Minneapolis — Jeff Samardzija never heard Justin Verlander’s comments about the trade that send him to Oakland.
After the Cubs traded Samardzija and fellow starter Jason Hammel to Oakland, Verlander said the A’s made the move to compete with the Tigers, who eliminated them the past two postseasons.
Samardzija, though, said his new team is worried more about winning a tough American League West, with the strong Angels and Mariners and rising Astros, than any potential playoff matchup.
“There’s a lot of season left to be played,” he said. “We’ve got to get to the playoffs first, and we’re not taking anything for granted on the A’s side.”
Samardzija didn’t agree with the implication from Verlander’s post-trade comments either. If Verlander thinks the A’s made the deal because of the Tigers, then he must think they’re the team to beat in the AL.
“I think the team that won the World Series the year before is the team to beat in the AL. That would be the Red Sox,” Samardzija said. “As long as you’re still the defending champs, you’re the team to beat.”
The Red Sox are in last place in the AL East and haven’t shown many signs of being capable of defending their title. But they’re still the champions until someone else wins.
Samardzija has looked great in his first two starts for the A’s, going at least seven innings in both. Hammel wasn’t quite as strong in his only start, but the addition of both pitchers gives the A’s one of the best and deepest rotations in all of baseball.
Derek Jeter playing in his final All-Star Game is easily the biggest story of the week, but Cardinals manager Mike Matheny managed to steal some attention.
Matheny, the manager for the National League, tabbed Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright as the starter for Tuesday’s game.
Wainwright certainly has the numbers to support the decision, but his selection over Dodgers’ ace and reigning Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw was surprising enough that he had multiple questions about it during the news conference.
Wainwright was sitting to Matheny’s left during the news conference and made a face that drew laughs during the inquisition.
“I have the utmost respect for Clayton as well as the others that were options,” Matheny said. “To the degree that we were able to see on a consistent basis from the leadership right down to the execution and the day in, day out performance of what Adam’s been able to do, it really is kind of an unfair advantage to the others.
“And the numbers line up, and it’s obvious that this is a high caliber pitcher, who I believe to some degree has never even been given the amount of respect that he’s due. So I’m honored to put this title on him.”
With a 1.83 ERA, 0.913 WHIP, Wainwright would be an obvious selection in most seasons. He also has five more starts than Kershaw.
But Kershaw has a 1.78 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and an absurd 126 strikeouts in 96 1/3 innings, compared to 115 in 138 for Wainwright. Kershaw also just had a streak of 41 innings without allowing a run that included a no-hitter against the Rockies on June 18.
Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton understands why some players, specifically Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout, don’t want to participate in the Home Run Derby.
“It changes your swing,” he said. “It changes your preparation. Home run hitters don’t necessarily take home run swings. They’re just on time, get the barrel to the ball and get good backspin.
“This specifically is just to hit home runs. That can mess up your swing and take you in the second half with your swing not what you want.”
That was the reason Cabrera gave for not wanting to hit this year, though Stanton said his swing won’t change much.
Even without Cabrera and Trout, there was an impressive group of power hitters in the derby Monday night, but the event is now akin to the Slam Dunk Contest in which some top pros don’t give the fans what they want.