It’s so easy, when you read and write a lot about baseball as opposed to merely watch it from time to time, to get caught up in the business of baseball. The trade and free agency dynamics. The artificial or semi-artificial storylines that are created about what happens on and off the field. To think in terms of trend lines, streaks, marketability, clubhouse dynamics, rebuilding plans, contracts, statistics, playoff possibilities and all manner of things future and past that are not the game itself.
What gets discussed so little is the moment. The moment when the batter makes the split decision to take that extra base. The moment when an outfielder breaks to his left because he ascertained its trajectory before anyone else in the park did. The moment when pitcher and catcher silently agreed that there is no way in hell that the batter can either expect or adjust to this particular pitch in this particular spot.
We see these moments as we watch the game and they give us a thrill. But there’s not much to say about them afterward other than “wow! did you see that?” And because post-facto description and analysis tends to serve only to diminish the moment — no sports writer, however skilled he is, can write as beautifully as a ballplayer at the height of his powers can perform — those moments tend to recede in the 21 hours a day when the baseball game is not actually occurring.
Yesterday Ted Berg, using Jose Reyes as his example, made a powerful argument in favor of savoring these moments and allowing them to stand on their own without any of the buzz and chatter that surrounds them. I’ll say no more about it, but I will implore you, if you have a few moments, to read it.
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.