Daily Dose: Webb finished in Arizona?

Leave a comment

Last week various reports surfaced that the Diamondbacks don’t plan to exercise the $8.5 million option on Brandon Webb for 2010 and would instead attempt to work out a new, incentive-laden deal for the injured right-hander.
Those plans hit a major snag Tuesday when Webb said that he’s not willing to take a discount to remain in Arizona “if it comes down to that and they ask me to do something like that.”
While paying $8.5 million for Webb next season is a huge risk for the Diamondbacks given that he hasn’t pitched since Opening Day thanks to a shoulder injury, it doesn’t make much sense for him to accept a below-market deal when big-payroll teams like the Yankees and Red Sox would definitely take fliers on him being healthy. As he put it: “I’d have to see what else is out there and see if there’s something better.”
While the Diamondbacks learn that declining the $8.5 million will likely mean the end of Webb’s time in Arizona, here are some other notes from around baseball …


* Zack Greinke moved one step closer to the Cy Young award by picking up his 15th victory with six shutout innings Tuesday. Greinke has clearly been the league’s best pitcher this season, but it remains unclear if Cy Young voters will look past a modest win total due largely to horrendous teammates. Fifteen victories and an MLB-leading 2.08 ERA will hopefully do the trick, and he likely has a couple more starts left.
* Already sidelined by a strained calf, Kevin Kouzmanoff is now suffering from a sore back and may not be able to return this season. Chase Headley has looked good at third base in his absence, hitting .349 with seven extra-base hits in 11 games back at the spot he played in the minors. Kouzmanoff has long been linked to various trade rumors and the Padres seem more likely than ever to pull the trigger this winter.
* Three months ago the Cardinals signed 16-year-old outfielder Wagner Mateo out of the Dominican Republic for $3.1 million, but the contract was voided Tuesday based on the “pre-existing injuries and physical defects” clause relating to a vision problem. Wagner is now free to sign with any team and will surely land somewhere for a solid chunk of change, but won’t get the second-largest Latin American bonus ever again.
AL Quick Hits: Bobby Jenks may be done for the year after aggravating his calf injury Tuesday … Michael Young (hamstring) had trouble simply jogging Monday and is no sure thing to play again this season … Denard Span missed Tuesday’s game with the side effects from being plunked on the helmet Monday, so Carlos Gomez played center field and led off in his place … Edwin Jackson tossed seven shutout innings Tuesday amid speculation that he’s been tipping pitches recently … Glen Perkins will get a second opinion on his injured shoulder from Dr. Lewis Yocum … Brian Roberts smacked his MLB-leading 55th double Tuesday, tying Lance Berkman’s record for a switch-hitter … Matt LaPorta exited Tuesday’s game after injuring his hip sliding into home plate … Josh Hamilton (glute) may return as soon as this weekend after taking batting practice and shagging fly balls Tuesday … Billy Butler’s batting average has dipped below .300, but he’s still close to some big-time company.
NL Quick Hits: Jair Jurrjens is 4-0 with a 1.60 ERA against the Mets this season after Tuesday’s gem … Joe Blanton threw seven shutout innings Tuesday, allowing three or fewer runs for the 14th time in 15 starts … Chris Snyder will undergo back surgery Wednesday, but should be ready for spring training … Aaron Cook (shoulder) is set to rejoin the rotation Friday after missing over a month … Angel Guzman (triceps) has been shut down for the year after posting a 2.95 ERA and 47/23 K/BB ratio in 61 innings … Brian McCann left Tuesday’s game with a bruised wrist … Despite leaving his last outing after just three innings, J.A. Happ will make his scheduled Thursday start … Carlos Gonzalez left Tuesday’s game after straining his hamstring on a triple, with Seth Smith replacing him … Gary Sheffield said Tuesday that he plans to play in 2010 at the age of 41 … Brett Myers (shoulder) will be shut down for one week after an MRI exam showed a Grade 1 strain … Willy Taveras returned from the disabled list Tuesday after missing over a month.

Joe Blanton signs with the Nationals

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 07:  Joe Blanton #55 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches in the sixth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium on June 7, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post reports that the Nationals have signed Joe Blanton to a one-year contract.

Surprised it took this long given that Blanton was excellent out of the pen for the Dodgers last year, posting a 2.48 ERA and 80/26 K/BB ratio over 80 innings. But even if it’s a late signing, it’s not a terrible one: Blanton will receive a $4 million salary and will have the chance to make an additional $1 million in performance bonuses. UPDATE: The salary structure is kind of odd. Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post reports that Blanton will get only $1 million in 2017, plus some incentives, and will have $1 million deferred to 2018 and $2 million deferred to 2019.

And he got two weeks off work. Bonus!

Baseball doesn’t need gimmicks to draw in young fans. It just needs to be baseball.

MESA, AZ - MARCH 6: Chicago Cubs ball and bat bags are seen prior to the game between the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds on March 6, 2015 at Sloan Park in Mesa, Arizona. The Reds defeated the Cubs 5-2. (Photo by Rich Pilling/Getty Images)
Getty Images
12 Comments

MESA, AZ — I didn’t set out to ask Robin Mitchell about pace of play, rules changes, how to best execute an intentional walk or how to turn kids into baseball fans. I was interviewing her about other stuff. She brought those topics up on her own.

“I heard them saying that they were not going to throw four pitches for intentional walks anymore,” Mitchell said. “I’d prefer that they throw the pitches because anything can happen. There can be wild pitches. And that’s the exciting part of baseball. That you don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t think we need to speed the game along.”

For most baseball fans such sentiments are tied up with a devotion to baseball purism, tradition or their distaste for change. But such is not the case for Mitchell. While the lifelong Chicago resident went to Cubs games as a child, baseball has not been a lifelong obsession. Rather, it’s something she has become reacquainted with via her two baseball-obsessed boys, Jake, 11, and Bennett, 9.

Mitchell and her boys live on the north side of Chicago and, over the past two years, her sons have developed a huge affinity for the Cubs, almost by osmosis. It was certainly a good time for it, as the Cubs have become winners, and Mitchell allows that since Jake and Bennett didn’t “have to suffer through some of the more challenging times,” their attraction to the game became easier. It’s clear to her, however, that they are not going to be fair weather fans.

“They love baseball,” she said, implying that it’s not just homerism for the current World Series champions at work. They love the sport itself and began to play it too. It’s not easy for Mitchell to say whether their playing led to their fandom or vice-versa. It all sort of happened at once, with each reinforcing the other.

I asked her what about baseball, specifically, appeals to them. What, at a time when Rob Manfred and everyone connected to the game is worried about the sport’s seeming inability to attract and hold on to young fans, keeps Mitchell’s sons engaged.

For them, it seems to be all about accessibility and engagement. Being in Chicago and living close to a park is important, as is having all of the games available on TV. Also important to them: appealing young stars.

“It helps that the Cubs have some really nice players who seem like really nice guys,” Mitchell said. “Sometimes we see them in the neighborhood even. Ben Zobrist. Anthony Rizzo. David Ross. Whenever we’ve seen them out or at an event they’re always kind and polite and give the boys encouraging words.”

But isn’t baseball . . . boring? And slow? Don’t kids like video games and kinetic action? Doesn’t a 19th century pastime with a sometimes turgid pace turn off 21st century kids?

“No, are you kidding?!” Mitchell said. “We don’t leave the game before it’s over. That’s what we do. It doesn’t matter what the score is. We love the pace of baseball. In the world of electronics, with everything moving really fast and being gimmicky, there’s something I think that my boys and I find appealing about baseball. I can share it with them and we all just slow down.”

As we talked, Jake and Bennett ran around a field just outside the Cubs clubhouse, playing catch and practicing rundowns with a couple of other boys they just met. Mitchell and I spoke for nearly a half hour. They played the whole time and looked like they wouldn’t stop unless or until their mother dragged them away.

We have spent a lot of time lately talking about how to fix baseball. I don’t know that anyone has made a compelling case that, despite the challenges the game faces, it is actually broken. Robin Mitchell doesn’t think it is. Neither do Jake and Bennett. While Rob Manfred and Joe Torre propose increasingly unorthodox methods for speeding things up, some pretty basic and longstanding factors are continuing to attract young fans:

  • The availability of games almost every day;
  • An exciting and successful local team;
  • The charisma of baseball’s biggest stars;
  • The ability for kids to play the game themselves and to emulate those stars on a little league field; and
  • The chance for parents to share their love of baseball with their children.

These are the factors which have always made up baseball’s appeal. Perhaps Major League Baseball should concentrate on ensuring that those factors, which are proven to draw in fans, persist and flourish. Perhaps they should concentrate less on chasing hypothetical fans via gimmicks aimed at fixing problems which are far-from-established.