Scenes from Spring Training: A photo tour of the Royals camp


George:  “Kevin, you and I are pretty awesome, aren’t we?”

Kevin: “Yes, George. Yes we are. We could probably make this team if we tried, couldn’t we?”

George: “Yes, Kevin, we could.  Oh, Kevin: did I ever tell you about that night I had in Vegas?”

Kevin: “I swear, George, if you tell that story again I am going to have you barred from the facility.  I’m dead serious.”

My morning with Francoeur took a lot out of me so I decided to wander and snap photos rather than think anymore deep thoughts.

This place is pretty wander-worthy. Like the Reds and Indians, the Royals do their pregame warmups and BP on the practice fields, but unlike the Reds and Indians the practice fields are right behind the main park, not a mile down the road.  At the risk of giving that poor woman down in the office a heart attack, I walked it.

That, quite obviously, is Royals legend Frank White.  He is watching batting practice as it takes place on Frank White Field.  I find that to be great fun. I also found it great fun that coach Rusty Kuntz walked by right after this. I could not take a picture, though, because I was snickering.

That is grass painted with stripes like a football field.  I suppose it’s possible other teams have such fields out in the uncharted backwaters of the western spiral arms of their practice facilities, but I hadn’t seen one.  Just before I snapped this I saw a Royals trainer making a Royals player do one of those high-jump drills where the jumper tries to smack those pegs on the top of a pole around.  So basically, it’s like the NFL combine here.

Those are the parking spaces reserved for David and Dan Glass, owners of the Royals.  They are empty.  Those who follow the Royals closely and are aware of just how absent the Glass family tends to be will not be at all surprised by this.

I went back and watched BP after I took that. I stalked Francoeur a little more. Of the five BP pitches I saw him take, he hit three over the fence.  Then Kila Ka’aihue stepped in and murdered baseballs. I think they’re still flying as I type this. They have their own FAA call signs at this point. What I’m saying is that he hit the balls really, really hard and that they flew a long, long way.  For those still not getting what I’m saying: BOOM.

I’m going to eat something.  Ballgame in an hour.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.

Marlins announcer Tommy Hutton was let go because he was “too negative”

marlins logo wide

We heard earlier this week that Marlins television analyst Tommy Hutton was let go after 19 seasons on the job. By all accounts, he’s well-liked and respected, so it smelled a little fishy with a team that has owner Jeffrey Loria calling the shots. Well, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald was told by a source close to the Marlins that Hutton was let go because he was “too negative.”

Jackson was also able to get in touch with Hutton, who provided some details about how things went down.

“I know there were times I was negative, but I thought those times were called for,” he said. “Ninety percent of what I said was positive. I tried not to be a homer, but you could tell I wanted the Marlins to do well.”

After being told that his salary wasn’t a factor in the decision, Hutton suspected that his candid, blunt analysis might be the impetus for his ouster.

So after learning his fate on Monday, he asked that question – whether they thought he was too negative — to both a Fox producer (at a meeting at Starbucks) and the Marlins’ vice president/communications (by phone).

He said the question was met with silence by both executives.

“I couldn’t get a yes or a no,” he said.

Hutton said there were three incident in recent years where he was told the Marlins were uncomfortable with something he said. He disclosed one example where he was exasperated at the ballpark’s dimensions after former catcher John Buck flew out to the warning track for the final out of a game. He was told by a Marlins vice president after the game that Loria prefer he not talk about the ballpark’s dimensions. Of course, the team is moving in the fences this winter.

To be clear, Hutton said he was told it was a “mutual decision” between the Marlins and FOX to let him go, but Jackson’s source hears that the concern about his “negativity” came from the team.

Hey, do you know the best way to prevent “negative” talk about your team? Fielding a winning baseball team without a dysfunctional ownership and front office. Crazy idea, I know, but it could be cool?