Programming Note: CTB to become HardballTalk

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Remember how Philip Morris changed its name to Altria so people wouldn’t always be reminded of the fact that they sell things that give you cancer? And how ValueJet changed its name to AirTran so people wouldn’t always be reminded of all of those people who died in that crash?  And how Datsun changed its name to Nissan because, well, I’m not sure about why they did that one, but remember when it happened?

Well, we’re doing the opposite: we’re changing the name of this concern to foster some positive associations: some time this week we’ll be switching from Circling the Bases to HardballTalk.

I know there are a lot of people out there who hate change — I’m usually one of them — but we’re doing this for a couple of reasons. Most obviously — and I’m not going to b.s. you about it — is the branding thing. Our brother blog ProFootballTalk is one of the most popular and successful things going in sports media and we’d be nuts not to try and leach off of some of Florio’s redonkulous traffic.

Another reason: starting today the estimable Kurt Helin, late of Forum Blue and Gold joins the NBC Family to launch ProBasketballTalk (which I highly recommend that you start reading on a daily basis). By changing our name to HardballTalk we’re rocking the thematic consistency across the major sports.

Those of you who have read me for a long time have known me to snark about branding. And I’ll still snark at it because branding is kind of a silly concept on some level.  I mean, just because you give something a new name doesn’t change what it is.  This, however, is different.

Why? Because here the names flow from the concept, not vice-versa.  In launching CTB last April and bringing PFT over a month or two later, NBC really set out to change the way sports are done online.  On every other major media site the blogging and commentary takes backseat to the wire reports and the overpriced columnists and is buried in the mix.  Here the conversation — the “talk” if you will — is what leads.  Florio, Helin and all of the rest of us around here know that you’re big boys and girls and rather than have someone declare the news to you from on high, you can handle it being put out there and hashed through immediately. Which allows you to start hashing thorough it too, in as close to real time as possible.

Put differently, when Jon Heyman tells you something, he expects you to take his word for it. When I tell you something, I hope, and have come to expect, that you’ll tell me if I’m full of baloney within five minutes. If I am, I’ll rethink and then you will and then we’ll fight about it and then we’ll laugh about it and maybe we’ll all have learned a little bit or, at the very least wasted some time. It’s a conversation. We’re just talking here. About baseball. The name, in other words, fits.

If none of that convinces you just ask yourself: What’s “Circling the Bases?” It is nor hand nor foot nor arm nor face nor any other part belonging to a blog. That which we call CTB by any other name would smell as sweet.  The content isn’t changing. Just the name. And I think we can all deal with it.

Hyun-Jin Ryu will open season in Dodgers’ rotation

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Dodgers manager Dave Roberts announced on Monday that Hyun-Jin Ryu will open the regular season in the starting rotation, MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick reports.

Ryu, 30, missed the entire 2015 season and made only one start last season due to shoulder and elbow injuries. The lefty has looked solid in three spring appearances, however, yielding a lone run on five hits and a walk with eight strikeouts in nine innings.

With Scott Kazmir likely to begin the season on the disabled list, that leaves Alex Wood and Brandon McCarthy to battle it out for the fifth spot in the Dodgers’ rotation.

Jorge Soler diagnosed with strained oblique, Opening Day in doubt

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Royals outfielder Jorge Soler has been diagnosed with a strained oblique, making it likely that he begins the regular season on the disabled list, Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star reports.

The Royals acquired Soler from the Cubs in December in exchange for reliever Wade Davis. Over parts of three seasons with the Cubs, Soler hit .258/.328/.434 with 27 home runs and 98 RBI in 765 plate appearances.

When he’s healthy, Soler is expected to find himself in the Royals’ lineup as a right fielder and occasionally as a designated hitter.