I watched Mark Whiten hit four homers against the Reds in 1993 and thought it was really something. Yesterday Whiten played in the Hall of Fame Classic and hit two out, winning the game’s MVP honors. He also won the pre-game home run derby.
It’s a different game now that active major leaguers don’t play in it. Instead it’s an all-star old timers affair. This year it was Team Harmon Killebrew against Team Bob Feller. The Fellers beat the Killers 9-0. 9-0 is also the score that is officially applied to forfeits, so without looking I’m going to assume that the game was suspended after Killebrew threw 22 bats on the field, swore a blue streak at everyone and then got into a fistfight, because that’s just the kind of guy he is. The game story is in the first link above if you want to see what really happened. Don’t ruin it for me, though.
Anyway, among the players taking part were Whiten, Gary Carter, Goose Gossage, Rollie Fingers, Phil Niekro, Ozzie Smith, Paul Blair, Bill Madlock, Mike Pagliarulo and Jeff Kent.
Kent’s inclusion almost doesn’t seem fair given how recent it was that he retired. He played last year too and won the home run derby. Not a surprise considering he probably could have started for a dozen or two major league teams if he were so inclined. The fact that he got beat by Hard Hittin’ Mark Whiten this year made me smile a bit.
I know a lot of people raised a ruckus when they changed the Classic from a real game with major leaguers to an old timers thing a couple of years ago, but really, I think I would enjoy the old timer thing much more.
Note: an earlier version of this post referred to Mark Whiten as merely “hittin’ Mark Whiten” and not “Hard Hittin’ Mark Whiten.” I apologize for the massive and inexcusable gaffe. I don’t bring a hell of a lot to this party, but one thing I do bring is a pretty insanely detailed knowledge of trivia relating to players whose prime fell roughly in the 1970-1995 period. For me to whiff like that on one of those players borders on the criminal. I’ll try to regain your trust, but I understand if this oversight was the last straw.
With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.
For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.
Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.
Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.
Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.
The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.