This is essentially a must-click link, though I offer it with the caveat that it is an ESPN Insider piece, so many of you won’t be able to click it. My antipathy toward paywalls aside — and notwithstanding the fact that ESPN’s fortunes do not benefit me whatsoever — I believe that Insider subscription is worth it simply for the Keith Law and Buster Olney content. Law is always great, and Olney — even when I disagree with him — is so thorough and provides so many links to stuff I may not have seen, that he’s worth it too. So if you have the means, you should consider a subscription. Yes, you can throw the magazine away when it comes.
OK, sales pitch aside, Law has a piece up today about the rise of baseball in Europe. Mostly the challenges, actually, as there are all kinds of barriers making it harder for baseball to gain a foothold in Europe like it has in Asia and Latin America. But they are barriers that are slowly being worn down and one day we may start to see a steady flow of baseball players coming from Italy the Netherlands and countries where baseball is even less entrenched now. Law explains the challenges that have to be overcome in order to make that happen.
The biggest takeaway from the article for me is how much more labor intensive it seems to develop baseball talent than, say, basketball or soccer talent. In those sports athleticism can cover for an awful lot of rawness and lack of refinement early on. In baseball — as Law says — athleticism is necessary but not sufficient.
Anyway, a good read for anyone who wonders about where the stars of tomorrow might get their start.
The Kansas City Star has covered the death of Yordano Ventura and its aftermath in a thorough, thoughtful, respectful and admirable fashion and it has all been compelling to read, even if it’s often been difficult to read. Their latest story may be the most difficult, though it is nonetheless essential.
It covers the final year of Ventura’s life which, sadly, was tumultuous. He had become estranged from his family. He was married to a woman who, at the time of the ceremony, was still married to her first husband and whose family, allegedly, later made threats against Ventura that we’re only now learning about. This includes allegations of armed men accosting Ventura at his home near the Royals spring training facility a year ago. An incident which led to him missing time due to “flulike symptoms,” but which, in reality, caused him considerable mental distress. He was again threatened, it is claimed, in Kansas City during the season. There is also an allegation that Ventura attempted suicide via an overdose of Benadryl, though that is disputed.
Beyond that, there is an arc to the end of Ventura’s life which sounds unfortunately familiar. It’s a story of a young man whose life changed dramatically in a very, very short period of time and who struggled at times to process the changes. Were it not for a fateful drive on a dark and winding road one night in late January, they all could’ve been things that, as his career matured, he could look back on as learning experiences. Now that he’s gone, however, they form the final, tragic chapter.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals and first baseman Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension. However, Hosmer also indicated that he will head into free agency if a deal is not consummated by Opening Day.
Hosmer, 27, avoided arbitration with the Royals last month, agreeing to a $12.25 million salary for the 2017 season. He is one of four key Royals players who can become a free agent after the season along with Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and Lorenzo Cain. If Hosmer does reach free agency, he would arguably be the top free agent first baseman.
Hosmer finished the past season hitting .266/.328/.433 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI while making his first All-Star team.