I joked last week that there was no need to put a special marking on Derek Jeter’s 3000th hit ball because it was almost certain that it would be some infielder who got it. Boy, that was wrong. Unless you were under a rock all weekend you know that number 3,000 was a homer. You also know that the fan who caught it — a 23-year-old man named Christian Lopez — simply gave the ball back to Jeter rather than keep it and auction it off for what would probably be several hundred thousand dollars.
That led to a lot of stories about Lopez’s selflessness — and got Lopez premium tickets for the rest of the season and a ton of replacement memorabilia — but I can’t say I would have made the same decision he did.
Maybe it’s because I’m not a 23-year-old dude. I have a mortgage and bills to pay and kids who look like they’ll be going to college if I don’t kill them first. A couple hundred grand would help all of that out nicely. Sure, it was a nice gesture on some level that Jeter got his trophy, but when you consider that he already has a gigantic mansion, a scorching hot girlfriend, five World Series rings, hundreds of millions of dollars in the bank and the adoration of millions and millions of people — and you realize that the Yankees and Jeter are making millions off of the hit already — I can’t say that I’d lose a wink of sleep over him not having his 3,000th hit ball.
Hell, if Jeter wanted it that bad, he could bid on it just like everyone else. It would only cost him pocket change. For a regular person, keeping that ball could mean the difference between making ends meet or not. The grand total of Jeter’s inconvenience would be a quick cell phone call to his business manager to authorize a bid. It doesn’t seem like it would be a tough call. Even this Lopez guy’s dad agrees that his son might not have gotten that call right.
But then again, I’m not the sentimental type, and you’ve heard me go on and on about how I place little value on the possessing of memorabilia (short version: it’s the memories, not the totems of those memories, that matter). Maybe you’re wired differently than I am and you, like Mr. Lopez, would have given Derek Jeter his ball back. So let’s vote on it:
Before seeing any vote totals, I’m willing to bet that there will be a disconnect between the kudos given this Lopez guy for being noble and selfless and the number of people who would have kept the ball and taken care of themselves before they took care of Derek Jeter. But don’t let my cynical take influence your vote.
The Mets are among six teams that help Dominican prospects earn high school diplomas
In a special for USA TODAY Sports, Mike Vorkunov details how six teams — the Mets in particular — provide an education program that helps their Dominican prospects earn high school diplomas. It seems like an obvious win-win: smarter players make smarter decisions, making them more likely to achieve their potential as athletes. That, of course, requires spending money, which is why only six teams make the investment. For the players, if baseball doesn’t work out, they are better able to support themselves in other ways.
Vorkunov lists the Pirates, Tigers, Phillies, Diamondbacks, and Mariners as the other teams who provide an education program for their Dominican prospects. We learned earlier this month that the Phillies were also investing in making sure their minor leaguers eat healthy. As Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, “few teams” supply their minor league players with healthy food options.
Juan Henderson, the head of the Mets’ Dominican academy, said, “We see the benefit of it. I gotta tell you, we’re working with a new generation of baseball players. You see in the past that players just carry a bat and a glove and a helmet on the baseball field and in the academy. Those years, I think, are going to be pretty much over. Now they also do that, but they also carry books, they also carry an iPad, they also carry a laptop.”
Kudos to the six teams for making a great decision and here’s hoping the other 24 teams follow suit.
Angels first baseman Albert Pujols cranked out a two-run home run in the third inning against Rangers starter Derek Holland, breaking a scoreless tie. It’s the ninth homer of the season for Pujols and the 569th of his career, putting him into a tie with Rafael Palmeiro for 12th on baseball’s all-time home run leaderboard.
Harmon Killebrew is Pujols’ next target at 573, followed by Mark McGwire at 583 and Frank Robinson at 586.
Pujols hadn’t homered since May 13. He entered Monday night hitting a mediocre .228/.309/.395 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 188 plate appearances.
Monday has unfortunately been a day of injury news. Royals outfielder Alex Gordon is the latest to hit the 15-day disabled list, as he has been diagnosed with a fractured scaphoid bone in his right wrist. The club has recalled infielder Cheslor Cuthbert from Triple-A Omaha.
The Orioles announced on Monday night that the club has traded reliever Brian Matusz to the Braves in exchange for minor league pitchers Brandon Barker and Trevor Belicek. The Braves are also receiving a Competitive Balance Round B pick (76th overall) in the 2016 draft.
Matusz, 29, made his season debut on April 23 after battling a back injury since early March. It’s been a struggle, as the lefty has yielded eight runs on 11 hits and seven walks with just one strikeout in six innings. He is earning $3.9 million and can become a free agent after the season.
MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports that the Braves are expected to designate Matusz for assignment. Essentially, the Braves bought the draft pick for Matusz’s remaining salary of $3 million of $3.9 million total.
Barker, 23, has been pitching at Double-A Mississippi after getting a taste of Triple-A last year. So far this season, the right-hander has a 2.00 ERA with a 40/12 K/BB ratio in 45 innings spanning eight starts and a relief appearance.
Belicek, a 23-year-old left-hander, has spent most of the year with Single-A Rome, compiling a 2.49 ERA with a 29/1 K/BB ratio in 25 1/3 innings over 11 relief appearances.