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.
9 reasons Hunter Pence is the most interesting man in the World (Series).:
Runs like a rotary phone thrown into a running clothes dryer. Throws like an effete Frenchman throwing a bookcase uphill. Swings a bat like his elbows are stapled to his knees and his underwear is pulled over his head.
Royals Advance to First World Series Since 1985: The Kansas City Royals won their eighth straight post-season game Wednesday, sweeping the Baltimore Orioles 4-0 and advancing to the club's first World Series since 1985. Kansas City scored two runs in the first inning without a ball leaving the infield, then made them hold up over the next 9 for a 2-1 series clinching victory. "Manager Ned Yost has become Midas here in October," writes Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star.
Watch the Senators beat the Giants in the 1924 World Series. : The Library of Congress recently found nearly perfectly preserved nitrate film of a "Kinograms" newsreel showing the Washington Senators winning the World Series over the New York Giants and fans storming the field at Griffith Stadium to celebrate.
MLB Pace-of-Game Committee Suggests Six New Rules: The Arizona Fall League will test out six new rules intended to speed up baseball this year.
1 -- Hitter must keep one foot inside the batter's box (except for fouls, wild pitches, time outs granted by the umpire, etc.).
2 -- Manager can signal an intentional walk rather than have the pitcher throw.
3 -- Maximum break of 2:05 between innings, hitters in the batter's box by 1:45. Umpire can call a strike on slow hitters and a ball on slow pitchers.
4 -- Maximum of 2:30 for pitching changes, including during inning breaks (clock starts when reliever enters the field).
5 -- Three "timeout" mound conferences per game.
6 -- 20 seconds to pitch after receiving the ball (Salt River only). Clocks will be posted in dugouts.
Royals Steal 9-8 Win Over A's in Epic 12-Inning AL Wild Card: The Kansas City Royals entered the eighth inning down 7-3 to the Oakland A's with ace Jon Lester on the mound. Using their speed on steals and sacrifice bunts, they scored three in that inning and another in the ninth to send the game to extra innings, then came back from a one-run deficit in the 12th with a Salvador Perez single to left that scored Christian Colon, sending a franchise that had waited 29 years for postseason baseball into the ALDS.
Jose Altuve Asks to Play, Risks Batting Title: Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, originally kept out of the lineup, asked to start today and has gone two for three in his first two at-bats, lifting his AL-leading batting average from .340 to .341. The Detroit Tigers' Victor Martinez plays later with a .337 average. Altuve would be the Astros' first batting champ.
“I would be all over him, trying to deny him the ball, and all Larry was doing was yelling at his teammates, I’m open! Hurry up before they notice nobody is guarding me!” then he would stick an elbow in my jaw and stick the jumper in my face, then he would start in on my coach “Coach you better get this guy out and send in somebody who’s going to D me up, because its too easy when I’m wide open like this”
Giancarlo Stanton Hit in Face with 88-Mph Pitch: Miami Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton was struck in the face with an 88-mph pitch by Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Mike Fiers Thursday night and suffered multiple facial fractures and dental damage. Stanton had to be carted off the field and taken to a nearby hospital. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke kept a visibly distraught Fiers in the game and he hit the batter who replaced Stanton with the next pitch.
Former NY Mets VP sues baseball team for discrimination.:
According to the lawsuit, Wilpon "became fixated on the idea that Castergine would have a child without being married. He frequently humiliated Castergine in front of others by, among other things, pretending to see if she had an engagement ring on her finger and openly stating in a meeting of the team's all-male senior executives that he is 'morally opposed' to Castergine 'having this baby without being married,' " the lawsuit said.
Ron Washington Resigns as Texas Rangers Manager: "Ron Washington informed us today that he has chosen to resign as Rangers manager in order to turn his full attention to addressing an off-the-field personal matter," general manager Jon Daniels said. "Out of respect for Ron's privacy, the Rangers will leave any comment on the details to him." Washington leaves after eight seasons as the skipper with the most wins in team history with a .521 winning percentage that trails only Billy Hunter. He twice led Rangers teams that won the American League, losing the World Series in 2010 and 2011. His expletive-laden, secretly leaked locker room speech before game 7 in the latter series has become a part of MLB lore.
Phillies Toss Combined No-Hitter vs. Braves: Four pitchers for the Philadelphia Phillies combined to no-hit the Atlanta Braves on Labor Day. Starting pitcher Cole Hamels threw six innings and was relieved for one inning apiece by Jake Diekman, Ken Giles and Jonathan Papelbon. The Phillies won 7-0. Hamels had thrown 108 pitches and walked 5 when he was sent to the showers.
New Yorker: The Twilight of Baseball: "If Mike Trout walked into your neighborhood bar, would you recognize him?" Ben McGrath asks in The New Yorker. "When was the last time baseball's reigning king was a cultural nonentity, someone you can’t even name-drop without a non-fan giving you a patronizing smile?"
Red Sox owner Tom Werner has become a dark horse candidate to be baseball's next commissioner: Co-owner John Henry says, "Tom is one of the most popular owners because he's very passionate about baseball, has a sense of duty, as evidenced by his work with veterans and the Red Sox Foundation, and because he is trusted by everyone who knows him. You won't find a more popular person in the television industry." Left unsaid: the Red Sox and a few other teams don't want Selig's lieutenant Rob Manfred taking over because they feel he will make them pay their fair share of TV revenues.
Hunter Pence signs are going viral.:
After starting in New York, the trend to bring silly Hunter Pence signs has spread to Milwaukee.
It's all in good fun, and the subject of the signs is getting into the act as well on Twitter.
Let's all root against the Diamonbacks: "But the Diamondbacks don’t play the game 'the right way', not even close. And they offered another painful reminder of that this weekend, retaliating for an accidental hit-by-pitch by beaming Andrew McCutchen squarely in the back."
Holy Sidd Finch! Minnesota Twins Sign Unknown with 100-Mph Fastball: The Minnesota Twins have signed a 24-year-old who throws a 100-mph fastball but has never been drafted. Brandon Poulson of the Healdsburg Prune Packers, a collegiate summer league team, got a $250,000 deal. He's a 6-foot-6 right-hander and fitness freak who was timed at a 6.6-second 60-yard dash in his socks and has a 40-inch vertical leap. "He's a physical specimen. He's got the best pure arm strength I've ever seen," said Twins scout Elliott Strankman.