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MLBPA issues statement about the Arizona immigration law and All-Star Game boycotts

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We touched on Sheriff Joe a few minutes ago. In other All-Star Game/illegal immigration news, there was a lot of talk last year about potential player boycotts and the like as a result of Arizona’s tough immigration law, S.B. 1070. That has largely subsided, partially because parts of the bill are currently in legal limbo, but also because, let’s face it, most modern baseball players aren’t really willing to create a giant poopstorm over a political issue.

Personally I would respect the living hell out of a ballplayer who took a principled stand like that, but I can’t say that I blame them for not doing it. We as a society don’t reward celebrities and athletes when they stray from their areas of core competency, and if Adrian Gonzalez or someone did loudly boycott the All-Star Game, they’d quickly find themselves in a dreadful fight that no healthy and sane person would want to be the focus of.

Acknowledging that, Mike Weiner of the player’s union released a statement today which will in all likelihood be the last word on the matter. As is usually the case with Weiner, it’s reasonable and temperate:

“On April 30, 2010, the MLBPA expressed publicly its opposition to SB 1070, and that position remains unchanged.  We stated then that, if SB 1070 as written went into effect, we would consider additional measures to protect the interests of our members.  SB 1070 is not in effect and key portions of the law have been judged unlawful by the federal courts.  Under all the circumstances, we have not asked players to refrain from participating in any All-Star activities.

“The All-Star Game is an opportunity to celebrate the best that Major League Baseball has to offer.  Without question, the best players are here.  Each All-Star squad, as with each of the 30 Major League teams, is populated by the best players from baseball-playing countries around the globe.

“But the All Star Game is a chance to celebrate even more than that.  It is a chance to celebrate Major League Baseball’s unprejudiced commitment to excellence – a commitment, undiminished for decades, to judge solely on the basis of individual ability and achievement.  It is a chance to celebrate how much the game has been enriched by the contributions of players of different races, ethnicities and nationalities.  It’s a chance to celebrate — to marvel, actually — at the example set every time a Major League team takes the field: that of a true team, composed of players of widely different backgrounds, working together towards a common goal.

“Our nation continues to wrestle with serious issues regarding immigration, prejudice and the protection of individual liberties.  Those matters will not be resolved at Chase Field, nor on any baseball diamond; instead they will be addressed in Congress and in statehouses and in courts by those charged to find the right balance among the competing and sincerely held positions brought to the debate.  Meanwhile, at the All Star Game, Major League Baseball makes good on its promise to field the best in the world in the only way it can — by allowing the world to play.  That truly is an occasion to celebrate and, perhaps, from which we all can learn.”

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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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.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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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.