I really can’t stand stuff like this blog post from Jeff Pearlman, in which he opines that Lance Berkman won’t be able to hack it in New York. The argument basically boils down to this: Berkman is a great clubhouse guy and a total pro, but he’s a “country dude” who is “an off-the-charts right-winger,” so he’s just not meant for New York.
Never mind that Andy Pettitte is an evangelical conservative from Louisiana. Never mind that Nick Swisher grew up in West Virginia. Never mind that one way you can arguably describe the history of baseball is “farm boys come to the big city and lead the team to victory.” We’ll always have, it seems, some New York writer saying that so-and-so doesn’t have what it takes to play in New York. If Pearlman was writing in the early 50s he’d probably say that some rube from Commerce, Oklahoma could never make it in the Big Apple.
Players have come to New York and failed. Lance Berkman may fail. Some even failed because New York truly got to them. But to simply assume that a veteran like Berkman who has played all over the country and in the World Series is going to whimper and die when he sees those tall buildings, can’t find grits anywhere and has to pass by godless liberals on the streets is about the weakest sauce out there.
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.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.