Nationals sign Ivan Rodriguez to head-scratcher of a two-year deal

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Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports reports that the Nationals and Ivan Rodriguez have agreed to a two-year, $6 million contract. To which I say … huh?
Rodriguez is not without value despite declining significantly in recent years, but committing to him for two seasons seems crazy given that he’s 38 years old and hit .249/.280/.384 in 2009. He managed just a one-year, $1.5 million deal as a free agent last offseason and had arguably the worst season of his career, so suddenly now he’s worth four times as much for twice long?
And then there’s the fact that the Nationals have a good young catcher in Jesus Flores, who despite being a question mark for the start of 2010 thanks to shoulder surgery is a superior player and still just 25 years old. Between the unlikelihood that they’ll be anywhere close to contenders in 2010 or perhaps even 2011 and Flores’ presence Washington seems like one of the least sensible destinations for Rodriguez.
Perhaps the Nationals still have faith in Flores as the long-term answer behind the plate and are merely bringing Rodriguez in to be a backup, in which case the question becomes why a non-contender needs to pay $3 million per season for a 38-year-old backup catcher. And if instead they’re planning to hand Rodriguez the starting job while either benching or trading Flores … well, I’ll give general manager Mike Rizzo the benefit of the doubt and assume that he’s not completely crazy. For now at least.

Must-Click Link: Remembering Eddie Grant the first major leaguer to die in combat

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As you get ready for Memorial Day weekend and whatever it entails for you and yours, take some time to read an excellent article from Mike Bates over at The Hardball Times.

The article is about Eddie Grant. You probably never heard of him. He was a journeyman infielder — often a backup — from 1905 through 1915. If you have heard of him, it was likely not for his baseball exploits, however: it was because he was the first active baseball player to die in combat, killed in the Battle of the Argonne Forest in October 1915.

Michael tells us about more than Grant’s death, however. He provides a great overview of his life and career. And notes that Grant didn’t even have to go to war if he didn’t want to. He was 34, had the chance to coach or manage and had a law degree and the potential to make a lot of money following his baseball career. He volunteered, however, for both patriotic and personal reasons. And it cost him his life.

Must-read stuff indeed. Especially this weekend.

The Indians are unveiling a Frank Robinson statue on Sunday

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The Cleveland Indians will unveil a Frank Robinson statue at Progressive Field on Saturday.

Robinson’s tenure in Cleveland was not long, but it was historic. On April 8, 1975, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history. He was a player-manager. One of the last ones, in fact. He spent two years in that role and then a third year — a partial year anyway — as a manager only. Robinson would go on to manage the Giants, Orioles and the Expos/Nationals, compiling a career record of 1065-1176 in 16 seasons. He is now a top MLB executive.

Robinson was, of course, a Hall of Fame player as well, lodging 21 seasons for the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels and Indians. He won two MVP awards and hit for the Triple Crown in 1966. Overall he hit 586 home runs – 10th all time – and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. For an inner-circle Hall of Famer with that kind of resume he is still, strangely enough, underrated. I guess that happens when your contemporaries are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.

Anyway, congrats to Frank Robinson for yet another well-deserved honor in a career full of them.