Lance Berkman used a pretty loaded word earlier today to describe how MLB commissioner Bud Selig convinced new Astros’ owner Jim Crane to move the team to the American League West. According to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com, the former Astro said Selig “extorted” Crane into switching leagues as a precondition of ownership.
Berkman hasn’t conveyed his feelings personally to the commissioner, but said he would if given the opportunity.
“If he called me, I would tell him,” Berkman said. “I think that’s exactly what it was. To tell [Crane], ‘We’re going to hold the sale of the team up until you guys agreed to switch’? It just happened that the Astros were being sold at an optimal time for that to happen.”
Crane received a price reduction from $680 million to $615 million on the sale by agreeing to the switch, which will put 15 teams in each league beginning in 2013. While he admitted to Crasnick that he probably would have preferred to keep the franchise in the National League, he called it a “good deal for baseball” and a “good deal for our owners.”
“Lance can say what Lance wants to say,” Crane said. “He has great ties to the Astros and was a great player there for years. We certainly understand that he’s opinionated, but I wouldn’t use that strong a term. I think it was just a business deal that got renegotiated.”
Extortion is a probably a little extreme, but there’s little doubt that Crane was strong-armed into switching leagues. But I don’t expect him to complain given the sweet discount he ended up getting. Something tells me Berkman will get that conversation with Selig, though.
The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.
Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).
A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.
The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:
A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.
The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.
Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.