As we witnessed home run records being demolished starting in the late 90s, we also witnessed ugly scrums in the outfield seats as fans fought — literally fought — one another to snag a baseball that could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars at an auction. Realizing the lengths to which people would go to grab a pricey bit of history, baseball began putting special marks on would-be historic baseballs in an effort to head off potential fraud.
Baseball is breaking out the hologram/watermark/secret cipher machine again, this time for the balls that could be Derek Jeter’s 3000th hit. And, today only, if you’re in New York City, you can see Derek Jeter’s special balls:
With Derek Jeter returning to the Yankee lineup and resuming his quest for 3,000 career hits, the MLB Fan Cave on Tuesday will be host to a dozen unique pieces of living history, one of which could wind up being the actual ball Jeter hits for number 3,000. Twelve of the baseballs among those to be put into play once Jeter is at 2,999 career hits will be on display at the MLB Fan Cave on Tuesday afternoon for fans and members of the media.
That’s nice and all, but it’s late-model Derek Jeter we’re talking about here. What are the odds that his 3000th hit is going to go over the fence? Unless Major League Baseball anticipates that the opposing catcher and pitcher are gonna fight over the little dribbler into no-man’s land that is likely to become Jeter’s 3000th, this seems rather unnecessary to me.
Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Cardinals and catcher Yadier Molina are making “major progress” on a contract extension. Molina told the team he won’t discuss an extension during the season, hence the rapid progress.
Molina is entering the last guaranteed year of a five-year, $75 million contract signed in March 2012. He and the Cardinals hold a mutual option worth $15 million with a $2 million buyout for the 2018 season. The new extension would presumably cover at least the 2018-19 seasons and likely ’20 as well.
Molina is 34 years old but is still among the most productive catchers in baseball. Last season, he hit .307/.360/.427 with 38 doubles, 58 RBI, and 56 runs scored in 581 plate appearances. Though he has lost a step or two with age, Molina is still well-regarded for his defense. The Cardinals also value his ability to handle the pitching staff.
Red Sox catcher Sandy Leon achieved a rare feat during Monday afternoon’s Grapefruit League exhibition against the Orioles: he homered twice in one inning. One of those homers happened to be a grand slam.
Leon led off the top of the fifth inning with a solo home run off of Logan Verrett. Verrett continued to get knocked around, giving up three singles and a walk before being relieved by Brian Moran. Moran gave up a walk to load the bases, then a single to knock in a run and keep the bases loaded. Leon stepped back to the plate and swatted a grand slam to left field, making it an eight-run fifth for the Red Sox. The Sox would tack on one more before the inning was mercifully ended.
How often do players homer twice in one inning during the regular season? Not that often. Since 2010, the feat has been accomplished four times in the American League and twice in the National League. The Orioles’ Mark Trumbo was the only one to do it last year.
As for Leon, he’s on track to open the season as the starting catcher in Boston, Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald reported last week.