Rickey slides into Cooperstown this weekend

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One of my all-time favorite players and the greatest leadoff man in
baseball history goes into the Hall of Fame this weekend, and there are
plenty of amusing Rickey Henderson stories popping up in preparation
for his induction.

For instance, Monty Poole of the San Jose Mercury News has an entertaining article
about Henderson’s mom, Bobbie, who was convinced that she was having a
girl until giving birth to Rickey Nelson Henley Henderson on Christmas
Day in 1958:

He was my Christmas baby and people always said he was like me. See,
Rickey’s always been stout. He wasn’t chubby, but he was solid.
Everybody would tell him he had his mama’s legs, his mama’s hips and
his mama’s little waist. I used to wonder if the reason he was built
like me was because I wanted a girl so bad. I thought I was going to
have a girl. I would even say I hoped it was a girl. …

Rickey got knocked out once playing football in high school, and
that really shook me up. I didn’t want him out there. He just got the
wind knocked out of him, but that was enough for me. I didn’t come out
and tell him to play baseball. I kept telling him I was with him,
whatever he did, but I really didn’t want him playing football.

Instead of being a football-playing girl, Henderson played the
fourth-most games in baseball history, notched 3,055 hits, went to the
All-Star game 10 times, won the AL MVP in 1990, set the single-season
steals record with 130 in 1982, and ranked as the all-time leader in
stolen bases (1,406), walks (2,190), and runs scored (2,295) at the
time of his retirement following an amazing 25-year career.

Years ago, when asked if he felt that Henderson was qualified for
Cooperstown, Bill James replied: “If you could split him in two, you’d
have two Hall of Famers.” He’ll go into the Hall of Fame in one piece
Sunday, but not before trying to get over his fear of public speaking
by practicing his induction speech for the past month in front of students at Laney College:

Speech and me don’t get along sometimes. I’m not a doctor or
professor, so for me to go and write a speech or read a speech, it’s
kind of like putting a tie too tight around my neck. It helped me a
lot. I had a lot of fun with it. I never thought I could come back to
class and have fun. But it gave me a chance to do something different
and work on some things. I talk so fast and my tongue kind of takes off
sometimes. … Shoot, I was scared the first time I got up and read to
the class.

Along with being an inner-circle Hall of Famer and easy first-ballot
selection Henderson was famous for speaking in the third person and
producing a never-ending supply of anecdotes (some real and some apocryphal)
thanks to his famous Rickey-speak. Here’s hoping that all the work he’s
put in polishing his speech won’t keep him from at least a few Yogi
Berra-like moments Sunday.

Alex Rodriguez credits Tom Ricketts and Theo Epstein with Cubs’ turnaround

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 13:  Tom Ricketts, owner of the Chicago Cubs, celebrates after the Chicago Cubs defeat the St. Louis Cardinals in game four of the National League Division Series to win the NLDS 3-1 at Wrigley Field on October 13, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Chicago Cubs defeat the St. Louis Cardinals with a score of 6 to 4.  (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
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It isn’t difficult to see the fingerprints left by Cubs’ president Tom Ricketts and general manager Theo Epstein on the club’s remarkable 2016 season. In a piece for FOXSports.com, former Yankee Alex Rodriguez highlighted the duo’s effectiveness in liberating the Cubs from a five-year losing streak and six-year postseason drought, citing both the unrelenting work ethic and passion that Ricketts and Epstein brought to the club as major factors in their success.

Rodriguez’s first brush with sabermetric savant and all-around baseball wizard Theo Epstein came in 2003, when the then- 27-year-old All-Star was eyeing a deal with the Red Sox. The Major League Baseball Players Association eventually nixed the trade, and the Rangers’ young shortstop was sent to the Yankees shortly thereafter, but not before Rodriguez glimpsed the inner workings of Epstein’s mind.

What I remember best about that time was watching Theo furiously scribbling out the Red Sox lineup for the upcoming season on a room-service napkin. That’s when I saw Theo’s baseball mind at work. I saw he had a passion for the game, a depth of knowledge, and a thirst to be great. Theo’s passion was contagious. We were three 20-somethings convinced we were about to turn baseball upside down together. Though I never got a chance to work with Theo, I knew then that he was going to be a force.

A-Rod also referenced Ricketts’ thorough approach to rebuilding the organization. Ricketts, who purchased the franchise for $875 million in 2009, first made it his mission to transform Wrigley Field into a comfortable and enticing playing environment, then targeted top-tier management to run the show behind the scenes. With Ricketts fully backing Epstein’s transformative approaches — including an overhaul of the Cubs’ farm system, investments in international player development, and a comprehensive understanding and practical application of sabermetric advances — the Cubs’ path to a 97-win season in 2015 seemed a natural consequence of the pair’s hard work.

This year, the attention has been even more intensely focused on the Cubs’ elusive third World Series title. Rodriguez, however, believes that winning a championship is secondary to the strides Ricketts and Epstein have taken with the club.

Together, Ricketts and Epstein have built one of the greatest franchises in baseball and transformed 1060 W. Addison St. It’s a task that no one could quite get right for a hundred years. While four more wins would put a giant exclamation point on five years of focused work and determination, I won’t worry if this team doesn’t win the World Series in the next nine days.

Mets expected to pick up 2017 option for Jose Reyes

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 22:  Jose Reyes #7 of the New York Mets celebrates after hitting a game tying two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies Citi Field on September 22, 2016 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News reports that the Mets are expected to pick up the 2017 option for Reyes, but they haven’t done it yet. The option will be worth the major league minimum salary ($507,500), as the Rockies will continue to pay down the remainder of Reyes’ $41 million remaining on his contract.

The Mets signed Reyes after the Rockies released him in June. He had a .659 OPS in Colorado but improved to a .769 OPS in 279 plate appearances with the Mets, mostly playing third base in place of the injured David Wright. Bringing Reyes back next season will provide them more insurance at the hot corner.

Reyes, 33, served a 51-game suspension due to an offseason domestic violence incident while on vacation in Hawaii with his wife. As a result, he didn’t make his season debut until July 5, having spent some additional time in the minor leagues to get into game shape.