Free agency is upon us! Feel free to start hashing together your wildest dreams, and then watch them all be dashed by the frugality of Terry Ryan and the greediness of Scott Boras. Speaking of which, the Twins did claim two players yesterday (Thomas Field and Josh Roenicke) and lost Alexi Casilla. I look at Field as being nothing more than a depth move, and while I'm underwhelmed by Roenicke, the Twins are likely hoping that he can provide 80% of the production of a free agent reliever for 20% of the price. I'm not necessarily optimistic of that happening, but hey, Alex Burnett did pitch well for most of last year with an awful K/BB ratio.
- First, we still have baseball writers arguing that the San Francisco Giants' World Series title is tainted because they played most of the season with Melky Cabrera, who was suspended for 50 games for using PEDs. This latest one comes from Ray McNulty of TC Palm in Florida, who says some rather controversial things. Well, apart from the "This title is tainted!" argument. McNulty also claims that the Giants knew that Cabrera was cheating, which is why they acquired Hunter Pence in the middle of the season. Something that McNulty doesn't notice, however, is that the Giants were leading the NL West by only 1 game when Cabrera was suspended, and then they pulled away and eventually won the division by 8 games at the end of the season. But hey, Melky was the one that led them, right?
- It's looking more and more like instant replay will be expanded, but Howard Bryant of ESPN The Magazine points out that we may create some unintended consequences from the expanded replay. He cites tennis, where replay led to umpires being wary of overruling line judges for fear of being proven wrong anyway from replay, which caused players to start acting as the athlete and official at the same time (a player's focus should be on the game itself, not on worrying whether to challenge a call, according to Bryant). It also leads to another issue, which is the question of how baseball will reverse certain calls. Again, Bryant uses a trapped catch call as an example, with 2 runners scoring, only to see the umpires reverse the call after a replay. Does the first runner still get to score, or is he forced to stay at 3rd base? One last thing that Bryant doesn't touch on though is the challenge system itself. I don't want to see a similar system in place like in the NFL. No challenge flags. No penalties for getting the challenge wrong. Instead, I want to see the same system as in the NHL, where an off-site referee watches the replay and tells the on-ice (or on-field) officials of the correct call. I believe that would fit into the culture of baseball much more than having a manager throw a flag onto the field, or have to give up outs or strikes for losing the challenge.
- Kenny Williams, former general manager of the Chicago White Sox, was recently promoted to executive vice president. Filling the GM role was Rick Hahn, who pulled off an interesting trade as his first swap of players. Hahn sent away Kenny Williams, Jr., who yes, is the son of Kenny Williams, and in return received Mark Tracy from the Colorado Rockies. Making this trade even better is that Tracy is the son of Jim Tracy, the recently-fired manager of the Rockies. As Craig Calcaterra says, this trade has some rather "medieval overtones."
- The Pittsburgh Pirates have been putting their minor leaguers through some Navy SEAL-style training in recent weeks, and they have (perhaps rightfully) come under criticism for doing so. Pirates president Frank Coonelly addressed the criticism by making it seem like the training was not a big deal, and then followed it up with an endorsement of turning the minor leaguers into mini-SEALs. It has to do with being focused, which is also why the team fell apart towards the end of last season.
"It's mental conditioning," Coonelly said, "the mental toughness that is more of an issue than the player hasn't been drilled, hasn't been trained on these things, doesn't know how to do them.
I'm pretty sure that there are ways to train a person mentally that don't involve 5 am wake-ups and carrying telephone poles, though.
- Finally, we end with some photos for the week, courtesy of Hardball Talk. First, we have Sergio Romo at the San Francisco Giants' victory parade, who is indeed an American citizen.
Second, we have Bryce Harper, who chose to poke some fun at his "That's a clown question, bro" comment from earlier this past season.
I think this is in close competition with the creation of the Clown Question, Bro beer for most amazing thing to come from Harper's original comment.