Wakefield to keep knuckling along in Boston

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Torn up Monday was baseball’s one truly unique contract.
And, arguably, one of the most foolish.
In April 2005, a then 38-year-old Tim Wakefield made a deal with the Red Sox that gave the team a one-year, $4 million extension for 2006 and $4 million in perpetuity after that. The Red Sox had exercised those options religiously through 2009 and only hesitated on pulling the trigger for 2010 based on Wakefield’s recent back surgery.
So, the Red Sox and Wakefield got together for another incredibly amiable round of negotiations and came to a new agreement that gave the knuckleballer a multiyear deal for the first time since he wrapped up a three-year pact in 2005. Wakefield is guaranteed $3.5 million in 2010 and $1.5 million in 2011. He will earn $5.5 million next year if he makes 30 starts and $3.5 million in 2011 if he pitches 160 innings. So, if he stays healthy, he could beat the $8 million he would have earned had the Red Sox simply kept exercising their options.
Amazingly, the $5.5 million figure would be a career high salary if Wakefield could reach it. His previous high salary was $4.67 million, from the final year of that three-year deal that ended in 2005.
Wakefield has won 16 games four times in his career. He has 11 seasons in double figures in wins. He’s seventh among active pitchers with 189 wins and eighth with 1,979 strikeouts. Through all of that, he’s earned a mere $50.495 million, according to Baseball Reference data.
Now, sure, that should be enough to pay for a nice house and at least a year and a half at a decent university. But it’s less than the Red Sox paid the Seibu Lions for the rights to Daisuke Matsuzaka ($51.111 million). It’s less than Darren Dreifort received in his five-year, $55 million deal with the Dodgers signed after 2000. He was 39-45 at that point and 9-15 from then on. It’s a small fraction of the $124 million that Mike Hampton has received while racking up 148 career wins.
The Red Sox have been accused of paying too much attention to the bottom line during Theo Epstein’s regime, but in this case, they appear to be rewarding a player whose loyalty has left him with a smaller wallet than he would have had otherwise. No, Wakefield was never a candidate for a $50 million deal — there’s just too much suspicion about that knuckler — but he should have been making at least $7 million-$8 million per year in his upper-30s. To give him some added security now was a nice gesture.

Mets owners get some breathing room on their Bernie Madoff settlement payments

New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon stands on the field before baseball's Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Monday, Oct. 12, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Associated Press
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For years the central fact of life of the New York Mets has been that their owners, the Wilpon family and Saul Katz, lost a ton of money after investing it with friend and business partner Bernard Madoff, perpetrator of the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. It has hampered their payroll and led to huge amounts of borrowing and restructuring that, before last year’s pennant run, seemed like it’d be a millstone on the Mets competitive prospects for years to come.

In addition to losing money, it was later determined that Katz and the Wilpons unfairly gained in some other respects and thus they ended up having their phony earnings clawed back via a settlement with the trustee managing the fallout of the Madoff scandal.  The upshot: the Wilpons and Katz, in addition to their losses, were ordered to pay nearly $60 million dollars back, half payable this week, half payable next year. That’s a lot of money for anyone to fork over and this week’s payment loomed large.

Now, however, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports that the Wilpons and Katz will get some breathing room. Specifically, they have modified their agreement with the trustee and some of the owed money has been deferred. Instead of some $29 million payable this week, they will only have to pay $16 million. The remainder will be paid in four installments — from 2017 through 2020 — with an interest rate of 3.5 percent on the unpaid balance, Rubin says.

Now, there obviously was no promise that the $13 million saved this week be invested in the baseball team, but it’s probably a good thing overall for the Mets if their owners’ debt payments are reduced a bit.

Mike Napoli hit a homer for a fan with cancer

CLEVELAND, OH -  MAY 30: Mike Napoli #26 of the Cleveland Indians rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run during the sixth inning against the Texas Rangers at Progressive Field on May 30, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Last night a fan named Kathi Heintzelman showed up at Progressive Field in Cleveland with a sign asking Indians first baseman Mike Napoli to hit a home run for her and to give her a hug. But there was a reason beyond her love for Mike Napoli. She’s starting chemotherapy today and the hug and homer would be a nice thing.  Hard to disagree with that, even if everyone knows that ballplayers can’t hit homers on demand.

Well, most players can’t. Mike Napoli did the easy part before the game, giving her a hug. Then in the sixth inning, he went yard:

 

Whether you believe that such things can be fated or if you merely acknowledge that Heintzelman asked Napoli for a homer at a good time — he’s on a hot streak right now and has hit bombs in four of his last 11 games — it’s a great story.

 

The Twins recall Byron Buxton

Byron Buxton
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Byron Buxton has been recalled from Triple-A Rochester by the Twins.

Buxton will replace Danny Santana, who was placed on the disabled list following a hamstring injury. But the bigger picture here is that Buxton will get a fresh go-around to show that he is the future of the Twins like so many assume he will be. The 22-year-old hasn’t hit so far in the majors, but he batted .336/.403/.603 with six homers, four steals, and a 26/11 K/BB ratio over 129 plate appearances after his demotion to Triple-A last month.

At this point the Twins, who stink on ice, need to just put their top young player in the game and let him learn to swim at the big league level rather than try to squeak out a few extra relatively meaningless wins with guys who won’t be part of the next contending Twins team.

92-year-old World War II vet throws a nifty ceremonial first pitch

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Think of how many bad ceremonial first pitches you’ve seen. From the worm burners from local business owners and pillars of the community at minor league games to ex-big leaguers who obviously haven’t picked up a ball since they retired to the famous celebrity ones that go viral the next day, there are probably a lot more bad first pitches out there than good ones.

But when the good ones come, they’re really enjoyable. And few are more enjoyable than the one which preceded yesterday’s Padres-Mariners game in Seattle. The pitcher: Burke Waldron, a 92-year-old veteran of World War II. He did it in his dress whites. He ran out onto the field beforehand. And though his catcher didn’t set up the full 60 feet, six inches away from where Waldron threw it, it was still a spiffy pitch. Way better than most: