Prepare to enjoy Ken Burns' "Baseball" update. If you're from the East Coast.


I’ve been hearing stuff like this from the Washington Post’s Tom Shales over and over from people fortunate enough to have previewed the update to Ken Burns’ “Baseball” — called “The Tenth Inning” — which premiers tonight:

Your degree of interest might depend on where you live, since “Tenth
Inning” tends to favor the Northeastern United States and spends
relatively little time west of the Mississippi. Especially in the second
half, Burns and Novick
concentrate on New York, Boston and Baltimore to a degree that seems
provincially East-Coasty.

I get that you have to have a lot of east coast in this one because apart from steroids, the story of baseball from 1994-present is one of economics. Economics which led to the end of that relatively brief period of parity in the game that began after the fall of the Mickey Mantle Yankees in the late 60s and lasted until Derek Jeter showed up. You have to focus on the Yankees in such a story, and if you’re talking about the Yankees you have to talk about the Red Sox.

But it is going to put a lot of people off. Documentaries are at their best, I think, when they teach us stuff we don’t know, and who among us isn’t familiar with the Yankees-Red Sox storyline?  I guess this is a problem when you try to document something so recent.

Also worth noting is that the primary narrative thrust of the thing is going to be steroids, and Burns decided to tell the story of steroids in baseball by focusing on the story of Barry Bonds.  This is probably a good choice in that (a) Bonds is the most significant player attached to steroids; and (b) Bonds is an interesting and complicated figure in his own right and is likely to lead to good storytelling in ways that, say, Rafael Palmiero and Jose Canseco wouldn’t.

My fear is that Bonds’ story is portrayed as a story of the Fall of Man or some such and that the facts complicating such a narrative (i.e. baseball’s complicity in PED use) are underplayed.  Burns hasn’t disappointed me before, however, so I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt here.

“The Tenth Inning” premieres on PBS Tonight at 8 p.m. and continues tomorrow night at the same time.

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.