Dmitri Young: rested and ready. Well, sort of.

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Interesting story about Dmitri Young in the Washington Times.
Young, you’ll remember, was given one of baseball’s more, well,
unexpected contract extensions when Jim Bowden gave him $10 million for
2008 and 2009 a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, he only played 50
games last season and has been completely MIA so far in 2009 due to
back trouble and bereavement leave and general Dmitri Youngishness. He
wants to play, of course, but there’s no room in Washington unless Nick
Johnson is traded. Young wouldn’t mind being traded himself, but
there’s a slight problem with that:

There isn’t anyone interested in a 35-year-old singles-and-doubles
hitter who is a liability in the field and who has a history of trouble
with his back and with diabetes. And who is owed $5 million this season.

Yeah, that kind of stuff tends to get in the way. Still the most gobsmacking part of the story comes with this passage:

In his mind, though, he believes he could have been playing in the
majors months ago. Having shed 40 pounds from a 6-foot-2 frame that
once weighed in at 330 and having successfully controlled his diabetes
thanks to a strict diet, medicine and exercise regime, he said it has
been four years since he has felt this well.

That’s pretty amazing if true. And a little sad, because given his
contract situation, there’s no incentive for anyone to give Young a
second look at this point. But if he were made available for the league
minimum, wouldn’t it be worth it for some AL team to take a chance on
him? Yes, he’s provided many unintentional laughs over the years, but
he has also hit pretty damn well (he’s only two years removed from a
.320/.378/.491 season). If he were released by the Nats tomorrow and
could show that he’s reasonably healthy, couldn’t he be a Matt Stairs
figure? Couldn’t he be useful making a spot start here and there and
serving as a reasonably dangerous pinch hitter?

OK, maybe that’s a stretch. I’ve just always had a soft spot for
Dmitri. He’s got his problems, but the guy is funny and passionate and
smarter than he’s given credit for, and I’ll always hope that there’s a
place for a guy like that in the game.

Hell, bench coaches don’t do anything. Maybe that would be a good place for him . . .

UPDATE: Donald Trump declines Nats offer to throw out the first pitch

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UPDATE: Welp, we wont’ get to see that:

Sad!

8:53 AM: It’s just gossip now, but Politico is hearing that Donald Trump is in talks to throw out the first pitch at Nationals Park on Opening Day. The Nats are not commenting. Neither are the Palm Beach Cardinals of the Florida State League, who no doubt feel slighted given that the president effectively is a local.

With the caveat that, on Opening Day, tickets are likely to be more expensive and thus you’re likely to have a lot more rich people and friends-of-the-owners in attendance, thereby ensuring a more conservative crowd, I’m struggling to imagine a situation in which Trump strolls on to a baseball field in a large American city and isn’t booed like crazy. He’s polling as low as 36% in some places. He’s not exactly Mr. Popular.

Oh well. I look forward to him three-bouncing one to Matt Wieters and then grabbing his phone and tweeting about how it was the best, most tremendous first pitch in baseball history. Or blaming Hillary Clinton for it in the event he admits that it was a bad pitch.

2017 Preview: Texas Rangers

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Texas Rangers.

The Rangers somehow won the AL West last year despite not being super great at any one aspect of the game. There are stars here — Adrian Beltre, Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish and Rougned Odor are all spiffy players — but the Rangers won the division by being greater than the sum of their parts. They scored a decent number of runs despite some bad collective peripheral numbers and they allowed more runs than anyone in the AL except the Twins and Athletics. Yet they had a great record in one-run games and outperformed their pythagorean record by a WHOLE lot. Luck shined brightly on the 2016 Rangers.

It’s hard to expect luck to hold in any instance, but that’s especially the case when there have been some pretty significant changes. Changes like the loss of Carlos Beltran, Ian Desmond and Mitch Moreland. In their place: A full season, the Rangers hope, from Shin-Soo Choo, a converted-to-outfield Jurickson Profar and Mike Napoli. That may wash out OK, especially if Choo is healthy, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see some regression in two of those offensive slots.

Starting pitching is also a big question mark. Cole Hamels at the top is not a problem, obviously, and if Yu Darvish is healthy and durable the Rangers have an outstanding 1-2 punch. Martin Perez in the third spot presents promise, but he’s been exactly average so far in five major league seasons. The back end of the rotation has some real problems. Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross are hurt at the moment and even if healthy, Cashner seems to be a shell of his once-promising self. A.J. Griffin is looking to pitch in his first full season since 2013. If the Rangers are strong contenders all year it’s gonna be on the “Spahn and Sain and two days of rain” model, but I have no idea what rhymes with “Darvish” and that’s sort of a problem.

The bullpen is going to look a lot like it did last year. Sam Dyson will close, but manager Jeff Banister has shown in the past that he’s not a slave to keeping guys in any one role down there. Jeremy Jeffress will likely set up but he’s closed before. Some think Matt Bush or Keone Kela could close. We’ll see Tanner Scheppers and lefty Alex Claudio. Banister has a Manager of the Year Award on his mantle and while that often doesn’t mean anything, it usually suggests that a guy knows how to deal with his pen. Banister will do OK with what he has.

Really, though, the rotation is a concern, as is hoping that a 35-year-old Mike Napoli and a soon-to-be 38-year-old Adrian Beltre can continue to be the types of players who can form the offensive core of a playoff team. There’s talent and a track record here, but there’s a lot of uncertainty. For that reason, I suspect the Rangers will fall back a smidge this year, even if they’re a playoff contender.

Prediction: Second Place, American League West.