Before there was Strasburg, there was McDonald

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As we approach the draft, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale has an excellent story this morning about the last
Stephen Strasburg: Ben McDonald, the LSU pitcher who was the first
overall pick of the 1989 draft. Taken by the Orioles, McDonald, like
Strasburg, had ungodly stuff. McDonald, like Strasburg, was expected to
help the big club almost immediately. And most interestingly, McDonald,
like Strasburg, had Scott Boras for an agent:

“I don’t know what it’s going to be like for (Strasburg’s) family,
but for us, tough, really, really tough,” says Larry McDonald, Ben’s
father. “We took Scott Boras’ advice, and he got Ben more money than we
dreamed, but it was so tough on everyone here. Every time Scott Boras
would call, my wife would just say, ‘Oh, here’s that fancy
slick-back-haired California lawyer calling again’ ” . . . Says Rebecca
McDonald, Ben’s mother: “I sat by myself many nights on the porch just
wanting to cry. People were getting caught up in town. Some of our
friends agreed with us, some didn’t. And all Ben wanted to do was play
ball” . . . “People didn’t like Scott Boras too much back then,” Larry
McDonald says. “I guess things haven’t changed much.”

The biggest difference between Ben McDonald’s family in 1989 and
Stephen Strasburg’s family in 2009 is that there exists twenty years of
accumulated and easily accessible Scott Boras history out there, so if
they’re unhappy with his representation they only have themselves to
blame. Yes, he’s unpopular in some quarters, but he’s not coming in
under the radar or anything, and anyone who hooks up with him should
know what to expect. What shouldn’t
be expected is the $50 million that everyone seems to keep parroting. A
deal that big isn’t happening, and even Boras knows that. He’s just
throwing the number out there so that the $25 million + perks (e.g. an
opt-out clause or something) he ultimately gets from the Nationals
seems relatively reasonable.

The funniest thing about all of this is the part of this which will
probably drive Nats fans the craziest — the fact that, thanks to
Boras, no deal will get done until midnight at the August 15th signing
deadline — is likely what will protect Strasburg and the Nats the
most. The article reminds us that Ben McDonald made his Major League
debut the same summer he was drafted, which immediately followed a
spring during which his workload was extreme. While some quoted in the
article lament the fact that a pitcher’s development could be set back
by signing late, there’s no question that McDonald could have benefited
from a little rest in 1989. And who knows? If he got it, maybe he
wouldn’t have suffered so many injuries down the road.

If you’re pulling for Stephen Strasburg — and why wouldn’t you? —
I can’t think of any downside to him getting most of June, July and
August off, be it due to contentious contract negotiations or
otherwise.

Moises Alou pledges to help Cubs give “closure” to Steve Bartman

CHICAGO - OCTOBER 7:  Moises Alou #18 of the Chicago Cubs hits a two-run home run in the first inning against thye Florida Marlins during game one of the National League Championship Series October 7, 2003 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
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After the Cubs won the World Series last month — their first since 1908 — owner Tom Ricketts said he plans to reach out to Steve Bartman to provide “closure.”

Bartman was the fan who interfered with left fielder Moises Alou’s attempt to catch a foul ball in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS against the Marlins. Alou was particularly irate about Bartman’s presence and it led to the fan becoming persona non grata in Chicago. In the time since, even before the Cubs won the World Series, the club has tried to make amends but Bartman has rejected offers to speak publicly and he has also rejected invitations to Wrigley Field.

Alou pledged to make time to attend any ceremony the Cubs stage for Bartman, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago-Sun Times reports.

Alou said, “Why not? I’d like to meet Bartman.” He continued, “I have nothing against the guy. I said it right after the game. I had the ball, and I got upset, but at the same time it’s not that kid’s fault. Everybody goes to the ballpark, and they bring a glove. Every wants to catch a fly ball.” However, He still maintains that he would have caught the ball if he had not been impeded.

Diamondbacks sign Jeff Mathis to a two-year, $4 million deal

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 14:  Jeff Mathis #6 of the Miami Marlins hits a grand slam during the first inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on June 14, 2016 in San Diego, California.   (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
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The Diamondbacks announced on Monday that the club signed catcher Jeff Mathis to a two-year, $4 million contract.

Mathis, 33, isn’t much with the stick as he owns a career .197/.254/.308 triple-slash line over parts of 12 seasons in the majors. The veteran, though, is well-regarded for his ability to play defense, call games, handle a pitching staff, and get along with his teammates in the clubhouse. As Craig mentioned last year, Mathis is often talked about as a future manager.

The D-Backs non-tendered Welington Castillo on Friday, so Chris Herrmann and Mathis are the team’s two catchers as presently constructed.