Ralph Branca

Why all of you horrible savages are wrong for booing ballplayers

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There are two areas in baseball — I think just two, but I’m sure someone will remind me if I’m missing any — in which I will freely own up to being an impossible annoying self-righteous prig:  beanball wars, as we discussed yesterday, and booing ballplayers.

My thing about beanball wars is pretty defensible I think, as guys really can get hurt. I don’t care what you say — even if you’re being rational and otherwise persuasive about it when you take issue with me — I’m never going to abide intentionally throwing a baseball at someone.

The booing thing: eh, I realize I’m out-of-step with most sports fans (with “most” meaning “virtually all”).  I just hate booing. I find it to be unseemly and kind of rude. I never boo anyone sincerely (I’ve ironically booed people before, not that it would make a difference to the target). I prefer to be all passive-aggressive about it and simmer with silence and resentment. Maybe it’s just a repressed Midwesterner thing. It’s our way.

Maybe if someone were truly villainous I’d boo them — like if a player did something decidedly evil in a game but somehow avoided being ejected — but I can’t ever feature myself booing my own team’s player simply because he made a mistake or was slumping. Or another team’s player because he played well against my team. Or any player because of some lame contract dispute years and years ago, a minor hubbub or scandal or what have you.

Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because the subject of booing was mentioned at a charity event featuring Bobby Valentine last night.  For those who don’t know, Valentine’s father-in-law is legendary Brooklyn Dodgers’ pitcher Ralph Branca.  Branca, as I hope you do know, served up the pitch that became Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” that catapulted the Giants into the 1951 World Series over Branca’s Dodgers.

A goat that cost the Dodgers the pennant? In Brooklyn of all places? Surely that man was booed until Hell wouldn’t have it, right? Wrong! Branca was at the event and spoke thusly:

In a discussion about big markets and small markets and how players respond to being booed, Branca took the microphone and reminded the crowd that he knew a little bit about the topic. Branca gave up one of the most famous homers in baseball history, Bobby Thomson’s three-run shot that gave the New York Giants the 1951 NL pennant over the Brooklyn Dodgers.

“Me get booed? Never,” Branca told a few hundred people at Fenway Park on Monday night. “I did lose a few [fans]”

I’m never gonna convince anyone that booing is low-rent. And the next time I write a head-shaking post about fans who, in my view, unjustifiably boo a player, I am absolutely certain you will all call me out for being the impossible and annoying self-righteous prig that I am on this topic.

But do your worst. Boo me, even. I don’t care. If people in Brooklyn in 1952 weren’t booing Ralph Branca, no one deserves to get booed, ever.

Now if you excuse me, I’m going to retire to my fainting couch. I feel a spell of the vapors coming on.

UPDATE:  This man is so, so right. That’s just one guy’s opinion.

The Padres non-tendered RHP Tyson Ross

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 04:  Tyson Ross #38 of the San Diego Padres walks off the field as he's taken out of the game in the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on opening day at PETCO Park on April 4, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
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Per a report by MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell, the Padres non-tendered right-handed starter Tyson Ross on Friday, cutting loose their top ace after three seasons with the club.

Ross, 29, was sidelined for the bulk of the season with inflammation in his right shoulder and underwent thoracic outlet surgery in October. His injuries limited him to only 5 1/3 innings in 2016, during which he gave up seven runs and struck out five in a 15-0 blowout against the Dodgers.

Prior to his lengthy stint on the disabled list, the right-hander earned 9.5 fWAR and pitched to a 3.07 ERA and 9.2 K/9 rate in three full seasons with the Padres. He avoided arbitration with a one-year, $9.625 million deal prior to the 2016 season after leading the league with 33 starts and delivering a 3.26 ERA and career-best 4.4 WARP over 196 innings in 2015.

The Padres appear open to bringing Ross back to San Diego, reported Cassavell, albeit not at such a steep cost. Cassavell quoted Padres’ GM A.J. Preller, who was reportedly in trade talks involving Ross but unable to strike a deal, likely due to the right-hander’s recent health issues. Preller denied that those same health issues factored into the club’s decision to non-tender their ace.

With the move, Ross became one of 35 major leaguers to enter free agency on Friday.

Angels’ Pujols has foot surgery, could be sidelined 4 months

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Los Angeles Angels slugger Albert Pujols had surgery on his right foot Friday, possibly sidelining him past opening day.

Angels general manager Billy Eppler said Pujols had the procedure Friday in North Carolina to release his plantar fascia, the ligament connecting the heel to the toes. The three-time NL MVP was bothered by plantar fasciitis repeatedly during the season, but played through the pain in arguably the strongest year of his half-decade with the Angels.

Eppler said the surgery typically prevents players from participating in baseball activities for three months, along with another month before they’re ready to resume playing in games. Opening day for Los Angeles is April 3, and the Angels hope Pujols can be ready.

“He’s at that point in his career where he’s keenly aware of what’s happening with his body,” Eppler said in a phone interview. “I don’t put the timetable on Albert like you would with your younger players. We’ll just see in Albert’s case, as he progresses, what his timetable is.”

Pujols, who turns 37 next month, batted .268 last year with 31 homers and 119 RBIs, the fourth-most in the majors – although his .780 OPS was among the worst of his career. He largely served as a designated hitter instead of playing first base due to problems with his hamstrings and feet.

Pujols heads into 2017 with 591 career homers, ranking him ninth in major league history. He is 18 homers behind Sammy Sosa for eighth place.

After playing in pain until the final week of the Angels’ disappointing season, Pujols began shock wave therapy on his foot early in the offseason, believing he wouldn’t need surgery.

But Pujols’ foot became more painful in recent weeks despite the therapy, and he huddled with the Angels’ top brass to decide on surgery after his most recent trip to see Dr. Robert Anderson in North Carolina. Continuing with conservative care would have required 10 more weeks, forcing Pujols to miss the first half of the 2017 season if he still required surgery.

“He just felt that the pain had gotten to a point where he was comfortable” having surgery, Eppler said. “If we did delay it, you’re just looking at 2 1/2 more months into the season.”

Pujols had a different type of surgery on his right foot last winter, but recovered in time for opening day. He also had plantar fasciitis in his left foot during the 2013 season, eventually forcing him out for the year when his fascia snapped.

Pujols has five years and $140 million remaining on the 10-year, $240 million free-agent contract that pried him out of St. Louis, where he won two World Series and became a nine-time NL All-Star.

The Angels haven’t won a playoff game since Pujols’ arrival and Mike Trout‘s concurrent emergence as one of baseball’s best players. They went 74-88 last season, the injury-plagued club’s worst record since 1999.