Cleared of murder charges, Angel Villalona added to Giants’ to 40-man roster

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In case you didn’t notice, yesterday was the day teams set their 40-man rosters in advance of December’s Rule 5 Draft. Most of the moves are expected and usually include many guys you’ve never heard of, but occasionally a surprise is thrown our way. For instance, the Giants have added former top prospect Angel Villalona to their 40-man roster.

Villalona, who received a club-record $2.1 million signing bonus as a 16-year-old in 2006, hasn’t played professionally in over two years after being accused of killing a 25-year-old man in a Dominican Republic nightclub in September of 2009. Charges were eventually dismissed as part of a $139,000 settlement with the victim’s family, but Villalona sued the Giants for $5 million earlier this summer claiming they violated the terms of his contract following his arrest. After the two sides settled the lawsuit in September, the Giants were prepared to welcome him back in the organization.

Villalona is currently at the Giants’ complex in the Dominican working his way into baseball shape, but he isn’t completely out of the woods yet. While Giants president of baseball operations Bobby Evans told Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News that he was removed from the restricted list about a month ago, he is still awaiting a work visa to return to the United States.

The Giants apparently feel that Villalona is worth protecting, but his stock was dropping as a prospect even before the murder charges. He had an ugly 235/42 K/BB ratio over his first three professional seasons and his lack of conditioning led many to believe he was best suited as a designated hitter in the long run. He’s still only 21 years old, so we can’t call him a lost cause, but he has a long way to go before being taken seriously as a prospect again.

Report: The Yankee Stadium charity is a secretive, self-dealing boondoggle

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The New York Times has a blistering report on the New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund. The Fund is the charity the Yankees created in 2006 as a means of making up for the negative impact the construction New Yankee Stadium had on the surrounding community, primarily via its taking over 25 acres of parkland.

The idea of the Fund was a good one: to distribute $40 million in cash grants and sports equipment, and 600,000 free baseball tickets to community organizations in the Bronx over four decades. And it has been distributing funds and tickets. As the Times reports, however, the manner in which it has done so raises some red flags. Such as:

  • Charitable donations have, in an amazing coincidence, often gone to other charities which share common board members with the New Yankee Stadium Fund;
  • Funds have gone to many wealthy groups in affluent parts of the Bronx far away from the Stadium while the area around the stadium remains one of the most impoverished in the nation. For example, a private school in a wealthy part of the borough and a rec center in a gated community have gotten a lot money that, one would think anyway, could be and should be devoted to organizations closer to the ballpark that are in greater need; and
  • There has been almost no transparency or oversight of the Fund. Reports which were supposed to have been submitted have not been. And no one, apart from the Times anyway, seems to care. The Yankees certainly don’t seem to. Indeed, as the article notes, the team has worked hard to keep the Fund’s operations out of its hands. They just got their new ballpark and write the checks and hand out the tickets. Everything else is someone else’s problem.

Cronyism in private philanthropy is not uncommon. As is a lack of oversight. Often it’s the best connected people who receive the benefit of such funds, not the people most in need. This is especially true in charities whose creation was not born of a philanthropic impulse as much as it was born of a need to put a good face on some not-so-good business dealings.

If the Times’ report is correct — and the lack of anyone coming forward to dispute it on the record despite the Times’ requests that they do suggests it is — it appears as if the New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund is one of those sorts of charities.

Who is the fastest sprinter in baseball?

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We’re not talking the 100 meters here. We’re talking practical baseball sprinting. That’s defined by the StatCast folks at MLB as “feet per second in a player’s fastest one-second window,” while sprinting for the purposes of, you know, winning a baseball game.

StatCast ranked all players who have at least 10 “max effort” runs this year. I won’t give away who is at the top of this list, but given that baseball’s speedsters tend to get a lot of press you will not be at all surprised. As for the bottom of the list, well, the Angels don’t pay Albert Pujols to run even when he’s not suffering from late career chronic foot problems, so they’ll probably let that one go. I will say, however, that I am amused that the third slowest dude in baseball is named “Jett,” however.

Lately people have noticed some odd things about home run distances on StatCast, suggesting that maybe their metrics are wacko. And, of course, their means of gauging this stuff is proprietary and opaque, so we have no way of knowing if their numbers are off the reservation or not. As such, take all of the StatCast stuff you see with a grain of salt.

That said, even if the feet-per-second stuff is wrong here, knowing that Smith is faster than Jones by a factor of X is still interesting.