So when will all of the European baseball players arrive?

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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.

Michael Bourn opts out of his minor league deal with the Orioles

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Outfielder Michael Bourn was traded by the Diamondbacks to the Orioles late last season and hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with them through the end of the season. While that’s not enough to outweigh the miserable season he had in Arizona, it was enough to get the O’s to give him a look in spring training with a minor league deal. They signed him to one in late February.

Then, a couple of days later, Bourn broke his finger while playing catch with a football. Unable to play, the O’s cut him. In early April, once Bourn healed, the O’s signed him again. He played 11 games for their Triple-A affiliate and went 9-for-41 with ten walks in 51 plate appearances. While that makes for a decent OBP, his lack of any sort of pop or good contact suggests that if someone throws him strikes, he can’t do much with the ball.

As such, the O’s had not called him up to Baltimore. And as a result of that, Bourn exercised his opt-out rights and became a free agent.

Someone may take a look at him given that his batting eye seems to be intact and given that, in an admittedly small sample size, he still performed last season. But if he does get a look, it’ll likely be back at the minor league level.

Rob Manfred talks about playing regular season games in Mexico

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The new Collective Bargaining Agreement commits the players and the league to regular season games on foreign soil. Most of the focus of this has been on games in London, for which there has been a lot of activity and discussion.

Yesterday before the Astros-Tigers game in Houston, however, Commissioner Rob Manfred talked about playing games in Mexico. And not as just a one-off, but as a foot-in-the-water towards possible expansion:

Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday that the time had come to play regular-season games in Mexico City as Major League Baseball weighs international expansion.

“We think it’s time to move past exhibition games and play real live ‘they-count’ games in Mexico,” Manfred said. “That is the kind of experiment that puts you in better position to make a judgement as to whether you have a market that could sustain an 81-game season and a Major League team.”

A team in Mexico could make some geographic sense and some marketing sense, though it’s not clear if there is a city that would be appropriate for that right now. Mexico City is huge but it has plenty of its own sports teams and is far away from the parts of the country where baseball is popular (mostly the border states and areas along the Pacific coast). At 7,382 feet, its elevation would make games at Coors Field look like the Deadball Era.

Monterrey has been talked about — games have been played there and it’s certainly closer — but it’s somewhat unknown territory demographically speaking. It’s not as big as Mexico City, obviously. Income stratification is greater there and most of the rest of Mexico than it is in the United States too, making projections of how much discretionary income people may spend on an expensive entertainment product like Major League Baseball uncertain. Especially when they have other sports they’ve been following for decades.

Interesting, though. It’s something Manfred has talked about many times over the years, so unlike so many other things he says he’s “considering” or “hasn’t ruled out,” Major League Baseball in Mexico is something worth keeping our eyes on.