Portrait of Baseball Manager Chuck Tanner Posing Against the Blue Sky

Chuck Tanner: 1929-2011

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Former White Sox, A’s, Pirates and Braves manager Chuck Tanner has died. He was 81.

Tanner bounced around the majors as a player from the mid-to-late 50s, but he’ll be remembered as a manager. Perhaps the most quintessential “player’s manager”  of all time.  This served him well for the most part.  He got his start with the Chicago White Sox, where he had more success managing Dick Allen than anyone else ever did.

His most famous stint as a skipper came managing the “we are family” Pirates to the 1979 World Series crown.  Only a manager as well-liked and as easy going as Tanner could allow a player to take such a prominent leadership position with the team as Willie Stargell did without it either (a) causing some friction someplace; or (b) resulting in the manager himself being marginalized or having ego problems.  Stargell gets a ton of credit for all of that — as he should, because Stargell was supremely awesome — but Tanner’s ability to create an environment in which that dynamic could thrive is an often overlooked thing.  The 1979 Pirates implode if Billy Martin is in charge of that bunch.

But there are two sides to every coin, and the other side of Tanner’s player-friendliness was evident in what can only be described as his tragic obliviousness when it came to cocaine.  Coke was baseball’s scourge in the late 70s through the mid-80s, but the Pirates were on another level altogether.  As many former players testified in the famous 1985 Pittsburgh drug trials, cocaine dealers had free access to Three Rivers Stadium and the Pirates’ clubhouse.  Chuck Tanner, in contrast, testified that no one who was unauthorized was ever there and that he had never seen a thing.  Was he still trying — even after leaving Pittsburgh — to protect and stand up for his players?  Was he just oblivious?  It’s hard to say anything about it other than that most everyone believes that Tanner meant well, even if his lack of attention to what was going on in his clubhouse was ultimately tragic.

Tanner went on to manage the Braves from 1986 through 1988. It was a dark time for the Braves competitively. There was so little talent around in those days that no manager could have done much with those teams.  Then, as was always the case, people spoke well of Chuck Tanner the man.

Everyone always spoke well of Chuck Tanner. Rest in peace, skipper.

Twins’ minor league pitcher Landa dies in Venezuela

FORT MYERS, FL - MARCH 05:  Yorman Landa #81 of the Minnesota Twins makes a throw to first base during the fourth inning of a spring training game against the Baltimore Orioles at Hammond Stadium on March 5, 2016 in Fort Myers, Florida.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Twins say minor league pitcher Yorman Landa has died in Venezuela. He was 22.

The club said in a statement that the Twins are “deeply saddened by the heartbreaking loss.” The team did not say how he died.

Landa pitched in the 2016 season with the Fort Meyers Miracle, going 2-2 with 7 saves and a 3.24 ERA in 41 2/3 innings pitched. His career minor-league ERA was 2.66.

Landa had been on the Twins’ 40-man roster, but was dropped after the season. The organization signed him to a minor-league contract last week.

Landa was signed by the Twins in 2010 as a 16-year old from Santa Teresa, Venezuela.

Orioles are eying Welington Castillo as their primary catcher target

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 25: Welington Castillo #7 of the Arizona Diamondbacks warms up prior to taking an at bat against the Baltimore Orioles in the second inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 25, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)
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A report from the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly suggests that free agent catcher Welington Castillo currently tops the Orioles’ list of potential backstop targets for the 2017 season. With Matt Wieters on the market, the Orioles lack a suitable platoon partner for Caleb Joseph behind the dish, and Connolly adds that the club has been discussing a multi-year deal with Castillo’s representatives since the Winter Meetings.

Castillo batted .264/.322/.423 with the Diamondbacks in 2016, racking up 14 home runs and driving in a career-high 68 RBI in 457 PA. His bat provides much of his upside, and Connolly quoted an anonymous National League scout who believes that the 29-year-old’s defensive profile has fallen short of his potential in recent years.

For better or worse, both the Orioles and Castillo appear far from locking in a deal for 2017. Both the Rays and Braves have expressed interest in the veteran catcher during the past week, while the Orioles are reportedly considering Wieters, Nick Hundley and Chris Iannetta as alternatives behind the plate.