April 15th is the anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s Major League debut. Tons of players will wear #42 in his honor today (which I don’t much care for, but that’s another rant). That dude down at that university in Georgia or Florida or wherever will issue his annual report about minority participation in baseball (which I don’t much care for either, but that’s also another rant).
Major League Baseball is obviously doing stuff too. One of them is the launch of www.IAM42.com where 60+ baseball players and other celebrity types appear on video and express what Jackie Robinson and his legacy means to them. Also, tomorrow at noon and 6PM easter, MLB Network will air a documentary called Letters From Jackie: The Private Thoughts of Jackie Robinson. It’s hosted by Curtis Granderson and narrated by Dennis Haysbert (who, sadly, is not likely to be doing the Cerrano voice). It focuses on Robinson’s role in the civil rights movement, post-baseball retirement for the most part. A preview of it can be seen here.
This sounds cool. Because, while I mean this as no offense whatsoever to Robinson’s baseball legacy, that part of his life is a well-known and well-told story by now. Indeed, it’s bordering on fable and simplistic morality tale, and has been sapped somewhat of its historical power due to over-exposure and reductionism in my view. Jackie Robinson’s post-playing career, however, is every bit as interesting and complex as him breaking the color line, even if it wasn’t as significant. And I tend to be a fan of interesting and complex, and I like to learn new things rather than recite the old, so I am really looking forward to this.
Anyway, happy 42 Day.
The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.
Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).
A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.
The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:
A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.
The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.
Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.