Greg Maddux needles Mets, offers wisdom, will be missed

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Prior to Mets-Braves last night, Greg Maduxhad
his number 31 retired at Turner Field. And after a nice ceremony,
Maddux concluded his remarks with this gem: “Let’s beat the Mets …
like old times.” Who knew that Greg Maddux was funny? Even as a Mets
fan, that slayed me. And his matter-of-fact delivery just forces you to
nod your head begrudgingly in agreement.

Later, in an interview with WPIX’s Kevin Burkhardt,
Maddux was asked about setting hitters up. Within his answer, he noted
that he “still had to play to a hitter’s strengths in order to keep
their weaknesses.” Loved that, and not just because it sounds like
something you might hear Phil Jacksonsay. It goes in
line with the stories that Maddux purposefully threw (what appeared to
be) meatball changeups to hitters, but placed them just far enough
inside so they’d pull them foul.

Maddux will be most remembered for his whiffleball movement,
ready-to-field-the-position delivery, and masterful precision. But
here’s three more underrated things that stick out and make him unique:

  1. In the 90’s, just about everyone had switched to the solid color
    sock, and some guys had brought back the knee-high look. But Maddux
    always had his pants stop right below his calf so there were like 6-8
    inches of sock before his shoe. And when stirrups went out of fashion,
    he still wore those white socks that had the colored line stitched in.
    The problem was, if you wore low-tops, the stitch ended before the
    cleat started and solid white showed at the bottom. Fashion disaster. I
    guess you can wear whatever you want when your ERA is like a 1.50.
  2. He despised pitching to Braves catcher Javy Lopez,
    and eventually had his own personal catcher. So even though Lopez was
    one of the better hitting catchers in baseball at that time, Bobby Cox would have to pencil in the likes of Charlie O’Brien and Eddie Perez every five days.
  3. When
    he wasn’t pitching, there was a 50-50 chance that if the television
    cameras shot him on the bench, he was picking his nose. It probably
    only happened a few times, but those few images are burned into my
    brain. And this was before Joe Torre perfected it.

Maddux will be missed.

Finally, now that Maddux has his number retired by both the Cubs
and the Braves, here’s the list of players who have been honored by
multiple clubs:

  • Nolan Ryan (Angels, Astros, Rangers)
  • Rod Carew (Twins, Angels)
  • Reggie Jackson (A’s, Yankees)
  • Carlton Fisk (White Sox, Red Sox)
  • Frank Robinson (Orioles, Reds)
  • Rollie Fingers (A’s, Brewers)
  • Hank Aaron (Braves, Brewers)
  • Casey Stengel (Mets, Yankees)

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.