Matt Holliday

Matt Holliday’s status still up in the air, which gives me an excuse to talk about ESPN’s new broadcast team


There has yet to be a decision by the Cardinals as to whether they will put Matt Holliday on the disabled list in the wake of his appendectomy. He was reported to be feeling better yesterday, so the Cards are taking a wait-and-see approach and, in the meantime, going with a 24-man roster, effectively.

ESPN’s crew of Dan Shulman, Orel Hershiser and Bobby Valentine talked about this during last night’s Giants-Dodgers game. The consensus from Hershiser and Valentine, each of whom had appendectomies during their playing days, was that Holliday should be fine and back sooner than you’d think. And they were pretty straight-forward about it. They didn’t actually say that Holliday would be less than a manly-man if he went on the DL, but they sort of implied it. Only a half-hearted comment from Valentine to the effect of “well, if there was an infection or something …” gave them any wiggle room on their assessment.

That and a bunch of other stuff has me really liking this new broadcast team.  There’s a bluntness to them in the early going that I really, really like and I hope continues. They were frank on the Holliday stuff, avoiding the empty “we wish him well in his recovery stuff” because that goes without saying. Fans want to know how long he’ll be out and what an appendectomy means for a ballplayer.

The ESPN guys were likewise blunt when talking about Aubrey Huff’s defense. They didn’t sugar coat it by talking about Huff’s effort. They didn’t apologize for him. Nor did they slam him in anything approaching a mean way. They merely said, as former ballplayers and coaches/managers, that Huff’s defense was bad and unacceptable.  Think how rarely you hear that kind of thing from broadcasters even when the notion is as plain as day.

One common criticism of the new booth is that Valentine is superfluous and it would be better as a two-man operation.  I still think I fall in that camp, but last night I began to reassess.  Late in the game, when the Dodgers’ pitcher couldn’t find the strike zone, Miguel Tejada came up and swung at the first pitch he saw, in the dirt, ending a potential rally. Valentine — again, without rancor, but without any softening either — said how bad an at bat it was. He didn’t praise Tejada for trying to “be aggressive” or for trying to “make something happen,” which is what Joe Morgan would have done. He said it was just an awful at bat like a manager would say to the player behind closed doors.

This, I think, could be the difference between the new ESPN Sunday night booth being merely good and being potentially great.  If they can avoid falling into the trap of promoting the game rather than analyzing it. If they can resist the temptation to apologize or explain away bad play. If Valentine and Hershiser are allowed and, indeed, are encouraged, to use their genuine status and experience in the game to call out the horsesh** when they see it, Sunday Night Baseball could be appointment viewing.

Here’s hoping.

Erik Johnson likely to open 2016 in the White Sox rotation

DENVER, CO - APRIL 09:  Starting pitcher Erik Johnson #45 of the Chicago White Sox delivers against the Colorado Rockies during Interleague play at Coors Field on April 9, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockies defeated the White Sox 10-4.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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With the White Sox losing Jeff Samardzija to free agency, Erik Johnson will likely get a shot to contribute out of the rotation to open up the 2016 season, GM Rick Hahn said in a conference call on Wednesday, per a report from’s Scott Merkin.

“As we sit here today, I think it will be an opportunity for Erik Johnson to convert on sort of the return to form he showed back in 2015 when he was International League pitcher of the year for [Triple-A] Charlotte,” Hahn said. “Obviously, he got some starts in September and continued to show the progress in Chicago he had shown in the Minor Leagues over the course of the last season.

“So if Opening Day were today, then I think Johnson is penciled in to that spot in the rotation right now. In all probability, once we get closer to spring, there will be some competition for him to earn that spot. But if we were strictly looking at today, then I would think Johnson has the inside track on filling Samardzija’s innings.”

Johnson was called up from Triple-A Charlotte in September and made six starts, allowing 14 runs (13 earned) on 32 hits and 17 walks with 30 strikeouts in 35 innings. That followed up an impressive five months in the minors where he compiled a 2.37 ERA and a 136/41 K/BB ratio across 132 2/3 innings.

Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and each included Johnson on their top-100 prospect lists, ranking him 63rd, 67th, and 70th, respectively. The right-hander was selected by the White Sox in the second round of the 2011 draft.

Major League Baseball will investigate Yasiel Puig for his role in Miami nightclub brawl

Yasiel Puig
AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi

It was reported on Friday afternoon that Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was involved in a brawl at a Miami nightclub. Details were scant at the time, but he reportedly left with a bruise on his face.

Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that Major League Baseball plans to investigate Puig under the league’s new domestic violence policy for his role in the brawl. Citing a report from TMZ, Hernandez notes that Puig shoved his sister, “brutally sucker-punched” the manager of the bar, and instigated the brawl.

The Dodgers and Puig’s agent have thus far refused to comment on the situation.

Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes was the first player to be investigated under the league’s new domestic violence policy earlier this month, as he allegedly assaulted his wife. Reyes has pleaded not guilty after he was charged with domestic abuse in Hawaii.

As our own Craig Calcaterra pointed out, commissioner Rob Manfred does not need to wait for Puig to plead guilty or to be found guilty to levy a punishment.

Dayan Viciedo close to signing with Japan’s Chunichi Dragons

Dayan Viciedo
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Patrick Newman is reporting that the Chunichi Dragons of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and outfielder Dayan Viciedo are close to an agreement on a contract. Newman notes that the Dragons are close to signing pitcher Jordan Norberto as well.

Viciedo, 26, has struggled since making his major league debut in 2010 with the White Sox, batting an aggregate .254/.298/.424 with 66 home runs and 211 RBI in 1,798 plate appearances. He spent the 2015 season with Triple-A Charlotte (White Sox) and Nashville (Athletics), hitting a composite .287/.348/.450. While Viciedo can hit the occasional home run, he hasn’t shown the ability to do much else at the big league level. Given his age, he could prove himself in Japan and parlay that into a renewed shot in the majors in the future.

The White Sox signed Viciedo out of Cuba in December 2008, agreeing to a four-year, $10 million deal. The club re-signed him to one-year deals in 2013 and ’14 for $2.8 million each and $4.4 million ahead of the 2015 season.

Blue Jays sign J.A. Happ to a three-year, $36 million contract

J.A. Happ
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Update (8:45 PM EST): Per Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, Happ will get $10 million in 2016 and $13 million each in 2017 and ’18.

*’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the Blue Jays have signed lefty J.A. Happ to a three-year deal worth $36 million.

Happ, 33, had a rebirth as a member of the Pirates last season after starting the season with 20 subpar starts with the Mariners. He made 11 starts for the Buccos, boasting a 1.85 ERA with a 69/13 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.

Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported this past August that Happ’s newfound success had to do with a delivery tweak suggested by Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage. The Blue Jays are certainly hoping that adjustment is the full explanation for his success.

The Jays’ signing of Happ most likely signifies they won’t be pursuing free agent lefty David Price.

This will be Happ’s second stint with the Blue Jays. The Astros dealt him to Toronto in a July 2012 trade. He posted a 4.39 ERA with a 256/113 K/BB ratio in 291 innings with the Jays, then went to the Mariners in a trade this past December that brought outfielder Michael Saunders to the Jays.