Minnie Minoso is throwing out the first pitch for today’s White Sox home opener. And there’s a great feature on him over at the Chicago Tribune today. There really is no one like him. No one who had a career with the arc of the one he had. Just an astounding man and an astounding story.
And he was an astounding player. He had a .389 career OBP, .459 slugging percentage, had speed and was an excellent left fielder. There weren’t a lot of players like him in his era — his prime was the station-to-station baseball of the mid-50s — so his skills were overlooked by many. His age is an open question, but most people believe that he was in his late 20s when he became a major league regular for the White Sox in 1951, delayed by the color barrier. Minoso was the first dark-skinned Latino to play post-Jackie Robinson. If he had a chance to play earlier, he’d have been pushing 3000 hits, one can assume. As it was, he continued his career in Mexico following the end of his MLB days, and his staying power down there made Julio Franco look like a quitter.
Minoso is up for election by the Hall of Fame Veteran’s Committee this December. I’m not confident given that body’s track record, but it would be nice to see Minoso get what Ron Santo didn’t get: a chance to take his deserving place in the Hall of Fame while he’s still walking the Earth.
With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.
For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.
Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.
Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.
Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.
The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.