And the Manny-hate World Series tickets go to . . .

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You’ll recall that last week the Los Angeles’ Times’ Steve Lopez offered up his World Series tickets to the person who wrote what he felt to be the best 50-word anti-Manny Ramirez statement.  Well, he has a winner, and his name is Richard MacPhee, and he’s a firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service.  His entry:

“Dear Manny. I am a firefighter for the USFS, I make $16 an hour. It’s hot, dirty, dangerous, with long hours. My body hurts all the time. It takes four years to make $170,000. My bonus, somebody telling me ‘Thanks for the hard work.’ You should try it some time.”

I take no issue with Mr. MacPhee getting the World Series tickets. And I certainly don’t disagree with the notion that he works his ass off, that he risks his life, that his job is hard, and that his body is tired and sore after spending his days protecting the lives and limbs of people who think it’s a good idea to build luxury houses in places that have suffered from raging forest fires for the past several hundred thousand years.  It’s often thankless work that 99.9% of us could never and would never do, because we don’t have the friggin’ stones to drop from helicopters into the closest thing to Hell on Earth.  Indeed, given that a World Series is not assured for L.A., I’d hope that Lopez would give Mr. MacPhee his NLCS tickets too, and if the Dodgers do make it past the Phillies, that someone would chip in to give him and other firefighters tickets to more than just Game 4.

That said, I have to agree with the Times’ Dodgers blogger Jon Weisman, who had this to say to Lopez via Twitter regarding his little contest: “I’m a fan of yours but you’re giving Manny too much power. He’s not bigger than the game but you’ve chosen to act like he is.”

One thing I left out in my little pro-con exercise below is the fact that the national media is almost certain to make a Dodgers’ World Series all about Manny.  Which is a shame, because the Dodgers are a pretty balanced team with way more interesting stories than the overplayed Ramirez angle.  If Lopez truly can’t stand Manny, you’d think he’d just ignore him rather than to play into that overhype even more.

But it’s too late for that.  And while I don’t have any rooting interest in the NLCS, I’m tempted to pull for the Dodgers now so that Richard MacPhee can go to a game, even if I think the contest he won was rather misguided.

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.