Harden picks odd spot to rebuild his value

Leave a comment

As our own Craig Calcaterra reported earlier, Rich Harden is joining the Rangers on a one-year, $7.5 million deal with an $11.5 million option for 2010.
The price seems about right, but the destination is still rather surprising. It’s hard to imagine that there weren’t going to be teams willing to present similar, if not superior, offers. And if Harden’s goal is to land a big multiyear deal at some point, it would have been easier to accomplish had he been pitching in Safeco or just about any National League park. Or pitching for the Red Sox or Yankees would have gained him more exposure and perhaps have allowed him to showcase himself in the postseason.
Pitching in Texas is famously difficult, of course. The ballpark is as hitter friendly as any in the American League, and the heat is well known for wearing players down over the course of a 162-game season. In the last dozen years, the Rangers have had three pitchers qualify for the ERA title and finish under 4.00:
Kevin Millwood – 3.67 ERA in 2009
Kenny Rogers – 3.46 ERA in 2005
Kenny Rogers – 3.84 ERA in 2002
That’s not to say teams won’t necessarily recognize that Harden has had a successful season if he comes in at 4.20 in 2010. But given that there was a significant market for his services, he may well have been better off heading elsewhere.

Javier Baez: “This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it.”

Denis Poroy/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Infielder Javier Baez is back in camp with the Cubs after helping Puerto Rico to a second-place finish in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He was the focal point of what was, to many, the most memorable play of the entire tournament: Baez pointed at catcher Yadier Molina, who was attempting to throw out a would-be base-stealer, before applying the tag for the final out of the eighth inning.

While Baez didn’t receive much criticism for his theatrics, aside from an insignificant handful of spoilsports, he is one of the players who most exemplifies the emotional, celebratory culture that foreign players bring to Major League Baseball. U.S. (and Tigers) second baseman Ian Kinsler is on the other side of that spectrum, as he said prior to the WBC final that he hopes kids mimic the solemn way U.S. players play the game rather than the emotional, passionate way players from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic play the game.

Baez isn’t about to apologize for the way he and his teammates play the game. Via CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney, Baez said, “We do a great job playing and having fun out there. That’s what it’s all about. This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it. but, you know, everybody’s got their style and their talent. I have a lot of fun.”

He continued, “It’s their choice to look at how we play, how excited we get. To us, it’s really huge what we did, even though we didn’t win. All of Puerto Rico got really together. We were going through a hard time over there and everything got fixed up for at least three weeks. Hopefully, they keep it like that.”

Mike Trout proposes change to spring training umpiring

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
3 Comments

Angels outfielder Mike Trout came up with an idea that would allow less experienced umpires an opportunity to call some major league spring training action. As ESPN’s Buster Olney reports, Trout thinks the veteran umpires should only call five or six innings as they get back into regular season shape. The rest of the innings could be called by minor league umpires.

According to Olney, baseball officials loved Trout’s idea when they heard about it last week. One official said, “It makes a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons.” Another said, “That’s Trout — he’s always paying attention to stuff beyond what he’s doing.”

Of course, I have to agree that the suggestion is a great one. As Olney notes, the turnover rate for umpires every year is relatively low, so younger, less-experienced umpires have few opportunities to get a feel for what it’s like calling major league action. Even beyond the actual interpretation of the rules, interacting with big league personalities would also be helpful for minor league umpires.