The Royals hire Willie Aikens

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The Royals hired a former player as a minor league coach yesterday. No biggie. Happens every day. Except this minor league coach is Willie Mays Aikens, who spent nearly 14 years in federal prison for selling crack in the mid 90s.

Aikens — who had a breakout performance in the 1980 World Series — has been working in construction and giving anti-drug talks in the Kansas City area since his release from prison in 2008.  Now he has a chance to finally get back into baseball.  Aikens made a lot of mistakes in his life, but he has paid for them. More than paid for them, actually, given that his original prison sentence was held — along with many others — to have been too long given the government’s unconstitutional treatment of crack cocaine offenders compared to powder cocaine offenders.

I last thought about Aikens when Ron Washington got in trouble for taking cocaine last year. At the time I wrote a longish post about cocaine in baseball. It’s a part of the game’s recent history relatively few people know about.  They should learn more (and here’s an excellent and entertaining book about it all if you want to learn more).  Unlike steroids or amphetamines in baseball, cocaine destroyed the lives of many players. Even ending at least one.  It was serious business that has largely been overlooked since the PED stuff took off.

Anyway: good luck Willie Aikens. I hope you and the Royals take full advantage of your second chance in the game.

Report: Blue Jays sign Curtis Granderson to one-year, $5 million deal

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Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported on Monday night that the Blue Jays have signed outfielder Curtis Granderson to a one-year, $5 million deal. The contract is pending a physical and includes performance incentives.

Granderson, who turns 37 years old in March, spent last season with the Mets and Dodgers, batting an aggregate .212/.323/.452 with 26 home runs and 64 RBI in 527 plate appearances. He struggled offensively after going to the Dodgers, mustering a paltry .654 OPS. He went 1-for-15 in the playoffs as well.

The Blue Jays will likely platoon Granderson in the corner outfield. His career OPS is 158 points higher versus right-handed pitchers than against left-handers.