Jim Thome ties Frank Robinson for 8th place with 586 homers

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Jim Thome’s great run continued last night, as he homered for the fourth time in three games to tie Frank Robinson for eighth place on the all-time list with 586 career long balls.
Thome has given the Twins amazing production for a one-year, $1.5 million investment this offseason, hitting .278/.407/.636 with 22 homers, 16 doubles, and 52 walks in 297 plate appearances.
Among all AL hitters with at least 250 plate appearances Thome leads the league in slugging percentage (.635) and at-bats per homer (11.0) while ranking fourth in OPS (1.042) behind only Justin Morneau, Miguel Cabrera, and Josh Hamilton.
Morneau hasn’t played since suffering a concussion on July 7, but Thome has stepped up to hit .299 with a .437 on-base percentage and ridiculous .701 slugging percentage in 38 games since then, smacking 12 homers in just 107 at-bats. He now has the third-highest adjusted OPS+ ever by a 39-year-old, trailing only Barry Bonds and Ted Williams while slightly ahead of Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth.
In terms of impact per dollar no free agent signing has been better than Thome, particularly since he left the second-place White Sox to join the first-place Twins.

Javier Baez: “This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it.”

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Infielder Javier Baez is back in camp with the Cubs after helping Puerto Rico to a second-place finish in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He was the focal point of what was, to many, the most memorable play of the entire tournament: Baez pointed at catcher Yadier Molina, who was attempting to throw out a would-be base-stealer, before applying the tag for the final out of the eighth inning.

While Baez didn’t receive much criticism for his theatrics, aside from an insignificant handful of spoilsports, he is one of the players who most exemplifies the emotional, celebratory culture that foreign players bring to Major League Baseball. U.S. (and Tigers) second baseman Ian Kinsler is on the other side of that spectrum, as he said prior to the WBC final that he hopes kids mimic the solemn way U.S. players play the game rather than the emotional, passionate way players from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic play the game.

Baez isn’t about to apologize for the way he and his teammates play the game. Via CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney, Baez said, “We do a great job playing and having fun out there. That’s what it’s all about. This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it. but, you know, everybody’s got their style and their talent. I have a lot of fun.”

He continued, “It’s their choice to look at how we play, how excited we get. To us, it’s really huge what we did, even though we didn’t win. All of Puerto Rico got really together. We were going through a hard time over there and everything got fixed up for at least three weeks. Hopefully, they keep it like that.”

Mike Trout proposes change to spring training umpiring

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Angels outfielder Mike Trout came up with an idea that would allow less experienced umpires an opportunity to call some major league spring training action. As ESPN’s Buster Olney reports, Trout thinks the veteran umpires should only call five or six innings as they get back into regular season shape. The rest of the innings could be called by minor league umpires.

According to Olney, baseball officials loved Trout’s idea when they heard about it last week. One official said, “It makes a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons.” Another said, “That’s Trout — he’s always paying attention to stuff beyond what he’s doing.”

Of course, I have to agree that the suggestion is a great one. As Olney notes, the turnover rate for umpires every year is relatively low, so younger, less-experienced umpires have few opportunities to get a feel for what it’s like calling major league action. Even beyond the actual interpretation of the rules, interacting with big league personalities would also be helpful for minor league umpires.