Jayson Stark thinks that closers don’t already get enough phony glory due to their often meaningless, personalized stat, so he proposes a special award just for them:
It’s time for the Baseball Writers’ Association of America to establish
a new award for relief pitchers. And if it were up to us, we’d call it
the Jerome Holtzman Award, in honor of the late, great Chicago
baseball-writing legend who invented the modern save rule
Stark’s argument in favor of it basically comes down to his belief that closers are somehow the “forgotten men” during awards season and that we need something special to recognize their accomplishments.
I actually think we have the opposite problem: because they have a special stat open only to them, the value of the closer has become so artificially inflated, both in financial terms and in terms of perceived value to winning ballgames, that their very existence has altered traditional baseball strategy.
As so many others have noted, modern managers routinely hold their best relievers out of the highest leverage situations because someone — maybe Tony La Russa — decided that it’s more important to put them in the game when there are no base runners and they have a three-run lead. Creating some new award to honor that interesting but by no means critical role would only make this worse.
Neat idea, Jayson, but as far as January-doldrum conversation starters go, I’ll take a half dozen more steroid arguments.
With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.
For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.
Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.
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.