“No morning access since it was media training for the Orioles players. There goes all my good quotes for the season.”
— MLB.com beat writer Brittany Ghiroli from Orioles camp this morning.
Brittany is being funny here, but there’s a lot of truth to that. We live in an age now where controlling the message and sanding off all the rough edges is part of doing business for ballplayers and the teams that employ them. As the legendary Pat Jordan wrote in his outrageously good essay on the subject a couple of years ago:
Writers and fans alike no longer get to know the object of their
affections in a way they did years ago. Athletes see us as their
adversaries, not as allies in their achievements. They are as much
celebrities as rock stars and Hollywood actors are. They live insular
lives behind a wall of publicists, agents, and lawyers. They don’t
interact with fans or writers. They mingle only with other celebrities
at Vegas boxing matches, South Beach nightclubs, and celebrity golf
events, all behind red-velvet VIP ropes. We can only gawk at them as if
at an exotic, endangered species at a zoo.
Not that I don’t understand why athletes approach things this way these days. Our media culture has become insatiable. Whereas once upon a time people might be content to accept a handful of good Jordan-esque player profiles a year we want so much more now. We’re obsessed on who’s dating who, who’s wearing what, who’s drinking what and that’s just the beginning. If I was a ballplayer I’d protect my privacy with extreme vigilance.
Still, it saddens me that we’re very, very unlikely to read a story about, say, Jon Lester, like the one Jordan tells about Tom Seaver:
Then I drove him to Shea Stadium in a rainstorm in my old Corvette with
the T-top that leaked. Water dripped on Tom’s forehead. He looked up
and said, “Why don’t you buy a Porsche?” I said, “Because I’m not Tom
Seaver.” Water dripped on his head. He laughed. “That’s a f***ing
Nowadays two publicists and a lawyer would call Jordan and ask him to scrub that prior to publication. So it goes.
Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.
Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.
Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.
Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.
The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.
Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.
Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.
The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.
Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.
Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.
Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.