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.
Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.
Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.
The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.
Comments from an anonymous team official suggest that Rangers right-hander Tyson Ross will not be expected to join the rotation until May or June, per a report from Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Both Ross and GM Jon Daniels favor a conservative approach for the 29-year-old as he works his way back up to full health after undergoing surgery last October to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome.
The delay is reportedly being implemented so that Ross will be have the strength and stamina to contribute during the stretch run. Per Daniels:
We would rather err on a little extra time up front with the goal being to finish strong, pitching in big spots, meaningful games down the stretch and hopefully past 162.
Ross signed a one-year deal with the team on Thursday after pitching through an injury-riddled season with the Padres in 2016. If all goes according to plan, he’ll slot into a rotation that includes Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels, Andrew Cashner and Martin Perez. The Rangers are expected to narrow down their fifth starter alternatives in spring training.