Matt Stroup over at Universal Sports has noted that sprinter Usain Bolt has some conflicting baseball loyalties. Recently he was spotted wearing a Red Sox cap. Yesterday, he had on a Braves cap. Jamaica doesn’t have a team so all is forgiven, but the image of the fastest man on the planet in a Braves cap did give me a quick, cheap thrill.
Would it be worth it to sign the guy and make him a pinch runner? It’s been done before: The Athletics signed track star Herb Washington to be their full-time pinch runner for the 1974 season. Washington scored 29 runs and stole 28 bases in 91 games without once coming to bat or playing defense. But even the A’s — who were pretty crazy about pinch runners in general back in the Charlie O. Finley days — didn’t think so much of Washington that they kept him around. He was cut early into the ’75 season and was never heard from again in baseball circles.
The problem: he was just too one-dimensional. And he wasn’t really that great in that dimension: in two seasons he was caught stealing 17 times in 48 attempts, which is below the level of success that makes stealing bases a value-added proposition (you usually want to see a 75% success rate or higher). Washington’s failure as a pinch runner clearly shows that there is way more to stealing bases than speed. Indeed, there was probably no one faster than him in the game at the time. But you have to be able to read pitchers’ moves and pick your spots, and to do that you need experience.
These days it would be even harder for a guy like Washington — or Bolt — to make that job work because (a) stealing is way less a part of the game now than it used to be; and (b) roster spots are just way too precious to be used on a runner. In 1974 the A’s basically had a nine-man pitching staff. Today teams typically carry 12 pitchers and, on occasion, go with 13. Yeah, that’s ridiculous, but it’s how it is, and as a result a baseball team in 2010 would be more likely to sign a chef who only prepares bear steaks than it would be to sign a pinch runner.
The upshot of all of this is that I can see only two situations in which Usain Bolt would ever appear in a major league game. Either as (a) a pure gimmick, on a losing team after the rosters expand in September; or (b) after someone teaches him to shag flies and decides that they can stick him in left-center and thereby eliminate one of their three outfielders.
Given that Nate McLouth is currently patrolling center for the Braves, I’m not sure that a Bolt-Heyward outfield isn’t a bad idea.
Baseball was not invented by some American in upstate New York. Rather, it evolved from a number of different bat-and-ball games like cricket, rounders, bat and trap, and stool ball. These games, first played in England, meshed together over time in important ways to form what we now know of as baseball. It’s a fascinating history, featured in a great documentary which searches for baseball’s primordial common ancestor.
Which is to say that, while this seems odd given baseball’s almost total lack of popularity in the U.K., it’s not entirely inappropriate. It’s really just an overdue homecoming:
The operators of the Olympic Stadium were on Saturday night in advanced negotiations to stage the first ever Major League Baseball game in Europe.
Telegraph Sport has learnt that serious talks have taken place over bringing a series of MLB matches to the London 2012 centrepiece, potentially as early as 2017.
MLB officials have long been exploring hosting regular-season games in Europe, declaring an interest in the Olympic Stadium as long ago as March 2012.
“Matches.” OMG the British are so cute.
All we Yanks ask is that our British cousins play evening games so we can watch them at a decent hour. Thanks.
(h/t CBS Eye on Baseball)
Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes pleaded not guilty yesterday to abusing his wife in Hawaii on October 31.
Reyes was arrested at the time and was released after posting $1,000 bail. He was not in Hawaii for the arraignment and his not guilty plea was entered on his behalf by his attorney.
Which means that he’s probably in his usual offseason home on Long Island. Which, I am told, is a short drive from Major League Baseball headquarters. Which makes one wonder if Reyes has yet to be interviewed by Rob Manfred in anticipation of the punishment he will no doubt receive under Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy. A policy which specifically says that the Commissioner need not wait for the justice system to play out before assessing his own discipline.
So, Rob. How you doin’ man?
Ben Cafardo of the Boston Globe speculated on Sunday that there might be a connection between the Giants and veteran free agent right-hander John Lackey, and now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports that San Francisco is indeed in pursuit.
Rosenthal says the Giants, “like most clubs seeking pitching, [are] examining [a] wide range of options” in this starter-heavy free agent market. Lackey would make a ton of sense for any contender on something like a two-year deal. His free agency is tied to draft pick compensation, but that shouldn’t be much of a deterrent.
The 37-year-old right-hander registered a career-best 2.77 ERA across 218 innings (33 starts) this past season for the National League Central-champion Cardinals and he was St. Louis’ most reliable starter during the playoffs.
It’s well known that he wants to remain in the National League.
As first reported by beat writer Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times, the Angels have signed free agent catcher Geovany Soto to a one-year major league contract. MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez says the deal is worth $2.8 million guaranteed.
Soto will offer some veteran presence at catcher for the Halos alongside 25-year-old Carlos Perez, who hit .250/.299/.346 as a rookie in 2015.
Soto slashed .219/.301/.406 with nine homers in 78 games this summer for the White Sox.
The 32-year-old backstop is a .246/.331/.434 career hitter at the major league level.