Willie Mays turns 80

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Today is Willie Mays’ 80th birthday.  The occasion has brought forth a ton of remembrances of the man’s career, and with a guy like Mays they’re all worth reading.  I was particularly fond of this one in the San Jose Mercury News.  Comcast Sports Bay Area has been running a series of stories on Mays’ life and career as well, including this one on the catch he made in the 1954 Series.  Comcast will also be running a one-hour documentary on the Say Hey Kid on Sunday afternoon at 4:30 Pacific time, following the Giants-Rockies game.

I never got a chance to see Mays play, but the one thing that strikes me about him — apart from his obvious greatness — is that he had a game unlike that of most players in the 50s, what with the combination of speed, power and defense.  I often wonder which players from previous eras could compete if they were put in a time machine and plopped into 2011.  I’m sure most of the superstars would still be pretty darn good, but Mays is the one who I bet would lose the least of any of them.

Check out Minute Maid Park without Tal’s Hill

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During the offseason, the Astros finally got rid of Tal’s Hill in center field. It was a throwback to older stadiums, some of which had uneven topography — Crosley Field, namely. As unique as it was in the age of cookie cutter sports stadiums, most of us were holding our collective breaths hoping no one ruptured an Achilles or suffered another brutal injury trying to navigate the hill while attempting to catch a fly ball.

We saw what it looked like during reconstruction:

And now, via Julia Morales of ROOT Sports, we see what it looks like after all the work has been done:

The Astros are allowing fans with Lexus Field Club tickets to stand on the new warning track to watch batting practice and shag fly balls as well, Morales notes. Lexus Field Club is where Tal’s Hill used to be.

Good riddance, Tal’s Hill.

Jhoulys Chacin will start Opening Day for the Padres

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Jhoulys Chacin will start on Opening Day, April 3 against the Dodgers in Los Angeles, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. It will be Chacin’s second Opening Day start, the other coming in 2013 with the Rockies against the Brewers. He’ll be the fifth different Padres pitcher in as many years to start on Opening Day.

Chacin, 29, inked a one-year, $1.75 million contract with the Padres in December. The right-hander spent the 2016 season with the Braves and Angels, compiling an aggregate 4.81 ERA with a 119/55 K/BB ratio in 144 innings.

Lin notes that Chacin will be followed in the rotation by Clayton Richard and Jered Weaver. It will be an interesting rotation, to say the least, as it will arguably be the worst in baseball.