Is this the end of the line for a true baseball character?

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At the start of the season, I wrote a series of stories on the difficulties of making it to – and staying in – the major leagues.

One of those players was 35-year-old catcher Corky Miller, a classic baseball vagabond currently in the Cincinnati Reds system who has played for 14 teams, including five major league teams, over the past 13 seasons. Over the past decade, he’s managed to play at least one game in the big leagues in every season, hitting a mere .188 in only 575 plate appearances.

During spring training, Miller had this to say about his difficult journey:

“If you get to the big leagues, you bust your ass to stay there. If you’re in Triple-A, you do what you need to do to be ready when they call you.”

For the first time since 2000, it looks like they’re not going to call Corky Miller.

At least it appears that way, with the Reds planning to call up top catching prospect Devin Mesoraco when rosters expand on Thursday.

The game tosses aside players every season, and .188 hitters don’t tend to stick around as long as Miller has. But Miller has proven that a defensive-minded catcher who calls a good game and tutors pitchers well can find a place.

John Erardi of the Cincinnati Enquirer caught up with Miller, and his story from last week is both illuminating and entertaining.

Click through to read the whole story, but here are some of the highlights:

  • Dontrelle Willis credits Miller with helping him rediscover his form, saying “He’s like Halley’s Comet – he’s a once-in-a-lifetime guy.”
  • Pitcher Matt Maloney says Miller has some Crash Davis in him, “but I don’t know if he’d necessarily like the comparison.”
  • Corky is his given name, but his mother gave him Abraham as his middle name in case he became president.
  • The lone stolen base of his career was a swipe of home in 2001. “We’re still hearing about it,” Mesoraco said.
  • Early in his career, Miller was called up to the bigs, only to sit on the bench. He asked to be sent back down so he could play.

And finally:

What if this season were to be his last as a player? How would he want to be remembered?

“As a professional, a guy who went out and did his job, and a good teammate,” Miller said.

“To me, that would be everything.”

Mission accomplished.

UPDATE: Donald Trump declines Nats offer to throw out the first pitch

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UPDATE: Welp, we wont’ get to see that:

Sad!

8:53 AM: It’s just gossip now, but Politico is hearing that Donald Trump is in talks to throw out the first pitch at Nationals Park on Opening Day. The Nats are not commenting. Neither are the Palm Beach Cardinals of the Florida State League, who no doubt feel slighted given that the president effectively is a local.

With the caveat that, on Opening Day, tickets are likely to be more expensive and thus you’re likely to have a lot more rich people and friends-of-the-owners in attendance, thereby ensuring a more conservative crowd, I’m struggling to imagine a situation in which Trump strolls on to a baseball field in a large American city and isn’t booed like crazy. He’s polling as low as 36% in some places. He’s not exactly Mr. Popular.

Oh well. I look forward to him three-bouncing one to Matt Wieters and then grabbing his phone and tweeting about how it was the best, most tremendous first pitch in baseball history. Or blaming Hillary Clinton for it in the event he admits that it was a bad pitch.

2017 Preview: Texas Rangers

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Texas Rangers.

The Rangers somehow won the AL West last year despite not being super great at any one aspect of the game. There are stars here — Adrian Beltre, Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish and Rougned Odor are all spiffy players — but the Rangers won the division by being greater than the sum of their parts. They scored a decent number of runs despite some bad collective peripheral numbers and they allowed more runs than anyone in the AL except the Twins and Athletics. Yet they had a great record in one-run games and outperformed their pythagorean record by a WHOLE lot. Luck shined brightly on the 2016 Rangers.

It’s hard to expect luck to hold in any instance, but that’s especially the case when there have been some pretty significant changes. Changes like the loss of Carlos Beltran, Ian Desmond and Mitch Moreland. In their place: A full season, the Rangers hope, from Shin-Soo Choo, a converted-to-outfield Jurickson Profar and Mike Napoli. That may wash out OK, especially if Choo is healthy, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see some regression in two of those offensive slots.

Starting pitching is also a big question mark. Cole Hamels at the top is not a problem, obviously, and if Yu Darvish is healthy and durable the Rangers have an outstanding 1-2 punch. Martin Perez in the third spot presents promise, but he’s been exactly average so far in five major league seasons. The back end of the rotation has some real problems. Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross are hurt at the moment and even if healthy, Cashner seems to be a shell of his once-promising self. A.J. Griffin is looking to pitch in his first full season since 2013. If the Rangers are strong contenders all year it’s gonna be on the “Spahn and Sain and two days of rain” model, but I have no idea what rhymes with “Darvish” and that’s sort of a problem.

The bullpen is going to look a lot like it did last year. Sam Dyson will close, but manager Jeff Banister has shown in the past that he’s not a slave to keeping guys in any one role down there. Jeremy Jeffress will likely set up but he’s closed before. Some think Matt Bush or Keone Kela could close. We’ll see Tanner Scheppers and lefty Alex Claudio. Banister has a Manager of the Year Award on his mantle and while that often doesn’t mean anything, it usually suggests that a guy knows how to deal with his pen. Banister will do OK with what he has.

Really, though, the rotation is a concern, as is hoping that a 35-year-old Mike Napoli and a soon-to-be 38-year-old Adrian Beltre can continue to be the types of players who can form the offensive core of a playoff team. There’s talent and a track record here, but there’s a lot of uncertainty. For that reason, I suspect the Rangers will fall back a smidge this year, even if they’re a playoff contender.

Prediction: Second Place, American League West.