Marc Carig, who covers the Yankees for the Newark Star-Ledger, is one of my favorite beat writers in the business. In addition to covering the beat bases as he should, he’s intellectually curious, inquisitive and analytical, which allows him to pull off the tough trick of appealing to both the common fan and to the obsessive whack jobs like us. Oh, and he’s a really nice guy too, even if he does use the term “hella” way, way too much.
Today Marc makes his debut over at Baseball Prospectus with a column that, in its form, provides the kind of writing that I think represents the future of the beat reporter. Sourced with quotes and insider insight, but also a work of independent, outsider analysis the kind of which made Baseball Prospectus what it is in the first place. A nice hybrid that adds more to the party than your typical sabermetric analysis, yet eschews the faux-knowing “I know more than you do because I interview ballplayers in their underwear” tone that you see from a lot of weekly newspaper columnists as they get older.
And maybe that’s the key. Carig is a young guy who, if he waited for the traditional newspaper career path to take its course, would be doing the straight beat thing for several more years and then move up to column work where his daily reporting skills and ability to manage tough deadlines would no longer be as much of an asset as they are now. Assuming there still are traditional newspaper columns a decade from now.
The key, I think, is for the reporting and opinion/analysis roles to merge to a significant degree. The trick, of course — and it’s a big trick — is to make sure that the reporting remains accurate and the analysis remains sharp despite the fact that there are various tensions in those things. There are a few guys doing a good job with this now. Beat writers who also blog in a significant way as opposed to merely repurposing reporting bits into blog posts. Ken Davidoff of Newsday is one. There are a handful of others. Marc is doing that here today, giving us good stuff about the fearsomeness of Miguel Cabrera and some thought on defensive metrics, unhindered by strict AP style and newspaper column inches.
It’s the kind of stuff that, along with some of the other quasi-radical ideas that people like to float, will help baseball writing successfully navigate its way from the past to the future while maintaining its quality, integrity and self-respect.
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.