lance berkman and his dog

Lance Berkman criticizes the Rangers in explaining why he chose St. Louis over Texas

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During a Houston radio interview yesterday Lance Berkman talked about his offseason and explained why he opted to sign with St. Louis instead of Texas (among several other teams).

Berkman was remarkably honest in his comments and said plenty of stuff that will no doubt anger the Rangers and their fans.

In fact, Rangers starter C.J. Wilson has already taken to the radio airwaves in Dallas to respond to Berkman’s comments.

First, here’s some of what Berkman said during the interview, courtesy of ESPNDallas.com’s Richard Durrett:

I felt like if they didn’t re-sign Cliff Lee that they were going to be an average team and I feel that’s probably what’s going to end up happening. It’s all about your pitching. I feel like last year was one of those special years where you kind of catch lightning in a bottle and they got hot and they had some guys that I felt like were pitching better than their talent level and consequently they had a great year.

They were itching to spend some money. I probably could have gotten the best deal out of them, especially in light of what they gave Adrian Beltre, which I think is pretty much of a reach for him.

Athletes don’t normally say stuff like that in public, but most of Berkman’s comments are ultimately pretty reasonable. He’s saying the Rangers seem likely to regress after failing to re-sign Cliff Lee, got several better-than-expected pitching performances on the way to the World Series last season, and gave Adrian Beltre more money than many people believe he’s worth.

Those are all things Rangers fans don’t want to hear, certainly, but none of them are particularly outlandish and in fact they’re all probably pretty close to qualifying as conventional wisdom. Of course, Wilson didn’t see things that way and responded as follows:

I think it’s funny. He was contemplating retirement, so I’m not going to take anything too seriously. I’m not going to get offended by anything he says. If that’s a representative idea of what people around the league think, that’s better for us because they’re going to do the same thing and they’re going to not take us seriously. If we end up stomping through the playoffs again, everyone will be like, “Wow, what a bummer.”

I think things really worked out well for us. Adrian Beltre is the best defensive third baseman in baseball, and he’s a pretty good hitter as well. I don’t know if anyone knows he hit .340 last year, which is definitely better than .220. I’m pretty stoked about having him on my team. If someone is going to slam us, that’s going to be something. You hold little grudges like that. I hope the fans understand and when Lance comes to play at some point in Texas, I hope our fans boo.

Berkman and the Cardinals won’t be traveling to Texas to play the Rangers this season. Unless they meet in the World Series, of course, in which case Berkman’s comments about the Rangers will likely have been proven inaccurate anyway.

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.