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Scenes from Spring Training: What the heck is a feetlong hot dog?

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I met a cool guy today. That’s him. His name is Kwang Min Park, a baseball journalist from South Korea.  His nickname, however, is Agassi.  Yes, because he likes Andre Agassi. As you might expect, Agassi was here today to cover Shin-Soo Choo.  I saw him interviewing Choo in the clubhouse, and he sat next to me in the press box.

The pic to the right was taken during the bottom of the seventh after Agassi bought the giant chili dog he’s holding.  He set it down and took a picture of it and then considered it for a moment. Then he asked me what I’d call it.

Me: A footlong hot dog.

Agassi: A … foot?

Me: Yes. Like the English system of measurement. It’s 12 inches, and 12 inches is a foot.

Agassi then did something with his phone. I think he was using a visual measuring app of some sort. After looking at it he seemed a little confused.

Agassi: Why is it not a “feetlong” hot dog?

Me: Huh?

He then showed me his phone, which revealed the true measurement to be around 13 inches.  It thus gave him a read out of 1.08 “feet.” With some difficulty — using my actual feet as an example — I explained to him the difference between the singular and the plural of “footlong hotdog.”  He shook his head and said “I feel like I’m in kindergarten.”

I tried to tell him that the real problem was our failure to adopt the metric system, but I don’t know that I salvaged his self esteem on the point.  Matt LaWell, a freelancer who had been hanging out with us, suggested that he call it a “third meter dog,” but Agassi was clearly of the “when in Rome” school.

Agassi dutifully typed in his impressions of his feetlong chili dog to his computer.  He then cut the dog into sections. I declined a taste.  Matt accepted.  At which point Agassi asked him if it was any good compared to other feetlong chilidogs Matt had consumed.  Matt writes about food as well as baseball, so he was prepared to give a full review: the dog and chili were acceptable, but the bun was a tad crunchy as opposed to spongy, thereby harming one’s first impression of the dog. On a scale of one to ten, Matt gave it a six.

At that point the conversation spun into a debate about the merits of Cincinnati chili vs. Texas chili and poor Agassi’s head was close to exploding.  Matt and I explained that, no matter what he took from today’s events, he must be clear on the point that people in this country will kill one another over their love of a particular regional style of chili, and he best not forget it.

Agassi nodded. I could be wrong, but I think he then changed his plane reservations to get himself out of this insane country and back to South Korea as fast as he could. I mean, sure, people may start killing one another on the Korean peninsula any minute now and that’s awful, but at least there are better reasons for it than one’s taste in chili.

Just another day at the ballpark.

Cubs, Jake Arrieta avoid arbitration at $10.7 million

Jake Arrieta
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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The Associated Press is reporting that the Cubs and starter Jake Arrieta have avoided arbitration, agreeing to a $10.7 million salary for the 2016 season. That marks the highest salary on a one-year deal for a pitcher with four years of service, the AP notes. Arrieta and the Cubs were set to go before an independent arbitrator but now can simply focus on the season ahead.

Arrieta, 29, is in his second of three years of arbitration eligibility. He had filed for $13 million while the Cubs countered at $7.5 million. The $5.5 million gap was the largest among players who did not come to terms with their respective teams by the January deadline. The $10.7 million salary is $450,000 above the midpoint between the two submitted figures.

Arrieta won the National League Cy Young Award for his performance this past season, narrowly edging out Zack Greinke, then with the Dodgers. Arrieta led the majors with 22 wins, four complete games, and three shutouts. With that, he compiled a 1.77 ERA and a 236/48 K/BB ratio across 229 innings.

Once a top prospect in the Orioles’ minor league system, Arrieta struggled in the majors but found immediate success with the Cubs in 2013 after the O’s traded him along with Pedro Strop in exchange for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman.

Giants sign Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal

Los Angeles Angels third baseman Conor Gillaspie is unable to hold on to the ball after catching a grounder hit by Kansas City Royals' Lorenzo Cain in the fourth inning of a baseball game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)
AP Photo/Colin E. Braley
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Per Baseball America’s Matt Eddy, the Giants have signed infielder Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal. Gillaspie was selected by the Giants in the supplemental round of the 2008 draft, then was traded to the White Sox in February 2013.

Gillaspie, 28, hit a meager .228/.269/.359 with four home runs and 24 RBI in 253 plate appearances between the White Sox and Angels during the 2015 season. Almost all of his playing time has come at third base but he can also play first base if needed.

The Giants, thin on depth, will allow Gillaspie to audition in spring training for a spot on the 25-man roster.

Joe Nathan plans to pitch in 2016

Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Joe Nathan throws against the Chicago White Sox in the ninth inning of a baseball game in Detroit Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that free agent reliever Joe Nathan, recovering from Tommy John surgery, plans to pitch in 2016 according to his agent Dave Pepe. According to Pepe, Nathan’s workouts are “going well” and the right-hander is “definitely planning on playing this year.”

Nathan, 41, got the final out on Opening Day (April 6) against the Twins before going on the disabled list with a flexor strain in his right elbow, causing him to miss the next 161 games. He will likely be able to contribute out of the bullpen in late May or early June if he has no setbacks. On a minor league deal or incentive-laden major league deal, Nathan could make for a low-risk gamble.

Over a 15-season career that dates back to 1999 (he did not pitch in the majors in 2001 or 2010), Nathan has 377 saves with a 2.89 ERA and a 967/340 K/BB ratio over 917 innings.

The Rays are considering reliever Tyler Clippard

New York Mets pitcher Tyler Clippard throws during the eighth inning of Game 4 of the National League baseball championship series against the Chicago Cubs Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
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On Thursday, we learned that the Diamondbacks were still considering free agent reliever Tyler Clippard. You can add the Rays to the list as well, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.

The Rays traded lefty reliever Jake McGee to the Rockies in exchange for outfielder Corey Dickerson in late January, so Clippard would be able to slot right in behind closer Brad Boxberger. Clippard, 30, compiled a 2.92 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 31 walks over 71 innings in a season split between the Athletics and Mets. The strikeout rate was at its lowest since the right-hander become a full-time reliever in 2009, and his walk rate was at its highest since 2010, which may be a factor in his still being a free agent in February.