George and Dragon

Scenes from Spring Training: Beer, Voros McCracken and almost getting my butt kicked over a misunderstanding

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I had an interesting evening. Went out for beers with my friend Connor Doyle who, long ago, was one half of a good (mostly) sports blog called Two Guys who, like, never agree. It’s defunct now, but back in 2007 and 2008 he and I were occupying the same general Blogspot world.  Also joining us: Voros McCracken, sabermetrician extraordinaire.

For those who don’t know, Voros is the man who originated the idea of defense-independent pitching statistics, or DIPS as they came to be known.  Jeff Passan wrote his story out back in January. I wasn’t interested in getting more of his story. I was merely interested in hoisting the moist with him and Connor last night, which we did in spades at a pleasant British pub.

And, surprisingly, there wasn’t much baseball discussed. We talked way more about soccer, which is a particular passion of Voros’ and Connor’s. I’ve tried in fits and starts to become at least moderately conversant with soccer over the years, mostly because I’ve identified it as an excellent way to spend the winter when there’s no baseball about.  It’s never clicked for me, however.

I get the impression that if I hung out with Voros and Connor more that something would click.  In a couple short hours a handful of misconceptions I’ve harbored about the game were cast aside and, I think anyway, I got at least a tiny glimpse into what makes it so damn intriguing for several billion people the world over.  Or maybe it was just the Guinness talking. Hard to say, but I did enjoy myself and I’m inclined to give soccer another chance because of it.

Sadly, though, there was one brief moment when things turned sour.  The three of us were talking about basketball and the subject of the Carmelo Anthony trade came up. We were all criticizing a particular take that a particular sports writer had on the trade, and the basis for our criticism of it was that the writer’s take seemed to come from a rather racist — or at the very least, paternalistic — perspective. Kind of a “how dare Anthony not remain loyal to his team” kind of thing of which none of us particularly approved.

In discussing this I — sarcastically, with a literal eye-roll — ripped the piece by taking on the voice of the author and saying “of course not, because he’s black” or words to that effect, with the intent of condemning what I took to be the writer’s casual racism.

Seems, however, that the black man the next table over had only half-heard our conversation and assumed that we were genuinely ripping that uppity Carmelo Anthony for demanding a trade. Or for having the gall to be black. I’m still not sure what we were presumed to be saying, actually. All I know is that the guy from the next table over was right pissed off for all the wrong reasons.

After his white friend came to our table and told us that we were pathetic, he himself came by and told us that were it not for the fact that kicking our butts would cause him more trouble than it’s worth, he’d totally kick our butts.  We tried to explain that he misunderstood us, but he wasn’t much interested in that and then moved on.

I was happy that he moved on, but it’s not like I didn’t have a plan if he hadn’t. Indeed, if things got chippy, I would have been behind Voros the whole time. Like, literally behind Voros, hoping to avoid getting my face mashed in until someone got a cop on the scene to rescue my blogger behind. Thankfully it didn’t come to that. Could have been bad news for Voros. I don’t think he’s had a lot of practice as a human shield and he might have gotten injured as he unwittingly protected me. I would have felt bad for him.

Oh well. Sarcasm doesn’t always come through on the internet. I figured it came through better in bar conversations, but I guess that’s not a universal rule either.  All I know is that if more people actually listened to one another instead of merely defaulting to the safety of their preconceptions, people would get along a lot better than they do.  I suppose that’s expecting too damn much of people, however.

But Voros was a cool guy, especially given how poised he was to protect me from the blows that rained down upon me, whether he realized it or not.

One more day of baseball here in Arizona to help cleanse the palette. The Mariners and the White Sox, babies, live from Camelback Ranch in beautiful Glendale, Arizona later today. I’ll try not to get my butt kicked while I’m there.

The Mets are among six teams that help Dominican prospects earn high school diplomas

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - APRIL 19:  A detailed view of the blackboard with theoretical physics equations in chalk by Alberto Ramos, Theoretical Physics Fellow and visitor, Antonio Gonzalez-Arroyo from the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid (both not in frame) at The European Organization for Nuclear Research commonly know as CERN on April 19, 2016 in Geneva, Switzerland.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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In a special for USA TODAY Sports, Mike Vorkunov details how six teams — the Mets in particular — provide an education program that helps their Dominican prospects earn high school diplomas. It seems like an obvious win-win: smarter players make smarter decisions, making them more likely to achieve their potential as athletes. That, of course, requires spending money, which is why only six teams make the investment. For the players, if baseball doesn’t work out, they are better able to support themselves in other ways.

Vorkunov lists the Pirates, Tigers, Phillies, Diamondbacks, and Mariners as the other teams who provide an education program for their Dominican prospects. We learned earlier this month that the Phillies were also investing in making sure their minor leaguers eat healthy. As Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, “few teams” supply their minor league players with healthy food options.

Juan Henderson, the head of the Mets’ Dominican academy, said, “We see the benefit of it. I gotta tell you, we’re working with a new generation of baseball players. You see in the past that players just carry a bat and a glove and a helmet on the baseball field and in the academy. Those years, I think, are going to be pretty much over. Now they also do that, but they also carry books, they also carry an iPad, they also carry a laptop.”

Kudos to the six teams for making a great decision and here’s hoping the other 24 teams follow suit.

Video: Albert Pujols hits 569th career home run, tying Rafael Palmeiro

ANAHEIM, CA - MAY 22:  Albert Pujols #5 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim returns to the dugout after scoring in the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on May 22, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
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Angels first baseman Albert Pujols cranked out a two-run home run in the third inning against Rangers starter Derek Holland, breaking a scoreless tie. It’s the ninth homer of the season for Pujols and the 569th of his career, putting him into a tie with Rafael Palmeiro for 12th on baseball’s all-time home run leaderboard.

Harmon Killebrew is Pujols’ next target at 573, followed by Mark McGwire at 583 and Frank Robinson at 586.

Pujols hadn’t homered since May 13. He entered Monday night hitting a mediocre .228/.309/.395 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 188 plate appearances.

Alex Gordon to miss three to four weeks with a fractured scaphoid bone

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 22:  Alex Gordon #4 and Mike Moustakas #8 of the Kansas City Royals collide going for a foul ball against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on May 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The White Sox defeated the Royals 3-2.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Monday has unfortunately been a day of injury news. Royals outfielder Alex Gordon is the latest to hit the 15-day disabled list, as he has been diagnosed with a fractured scaphoid bone in his right wrist. The club has recalled infielder Cheslor Cuthbert from Triple-A Omaha.

Gordon suffered the injury colliding with third baseman Mike Moustakas attempting to catch a fly ball on Sunday afternoon. He is expected to miss three to four weeks, MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan reports.

Gordon was having a tough 2016 campaign and the injury only makes it worse. He’s hitting .211/.319/.331 with four home runs and 10 RBI in 166 plate appearances on the year.

The Royals will likely use Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando in left field in Gordon’s absence.

Orioles trade reliever Brian Matusz to the Braves

BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 17:  Brian Matusz #17 of the Baltimore Orioles pitches against the Seattle Mariners during the fifth inning on May 17, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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The Orioles announced on Monday night that the club has traded reliever Brian Matusz to the Braves in exchange for minor league pitchers Brandon Barker and Trevor Belicek. The Braves are also receiving a Competitive Balance Round B pick (76th overall) in the 2016 draft.

Matusz, 29, made his season debut on April 23 after battling a back injury since early March. It’s been a struggle, as the lefty has yielded eight runs on 11 hits and seven walks with just one strikeout in six innings. He is earning $3.9 million and can become a free agent after the season.

MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports that the Braves are expected to designate Matusz for assignment. Essentially, the Braves bought the draft pick for Matusz’s remaining salary of $3 million of $3.9 million total.

Barker, 23, has been pitching at Double-A Mississippi after getting a taste of Triple-A last year. So far this season, the right-hander has a 2.00 ERA with a 40/12 K/BB ratio in 45 innings spanning eight starts and a relief appearance.

Belicek, a 23-year-old left-hander, has spent most of the year with Single-A Rome, compiling a 2.49 ERA with a 29/1 K/BB ratio in 25 1/3 innings over 11 relief appearances.