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Phillips: On McGowan, Morneau, and the NBA's strength

Steve Phillips
5/1/2014 9:44:20 PM
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TSN Baseball Insider Steve Phillips answers several questions each week. This week, topics cover the Blue Jays' pitching plans for Dustin McGowan, the resurgence of Justin Morneau in Colorado, the crazy injuries that players endure, and the decisive actions of NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

1) Earlier in the week, the Jays shifted prospect Marcus Stroman's start in Triple-A to match up with the struggling Dustin McGowan. Given McGowan's early season issues and Stroman's success so far in Triple-A (2-2, 1.69 ERA, 36 K's in 26.2 IP), do you think the club should make the switch now? How long do you wait on both players?

It should be no surprise that Dustin McGowan had an excellent outing on a day that Marcus Stroman's start was moved to the same day at Triple-A. Competition can bring out the best in athletes but the question is, can it be sustained?

McGowan should be moved immediately to the bullpen and replaced in the rotation by Marcus Stroman.

McGowan has struggled with his curve ball this year. That is why the second and third time through the lineups he has struggled. He just doesn't have confidence in his arsenal to face hitters more than once. That is also why his walks and hit batters are so high this year (10/3). He has allowed a total of 40 base runners in 23 innings pitched.

McGowan thrived in relief last season. The Jays bullpen is scuffling this year. It makes all the sense in the world to put McGowan back in a role where there is a need and he has had recent success. It is not like McGowan is a young guy who is going through growing pains. Plus he has said that he feels fatigued at the 60-pitch mark in most starts.

Stroman is ready. He has 36 strikeouts and seven walks in 26.2 IP. He is a strike-throwing machine. He has not given up a home run either.

I always wanted to call up a player to the majors when he was pitching his best, so he has extreme confidence in his stuff and approach. Stroman is primed and ready to go. He should start on Sunday for the Jays against the Pirates.

Make the move Alex.


2) Justin Morneau (third in the NL with 22 RBI, a .343 batting average with six home runs) looks like a great player again. It's a small sample size, but do you see him continuing to be a big factor for the Rockies? Is the move to Colorado the easy explanation, or is there more to this story than just thin air?

When a pitcher wants to resurrect his career he signs with the Padres so he can pitch in PETCO Park. The expansive outfield is conducive to a low ERA and the potential to getting a big free agent contract.

When a hitter wants to resurrect his career the first team he calls is the Colorado Rockies. Who doesn't want to hit at Coors Field?

I anticipated that Justin Morneau would be rejuvenated in Colorado but I had no idea that it would look this good. He hit 17 homers last year with the Twins but after his trade to Pittsburgh he didn't homer in 77 at bats. It looked like he was closer to the end of his career than the prime.

I think Morneau has found his confidence again. What is impressive is that he is hitting both at home and on the road. There is no fall off in his numbers away from Coors Field.

I don't think that he will sustain this level of production but he will still be a real value to the Rockies considering the two-year $12.5M contract.

I am anticipating a .300 batting average with 25 homers and 100 RBI at the season's end.

He is back!


3) San Francisco Giants starter Matt Cain missed Tuesday's start after he cut his finger while making a sandwich in the clubhouse. What is the most unusual injury that you recall one of your players getting while you were a GM with the New York Mets?

There have been some crazy injuries over the years in baseball. Cut fingers have happened when players have washed the dishes, gone fishing and punched electric fans.

We have seen post-game celebrations lead to torn knees (Chris Coghlan, Marlins) and broken ankles (Kendrys Morales).

Former pitcher Carl Pavano injured himself one off-season with the Yankees when he was shoveling and slipped on ice and jammed the shovel in his stomach lacerating his spleen.

Jonathan Lucroy, a catcher for the Brewers, broke his right hand when reaching for a suitcase under the bed when on a road trip with his wife.

Joba Chamberlain, now a reliever with the Tigers, dislocated his ankle while a member of the Yankees, while jumping on a trampoline with his five-year old son.

Former Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya missed three games of the 2006 ALCS because he hurt his wrist from playing too much Guitar Hero.

Over the years, I saw some bizarre injuries with my players. I once had a player who could not make a spring training start because he had laid out in the sun at the beach the day before and had such bad sunburn he could barely move.

I once had a veteran pitcher who really struggled to recover between starts. He had so many aches and pains that it took everything he had to take the ball every fifth day. Other players on the team had been seeing a chiropractor away from the ballpark and swore by him. The players convinced me to let the guy work on them in the clubhouse. He did whatever it was that he did to this veteran pitcher the day before his start but the next day was a big problem. My pitcher came in and was so bruised and sore from the treatment that he was not able to take the mound. The treatment that was supposed to help him pitch kept him from pitching.

Finally, Mike Piazza, our superstar catcher had a thumb injury in the NLDS against the D-Backs in 1999. It was iffy as to whether he could play or not. Our team doctor said that with a cortisone injection Piazza would have a good shot to play. Unfortunately, Piazza had an allergic reaction to the injection and his thumb swelled up so much he couldn't fit his hand in his glove or grip a bat. He couldn't play. Again an injury stemming from treatment intended to help him. The good news is that his replacement Todd Pratt played extremely well and hit a game-deciding homer in Game 4 of the series propelling us to the NLCS.

The one thing I have learned from baseball is just when you think you have seen it all something else bizarre happens. I can't wait to see what happens next.


4) Every commissioner in every sport has to tip his cap to Adam Silver of the NBA. In fact all of us should do the same. Silver has already defined his legacy in just four months on the job. He is the owners' Commissioner as well as the players' Commissioner. He is the fans' Commissioner. In addition, he is the Commissioner of doing what is right.

By banning LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life and fining him $2.5 million he left no doubt that the League will be protected from the hateful thinking that still exists in the world. By initiating the process to have the owners force Sterling out of the League completely he made it clearer that if you think that way you have no business in the business of basketball.

There is no place for racism and discrimination in sports or in society. Adam Silver made it loud and clear that there is no racism in his and our NBA. I hope and pray that every commissioner in every sport would have taken the same action. Over a decade ago baseball rid itself of Marge Schott. The former owner of the Reds once said that she felt that Adolf Hitler was initially good for Germany and did not understand how the epithet "Jap" could be offensive. The NFL plans to enforce the rule which calls for a player to be penalized if an official hears the "N-word" in game.

I would like to believe that Jackie Robinson is smiling today looking down upon all of us. But is he?

It is easy to identify racists like Sterling and Schott. Their loud mouths and bravado make them stick out like a sore thumb. Yet it took years to take action upon them. Why? Because they paid a bunch of money for a team? Because they deserve fairness? Because people are afraid to confront hatred?

I am not sure that there is less racism today or whether people are just better at hiding it. If Donald Sterling hadn't been recorded illegally I still wouldn't know he was a racist. This same sort of behavior and conversation takes place every day across our countries behind closed doors. Peoples make judgments of others based upon religion, skin color, political beliefs, financial wherewithal, etc.

I do believe that if someone is a racist his or her beliefs will ooze out of their pores at some point. They will show their true selves in a more subtle way than back when Jackie Robinson broke the colour barrier. They won't be as vocal as Sterling or Schott but those on the receiving end will know exactly where they stand in the person's mind. We have to stop covert racism just like we have to stop the obvious stuff.

I believe racism is learned. Babies aren't born with hatred. They are born accepting of all. At some point parents, relatives and neighbors impact a child's way of thinking. Kids are taught to see the differences in people and to make judgments about those differences. I firmly believe that Donald Sterling and Marge Schott learned racism from their parents.

I know there are some people who will publicly or privately support and defend Sterling. Those people probably will never change. It is the people who aren't dead set in their beliefs or who are willing to look at the world differently than their parents that can start to change. We may need to keep changing the world one family at a time. But we can.

Where there is a crisis there is an opportunity. Adam Silver could have done a number of different things to Sterling, yet he chose to ban him for life and kick him out of the league. He saw this as an opportunity to who he is and what the NBA stands for.

I hope we can all look at this week as an opportunity to identify what we have in common with one another. Baseball is as diverse a sport as there is now. It has become an international game. Whether players are from Asia, the Caribbean, Mexico, Australia, Europe or the U.S. they have far more in common than not. Baseball prevails over language barriers, socioeconomic background, education and political beliefs. It is a game for everyone. A game that should allow full and equal access for all no matter what.

I believe this week was historic not only for the NBA but also for baseball and every other sport. It was historic for every society all over the world.

Where there is a crisis there is an opportunity. We will all face a crisis around race at some point over the next few days, weeks, months or year. I hope we all have the courage to address it like Adam Silver did.

I can't wait for my crisis.




Golfer Taylor Pendrith is the highest ranked player on Canada's men's national team. The recent graduate of Kent State University is 18th on the world amateur rankings. More...

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