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.

Phillies, Red Sox interested in Carlos Santana

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The Phillies and Red Sox appear intent on pursuing free agent first baseman Carlos Santana, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports. Santana rejected a one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Indians on Thursday and is expected to draw widespread interest on the market this winter. The Mets, Mariners, Angels and Indians could make a play for the infielder, though no serious offers have been made this early in the offseason.

Santana, 31, is coming off of a seven-year track with the Indians. He batted .259/.363/.455 with 23 home runs and 3.0 fWAR last season, making 2017 the fourth-most valuable year of his career to date. Although he was primarily stationed at first base over the last year, he could step back into a hybrid first base/DH role with the Red Sox, who are hurting for infield depth with Hanley Ramirez still working his way back from shoulder surgery.

As for Santana’s other suitors, the Mariners are far less likely to pursue a deal after trading for Ryon Healy last Wednesday. Neither the Mets nor the Phillies have a DH spot to offer the veteran infielder, and the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins appears to be blocking the way at first base. Then again, Santana may not find a more enticing offer outside of Cleveland, where Edwin Encarnacion might otherwise be the club’s best option at first base. During the GM meetings, Indians’ GM Mike Chernoff said he “love to have both [Santana and Jay Bruce] back” in 2018, but hasn’t backed up that love with any contract talks just yet.