Greetings from Spring Training

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Welcome to spring training.jpgMy plane landed in Miami on Saturday morning and after lunch and some sightseeing with a mystery person I’ll tell you about later, I booked it up I-95 to Port St. Lucie, or as it may be more aptly called, Long Island South. Yes, there are a few Mets fans here.

Tradition Field and the Mets’ spring training complex is not really in Port St. Lucie proper. Oh, that may be the address, but it’s actually the anchor for St. Lucie West, a “Master Planned Community,” according to the signage, which may represent the first time in recorded history that the Mets have been so closely associated with a master plan.

St. Lucie West is pretty nice if you’re into meticulously landscaped boulevards, the worst timed traffic lights on the eastern seaboard and strip malls so tucked away and hidden that it makes finding the Taco Bell an unnecessarily difficult ordeal.  I’m sure there’s nice golf in the area, however.  Other notable observations upon my arrival:

  • My hotel is about a half mile from Tradition Field. The people behind the counter all wear Mets jerseys, which is pretty cool;
  • My doctor recommended that I take extra good care of myself while on assignment, so I stopped at a liquor store Saturday night to stock up on some Kentucky medicine. Behind the counter was the friendliest and least discreet clerk I’ve ever met. He asked me if I was in town for baseball and I said yes. He then told me that Mets pitcher John Maine had been in there a half hour earlier, came up to the counter with a bottle of Grey Goose and was getting ready to pay for it when a Mets coach walked in. Maine and the coach talked for a few minutes, and then Maine walked out, forgetting to buy his vodka.  I got this mental image of him getting back to whatever social gathering he was attending and someone asking him where the booze was, only to have Maine go “Ummm, oh. Man.”
  • I woke up yesterday morning to get my continental breakfast on, and in the lobby was a young woman in black spandex pants, Mets fleece and Mets cap yelling at one of the desk clerks.  Seems she left her car someplace the night before — obviously not at Maine’s party, as there was no booze there — and needed to get a cab to go and pick it up. When told it would be 45 minutes before a car could get out there, she yelled “I’m from New York and this sh– doesn’t fly!!  I live an HOUR outside of Manhattan, and I can get a car to my house faster than that!”  I suppose she has a point about 45 minutes being a long time to wait, but I’ve found that one generally doesn’t get what one wants in this world by telling people that you come from someplace better and more important than they do.

Oh yeah, I was in Port St. Lucie for some baseball too.  More on that in a bit.  I think it’s going to be a fun week.

Edwin Encarnacion: “I think [the Blue Jays] got too hasty in making their decision.”

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 19:  Edwin Encarnacion #10 of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts in the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians during game five of the American League Championship Series at Rogers Centre on October 19, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images
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1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion signed a three-year, $60 million contract with the Indians early last month. The 34-year-old had spent the last seven and a half seasons with the Blue Jays, but his future elsewhere appeared to be written on the wall when the Jays signed Kendrys Morales in November to essentially occupy Encarnacion’s role.

Encarnacion spoke about testing free agency for the first time in his career and the situation that led to him leaving Toronto for Cleveland. Via Jorge L. Ortiz of USA TODAY:

“Toronto was always my first option, but I had never been a free agent, and anybody who gets to free agency wants to find out what’s out there,’’ he said. “I think they got too hasty in making their decision, but now I’m with Cleveland and I’m happy to be here.’’

Encarnacion last season hit .263/.357/.529 with 42 home runs and an AL-best 127 RBI. He’s now on the team that defeated his Blue Jays in the ALCS to advance to the World Series. Encarnacion effectively replaces Mike Napoli, who returned to the Rangers.

Sammy Sosa compares himself to Jesus Christ

Sammy Sosa
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I’m on record saying that Sammy Sosa has been rather hosed by baseball history.

The guy did amazing things. Unheard-of things. He was truly astounding at this peak and was incredibly important to both his franchise and Major League Baseball as a whole. His repayment: he’s a pariah. His club won’t claim him and his greatness, by any measure, has not just been overlooked but denied by most who even bother to consider him.

Yes, he had PED associations, but they were extraordinarily vague ones. He’s in the same boat as David Ortiz as far as documented PED evidence against him, but Ortiz will be a first ballot Hall of Famer while Sosa barely clings to the ballot. He hit homers at the same cartoonish rate as Mark McGwire, but while Big Mac has been embraced by baseball and has coached for years, Sosa can’t get into Wrigley Field unless he buys a ticket and even then the Cubs might try to hustle him out of sight. The man has been treated poorly by any measure.

Yet, it’s still possible to overstate the case. Like Sosa did in this interview with Chuck Wasserstrom:

It’s like Jesus Christ when he came to Jerusalem,” Sosa told chuckbloggerstrom.com. “Everybody thought Jesus Christ was a witch (laughing) — and he was our savior. So if they talk (bleep) about Jesus Christ, what about me? Are you kidding me?”

At least he was basically joking about it. Still, it’s a totally unfair and almost offensive comparison.

I mean, anyone who watched Sosa’s career knows that he had trouble laying off breaking stuff low and away. In contrast . . .