Jul 15, 2013, 7:46 AM EST
I hopped on a Delta Connection flight to New York yesterday morning. There were eight people on the flight, including me. I was asked to move up to first class, not because I am special, but because they needed to balance out the weight. No mistaking it, baby: this is the big time. My first All-Star Game. And I’m so excited for it that I’m willing to overlook the inconvenient fact that it’s in New York and actually enjoy myself.
Nothing personal against New York. I’ve enjoyed myself often here. And I have the utmost respect for the city and its people. It’s just not my cup of tea. I am reminded of this every time I get in cab leaving LaGuardia and almost die ten times before I get to the Queensboro Bridge. I am reminded of it every time something happens which makes me have to be defensive and on guard and all of those things that New Yorkers tell you you have to be so the city doesn’t eat you alive. I live in Ohio. In a near-rural part of it, for cryin’ out loud. I get by OK when I have to come to New York, but my natural state is not best described as “on guard.” Especially since I began working at home. Putting me in New York is like putting a dairy cow in the middle of the African savannah. The novelty of my presence here will likely keep me alive long enough, but it’s by no means a natural state.
And this is where baseball has taken me this week, so on we forge.
I am staying at the Library Hotel, which is a little boutique joint based on the Dewey Decimal System. Really. My room number’s digits correspond with the classification for 20th century history and so my room is 20th century history-themed, right down to a book about Hitler and Stalin on the shelf and picture of Neville Chamberlin on the wall above the bed. It’s as if the hotel read all of my work about A-Rod and Braun and decided that I needed to be in the “appeasement of history’s greatest monsters” suite. Well-played, Library Hotel.
There’s a media shuttle from Midtown to Citi Field, but I decided that, for my first trip to Citi, I’d do it up John Rocker-style and take the 7 train. I’m glad I did. I always assumed it was the case, but now I know for certain: John Rocker was probably the most disgusting thing on the 7 train. Beyond idiots like him, the 7 train consists of more or less normal people trying to go about their day. Including the drunk guy and the guy with purple hair and the guy who looked like he just got out of jail for the fourth time and whoever else Rocker decided to attack in that article all those years ago. They didn’t bug me, I didn’t bug them and that’s how non-sociopaths get on in this world, Mr. Rocker.
As for Citi Field: it’s OK. Kind of a mish-mosh of styles and a more fragmented route is required to get around it than a lot of new parks, but it’s nice enough once you get to your seat and watch the game. And the food selection is pretty fantastic. Maybe the best I’ve seen in a big league park. There are many parks I like better than Citi — including ones that don’t have a bunch of scary as hell looking chop shops right outside the park that look as though they chop up way more things than cars – but it’s a fine enough place to take in a game. Like The Futures Game, which is the reason I was there yesterday.
I’m not really a prospects guy and don’t pay as close attention to scouting analysis as some other writers do. I figure the big leagues is a lot to cover so I end up reading Keith Law and Jason Parks and all of those guys for that stuff just like all of you. But I went to the Futures Game because, well, why not? I’m really glad I did.
For one thing, it was a nice, relaxed way to see Citi Field for the first time. I figure it will be hard to move around the place at the Home Run Derby tonight and the actual All-Star Game tomorrow, but yesterday Citi Field was probably only half-full and it made it easy to get to know the place a little bit. Starting with the Rotunda:
When Citi Field opened this was the most obvious nod to Ebbets Field — an ire-inducing nod for those who thought Fred Wilpon was a little too taken with Dodgers history — but for someone who was born a long time after Ebbets was knocked down it’s hard to get too worked up about it. It’s essentially a Jackie Robinson memorial, and while he was a Dodger, he sort of belongs to all of baseball now. As it is, the Mets Hall of Fame and Museum and the team store is right off the Rotunda. It feels Metsy enough to me. I mean, check it out. The second edition of Mr. Met. With hands so uncomfortably human-like I at first thought it was a real person pretending to be a mannequin:
After a lap around the park I settled into the auxiliary press box (located behind the glass in the air conditioned Acela Club behind the left field foul pole). Good seats for the game, although it was a bit of a sensory deprivation tank, insulated as it was from the ballpark noise. I assume I’ll be out there for the Derby and for the game, so I’ll have to get used to it. If that’s the worst thing that happens this week, well, good for me.
The Futures Game itself wasn’t transcendent but there were some interesting points. I was upset that USA manager Mookie Wilson didn’t put Byron Buxton into the starting lineup, but then he came in late and struck out in his first two at bats so maybe Mookie knew something we didn’t. Diamondbacks prospect Chris Owings had at least three slicker-than-slick plays at short. He’s hitting .353 for Reno, but I could find no numbers about his GF (grit factor) so it’s hard to say when we might see him in Arizona.
Dodgers prospect Joc Pederson fielded a fly ball in deep left in the top of the fourth and attempted to throw out Xander Bogaerts. He didn’t get him — Bogaerts showed off a pretty slick arm’s-length slide — but Pederson’s throw was a laser. Kid’s got a hose. You can say that about prospects, by the way. Stuff like “kid’s got a hose.” Say that about some kid who isn’t a prospect and you could go to jail.
Something also cool about prospects: most of us haven’t seen them before. I know that sounds like a shallow statement, but when you watch something like the Futures Game, you realize just how large a percentage of the players we watch on a daily basis are known quantities. We don’t watch them to see what they’re capable of. We know what they’re capable of. We just want to see them perform. Later on that fourth inning Jesse Biddle came in to bail Anthony Ranaudo out of a jam. He bent off a crazy-good curveball. I heard someone say he had a good curveball once. I’ve never seen it. Seeing stuff like that or like Pederson’s arm for the first time is exciting and fun. Now imagine seeing that a couple of years before a guy is good enough to make it to the Futures Game. When he’s playing out in East Jesus, Texas or Bumfuccaracas, Venezuela before anyone has heard of him. That’s gotta be the thrill that keeps the fire alive inside a scout.
The U.S. team beat the international team 4-2. The results kind of don’t matter, of course, but if you care about them go here.
I took the media shuttle back after the game. Taking a big bus from Queens into Manhattan is different from taking a cab in that you still think you’re going to be involved in multiple collisions, but since you’re in a bus you view it all with a tad more detachment, thinking of everyone else’s impending death rather than your own. “Oh, I wouldn’t have changed lanes there, but I suppose I’ll get a good view of him being smashed from this vantage point.” That sort of thing.
Today: there will be a parade. Players will be made available for the media. Kay and I will have an HBT Daily for you from the ballpark. Then there will be a home run derby. My choice will be staying in my deprivation tank where I’ll likely have Chris Berman’s commentary piped in or else going out into the park, braving the crowd and hearing Mike and Mike do the play-by-play over the P.A. system. I’m thinking Mike and Mike will get the nod.
Follow me on Twitter for real-time updates and random photos. Keep coming back here to HardballTalk for posts as the day and evening wears on.
Dec 18, 2013, 3:00 PM EST
This is pretty unexpected: Source: Atlanta finalizing deal to acquire catcher/outfielder Ryan Doumit from Minnesota. — Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 18, 2013 No word on the return as of yet. Doumit, a catcher and outfielder who does neither of those things at all well but who has been known to hit a little, wouldn’t…
Dec 18, 2013, 2:47 PM EST
After a year spent in Japan veteran third baseman/first baseman Casey McGehee is headed back to America to sign with the Marlins, according to Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald. McGehee took a $1.5 million deal in Japan following back-to-back terrible seasons in the majors and helped the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles to the league…
Dec 18, 2013, 2:14 PM EST
Boston acquired Franklin Morales from Colorado in May of 2011 and now three years later the Red Sox have traded him back to the Rockies. Thomas Harding of MLB.com reports that the Red Sox will send the Rockies 27-year-old Triple-A reliever Chris Martin in addition to Morales, who had a 3.90 ERA in 134 innings…
Dec 18, 2013, 2:03 PM EST
Either Ruben Amaro never spends any time on the internet or he just loves providing fuel for the trolls: Amaro somewhat cagey when repeatedly questioned about makeup of roster he expects to contend: “Ryan Howard does still live. He exists.” — Ryan Lawrence (@ryanlawrence21) December 18, 2013 I guess we’ll see if that’s the…
Dec 18, 2013, 1:50 PM EST
It sounds like the Rockies are committed to playing Carlos Gonzales is center field after trading away Dexter Fowler, but they’ve picked up an alternative just in case. Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the Rockies have acquired Drew Stubbs from the Indians in exchange for left-hander Josh Outman. Stubbs is probably best suited for…
Dec 18, 2013, 1:40 PM EST
We learned over the weekend that Ryan Freel, who took his own life a year ago this Sunday, suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a condition caused by concussions and which has been linked to suicide. But Freel suffered from so much more. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, ADD and depression. He was an alcoholic…
Dec 18, 2013, 1:18 PM EST
It just gets better and better with the New York Yankees. They just signed Brian Roberts. I wrote before (in my Ichiro Suzuki essay for the 100 greatest players) that this Yankees team would look awfully good … in 2006. But by essentially replacing Robinson Cano with Brian Roberts, they have — in a weird…
Dec 18, 2013, 12:46 PM EST
Carlos Beltran‘s three-year, $45 million deal with the Yankees still hasn’t been officially announced nearly two weeks later, so Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York asked general manager Brian Cashman what’s up. Cashman’s response: There are terms to do, physicals to take, items to be worked out when you do a contract … There’s no…
Dec 18, 2013, 12:30 PM EST
This is interesting: Jeff Passan of Yahoo! reports that the Yankees offered Shin-Soo Choo a seven-year, $140 million contract. It reportedly came after the Yankees signed Jacoby Ellsbury for $153 million. Passan says Choo’s agent, Scott Boras, countered for more money, after which the sides parted ways and the Yankees pivoted to Carlos Beltran. That’s…
Dec 18, 2013, 11:35 AM EST
Raul Ibanez is staying in the American League West, with Jeff Fletcher of the Orange Country Register reporting that the 41-year-old has agreed to a one-year, $2.75 million deal with the Angels. Ibanez hasn’t posted a batting average above .250 since 2010 and makes a ton of outs, but he also smacked 29 homers in…
Dec 18, 2013, 11:17 AM EST
Texas has been very willing to shift pitchers back and forth between the rotation and bullpen in recent years, with both good and bad results, and Tanner Scheppers is the latest with his future role in flux. Scheppers has spent this offseason building up arm strength to potentially join the rotation, although the Rangers have…
Dec 18, 2013, 10:37 AM EST
UPDATE: Jeff Passan says a deal is done, pending a physical. No word on the cash, but figure between $7-9 million a year for two years. 8:48 AM: The Padres have a closer in Huston Street who saved 33 games last year and who will make $7 million this year. But who says you only…
Dec 18, 2013, 10:15 AM EST
Last night the Mariners and Franklin Gutierrez were said to be close to a deal and now Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes reports that the two sides have agreed to a one-year, $1 million contract. According to Rojas the deal also includes $2 million in potential incentives after Gutierrez spent the past three seasons mostly…
Dec 18, 2013, 10:03 AM EST
We’ve mentioned the huge problems that public dollars paying for professional sports stadiums multiple times. In case you’re still agnostic on this point, however, there’s a great story at Bloomberg to help you out. It catalogs the awful results of multiple cities’ public ballpark problems. Cincinnati’s is particularly awesome: The tax relief hasn’t materialized as…
Dec 18, 2013, 9:30 AM EST
Today is Ty Cobb’s 127th birthday. He doesn’t look a day over 115. Cobb, of course, is one of the greatest hitters who ever lived. He was in the inaugural Hall of Fame class in 1936. His induction was well-deserved at that. He played for 24 years and hit over .300 in 23 of them. He…
Dec 18, 2013, 6:44 AM EST
Throwing another set of spike strips onto I-880 between Oakland and San Jose: The San Jose City Council approved today a five year lease extension to keep the San Jose Giants playing at Municipal Stadium through the 2018 season . . . . . . “We are very excited to call San Jose and Municipal…
Dec 17, 2013, 11:12 PM EST
FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi has the exclusive report … Mariners close to bringing Franklin Gutierrez back on a 1-year, major league contract sources tell @FOXSports1. — Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 18, 2013 Gutierrez batted .248 with a .278 on-base percentage in 151 plate appearances this past year with Seattle and has played in just 81…
Dec 17, 2013, 10:05 PM EST
Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports that the Mariners have signed free agent outfielder Cole Gillespie to a minor league contract. It presumably comes with an invitation to spring training. Gillespie has a promising .290/.386/.475 career batting line at Triple-A, but it’s just .225/.293/.337 at the major level and the 29-year-old is unlikely to…
Dec 17, 2013, 8:59 PM EST
It’s a night of subtle tweaks for the Red Sox, who have announced a minor league agreement with Japanese reliever Shunsuke Watanabe and the release of Chris Carpenter — the lesser-known one — who will go pitch for NPB’s Yakult Swallows. Watanabe is an extreme submariner coming off a poor season in Japan and seems…
Dec 17, 2013, 7:48 PM EST
From ESPN’s Buster Olney comes word that the Dodgers finalized a two-year contract with left-hander J.P. Howell on Tuesday afternoon. The two-year pact, which carries $11.5 million in guaranteed money along with a $6.25 million vesting option for 2016, will be officially announced Thursday after Howell passes his pre-signing physical exam. Howell drew heavy free…
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