Billy Wagner to retire after 2010

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Wagner Braves.jpgBilly Wagner told manager Bobby Cox that he intends to retire at the end of the season, reports Carroll Rogers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The Braves inked the 38-year-old southpaw to a one-year, $7 million contract over the winter. The deal includes a vesting option for 2011, something Wagner says the Braves simply “threw in.”

“I wanted a chance at 400, and that’s great,” Wagner said. “If it
happens this year, great, if not, then so be it. Just try to make this
one of those years to really enjoy and have a good time and maybe win a
championship along the way. Plus Bobby, he’s always meant a lot to me,
growing up. To play my final year and him being his final year – it was
the right timing.”

Wagner starts Friday’s action with 386 career saves — currently sixth all-time. Barring injury, he should be a lock for 400 saves, although it should be mentioned that he has only had two save chances in April, of which he is 1-for-2.

When looking at Wagner’s place in history, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better left-handed relief pitcher. Wagner boasts a 2.39 ERA and 1.01 WHIP during his 16-year career, averaging an eye-popping 11.8 K/9. I guess you could throw John Franco, Sparky Lyle, Jesse Orosco and former Tigers’ left-hander John Hiller in the discussion, but Wagner sits at the top of my ballot.

Javier Baez: “This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it.”

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Infielder Javier Baez is back in camp with the Cubs after helping Puerto Rico to a second-place finish in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He was the focal point of what was, to many, the most memorable play of the entire tournament: Baez pointed at catcher Yadier Molina, who was attempting to throw out a would-be base-stealer, before applying the tag for the final out of the eighth inning.

While Baez didn’t receive much criticism for his theatrics, aside from an insignificant handful of spoilsports, he is one of the players who most exemplifies the emotional, celebratory culture that foreign players bring to Major League Baseball. U.S. (and Tigers) second baseman Ian Kinsler is on the other side of that spectrum, as he said prior to the WBC final that he hopes kids mimic the solemn way U.S. players play the game rather than the emotional, passionate way players from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic play the game.

Baez isn’t about to apologize for the way he and his teammates play the game. Via CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney, Baez said, “We do a great job playing and having fun out there. That’s what it’s all about. This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it. but, you know, everybody’s got their style and their talent. I have a lot of fun.”

He continued, “It’s their choice to look at how we play, how excited we get. To us, it’s really huge what we did, even though we didn’t win. All of Puerto Rico got really together. We were going through a hard time over there and everything got fixed up for at least three weeks. Hopefully, they keep it like that.”

Mike Trout proposes change to spring training umpiring

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Angels outfielder Mike Trout came up with an idea that would allow less experienced umpires an opportunity to call some major league spring training action. As ESPN’s Buster Olney reports, Trout thinks the veteran umpires should only call five or six innings as they get back into regular season shape. The rest of the innings could be called by minor league umpires.

According to Olney, baseball officials loved Trout’s idea when they heard about it last week. One official said, “It makes a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons.” Another said, “That’s Trout — he’s always paying attention to stuff beyond what he’s doing.”

Of course, I have to agree that the suggestion is a great one. As Olney notes, the turnover rate for umpires every year is relatively low, so younger, less-experienced umpires have few opportunities to get a feel for what it’s like calling major league action. Even beyond the actual interpretation of the rules, interacting with big league personalities would also be helpful for minor league umpires.