Check almost any close-up of Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle during a baseball game and watch the frequency and ferocity of the up-and-down jaw smacking of his gum chewing; you'll be convinced, and afraid for his family, that his face is about to explode.
Of course, it might be the Pirates' floundering around on the diamond, rather than the gum chewing, that'll be the culprit should disfigurement one day strike.
This is a God-awful baseball team we're talking about here, one that's lost more games than it's won every year for a generation — 20 straight seasons. And 2013 already looks to be more of the same.
For reasons that remain unexplained the Bucs save their worst for the Dodgers. With the weekend sweep, they've lost six straight and 19 of their last 23 at Chavez Ravine. Throw in last year's contests in Pennsylvania, and Los Angeles has won the last nine in row.
The Dodgers benefitted from a weekend's worth of fine starting pitching: Zack Greinke debuting first with a two-hit, no-run performance Friday night, Clayton Kershaw following up almost identically Saturday night and Hyun-Jin Ryu going 6 1/3 strong for his first win in American ball Sunday afternoon.
L.A.'s offense managed just four runs on 15 hits the first two games of the series, but woke up some yesterday, winning 6-2 on 11 hits. Carl Crawford went 2-3, stole his second base of the season and has his batting average at a cool .438. And yes, I know it's early. My pick for National League Most Valuable Player, Adrian Gonzalez, collected three hits, drove in four and sports a .400 average after the first week of play. The Dodgers take their 4-2 record to Gonzo's hometown San Diego to play his old Padres club, beginning Tuesday afternoon at Petco Park.
This weekend also marked the end of Aaron Harang's career as a Dodger. He'd been part of a logjam of surplus starting pitchers on the roster this spring, was neither happy in the bullpen nor considered much use there, and was apparently the easiest to move, so general manager Ned Colletti shipped him to Colorado along with “cash considerations” ($4.25 million) for backup catcher Ramon Hernandez.
There's been some criticism of the trade — including this piece by my friend, Phil Wallace at LA Observed — but mostly yawning from the blogosphere. I'm on board with the move.
While I'd have preferred to see Hernandez go to minor league Albuquerque instead of the big club, I like him spelling A.J. Ellis the once-a-week or so he'll be in the lineup and expect him to contribute some with the bat. People often expect trades to be cure-alls, but if they help in one or two ways, they're worth doing.
With Chad Billinglsey coming off the disabled Wednesday, the Dodgers needed to move a pitcher, and Harang was unquestionably that pitcher. With the Rockies responsible for his contract, L.A. is off the hook for Harang's $2 million 2014 buyout, and there's a chance of additional savings when next year's revenue sharing figures are tabulated.
Sure, ownership has gobs of money, but there's no sense begrudging them a dollar saved wherever possible. And they got an extra catcher in the bargain. It's a shame that Tim Federowicz loses his job to the incoming Hernandez, but it's not like the Dodgers are saying good-bye forever.
FedEx, as he's known affectionately, will play regularly at Albuquerque, work on the few things he must to improve his game, and be back here eventually. No doubt in 2013. Catchers get hurt, it's a way of life, and three catchers is 50% better than two. I see no downside to the trade.