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.
Rangers reliever Jake Diekman will have surgery on January 25 to help alleviate ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease. As a result, the lefty will miss at least half of the 2017 regular season, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. Diekman was diagnosed with the illness when he was 11 years old. He has brought awareness to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America with a “Gut It Out” campaign.
Diekman, who turns 30 years old on Saturday, finished the 2016 campaign with a 3.40 ERA and a 59/26 K/BB ratio in 53 innings. He came to the Rangers from the Phillies in the Cole Hamels trade on July 31, 2015.
The Rangers and Diekman avoided arbitration last Friday, agreeing to a $2.55 million salary for the 2017 season.
It’s been on the verge of happening for a few days now, but now it’s official: the Toronto Blue Jays and Jose Bautista have reached a one-year deal with a mutual option. The deal is pending physical. An announcement making the deal official is expected later in week.
The exact financial figures have not been disclosed, but Jon Heyman reports that it will be in excess of the $17.2 million Bautista turned down when he turned down the Jays’ qualifying offer.
Bautista had a tough 2016, hitting .234/.366/.452 with 22 home runs and 69 RBI, and some clubs likely considered a long-term deal for the 36-year-old too risky, this leading to the relative lack of reported interest in Bautista by other clubs. But back-to-back ALCS appearances by the Jays and the success and popularity Bautista has experienced in Toronto make his re-signing there a pretty sensible move for all involved.