandez felt it was a bit low. The announcers strongly disagreed and joked that Hernandez “is in midseason form.”

That was pretty ruthless, but you can understand why.

Hernandez has blown more ball-strike calls than seemingly any umpire in recent history. He kicked off the shortened season last year by ringing up Howie Kendrick on this awful call, and spring training began the same way for the veteran ump on Sunday.

Hernandez, 59, has been an MLB umpire since 1991 and has long faced criticism for some of his awful calls. He is suing MLB for discrimination and was accused of eavesdropping on an investigative call in 2019.

Photo: tunnelarmr/Flickr via CC-by-SA-2.0

Albert Pujols clears up retirement rumors after wife’s social media post

Albert Pujols

Albert Pujols has been put in the awkward spot of clearing up retirement chatter fueled largely by his wife.

The Los Angeles Angels designated hitter clarified Saturday that he has not yet made a decision about his playing career beyond 2021, and no announcement would come until after the season.

“I think our organization, my friends, people that follow my career for 21 years deserve better than just me or her posting something on Instagram,” Pujols said Saturday, via Greg Beacham of the Associated Press. “This thing just got blown out of proportion. My mind is not even there. My mind is on staying focused, healthy, and hopefully trying to help this ballclub win this year, and that’s it. If I feel at the end of the year that that’s it, I’ll announce it (and) go home. But I’m not even there yet.”

Pujols added that he was taking a nap when his wife made the Instagram post that resulted in him waking up to hundreds of missed calls and messages on his phone.

Since the start of the 2017 season, Pujols has hit only .242 and is averaging a modest 18 home runs per season. He turned 41 in January and his contract expires at the end of the season, and he probably wouldn’t find a ton of demand as a free agent.

Mets announcer Howie Rose rips Blue Jays for eliminating radio broadcasts

The Toronto Blue Jays are being sharply criticized by one MLB broadcaster for the decision the team made about its radio broadcasts for 2021.

The Blue Jays announced Friday that they will not create a specialized radio broadcast of the team’s games this season. Instead, a simulcast of the television broadcast will air on the radio instead. The team cited COVID-19 restrictions as the key reason for the decision, but did not specify if the simulcast would remain in place beyond 2021.

Whatever the explanation, it did not sit well with many. New York Mets radio announcer Howie Rose called the decision “reprehensible” and a “total disgrace” on Twitter.

Even if one doesn’t care about the romanticism of baseball on the radio, there are good reasons to keep a specialized radio broadcast in place. Radio broadcasts are typically more descriptive, as they have to describe events for people who cannot see the game for whatever reason.

The Blue Jays are facing some logistical issues this season. That’s understandable. Even in light of that, it’s tough to disagree with Rose’s assessment of their decision.

Pete Alonso explains why he deactivated his social media accounts

Pete Alonso

Pete Alonso became an instant fan favorite during his incredible rookie season two years ago, but New York Mets and MLB fans cannot follow the slugger on social media at the moment. That’s because Alonso has deactivated all of his accounts.

Alonso has not been active on Twitter or Instagram for quite some time. He was asked about that on Friday, and he said the decision has to do with him wanting to focus on “real life.”

“I think that real life is just absolutely fantastic. … I want to spend every second soaking in every single day, because every single new day is a blessing. … I want to just live in real life,” Alonso said, via MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo.

It’s hard to argue with that outlook. Plenty of athletes have taken breaks from social media before, and you can understand why. Twitter and the like allow athletes and celebrities to have a voice, but they can also be exhausting.

Alonso isn’t one to shut fans out. We saw a great example of that when he gave MLB the green light to mic him up last year. There are plenty of ways to establish a personal relationship with fans, and you can’t blame Alonso for choosing not to do it through social media.

Bryce Harper has bold take on NL East talent level

Bryce Harper

The National League East has suddenly become a very difficult division — the most difficult, in the eyes of one of its stars.

Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper proclaimed Thursday that the NL East is the best division in baseball, arguing that all five teams will be very strong.

“I think this is the best division in baseball; I don’t think that’s even a question,” Harper said, via Jesse Rogers of ESPN. “We have five teams … that are really good. I think this is going to be a juggernaut of a division.”

Harper is likely giving the Miami Marlins too much credit, but he’s right about the other four teams. The New York Mets have made big moves to become a contender, while the Washington Nationals still have the core that won the World Series in 2019. The Atlanta Braves came within a win of reaching the World Series last year, while Harper’s Phillies also have clear hopes to contend.

The Phillies will be bolstered by the fact that they made some moves Harper wanted this offseason. Things should be very competitive in the NL East, and Harper’s take has a good chance of being correct.

Alex Bregman casts aside concerns about hamstring injury

Alex Bregman

Alex Bregman is casting aside any concerns about his hamstring injury.

Bregman has not yet worked out on the field this Spring Training due to his hamstring, which Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker says Bregman tweaked. This is the same hamstring that caused Bregman to miss 17 games last season.

Baker described Bregman’s hamstring as “sore” and said the third baseman “tweaked” it over the winter.

“It’s something that was here last year, and then he tweaked it while he was working out this winter,” Baker said Wednesday.

Bregman isn’t worried though. He responded to a tweet about his injury and said he’d be “good to go” if the season started today.

Bregman played in 42 games last regular season. He batted just .242/.350/.451 with an .801 OPS. His numbers were respectable, but his batting average and slugging percentage were the lowest of his career (albeit for a small sample size). We don’t doubt that Bregman is a gamer who will be ready for Opening Day, but we do have concerns about him being less than 100 percent.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. lost insane amount of weight during offseason

Vladimir Guerrero Jr

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. did not feel like he was in good enough shape at the start of last season, so the Toronto Blue Jays star has worked hard to change that over the past several months. If his goal was to lose a ton of weight, he appears to have accomplished it.

Guerrero told reporters on Wednesday that he has lost more than 40 pounds this offseason. He said shedding the weight “wasn’t difficult” and that he believes it will help improve all aspects of his game.

Guerrero entered last season at 280 pounds. He’s been listed at 250 for a while, but basic math would tell you he is somewhere around the 230-240 mark now.

While he played primarily at first base and DH last year, Guerrero said he is open to playing third again this year after slimming down.

Guerrero played in all 60 games in the shortened 2020 season and batted .262 with nine home runs and 33 RBIs. The 21-year-old is already well known for his jaw-dropping power, and shedding some weight should only help him continue to improve.

Former All-Star Scott Kazmir attempting comeback with Giants

Scott Kazmir

Former All-Star pitcher Scott Kazmir is trying to make a comeback.

Kazmir agreed to a minor-league deal with the San Francisco Giants and will be invited to Spring Training. Buster Olney says Kazmir was throwing 92-93 mph in his most recent bullpen session.

Kazmir, 37, last pitched in MLB in 2016 with the Dodgers. He went 10-6 with a 4.56 ERA that season. The Giants’ front office is run by Farhan Zaidi, who was with the Dodgers in 2016, which could explain the interest in Kazmir.

Kazmir’s best years came over a decade ago. He was an All-Star in 2006 and 2008 For Tampa Bay, though he also was an All-Star in 2014 after going 15-9 for Oakland. The southpaw pitcher is 108-96 with a 4.01 career ERA.