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.
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.