Your Offseason Roadmap

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Here at CTB we’re going to hit you with news, rumors and commentary all offseason, so if you want, you can simply lock the page in, hit “refresh” over and over again between now and April and never miss a thing.

But if you’re one of those types that just has to see what’s ahead, here’s a handy dandy schedule, courtesy of MLB.com, with which to structure the baseball-consuming portion of your winter:

Yesterday-November 19th:  Free agency filing period. Be sure to click over on the 20th to see which agents lost the paperwork and get sued for malpractice!

November 9th-11th: General Managers meetings in Chicago.  Not quite the bacchanalia as the owners meetings later in the month, but higher rent than the free-for-all Winter Meetings in December. I think they’re holding it in Chicago this year because Jim Hendry is worried if he leaves town someone will change the locks on his office. He’s right to worry.

November 11th-24th: Awards season.  Watch as the players and managers award Gold Gloves to all the wrong people!  Watch as writers try to make an argument that Ryan Howard deserved the award more than Pujols because of all of his RBIs! Behold someone complain about a 16-win pitcher taking the Cy Young Award while conveniently forgetting that his teammates couldn’t crack most Legion teams!

November 18th and 19th: Owners Meetings. Billionaires come together to figure out how to portray their mere millionaire employees as the greedy ones. Panda steaks will be consumed, cigars will be lit by flaming bearer bonds. Jamie McCourt will be barred by security.

November 30th: Executive Board of the Players’ Union meets.  It’ll be kinda like John L. Lewis addressing the coal miners, except with fewer references to silicosis and a better brand of beer filling the keg in the corner of the union hall.

December 1st: Deadline for teams to offer salary arbitration. This is the day we see if the Mets are all-in on Jeff Francoeur.  As a Braves fan, this will be like my Christmas. No matter what happens, the result will be hilarious.

December 7th-10th: The Winter Meetings. Usually these take place in warm and fun locations. A couple of years ago they were in Newport Beach or someplace like that. Next year: Disney World. This time around? Indianapolis. Of course, it stands to reason that I get to go this time.  But it won’t all be cold and dreary: I plan to stalk FOX’s Ken Rosenthal, and given how hard he works at these things, if I can keep up I’m going to get more fit on this trip than I would on a spa vacation.

Early December: Hall of Fame balloting.  New on the ballot: Roberto Alomar, Barry Larkin, Fred McGriff and Edgar Martinez. I’m fans of all four of them, and any of them will be better selections than Jim Rice was last year. But in all honesty, I only think three of these guys should make the Hall. Feel free to guess who I think is unworthy in the comments.  Results will be announced January 6th. Complaining about the results will last until inductions happen in July.

Mid-January: More owners meetings.  Don’t these people have more important things to do with their time than to travel to posh resorts and talk about how rich they are?  Wait, of course they don’t. I forgot who I was talking about.

February 1st-21st: Salary arbitration hearings. As a lawyer, I take special interest in these. I mean, there’s enough baloney thrown around in courtrooms every day, but to see a player’s lawyer argue that Kevin Gregg is as valuable as a young Mariano Rivera, and to see an team’s lawyer argue that Nick Markakis is only worth the league minimum is to see lawyering at its highest level.

Mid-February: Pitchers and catchers report; next round of names leaks from the 2003 steroid list.

Ahhh, the rites of Spring!

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.