The Rundown: Hawk Shakes Fist at Cloud, Bryant Ejected for Arguing, Javy’s Platinum Sombrero, Tigers Bundled?

“That’s enough of that, Lackey,” Sox broadcaster Hawk Harrelson grumbled as he shook his fist menacingly at one of the clouds that dared float in the Chicago afternoon sky. “That’s enough of that BS. You’re gonna…okay…Let’s see which one of your boys is gonna get drilled. Or maybe you.”

Harrelson’s already salty disposition was made even more so by the fact that this was the second time Jose Abreu had been plunked in the game, with the first coming in the 1st inning. Oh, but Lackey wasn’t done hitting Sox players. And Hawk wasn’t done filling his diaper. The Cubs starter went on to load the bases by plunking two more Sox batters in the 5th, which didn’t really please the cheerleader in the Good Guys’ booth.

“Timmy (Anderson), we need a hit buddy,” Hawk cajoled. “In fact, I’d like to see you hit one right back through the middle and just drill, just knock Lackey right off that mound.”

That proclamation was followed quite predictably by at least 12 seconds of silence as Hawk failed to attempt even a minimalist Coomerian description of Anderson’s inning-ending grounder to short. I’m all for letting the game speak for itself, but this is something else.

Ian Happ, the Cubs’ leadoff hitter in the bottom of the inning, ended up wearing one from reliever Chris Beck, who actually missed with his first attempt. Which, like, how does that even fly? Lackey claimed that he wasn’t trying to hit anyone, which makes perfect sense. I mean, why would you bean three guys to load the bases in a close game? And do we really think Lackey’s got that kind of accuracy?

But there’s got to be some understanding that retaliation is coming, so Beck going after Happ probably should have gotten a warning prior to the actual plunking. Whatever, though, if you’re willing to sacrifice win expectancy just because you’ve got a red ass and a desire for baseball justice, I’ll let play the role of vigilante.

I’m sure Happ is okay with it, though. He’ll have a nice bruise from the 96 mph heater, but Lackey said he owes the rookie something nice. The starter also owes CJ Edwards a meal for getting him out of the runners on second and third, no out jam in the 6th.

Kris Bryant ejected

Hawk wasn’t the only person who got heated about inside pitches at Wrigley Tuesday afternoon. After fouling a slider off his knee, Kris Bryant took a 2-2 fastball well inside off the plate for ball three and…wait, he called that a strike? Bryant took issue with Lance Barksdale’s call and let the umpire know about it.

I suppose KB could have been insulting the cut of Barksdale’s jib or questioning the sanctity of his parentage, but it sure didn’t appear as though the mild-mannered slugger was too untoward. Maybe the facial fleece he’s cultivating has got Bryant feeling out of sorts. I mean, those things can get maddeningly itchy. It’s not beyond reason to think that he got himself run just so he could apply a little beard balm to sooth the irritation.

Seriously, though, it was a weird situation. While it’s true that you need to protect with two strikes, that pitch was nearly 4 1/2 inches inside and only Javy Baez would have swung at it (more on that below). Bryant was surely more than a little frustrated by the ball he’d fouled off of himself and the call put him over the top. Not that this entered his thinking, but we’re talking about a guy with excellent plate discipline who’s earned the benefit of the doubt on calls.

My real problem here is with Lance Barksdale, and it’s not even with the call itself. Egregiously bad though it was, he’s a human being and he makes mistakes. The real problem was in not owning it and admitting that he’d screwed up. That’s probably not coming in the form of an overt act of contrition, but he could have at least cut Bryant some slack. If anything, he ran the MVP more quickly than usual for such a disagreement.

“In the heat of the moment, you know, I feel like I only want to say something when I know for a fact,” Bryant explained after the game. “Sometimes there are borderline pitches that are really hard to call. You know, that one I knew for a fact. I have to stick up for myself.”

Javy’s platinum sombrero

No sooner had he begun drawing my fervent adulation than Ednel Javier Baez flipped a switch and went into full-on swing mode. That happens to lots of players from time to time and we’re talking about a very aggressive hitter, so you live with that as it comes out. Tuesday’s effort, though, was just…whoa.

In five trips to the plate, Baez struck out five times. And none of them could really be viewed as the sort of “good” K that you can justify easily by saying he worked the count well or whatever. He saw a total of 24 pitches, only seven of which were called balls. And only three more each were either fouls or called strikes. That leaves 11 whiffs, nearly a 50 percent rate.

The good news is that he should settle back in soon enough and resume the more reserved approach that sees him spraying the ball all over the field.

Cue the posturing

As we reach these final stages ahead of the non-waiver deadline, everyone knows who’s available and more or less what they’re willing to part with to get what they need. How those things come together, however, that’s what we’re talking about at this point.

First, the Brewers were working on acquiring Ian Kinsler and Justin Wilson from the Tigers, then they weren’t. Now they are again, though nothing is imminent. Or the Cubs are talking about Alex Avila and/or Justin Verlander, but then may be looking for a lower-profile option at catcher and don’t want to take on all of Verlander’s salary.

A report from Ken Rosenthal indicated that accommodating the pitcher’s $28 million AAV over the next two years would not be a stretch, an idea our Brendan Miller proved convincingly. And the Cubs have been linked to Avila for weeks. Of course, Rosenthal also noted that the Cubs have as many as 20 different trade scenarios in house right now, so the priorities could certainly be in flux.

Especially with the Tigers bundling players together, the Cubs are likely doing one of two things here. They’re either posturing to create leverage in order to get a better deal or they’re using the bigger, more obvious names as a smokescreen. Or, and this is probably closer to the truth, they’re doing both. It’s not smart to whittle your options down to one and then face the possibility of either missing out or seeing your desire push you into a higher offer.

Before I wrap this up, I want to take a quick moment to toot my own horn when it comes to Buster Olney’s report that the Tigers are packaging players together in order to dump salary. We had theorized exactly as much more than 24 hours earlier, based largely on the information from Olney’s colleague Jerry Crasnick (who Olney cited). I know that’s not exactly in keeping with professional decorum or whatever, but, like Kris Bryant, sometimes we little guys have to stick up for ourselves.

So even in the midst of what seems like another mundane report or rumor, there might be a unique nugget or three of insight that you’re getting.

More news and notes

  • Lackey and Anthony Rizzo had a very brief, moderately animated conversation in the dugout that was somehow spun into a whole column in a local paper.
  • The Brewers acquired Anthony Swarzak from the White Sox for IF/OF prospect Ryan Cordell.
  • The Yankees and A’s are talking about a deal that would send Sonny Gray and Yonder Alonso to New York.
  • The Red Sox acquired Eduardo Nunez from the Giants for a pair of pitching prospects.
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