Normally if you get an unsolicited package in the mail from a group called “The National Ethnic Heritage Foundation in partnership with the Order of Sons of Italy in America,” you’re going to want someone else to open it. I got such a package today, but figuring that I have neither told anyone what I was thinking nor gone against the family recently, I figured I was pretty safe. And I’m glad I opened the package.
Inside: a baseball card set called “Italian American Baseball Heroes.” Rather than photos, the cards have oil portraits. More than just the obvious subjects — DiMaggio, Berra, Rizzuto — the cover just about every paisan who hurled or hit the horsehide. Don Mossi, as you can see to the right, was in there. So was Joe Pepitone. And Kevin Tapani and Bart Giamatti and Leo Mazzone and a bunch of other dudes. I’ve never seen a Leo Mazzone card. Guess he didn’t stop rocking long enough for anyone to take his picture. There are 100 cards in the set. For every DiMaggio there’s like, five Tom Pagnozzi-level guys, including Pagnozzi. The randomness of seeing middlin-at-best players given the same reverent treatment as DiMaggio and Berra is what I love the most about the set. You can see all of them here.
I’m assuming they were sent to me so that I’d promote them. And normally I wouldn’t. I don’t do payola. This is a professional outfit here, and if you want to get advertising, you have to pay Mr. and Mrs. NBC to do it. These cards, however are (a) kind of adorably ridiculous, so I want more people to know about them in the same way Joe Posnanski wants people to know about Snuggies; and (b) they aren’t being sold commercially. As best I can gather, you can get them here or here in exchange for a donation of some type.
And you can do that if you want to or not. I don’t care, and I don’t endorse. I just want people to know that someone spent some quality time doing an oil painting of Don Mossi that going forward, will be prominently displayed on my desk.
In light of the Astros’ deal for veteran designated hitter Carlos Beltran on Saturday, the Yankees are thought to be intensifying their pursuit of free agent Edwin Encarnacion, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. The Yankees never made an official offer to Beltran, but remain in need of a DH/first baseman to give them a little more power outside of a Tyler Austin–Greg Bird combo in 2017.
The Red Sox, on the other hand, are reportedly withdrawing their interest when it comes to the Encarnacion sweepstakes. According to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, they will look for a hitter to beef up their lineup without taking a “big plunge” on the 34-year-old.
Encarnacion enjoyed another All-Star run with the Blue Jays in 2016, hitting at a .263/.357/.529 clip with 42 homers and a league-leading 127 RBI in 702 PA. He’s expected to command a significant contract in free agency, and agent Paul Kinzer said that a potential deal is unlikely to be finalized before the Winter Meetings as Encarnacion is not close to agreeing to any offer. Interested teams include the Blue Jays and the Astros, though Beltran’s signing appears to have effectively taken Houston out of the running for the slugger.
The Nationals are trying to go big this offseason, and FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal notes that they are still in trade talks for White Sox’ left-hander Chris Sale and Pirates’ center fielder Andrew McCutchen. Both players figure to command a big return, as Sale delivered another Cy Young-worthy performance in 2016 and, despite a downturn in his production rate, McCutchen is still one of the more coveted sluggers in the National League.
In 2016, Sale led the league in complete games, with six, and turned in a 3.34 ERA and 5.2 fWAR in 226 2/3 innings. While teams have been sniffing around the White Sox’ ace since the trade deadline, the club is expected to maintain a high asking price — so high, said FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, that it may keep the left-hander in Chicago for the foreseeable future.
According to Heyman, four other teams are reportedly in the mix for Sale, including the Red Sox, Astros, Rangers, and Braves, though parts of Rosenthal’s tweet hinted that the Red Sox were maintaining their interest in hopes of striking a more affordable deal. Should the Nationals pursue a deal for Sale, it’s likely that they’d have to move shortstop/center fielder Trea Turner, which they appear reluctant to do.
McCutchen, meanwhile, is also drawing interest around the league after batting .256/.336/.430 with 24 home runs in 675 PA during 2016. He didn’t appear to lose much power in his eighth season with the Pirates, but took considerably fewer walks and struck out at a career-high clip.
The Nationals were said to be in the lead for McCutchen on Thursday, and there was some expectation that the club would wrap up a trade for the center fielder by the non-tender deadline on Friday. FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi pointed out that the Rangers were also talking to the Pirates, however, and no deal has come to fruition as of yet.