“It’s almost sad to see how fast [Jeter] has lost it. Everything looks slow, soft, old. I hate saying it, because everyone respects Derek. But it’s true.”
— An American League scout, quoted by Bob Klapisch of the Bergen Record.
Klapisch’s article is a good one. Rather than just wring his hands about Jeter’s awful performance, he reminds us of the last time a Yankee icon simply lost it: 1951 and Joe DiMaggio. The difference, as Klapisch notes, is Jeter’s new contract hanging over everything. Should Jeter walk away if he can’t find his stroke this year? Is he even capable of doing so?
In thinking about this I’m struck by the notion that the air of professionalism and high-quality public relations that has served Jeter so well throughout his career now works to make his thoughts and motivations on the matter a mystery. Last year, when Chipper Jones was struggling he talked openly about whether he could or should continue to play through the duration of his contract. We’ll likely never get such public emoting about it all from Jeter.
Not that we deserve it. It’s his career and his life. But the mystery about it all probably does work to increase the public scrutiny, with our fretting about it filling the void that Jeter’s lack of public comment creates.
Former Mets catcher Johnny Monell signed a contract with the KT Wiz of the Korea Baseball Organization, per a report by Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. The 30-year-old originally struck a deal with the NC Dinos on Thursday, but the deal appeared to fall through at the last minute, according to Cotillo’s unnamed source.
Monell last surfaced for the Mets during their 2015 run, batting a dismal .167/.231/.208 with two extra bases in 52 PA before the club DFA’d him to clear space for Bartolo Colon. While he’s had difficulty sticking at the major league level, he’s found a higher degree of success in the minor league circuit and holds a career .271 average over a decade of minor league play. He played exclusively in Triple-A Las Vegas during the 2016 season, slashing .276/.336/.470 with 19 home runs and a career-high 75 RBI in 461 PA.
The veteran backstop appears to be the second MLB player to join the KT Wiz roster this offseason, as right-hander Donn Roach also signed with the club last month on a one-year, $850,000 deal.
Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.
Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.
Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.
Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):
We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.