I knew this day was coming since September. It actually came later than I thought it would, based on all we heard about his diagnosis. But neither its inevitability nor its delay softens my sorrow. Ernie Harwell has died at the age of 92.
I wrote this back in September, but it bears repeating: I was a nervous kid, afraid of the dark and afraid of going to sleep
myself. My parents let me turn on the radio at night as I went to bed
and the talk, rather than the music, made me feel better. The voice
that gave me the most comfort was Ernie Harwell’s voice on WJR, which I
latched onto before I even truly realized it was describing a baseball
Ernie put me to sleep most spring and summer nights for several years,
teaching me about baseball in the process. He also taught me that I
could enjoy it just as much if I could not actually see it, which I
can’t help but think is the reason why I enjoy writing up the “And That
Happened” recaps every day. I see very few of the games I
describe, but just because I don’t see them doesn’t mean that there
isn’t a story to be told. Information and flavor to be teased out.
Maybe you always have a thing for your first love, but I think I’m being
objective when I say that I have never encountered a better baseball
broadcaster than Ernie Harwell. How lucky that I had him putting me to
sleep when I was four years old as opposed to someone else. Would I
have even been a baseball fan if it was someone else’s voice on the
radio? I kinda doubt it.
Farwell, Ernie. Your like or equal will never be seen again.
Last week it was widely speculated that Shohei Otani, the highly-touted Japanese pitcher/designated hitter who stars for the Nippon Ham Fighters, would not come to the United States to play due to changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The upshot: the new CBA caps money available to international free agents under age 25 at $5-6 million and Otani, 22, would be worth way more than that, so why take the pay cut?
Now, however, Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that the Fighters are set to post Shotei Otani following the 2017 season. Passan says that his sources have told him that there are potential ways around the limit on spending for under-25 players like Shohei Otani and he links a Japanese article from Sponichi which says the Fighters would post him after the 2017 season.
It’d be interesting to see what that loophole is. Without knowing the exact terms of the CBA on this score it’s impossible to know, but one possibility is that there are different rules applicable to those with professional experience in other countries as opposed to amateur free agents.
Whatever the case, the notion that we could see Otani in the U.S. at age 23 or 24 is pretty exciting.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.