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.

Drew Smyly brings youth and experience to Mariners rotation

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PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) Trades don’t surprise Drew Smyly anymore.

At age 27, the Seattle Mariners left-hander has been dealt twice. The first swap sent him from the team that drafted and developed Smyly, the Detroit Tigers, to the Tampa Bay Rays in midseason 2014. That trade landed star pitcher David Price in Detroit.

“I was surprised by that one,” Smyly said.

The most recent trade involving him came in January, when the Rays shipped Smyly to Seattle for three prospects in one of many moves by Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto. Smyly immediately joined the Mariners’ projected starting rotation, and is having fun getting to know his new teammates at spring training by way of manager Scott Servais’ clubhouse icebreakers.

Servais thinks Smyly is a solid fit as a still young yet experienced pitcher.

“One, being where he’s at in his career age-wise and service time, he’s kind of at the point where, put him in the right environment … very good defensive outfield, he’s a fly ball guy, maybe he does step up and take the next step,” Servais said. “Getting out of the American League East certainly should help him, but there’s no guarantees. Our division’s pretty tough.”

Servais suggested that another Arkansas native, ex-big leaguer Cliff Lee, might have helped sell Seattle on Smyly. Lee is a former Mariner and the two share an agent.

Smyly went 7-12 in a career-high 30 starts last season in Tampa, but won five games from July 30 to the end of the season after starting out 2-11. From May 21 to July 18, he lost seven straight starts.

“Pitching’s tough, you know,” Smyly said. “To manipulate the ball, to make it do different things, to put it in the strike zone with hitters that know what they’re doing. … I just had a rough stretch but I show up at the field every day, play catch and work on my craft and you know, that’s going to turn around one day.”

The 32 home runs Smyly surrendered in 2016 figure to be reduced in Seattle’s pitcher-friendly Safeco Field.

“It can only help,” he said. “But it’s still going to be up to me to execute pitches and pitch well.”

Smyly is set to join the U.S. World Baseball Classic team shortly. Before that, he’ll make his first spring training start in the middle of next week.

“It’s an honor to be able to put your country on your chest and play with some of the guys on that team,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it big time.”

NOTES: Servais plans to roll out what figures to be Seattle’s opening day lineup in the spring training opener Saturday against San Diego. It’s OF Jarrod Dyson, SS Jean Segura, 2B Robinson Cano, DH Nelson Cruz, 3B Kyle Seager, OF Mitch Haniger, 1B Dan Vogelbach, C Mike Zunino and OF Leonys Martin. … Servais said Cano and Cruz will play a little more than is typical for early spring games, as the two will depart for the World Baseball Classic in early March. … LHP Ariel Miranda will start Saturday, then RHP Chris Heston Sunday, RHP Yovani Gallardo on Monday and ace Felix Hernandez on Tuesday.

Mitt Romney’s sons are trying to buy a stake in the Yankees

TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 30:  Tagg Romney son of Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gives an interview during the final day of the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 30, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was nominated as the Republican presidential candidate during the RNC which will conclude today.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Mitt Romney built his professional life in Massachusetts and was once the governor of the state. As such, it is not surprising that he has long identified as a Red Sox fan. So this has to be troubling to him from a fan’s perspective. From Jon Heyman:

The Romney family is bidding to buy a small stake in the Yankees months after their try for the Marlins stalled. If the deal goes through, it is expected to be $25 million to $30 million per percentage point and thought to be interested in one or two percentage points. The Yankees are valued around $3 billion or more.

The effort is being led by Mitt’s son Tagg, one of his brothers and their business partners. Mitt’s spokesman tells Jon Heyman that he has nothing to do with it personally. Tagg Romney is reported to have been planning a bid for controlling interest in the Marlins, but that has fallen through.

I find this interesting insofar as the M.O. for the Steinbrenners has, for years, been to buy out minority shareholders in the Yankees, not seek more. Indeed, when George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees back in 1973 he held just a bare controlling interest and there were a ton of silent partners, most of which were back in Ohio and knew Steinbrenner from his shipping business. I’ve personally gotten to know some of them over the years as there are a handful of them in Columbus and I crossed paths with them in my legal career. They have almost all been bought out in the past couple of decades. They still get season tickets and World Series rings and stuff. You can tell them by their personalized Yankees plates and the fact that, within the first ten minutes of meeting them, they will tell you that they once owned a piece of the Yankees but got pushed out.

In light of all of that it’s interesting that the Steinbrenners are once again accepting bids for small stakes in the team. Especially from someone whose interest in controlling the Marlins suggests that they do not consider it to be a mere vanity investment. Makes me wonder what the Steinbrenners’ long term plans are.