A look at what is trending this week in Major League Baseball:
Travis Shaw: The Milwaukee Brewers persist in first place. One reason: they won the most lopsided trade of the offseason. The Brewers acquired Shaw and three minor leaguers from the Boston Red Sox for reliever Tyler Thornburg, who won’t pitch this season after surgery. Shaw is the surprise answer to this trivia question: Who leads major league third basemen in slugging percentage? More trivia: He’s the son of former Dodgers closer Jeff Shaw, his nickname is “Mayor of Ding Dong City,” and the Red Sox moved him so their incumbent third baseman could reclaim his job. That incumbent: Pablo Sandoval, who has hit fewer homers in three years in Boston than the 17 Shaw has hit in half a season in Milwaukee.
Sean Newcomb: When the Atlanta Braves picked up forty-somethings Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey to fill out their starting rotation, you wondered whether all their vaunted young pitching might have been overhyped. But the Braves cut Colon and his 8.14 ERA and Newcomb has been a revelation. Newcomb, 24, has delivered a quality start in each of his first four major league starts, with a 1.48 ERA. His control is spotty, but the potential is enormous. The left-hander was the prize return when the Braves traded Andrelton Simmons to the Angels two years ago. The last Angels first-round draft pick to play for the Angels? Infielder C.J. Cron, drafted in 2011 and now languishing in triple-A purgatory.
Umps care: The play of the year took place last week, off the field. John Tumpane, an umpire, was walking across the Roberto Clemente Bridge in Pittsburgh when he saw a woman climb over the bridge railing and look toward the Allegheny River below. He grabbed her arm, held onto her and, with the assistance of two other passersby, kept her from jumping until authorities could get there. The woman cried that no one would help her and Tumpane would just forget about her. “I’ll never forget you,” he said, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “You can have my promise on that.” Tumpane was shaken, but he umpired the Pirates-St. Louis Cardinals game that night.
Montero-gate: The Chicago Cubs got a round of applause for cutting Miguel Montero, one day after the catcher complained the reason the Washington Nationals had stolen seven bases against him was that pitcher Jake Arrieta could not hold anyone on base. Suffice it to say that publicly criticizing a co-worker is not conducive to a team effort, whether in a clubhouse or in the office. And Montero had thrown out one runner in 32 tries this season, so it wasn’t just about Arrieta. But let’s say Arrieta had complained, with validity, that Montero could not throw anyone out. You think the Cubs would have cut Arrieta, the 2015 National League Cy Young Award winner? The backup catcher is sacrificial. At the major league level, sportsmanship is selective.
Scout P.T. Barnum: As 29-year-old Tim Tebow plays for his second Class-A club this season, New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson has admitted that, yeah, this isn’t really about baseball. “Look, we signed him because he is a good guy, partly because of his celebrity, partly because this is an entertainment business,” Alderson said Friday at a conference in New York, according to Newsday. When the Mets had to list which scout to credit for signing the Heisman Trophy winner, Alderson said, “the guy that we put down was the director of merchandising.”
SERIES OF THE WEEK
ARIZONA AT DODGERS
Tuesday through Thursday
What were we saying about that three-team race in the National League West? Yeah, well, maybe not. On June 20, the Dodgers were not in first place. On July 1, they led the Diamondbacks by 3 1/2 games and the Colorado Rockies by six. In the interim, they swept the Rockies, and a sweep of the Diamondbacks this week could make the division look mighty settled before the All-Star break. The Dodgers have their two best pitchers, Clayton Kershaw and Alex Wood, lined up for the series, and their 33-11 home record is the best in the major leagues. The Dodgers have limited Kershaw’s workload this season — no complete games and only two starts beyond seven innings — and yet he still has faced more batters than anyone in the league.
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