La Russa Phone

Should phone companies sponsor the bullpen phones?


Did you know that the Chinese word for “crisis” is the same as that for “opportunity.”  Ha! Just kidding! That’s not true at all!  But it makes people feel better, so why not let ’em go with it?  And besides, it’s not like there isn’t some truth to it. When bad things happen it gives you an opportunity — hell, sometimes an engraved invitation — to reflect and see if things could be done a better way.

Or at least a more lucrative way.  CNBC’s Darren Rovell is good at thinking along those lines and thinks out loud today about how Tony La Russa’s ill bullpen phone communication could be spun into an opportunity for Major League Baseball and some lucky sponsor:

Major League Baseball has 16 official sponsors, and surprise, surprise, not one of them has anything to do with phones … Imagine LaRussa picking up a smart phone with a huge logo on it or going into a booth built in each dugout with the company’s logo on it to text on it. As part of the deal, that company would get a media buy included that would assure that the TV networks would show the managers making the call.

Always look on the green side of life, I suppose.  But I do wonder: what happens if last night’s event took place — a bullpen coach misunderstands the manager’s instructions — but this time there’s a giant “Verizon” or “Sprint” logo on the side? Isn’t that, you know, bad marketing?  I don’t think phone companies run negative ads against each other anymore, but if they did, a dropped call or garbled communication would basically write one itself.

I floated the idea on Twitter earlier and people told me that no one blinks when the headsets — sponsor-supplied equipment! — go down during NFL games, so maybe I’m just being paranoid.  Or maybe I’m just looking for any excuse to avoid having commercialism and corporate sponsorship intrude any further into the game than it already has.

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.