Corey Kluber Strikes Out 18 in 8, But Doesn't Pitch 9th: Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber had 18 strikeouts through eight innings last night against the St. Louis Cardinals, a performance ESPN's David Schoenfield suggests might have been "the greatest performance in major league history." He took a no-hitter into the seventh and was at 113 pitches with just one hit. He was two strikeouts from tying the record shared by Roger Clemens and Kerry Wood. But Brad Mills, who took Terry Francona's spot as manager after his ejection during the game, didn't send him out for the ninth. "Millsy knows what he's doing," Francona said afterwards.
Chris Rock on baseball losing the Black market: HBO's Real Sports offers up this seven-minute monologue featuring Rock's memories of growing up a Mets fan in the 80's and his perspective on the (fairly commonly accepted) idea that MLB is failing to keep the attention of African-Americans.
Fan Injured by Airborne Baseball Bat at Wrigley Field: A fan sitting a few rows back near the on-deck circle was struck by a bat that left the hands of Chicago Cubs rookie Addison Russell during a game Monday night. The fan has been hospitalized for his injuries. "When the bat was in mid-flight, my mind was screaming 'watch out, watch out,'" Russell said. "I saw the kid's glasses fly, and it wasn't pretty. I feel very bad." He said he hopes to give the fan an autographed bat.
Rangers Close to Trade with Angels for Josh Hamilton: The Texas Rangers are close to completing a trade with the Los Angeles Angels for Josh Hamilton, according to media reports from Dallas/Fort Worth media. Radio host Ben Rogers tweeted, "My guess is that no big contracts will be traded back to the Angels. I expect this will be the Angels paying a ton of his salary." Hamilton is currently both an injury and a substance abuse concern. He's rehabbing offseason shoulder surgery and self-reported his third drug abuse relapse since 2009.
Remaining conviction against Barry Bonds is overturned.: More than 7 years after the original indictment (4 perjury, 1 obstruction of justice), Bonds is found not guilty of all charges.
Fan Hit in Head by Foul Ball Through Home-Plate Netting: A fan behind home plate at PNC Park in Pittsburgh was struck in the back of the head Monday night, necessitating a 23-minute delay as she was treated and stretchered off. She was standing behind the home-plate netting, but close enough to be struck anyway. Tim Kirkjian responded on ESPN that fans who don't watch the ball during a game are in serious danger, especially along the base lines close to home, but how many fans are fast enough to react even if they're paying attention?
Bryan Stow Throws Out First Pitch at Minor League Game: The San Francisco Giants fan beaten outside Dodger Stadium threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the home opener for the San Jose Giants, a team where he used to be a paramedic before he was left brain damaged in the attack four years ago. Stow still suffers memory loss and concentration issues but is able to walk and stand for short periods and gave newspaper interviews before the ceremony. "I'm excited about it," Stow told a newspaper.
Who are the "Franchise Four"?:
A chance to vote for the four players on each franchise (plus 3 other categories) who have had the biggest impact on those franchises. The winners are to be revealed during the MLB All-Star Game.
Around the ballparks.: In celebration of opening day, the best food in the MLB.
LA Dodgers set MLB payroll record.:
$277,000,000 for this season.
Yankees Have Most Improved Shortstop WAR in Baseball: The New York Yankees have the Majors' biggest projected improvement in wins above replacement (WAR) at shortstop this season -- according to Fangraphs -- and it's all because Derek Jeter retired. Neil Paine of 538 notes, "[T]he Yankees had the least-productive shortstop situation in all of baseball last year, so even a shortstop depth chart headlined by Didi Gregorius was bound to be one of the game's most improved in 2015." There are some other gems in the stats. The Texas Rangers have a +3.7 at first base because they've replaced Prince Fielder ... with Prince Fielder.
"Relievers behind Wright have surrendered an insane two home runs in 107 2/3 innings. That's one-fifth what we'd expect based on their typical performance. If Wright were to make 30 starts in a season, that would translate to roughly an extra win for his team. Starters were about a half-run better in ERA and a run better in FIP when the other team had been thrown off by Wright's knuckleball. Add it up, and Wright could be worth in the range of two wins simply by taking the ball, let alone what he could provide by pitching well."
Yu Darvish May Need Tommy John Surgery: The Texas Rangers had the most games lost to injuries last season and appear to have beat the all-time record. Just a few days into spring training ball they may have lost ace Yu Darvish for the season and possibly more. He's considering Tommy John surgery after an MRI found a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow.
Baseball's fight with fatigue: Last year, less than 9% of position players appeared in 150 or more games. That is the lowest such percentage in major-league history, according to Stats LLC. Run scoring in September last year was 7% lower than it was during March and April, twice as steep a decline as the historical norm. So, as full squads report to spring training in Florida and Arizona this week, teams aren’t worried so much about hitters being ready for Opening Day. They’re worried about keeping them fresh for the stretch run, and they’re exploring myriad new ways to boost their endurance.
Is Charlie Brown the Worst Manager Ever?: The Hardball Times takes a look at the manager who won two games in 47 years.
Curt Schilling Declares War on Twitter Trolls Abusing His Daughter: After Curt Schilling announced that his daughter had been accepted to play softball in college, both he and his daughter were subjected to vicious sexual remarks by Twitter trolls. Schilling did some online sleuthing and found as many as he could. "She didn't do anything, she never said anything, yet she's now receiving personal messages with guys saying things to her, well let's just say I can't repeat and I'm getting beyond angry thinking about it," he writes.
McCutchen: Baseball No Longer a Sport Where Poor Kids Get Discovered: Andrew McCutchen offers an interesting take on the Little League champs from Chicago who took in players from outside their district. "Baseball used to be the sport where all you needed was a stick and a ball. It used to be a way out for poor kids. Now it’s a sport that increasingly freezes out kids whose parents don’t have the income to finance the travel baseball circuit," he writes. "If you’re a poor kid with raw ability, it’s not enough. You need to be blessed with many mentors to step in and help you."
Semi-regular update: Julio Franco is still playing baseball.:
Julio Franco was teammates with Hall-of-Famer Phil Niekro (born in 1939) and current all-star Carlos Gomez (born in 1985).
James Shields Signs with San Diego Padres: The San Diego Padres have signed James Shields, the last major free agent left on the board, to a four-year deal with an option for a fifth, SBNation reports. Under new GM A.J. Preller, they've added Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Wil Myers, Derek Norris and Will Middlebrooks. The free-spending Friars last went to the playoffs in 2006.
“I got a big charge out of seeing Ted Williams hit. Once in a while they let me try to field some of them, which sort of dimmed my enthusiasm.”: A Futility Infielder tribute to Rocky Bridges (1927-2015), one of the game's most colorful characters - When Don Zimmer passed away last June after 66 years in baseball, I called him the ultimate futility infielder. Allow me to amend that, for Rocky Bridges, who died last week at the age of 87, was every bit as worthy of that title, and every bit as much an inspiration for this site. The secret of futility infielders is their ability to thrive despite their shortcomings in talent, thanks to persistence, flexibility and a command of fundamentals that go well beyond the playing field. They’re the laces that hold the leather together, the very soul of baseball.
New MLB Commissioner: We May Ban Defensive Shifts: In an interview with ESPN's Karl Ravetch, new Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said he's open to the idea of eliminating the crazy defensive shifts that have been cutting into offensive production and making me cry when Prince Fielder comes up to bat. Asked by Ravetch what form a rule might take to accomplish that, Manfred said, "You divide the number of players who have to be each side of second base." (Transcript on ESPN Insider.)
Ernie Banks, legendary 'Mr. Cub,' dead at 83: Banks was an 11-time all-star and back-to-back NL MVP. With career totals of 512 home runs and 1,636 RBI, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977. He is the only National League shortstop to hit 40+ home runs in a season, a feat he accomplished five times.
Mets charging their own minor leaguers to attend : "It's not uncommon at all for teams to open up spring training early, and say you can work out here," said attorney and former minor leaguer Garrett Broshuis. "It's also not uncommon to make players pay for accommodations. I know a lot of guys who sleep on someone's couch." But what about charging players $1000 for the privilege? "This seems a lot more uncommon," Broshuis replied, saying he'd never heard of something like this. "'Deplorable' is the word I'd use."
Moving Toward a Unified Theory of the A’s Offseason: FanGraphs thinks Billy Beane is trying to assemble a larger pool of lesser talents; Grantland mostly agrees and suggests it's an impressive piece of resetting forced by Oakland's salary constraints.
Four players voted into the baseball Hall of Fame:
Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and Craig Biggio.
Who Will Win the Max Scherzer Sweepstakes?: Buster Olney of ESPN is OCD enough to analyze the chances for all 30 teams to sign free agent pitcher Max Scherzer. Spoiler alert: It doesn't look good, Colorado Rockies fans.
Hall of Fame voting raises more questions than answers: The fact of the matter is, Major League Baseball and the Hall of Fame both recognize Barry Bonds as the all-time home run leader, and now they're trying to pass the buck on the BBWAA to shell out some justice. That's not a game I'm comfortable playing. C. Trent Rosencrans fills out his first HOF ballot.
Welcome to Middle Infielder Island: If you want your son or daughter to be a great middle infielder, move to Curacao, an island off the coast of Venezuela. From a population of only 150,000 have emerged some of Major League Baseball's current and future shortstops and second baseman: Andrelton Simmons, Jonathan Schoop, Didi Gregorius and Jurickson Profar. The secret is in the soil, which is hard and pebble-strewn even on the baseball fields: "[T]hose little rocks have helped produce some of the most talented middle infielders in baseball, softening their hands and honing their reflexes to react to the most unexpected of bounces," writes David Waldstein.
Jon Lester Signs 6-Year, $155 Million Deal with Chicago Cubs: Free agent pitcher Jon Lester has reportedly agreed to the richest contract in Chicago Cubs history -- a six-year, $155 million deal. Other teams vying for his services were the Boston Red Sox and San Francisco Giants. In terms of annual value, Lester becomes baseball's second-highest paid hurler behind Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers. How are they taking this news in Boston, Eric Wilbur? "Red Sox proved incompetent in losing Jon Lester."
Winter is Coming: Grantland offers a preview of Major League Baseball's winter meetings, which begin Monday in San Diego. The overabundance of Los Angeles Dodgers outfielders suggests one or two could be dealt such as Matt Kemp or Andre Ethier, opines Ben Lindbergh: "The outfield was crowded last winter, but now it looks like the line outside Foot Locker on LeBrons release day." The weirdest thing in the piece: His assertion that the Chicago Cubs, a suitor for pitcher Jon Lester, "can offer a chance to contend."
Toronto Blue Jays trade Brett Lawrie, 3 others to Oakland A’s for Josh Donaldson: It was a four-for-one trade. The Jays gave up Lawrie and three minor-leaguers: pitchers Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman and shortstop Franklin Barreto. They got Donaldson, one of the best third basemen in the majors, whose 15.4 WAR over the past two years was second only to Mike Trout’s 16.7.
2015 Hall of Fame ballot released:
Highlighted by the addition of Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz, this is going to be "round 2" of the Annual Ballot Crunch Time.
Red Sox Sign Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez: The Boston Red Sox have reached deals with shortstop Hanley Ramirez (four years, $88 million) and third baseman Pablo Sandoval (five years, $90 million). Ramirez is likely to move to the outfield because the Sox already have Xander Bogaerts at his position. Jim Bowden expects the Sox to go after more than one top-of-the-rotation starting pitchers and names Cole Hamels, Jon Lester and James Shields among their targets. "The Red Sox lineup is now much better, but they're not even going to contend unless they completely revamp the top of their starting rotation with at least two elite starters," he writes.
Despite Vehement Public Claims of Innocence, A-Rod Admitted to DEA He Used Steroids: Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald broke this story Wednesday: "For 21 tumultuous months, New York Yankees superstar Alex Rodriguez has defiantly maintained he never used banned substances from a Coral Gables anti-aging clinic, that he is the victim of a Major League Baseball 'witch hunt,' and that he would fight to the end to clear his name. But in a Drug Enforcement Administration conference room back in January, facing federal agents and prosecutors who granted him immunity, baseball's highest-paid player admitted everything: Yes, he bought performance-enhancing drugs from Biogenesis of America, paying roughly $12,000 a month to Anthony Bosch, the fake doctor who owned the clinic. Yes, Bosch gave him pre-filled syringes for hormone injections into the ballplayer's stomach, and even drew blood from him in the men's room of a South Beach nightclub." Now the Yankees must deal with a star player of diminished skills with three years and $60 million left on his contract, plus another $90 million in potential home run milestone incentives. Janet Macur of the New York Times writes, "In a million years, in a million baseball seasons, I never would have dreamed I'd ever say this: I feel sorry for the Yankees."
MVP, ROY and Cy Young finalist announced: Speculate away!
Giants Win World Series: The San Francisco Giants are World Series champions for the third time in five seasons after defying the odds for a road team in Game 7 and beating the Kansas City Royals 3-2 at Kauffman Stadium. Michael Morse gave the Giants that lead with a fourth-inning single and the San Francisco bullpen, most notably Madison Bumgarner, pitched 7 1/3 shutout innings to deliver another parade.
Top Cardinals Prospect Oscar Tavares Killed in Car Accident: St. Louis Cardinals top outfield prospect Oscar Taveras and his girlfriend died in a car accident near his home in the Dominican Republic on Sunday afternoon. The 22-year-old made his Major League debut this season and "entered the season rated as one of baseball's top-three prospects," writes Bill Baer of HardballTalk. He made the postseason roster and hit a pinch-hit home run in the NLCS.