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Are you “amped” for the Red Sox-Yankees series?

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Red Sox President Larry Lucchino was asked about the Sox-Yankees series that kicks off tonight. Specifically, whether or not there’s anything special about it given that both teams are more or less assured of a playoff spot at this point:

“Absolutely,” Lucchino said when asked if he’s still amped. “We want to win, we want home-field advantage. And by the way, if we were playing them in a Tiddlywinks match, or a checkers game, we’d get amped up. At least I would.”

Two questions:

1. When was the last time anyone actually played a game of Tiddlywinks? The 50s? Maybe the 60s?  Definitely a long time ago. I used to think the reference was dated even when I was a kid. Which is fine — I’ll make 1970s and 80s references for the rest of my days because that’s just how people tend to be — but I do notice that kind of thing.

2. You feelin’ the same way, Sox and Yankees fans?  I was on a radio show last week and the topic of Red Sox and Yankees came up. The consensus was that it’s been a long time since it seemed like something more than any other normal series. There’s hype, sure, but it’s just not a hot rivalry right now.  And no, I can’t measure it. Just a feeling.

A feeling based on a lot of things, really.  The fact that each team will, as noted above, make the playoffs.  The fact that it may, tactically speaking, be better to win the wild card this year because I think Detroit will be dangerous in a short series (assuming Detroit finishes behind Texas overall).  The fact that there hasn’t been much in the way of personal animosity between the players in several years (I mean, look how old that pic I used is).  The fact that, since the Sox have won two World Series and the Yankees returned to championship status in 2009, there is less urgency for each team to demonstrate its bonafides.

And of course the unbalanced schedule and the reality of the TV rankings which give us so, so many Yankees-Red Sox games contributes. It’s hard to keep up the intensity for so long. There are too many baseball games for most rivalries to remain hot both on the field and in the public consciousness, and it really does require both.  I like temporary rivalries the sprout up due to a couple of years of close races or a particularly memorable series and then fade away.

Mets-Braves were like that a few years ago. They’re by no means natural rivals — they didn’t share a division until the mid-90s — but both teams being good and playing some really memorable games ten years or so ago was cool.  Same with Reds-Cardinals last year. Giants-Phillies.  Those have come and they will go fairly quickly, and they’re pretty hot when they happen.  And I think they’re more enjoyable because of it.

But the Red Sox-Yankees?  It takes more than history, I think, to really sustain this sort of thing.

The Orioles and Yovani Gallardo are “making progress”

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Ken Rosenthal reports that the Orioles are “making progress” in talks with free agent right-hander Yovani Gallardo.

Gallardo has been on the market so long because he has a first round pick tied to him due to his declining the Rangers’ qualifying offer. The Orioles would have to forfeit the 14th overall pick in order to sign him. That has been too steep a price to pay for them all winter, but as we’re mere days away from pitchers and catchers reporting, it’s likely that Gallardo’s price has dropped enough to make it worth their while.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons — and had a career-low 3.42 ERA in 2015 — but his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012, suggesting that trouble could be on the horizon.

If the O’s do burn their pick to get Gallardo, it might make sense for them to go all-in with another free agent like Dexter Fowler, given that they’d not have to give up anything else to do it.

Rangers avoid arbitration with Mitch Moreland

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First baseman/outfielder Mitch Moreland and the Rangers have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $5.7 million deal.

Moreland requested $6 million and the Rangers countered at $4.675 million, so the two sides settled on the player-friendly side of the midpoint.

Moreland bounced back from an injury wrecked 2014 season to have a career-year in 2015, hitting .278 with 23 homers and an .812 OPS in 132 games. Arbitration eligible for the final time at age 30, he’s set to be a free agent next offseason.

Tiger Stadium redevelopment group loses $50K because of its preference for artificial turf

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Craig Calcaterra
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We’ve posted frequently on the topic of the old Tiger Stadium site. If you’ve kept up with it you know that the site, nearly overgrown with weeds and strewn with trash before being rescued by a group of volunteers called the Navin Field Grounds Crew, is now being slated for redevelopment by the Detroit Police Athletic League.

The PAL is committed to keeping a baseball field as part of the development, but they are also, quite unfortunately, committed to putting artificial turf down over the bit of Earth where baseball legends once walked and ran.

Backlash to the plan has begun, however. Not just from people like me or the Navin Field Grounds Crew, who are opposed to fake grass, but to an actual donor to the Detroit Police Athletic League:

With an annual contribution of $50,000 to Detroit PAL’s programs, the Lear Corporation has been a major benefactor of the nonprofit for years. But in light of PAL’s controversial plan to redevelop the Tiger Stadium site with artificial turf, Lear’s CEO is speaking out.

Matthew Simoncini says that Lear is withdrawing its financial support of PAL for its mishandling of this delicate issue.

“I believe the [PAL] plan is severely flawed [and] a terrible use of resources,” says Simoncini. “[It] does not preserve this site and provides [an] unsafe playing surface for the children,”

I’m guessing $50,000 is not the sort of money that will seriously hinder a real estate redevelopment plan, but it’s good to hear someone with a stake in all of this voting with their wallet. Here’s hoping more do and that, eventually, PAL understands that there are some things more important than saving some money at the front end of a project.

Evan Gattis undergoes surgery for hernia; recovery is 4-6 weeks

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Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images North America
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Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle shares the bad news

One of the Astros’ big bats won’t be taking hacks when the Astros hold their first full workout on Feb. 23.

Astros designated hitter Evan Gattis recently underwent surgery to repair a hernia, the Chronicle has learned, taking away most of his spring training at a minimum. The recovery is four to six weeks but fortunately for Gattis and the Astros, the injury is not considered severe.

Gattis was working hard on his overall conditioning this winter, even telling MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart in late January that he had already dropped 18 pounds. It sounds like the big slugger might have gone a bit overboard with those workouts, and now he is in real danger of missing the first couple weeks of the 2016 regular season.

Gattis batted .246/.285/.463 with 27 home runs and 88 RBI in 153 games last season for the Astros. The 29-year-old is arbitration-eligible for the first time in his career and has a hearing with the Astros scheduled for February 16 to determine his salary for 2016. He requested $3.8 million and was offered $3 million when figures were exchanged a little over three weeks ago.

Suddenly the Astros’ front office might have a new talking point for those arbitrators.