Meeting Old Gator

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Gator Car.JPGAnyone who spends any time in the comments around here knows Old Gator.  He of the “Feesh,” “Macondo,” and the “horse meat and Velveeta sandwiches.”  I know he’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but as commenters go I love him. He’s smart. He stirs up trouble. He throws bombs once in a while.  All kinds of great fun.  He also lives in Miami, so we arranged to meet up when I landed on Saturday.

Gator suggested a Cuban place near Little Havana. Good suggestion!  I had the ropa vieja and picked from a bunch of appetizers he ordered in Spanish.  I sometimes like to think that I can roughly follow people speaking Spanish, but I really can’t. At least when Cuban accents are involved and the Spanish speakers in question aren’t slowing it down for the dumb people from Ohio who aren’t exposed to it every day.  First thing Gator said to me when I sat down? “How’s it feel being in a foreign land?”  My answer: I like it, actually. At the risk of sounding all free-to-be-you-and-me about it, anyplace that doesn’t have some freakin’ diversity to it gets pretty boring pretty fast.  I don’t think I’d live in Little Havana if I moved to Miami some day, but I like that it’s there and lament just how homogeneous the Midwest can be.

After a couple hours of coffee, baseball talk, and Gator telling me three truly, truly awesome jokes that would get me fired in five seconds if I shared them here, I followed him a couple of miles east into the heart of Little Havana, where he wanted to show me something (the above pic is what it looks like to follow Old Gator through traffic).  The site where Jeffrey Loria’s monument to himself — the new Marlins’ ballpark — is being built.

Marlins ballpark construction.jpgThe overwhelming impression I got from it?  If anyone actually shows up to that ballpark, the traffic is going to be a nightmare.  It’s really right in the middle of — or at least on the edge of — a neighborhood consisting of small blocks, side streets, houses and two-story apartment buildings. Unlike other neighborhood ballparks like Yankee Stadium and Wrigley Field, there is no mass transit to speak of.  There’s a freeway that runs nearby, but it’s an elevated affair, with little, curvy offramps that are not at all prepared to deal with heavy traffic flow.  Yes, they used to play football games there — it’s on the site of the old Orange Bowl — but there’s a big difference between throwing tens of thousands of cars into the area eight or ten times a year on the weekend and doing so 81 times a year any day of the week.  If they have a plan to deal with all that traffic, god love ’em, but it’s really hard to picture it from the way things look right now.

After scoping the construction site Gator and I sat in his car for a while and shot the breeze about baseball.  While a Feesh fan now, he was a Mets guy going back to the 60s, and had season tickets in Shea Stadium for years. He saw Willie Mays there in 1973. He watched Tom Seaver pitch and watched him get shipped out of town. He watched the ball go through Bill Buckner’s legs from a couple dozen yards away.  For all of Gator’s tangents and diversions in the comments section, the man is a baseball fan through and through, and a passionate and knowledgeable one at that.

After a bit we went our separate ways, as I had to get on the freeway up to Port St. Lucie. But before I left, he gave me two cds — the Cowboy Junkies’ “Pale Sun and Crescent Moon,” and an album called “Discount Fireworks” by a group called Over the Rhine, which, while they’re from Ohio too, I’ve never heard of (Gator was going to see them live that night).  He also gave me two books: a collection of criticism he edited about both the novel and the movie “No Country for Old Men” — Gator is more or less our nation’s foremost Cormac McCarthy expert — and a book called “Liberty Street: Encounters at Ground Zero” by Peter Josyph, who happens to be a friend of Gator’s.  I look forward to reading them both.

Two lessons here. First, it’s really awesome meeting readers, so maybe we’ll have to do some HBT meet-ups at some point. Second, while the awesomeness of meeting readers doesn’t depend on them giving me gifts, I ain’t gonna sneeze at ’em either.

With that my spring training dispatches are done for the day. Aaron and the guys will be checking in with other baseball news as usual, of course, but I have to get on the road to Fort Meyers, where I’ll be catching the Twins on Tuesday and the Red Sox on Wednesday.

Later Gators. 

Report: Blue Jays to acquire Melvin Upton, Jr. from the Padres

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - JULY 2:  Melvin Upton Jr. #2 of the San Diego Padres hits a walk-off solo home run during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the New York Yankees at PETCO Park on July 2, 2016 in San Diego, California. The Padres won 2-1. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
Denis Poroy/Getty Images
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Update (10:12 AM EDT): Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball reports the Padres will receive pitcher Hansel Rodriguez from the Blue Jays. Rodriguez is rated as the Jays’ 18th-best prospect by MLB Pipeline. The Jays signed Rodriguez out of the Dominican Republic for $330,000 in February 2014. He’s spent the 2016 season with the Bluefield Blue Jays in rookie ball, compiling a 3.06 ERA with a 26/11 K/BB ratio in 32 1/3 innings over six starts.

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The Padres and Blue Jays have agreed on a trade involving outfielder Melvin Upton, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported on Tuesday morning. The Jays will get Upton and the Padres will receive a prospect from Single-A. The financial details are not yet known, but Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune says the Padres are expected to cover a significant portion of his remaining contract. The trade is likely to be finalized on Tuesday.

The two teams opened up a three-game series in Toronto on Monday, so Upton won’t have to go very far to join his new team. The Jays won 4-2 on Monday.

Upton, 31, has had another solid season for the Padres, batting .256/.304/.439 with 16 home runs, 45 RBI, 46 runs scored, and 20 stolen bases in 374 plate appearances. He’s owed the remainder of his $15.45 million salary for the 2016 season and $16.45 million next season, the final year of his five-year contract.

Upton will provide some outfield depth for the Jays, who currently only have Ezequiel Carrera as a full-time back-up outfielder behind Michael Saunders, Kevin Pillar, and Jose Bautista. Bautista was activated from the disabled list on Monday, so Upton could cover right field in the event that Bautista exacerbates his toe injury.

With Upton leaving San Diego, Alex Dickerson is likely to see full-time work in left field in the short term. Prospects Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot could be called up at some point this season as well.

Settling the Scores: Monday’s results

CHICAGO, IL - JULY 25:  Tyler Saladino #18 of the Chicago White Sox celebrates after getting the game-winning hit, a single in the 9th inning, against the Chicago Cubs at U.S. Cellular Field on July 25, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The White Sox defeated the Cubs 5-4.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
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The White Sox got their third consecutive win in walk-off fashion on Monday, downing the Cubs 5-4 in the opening game of a short two-game series at U.S. Cellular Field. On Sunday, the White Sox and Tigers played two, sort of. They finished a suspended game from Saturday, which ended with an Adam Eaton walk-off RBI single in the ninth inning to give the White Sox a 4-3 victory over the Tigers. Later that day, Melky Cabrera walked the Pale Hose off on another RBI single, this time giving his team a 5-4 margin of victory.

In Monday night’s game, the White Sox took a 4-0 lead in the seventh inning with third baseman Todd Frazier providing the bulk of the offense with a three-run home run off of Jake Arrieta in the sixth inning. But starter Miguel Gonzalez tired in the seventh, forking up a two-run home run to Javier Baez. He would exit with two outs in the frame. In the ninth, Matt Albers gave up a double and two singles, leading to one run for the Cubs. Dan Jennings came in and immediately let one of his inherited runners score on an Anthony Rizzo single, tying the game at 4-4.

In the bottom of the ninth, new Cubs acquisition Mike Montgomery took the hill. J.B. Shuck led off with a line drive single to center. He advanced to second base on a Dioner Navarro sacrifice bunt, and promptly scored the winning run on a Tyler Saladino walk-off RBI single.

The White Sox had lost eight of their previous nine games prior to their recent three-game walk-off winning streak. They’re now 49-50, eight games out of first place as they approach the August 1 non-waiver trade deadline.

Box scores.

Cardinals, Mets [Postponed]
Tigers 4, Red Sox 2
Rangers 7, Athletics 6
Phillies 4, Marlins 0
Yankees 2, Astros 1
Brewers 7, Diamondbacks 2
Angles 6, Royals 2
Reds 7, Giants 5
Orioles 3, Rockies 2 (10 innings)
Blue Jays 4, Padres 2
White Sox 5, Cubs 4