A look at what’s trending this week in Major League Baseball:
Welcome back: To beat cancer is inspiration enough. To sit out most of the season to beat cancer, then come back and throw seven shutout innings at Coors Field in your return? For the Colorado Rockies’ Chad Bettis, it means cheers from his peers. “Even in a groove 7 scoreless is tough to do. Doing it as soon as you come back from chemo? Biggest hat tip possible,” the Dodgers’ Brandon McCarthy tweeted. “We haven't met, but I don't have to know you to call you brother,” the Chicago Cubs’ Jon Lester tweeted. “From my family to yours, congratulations on your return.” Lester sat out most of the 2007 season while beating cancer, then came back in time to pitch the clinching game of that year’s World Series for the Boston Red Sox — at Coors Field.
New Sox: The Chicago White Sox had been spinning their mediocre wheels for half a decade when they finally and rightfully decided to tank. They are now the game’s most intriguing test case for prospect rankings. They blew up the major league team and, in trades for Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Adam Eaton and David Robertson, they acquired eight of their top 10 prospects. The White Sox have eight players ranked in Baseball America’s midseason top 100, including infielder Yoan Moncada (No. 1) and outfielder Eloy Jimenez (No. 5). Moncada, 22, recently arrived in Chicago; he struck out 48 times in his first 100 major league at-bats. The Sox might win in 2020, but next year could be brutal. Tanking is not trendy in the American League, so the Sox might topple the franchise record of 106 losses.
Little League Day: Sunday ought to be a wonderful day in Williamsport, Pa. In the afternoon, players from the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals will watch games in the Little League World Series, with major league umpire Gerry Davis working one of the LLWS games. In the evening, Little Leaguers will watch the Pirates and Cardinals play at nearby Bowman Field, a 2,500-seat minor league ballpark. The venue will be the smallest ever used for a major league game, half the size of the previous smallest venue: South End Grounds, one of two homes of Johnny Evers, Rabbit Maranville and the rest of 1914 World Series champion Boston Braves.
Going, going, gone? Should major league owners infatuated with Derek Jeter approve him as a Miami Marlins owner if he really wants to trade Giancarlo Stanton? The slugger is finally healthy, he just homered in six consecutive games, and he leads the majors with 44 home runs. Stanton’s contract has 10 years and $295 million left after this season, and he cleared waivers, meaning no team was willing to assume the entire contract. The Marlins need prospects, but there are better ways to get them than by subsidizing Stanton’s contract in trade. If you don’t have enough money to run a team properly, you shouldn’t buy it, and paying Stanton to play for another team would be a despicable rebuke to a fan base desperate for a decent owner.
Wild wild card: The Angels entered play Saturday as co-leaders for the final American League wild-card spot, with eight teams — four of which don’t even have a winning record — bunched within three games. Could the winner be the worst playoff team ever? The Angels project to win 82 games. Two teams won 82 games and got into the playoffs. The 2005 San Diego Padres won the National League West with 82 victories and were swept out of the first round. But the 1973 New York Mets won the NL East with 82 victories and advanced to the World Series, lifted by a motto the Angels would do well to borrow now: “Ya Gotta Believe!”
Little big league: My first year of Little League, I was so bad that the coach hid me in right field — until a left-handed hitter came up. Then he called time out and moved me to left field. I’d never seen that in the majors until Wednesday, when the New York Mets ran out of healthy infielders and had to start catcher Travis d’Arnaud at third base. When the Mets expected the ball was more likely to be hit to third, they moved d’Arnaud to second and Asdrubal Cabrera to third, then switched back for the next batter. Because of all the shifting, the box score listed d’Arnaud’s position as “3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B” — 22 changes in all, and no errors, although d’Arnaud was disappointed he did not get to make a diving stop at third base. "I wanted to rob somebody of a base hit like they do to me,” he said.
SERIES OF THE WEEK
RANGERS AT ANGELS
Monday through Thursday
Neither the Angels nor the Rangers appeared too inspiring at the trade deadline three weeks ago, so the Angels traded reliever David Hernandez to the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Rangers traded star starter Yu Darvish to the Dodgers. The Angels and Rangers could use their pitchers back now, as they are vibrant contestants in the glorious mess that is the AL wild-card race. The Rangers, at least, got a nice prospect for Darvish: second baseman Willie Calhoun, whom they immediately moved to left field. Rangers infielder Joey Gallo ranks second-best in the American League in home runs (35) and third-worst in batting average (.208). He has 20 singles. On Saturday, the Angels will induct Vladimir Guerrero into their Hall of Fame; Guerrero won his only most valuable player award with the Angels but played in his only World Series with the Rangers.
Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin