Joe Posnanski has the best Bob Feller obituary. Even as people write a bunch more over the coming days, Posnanski’s will be the best because that’s just how it goes when (a) you’re the best sports writer in the business; and (b) you grew up in Cleveland, steeped in Bob Feller as Joe did and was. If you only read one thing about Feller today, read Joe’s take.
I don’t think I have anything to add about the big points of Feller’s life and career that aren’t going to be covered better elsewhere. He was a war hero. And he saw real combat and faced real peril, unlike many ballplayers did. He is undoubtedly in the conversation of the best pitchers of all time. You can’t help but look at his career and wonder how much gaudier the already gaudy numbers would have looked if not for the war. He lost his age 23-25 seasons to combat after entering his peak and pitching lights out the previous three years. It’s not hard to imagine that he would have had three more 24+ win seasons and maybe a couple of 300 strikeout performances to add to an already elite career. Between Lefty Grove and Tom Seaver, it’s hard to point to any pitcher who was better.
The part of the Posnanski obituary that I can relate to the most is the stuff about post-career Feller and — let’s not dull the point because the guy died yesterday — the unequivocal cockiness of the guy. Except in Feller’s case it was a justified cockiness because unlike whatever flavor-of-the-month NFL wide receiver who comes down the pike, Feller’s claim to greatness was more than legitimate. And for that reason — not just because we’re now mourning him — I don’t have much of a problem with it. Muhammad Ali can get away with calling himself the greatest of all time. Feller could too. Partially because they may have been, but partially because even if it’s debatable, they never doubted it for a minute themselves. Boasting is usually a function of insecurity. Feller wasn’t insecure. He wasn’t boasting to convince himself of anything. There’s something beautiful about that. Not many can pull it off.
Joe mentions that Feller worked hard at self-promotion. That jibes with what I’ve observed living in Ohio for most of the past 20 years. If you were in Ohio and wanted to meet Bob Feller, it wasn’t a big trick. He was always available to fans, be it at Indians games, card shows, grand openings of car dealerships or any number of other events. Such self-promotion could be criticized. In Feller’s case I think it was pretty great. Because thanks to how sure he was of himself you never got the sense that he questioned whether he was overexposed or felt like he was dragging himself out there because someone besides himself expected it of him. And because, again, he was an all-time great. Would that several generations of fans had Joe DiMaggio or Ted Williams available to them in such a way. Would that they enjoyed meeting the public the way Feller so obviously did.
I don’t necessarily believe in an afterlife. But if there is one, Feller is busy explaining to whichever omniscient being in whom you choose to believe that he was the greatest of all time. And he’s making a damn good case.
Rest in Peace Rapid Robert Feller.
It was reported Sunday that free agent right-hander Johnny Cueto had turned down a six-year, $120 million contract from the Diamondbacks. He’s hoping to land a bigger deal this winter and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick has heard some chatter about what he’s looking for.
Jordan Zimmermann finalized a five-year, $110 million contract with the Tigers today, which works out to $22 million per season. Arizona’s offer to Cueto checked in at $20 million per season. A six-year offer to Cueto at the same AAV (average annual value) as Zimmermann would put him at $132 million, which is still a little shy of the figure stated by Crasnick. Of course, Cueto owns a 2.71 ERA (145 ERA+) over the last five seasons compared to a 3.14 ERA (123 ERA+) by Zimmermann during that same timespan, so there’s a case to be made that he should get more. Still, he’s the clear No. 3 starter on the market behind David Price and Zack Greinke.
CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that the Dodgers, Giants, Red Sox, and Cubs are among the other teams who have interest in Cueto. One variable in his favor is that he is not attached to draft pick compensation, as he was traded from the Reds to the Royals during the 2015 season.
The rebuilding Braves have already been active on the trade market and they might not be done, as CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that right-hander Shelby Miller has been a very popular name. In fact, around 20 teams have checked in.
Nothing is considered close and the Braves have set a very high asking price, mostly centered around offense. They asked for right-hander Luis Severino in talks with the Yankees and would expect outfielder Marcell Ozuna among other pieces from the Marlins. The Diamondbacks and Giants are among the other interested clubs.
Miller is under team control through 2018, so there’s not necessarily a sense of urgency to move him, but anything is possible with the way the Braves are doing things right now. The 25-year-old is coming off a year where he went 6-17, but that was about really rotten luck more than anything else, as he had a fine 3.02 ERA and 171/73 K/BB ratio over 205 1/3 innings. The Braves gave him the worst run support of any starter in the majors.
Jenrry Mejia appeared in just seven games this past season due to a pair of suspensions for performance-enhancing drugs, but Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports that the Mets are expected to tender him a contract for 2016.
While the Mets were vocal about their disappointment in Mejia’s actions, it makes sense to keep him around as an option. Had he played a full season in 2015, he would have earned $2.595 million. He’s arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter and figures to receive a contract similar to his 2015 figure, but he’ll only be paid for the games he plays. He still has 100 games to serve on his second PED suspension, which means that he’ll only be paid for 62 games in 2016. This likely puts his salary closer to $1 million, which is a small price to pay for someone who could prove useful during the second half and beyond. He also won’t count toward the team’s 40-man roster until he’s active.
Mejia, who turned 26 in October, owns a 3.68 ERA in the majors and saved 28 games for the Mets in 2014. He’s currently pitching as a starter in the Dominican Winter League.
UPDATE: The deal is official. Bowman adds that Johnson will make $2.5 million in 2016.
6:11 p.m. ET: Jim Johnson enjoyed some success out of the Braves’ bullpen in 2015 until a midseason trade to the Dodgers and Mark Bowman of MLB.com reports that he has returned to Atlanta on a one-year contract. No word yet on the terms involved.
After an awful 2014 between the Athletics and Tigers, Johnson signed a one-year deal with the Braves last winter and bounced back to the tune of a 2.25 ERA and 33/14 K/BB ratio over 48 innings. He also saved nine games. However, things went south for him after a trade to the Dodgers in late July, as he put up an ugly 10.13 ERA in 23 appearances. He was left off the team’s roster for the NLDS against the Mets.
It’s unclear what role the Braves have in mind for Johnson, as Arodys Vizcaino finished the season as the closer, but they have made upgrading their bullpen a priority this winter.