Ex-Ranger Blalock still without a taker

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blalock fielding.jpgWith Russell Branyan joining the Indians and Carlos Delgado down following another hip surgery, the first base market is finally just about bare. Jermaine Dye would give the position a try if asked and Cuban defector Jose Julio Ruiz is getting some attention, but Hank Blalock is the one experienced viable major league regular left available.
And Blalock is a viable regular. He did a horrible job of getting on base for the Rangers last year, but he delivered 25 homers in 462 at-bats. The problem is that he hasn’t been both healthy and productive since 2004, his age-23 season. In 2007, he posted a 901 OPS in 58 games. In 2008, it was an 846 OPS in 65 games. He was mostly healthy last year, but he came in at 736 in 123 games, nearly half of them spent at DH.
My feeling is that Blalock’s upside makes him worthy of more than just a minor league contract, though he probably won’t get one at this point. He has four 25-homer seasons to his credit, and he’s a lifetime .269/.329/.465 hitter. While he’d always previously taken advantage of the friendly hitting conditions in Arlington, he was actually far more productive on the road (.256/.308/.493) than at home (.213/.247/.427) last year.
Blalock’s best hope now might be Tampa Bay. The Rays lost out on both Johnny Damon and Branyan in their quest for one more bat. Blalock wouldn’t get much of an opportunity to play defense there, but he’d be nice to have around in case Pat Burrell fails to bounce back from his awful 2009.
The other Florida team has also displayed some interest, though the Marlins would view him as a fallback to Logan Morrison or Gaby Sanchez at first base. The Red Sox weighed Branyan and may consider Blalock as well on a minor league deal. However, he’d only be a candidate to make that team if a Mike Lowell trade gets done. I think the White Sox make more sense. Andruw Jones is currently their best option at DH.

Imagining Theo Epstein in politics

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“When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer.”

Or: “When Theo Epstein won World Series championships with the two most championship-starved franchises in baseball history, he got bored, and decided to run for the Senate or something.”

That latter bit is the premise of a Politico piece speculating that the Cubs president could go into politics one day. The story features an interview with former Obama chief strategist David Axlerod, who thinks Theo has what it takes. Mostly what he has is fame, popularity, good looks and money. No idea what his positions on issue are, but that other stuff goes a long way in politics these days.

Bonus: given what we just elected last fall, a guy who once had a little temper tantrum and dressed up in a gorilla suit is just as viable a candidate as anyone.

Another interestingly named player is promoted by the Pirates

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When you promote a player from the minors, the first and foremost consideration is whether or not he can help your ball club. But, assuming that’s taken care of, teams should really, really make it a priority to call up dudes with cool sounding names because it makes life more interesting for the rest of us.

The Pirates are doing that. The other night Dovydas Neverauskas made his big league debut. In addition to being the first Lithuanian born-and-raised player in major league history, it’s a solid, solid name. Now the Pirates are making another promotion: Gift Ngoepe.

Yep, Gift Ngoepe. He’s an infielder from South Africa, making the leap to the bigs due to David Freese‘s hamstring injury. Ngoepe, 27, was batting just .241/.308/.379 through 66 plate appearances this season with Triple-A Indianapolis, his ninth in the minors, so he’s not exactly a prospect. But man, that’s a killer name.

It’s also worth mentioning that Gift and Neverauskas were arrested together in a bar fight last August in Toledo, so there is already a good basis for some bonding here.

Good luck, Gift. Gift Ngoepe. Mr. Ngoepe. G-Ngo. Man, I could do this all day.