Jake Fox has an MLB-high seven homers, but do spring stats really matter?

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Yesterday my Twitter feed lit up with Orioles writers marveling at Jake Fox hitting his sixth and seventh homers of the spring, which is good for the MLB lead and suddenly makes his chances of cracking the Opening Day roster a popular topic.

While no doubt impressed by the power display, manager Buck Showalter explained to Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun that Fox’s work defensively at catcher is also a huge factor:

I want him to show me what he can do catching. We all know he is capable of doing some good things with the bat. He had a good game behind the plate, a better game behind the plate. That’s really what I was looking at today.

Then, when asked if someone could hit seven spring training homers and still not make the team, Showalter replied simply: “Yes.” That may seem like a harsh assessment, particularly since any standout spring performances will get a certain segment of a team’s fan base clamoring for that player to make the team or take on a much bigger role, but in the big picture spring training performances simply aren’t that predictive.

For instance, last spring eight guys hit at least six homers. Ryan Zimmerman went on to post a career-high OPS and Chris Johnson hit .308 as a rookie, but none of the other six guys turned their big spring into a big regular season. Sean Rodriguez hit .251 and managed only nine homers in 118 games. Mike Napoli had a career-low .784 OPS that was 60 points below his 2009 mark. Justin Upton took a big step backward after a breakout 2009. Aaron Hill hit .205 in a miserable season. John Bowker hit .219. Delwyn Young hit .236.

You get the idea.

Spring training performances get a lot of attention because … well, what else is everyone writing about and watching a team every day going to focus on? However, ultimately whether a 28-year-old hitter like Fox with a lengthy track record on which to judge him performs well or poorly in some small sample of at-bats against pitchers of widely varying quality in games that don’t count for anything just doesn’t mean a whole lot.

None of which is to say Fox isn’t capable of producing when the games count, because despite struggling in the majors he has shown plenty of power in the minors. And certainly Fox hitting seven homers this spring is much better than Fox hitting zero homers this spring, but 50 at-bats shouldn’t dramatically alter the way Showalter and the Orioles view a player with nearly 3,000 at-bats in the majors and minors.

Pete Rose dismisses his defamation lawsuit against John Dowd

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Last year Pete Rose field a defamation lawsuit against attorney John Dowd after Dowd gave a radio interview in which he said that Rose had sexual relations with underage girls that amounted to “statutory rape, every time.” Today Rose dismissed the suit.

In a statement issued by Rose’s lawyer and Dowd’s lawyer, the parties say they agreed “based on mutual consideration, to the dismissal with prejudice of Mr. Rose’s lawsuit against Mr. Dowd.” They say they can’t comment further.

Dowd, of course, is the man who conducted the investigation into Rose’s gambling which resulted in the Hit King being placed on baseball’s permanently ineligible list back in 1989. The two have sparred through the media sporadically over the years, with Rose disputing Dowd’s findings despite agreeing to his ban back in 1989. Rose has changed his story about his gambling many times, usually when he had an opportunity to either make money off of it, like when he wrote his autobiography, or when he sought, unsuccessfully, to be reinstated to baseball. Dowd has stood by his report ever since it was released.

In the wake of Dowd’s radio comments in 2015, a woman came forward to say that she and Rose had a sexual relationship when she was under the age of 16, seemingly confirming Dowd’s assertion and forming the basis for a strong defense of Rose’s claims (truth is a total defense to a defamation claim). They seem now, however, to have buried the hatchet. Or at least buried the litigation.

That leaves Dowd more free time to defend his latest client, President Trump. And Rose more time to do whatever it is Pete Rose does with his time.