Braves Fans

Why do you root for those guys? You’ve never lived there!

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Even though he called me and my ilk “underwear guys” the other day, I still read George Vecsey in the Times. What can I say? He’s good. And he’s just about done, so no sense in boycotting him a day or two before his retirement.

Today he tackles a subject close to my heart: rooting for a team from a geographic area with which you have no connection.  It vexes him and he’s curious about it. He starts by talking about Cardinals fans who are not from Cardinal country, then moves on to other sports:

In New York I run into Packers fans who have never lived in Wisconsin, Canadiens fans who have never lived in La Belle Province, Celtics fans who admire Russell and Bird and Pierce but have no trace of a Boston accent. The cable brings sport into our homes and bars, causing fans to pick a team from outside their natural habitat … If you root for a team not from your region – or know somebody who does – can you give some details? How does that work out for everybody?

As I’ve said countless times around here, I’ve never been to a game in Atlanta. My Braves thing is because they were the only baseball I could watch after I moved to West Virginia in 1985 and they just grew on me. I suppose for a lot of people there’s a front-runner thing too (I’d guess there were fewer Packers, Cowboys and Bulls fans around the country in the 1980s than there are now).  But there are countless other reasons too.

Neat topic. Almost so neat that I am willing to forgive Vecsey for saying that bloggers have ruined the fine art of reporting just as he publishes a column in which he’s basically crowd-sourcing like a lot of bloggers do.

Athletics trade Billy Burns to the Royals for Brett Eibner

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - MAY 13: Billy Burns #1 of the Oakland Athletics waits on deck to bat during the fourth inning of a game against the Tampa Bay Rays on May 13, 2016 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.

Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.

Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.

Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.

Nationals acquire closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 20:  Mark Melancon #35 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches during the ninth inning against the Colorado Rockies on May 20, 2016 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
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The Nationals announced on Saturday afternoon that the club acquired closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates in exchange for reliever Felipe Rivero and minor league pitcher Taylor Hearn.

Melancon, 31, put together another solid season for the Pirates, leaving the club with 30 saves, a 1.51 ERA, and a 38/9 K/BB ratio in 41 2/3 innings. He led the majors last season with 51 saves and has a 1.80 ERA since joining the Pirates in 2013. Melancon is earning $9.65 million this season and can become eligible for free agency after the season.

With Melancon out of the picture, the Pirates intend to have Tony Watson take over the closer’s role.

Rivero, 25, has handled the seventh and eighth innings for the Nationals this season, compiling a 4.53 ERA and a 53/15 K/BB ratio in 49 2/3 innings. He’s just shy of one year of service time, so the Pirates will have control of him for a long time.

Hearn, 21, was rated the Nationals’ 27th-best prospect by MLB Pipeline. He was originally drafted by the Pirates in the 22nd round of the 2012 draft but he didn’t sign and ended up going back to college. The Nationals took him in the fifth round of last year’s draft. This season, between rookie ball and Single-A Hagerstown, Hearn put up a 2.79 ERA and a 39/13 K/BB ratio in 29 innings. He’s a long way away from the majors, so he’s essentially a lottery ticket for the Pirates.

The Nationals needed an upgrade at closer as Jonathan Papelbon has struggled this season. The right-hander has allowed runs in each of his last three appearances, ballooning his ERA up to 4.41 with a 30/13 K/BB ratio in 32 2/3 innings. It will be interesting to see how Papelbon, who has never made a habit of letting his feelings go unspoken, handles a demotion to the eighth inning.