United States Senator Scott Brown prepares to throw out the first pitch prior to a baseball game between the Boston Red Sox and the Toronto Blue Jays in Boston.

My heavens! Massachusetts Senator takes political donation from Yankees president

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There are a lot more important things to get outraged about in politics, but if you’re gonna do things like wear the local team’s gear and stand in front of their ballpark in campaign ads in order to try to co-opt some goodwill, you had better not do this:

U.S. Sen. Scott Brown may be rooting for the Red Sox against the Yankees this week, but the head of the hated Pinstripes is going to bat for Brown.

Randy Levine, president of the New York Yankees, donated the maximum $2,500 to the Massachusetts Republican’s re-election campaign last month, according to newly released campaign finance records. That’s right, the commander of the Evil Empire is helping to pay for all those Brown ads championing his support of the Red Sox.

It’d be trivial if, as the article notes, the woman Brown beat in his last election didn’t get all kinds of bad press for thinking that Curt Schilling was a Yankees fan when trying to criticize Schilling’s endorsement of Brown. Of course she was a terrible candidate in a number of ways, so that may not have done her in. But the point remains that silly Red Sox issues seem to matter in Massachusetts politics.

Ultimately, though, this will make me sad if it becomes a real issue instead of an amusing note. Because if people get all angry about a moderate individual donation from a private citizen who happens to be connected with a sports team they hate for tribal reasons, while they seem to care less about huge, systematic purchasing of our political system by corporate and other special interests, it means that we’re pretty much broken as a republic.

(thanks to @baseballot for the heads up)

Brandon Belt signs $6.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with Giants

Brandon Belt
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In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.

Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.

He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.

Phillies acquire Taylor Featherston from Angels

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Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.

Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.

He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.

Keith Law: The Braves have the best farm system in baseball

Braves 2
Associated Press
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Flags fly forever! Hooray for The Process championship!

Ah, sorry. This is about as much rooting as I’ll get to do this year, so cut me some slack.

This is the week when ESPN’s Keith Law releases his prospect and farm system rankings. He kicks off his content this week with a top-to-bottom ranking of all 30 farm systems. As a rule he limits his analysis to players who are currently in the minors and who have not yet exhausted their rookie of the year eligibility. The top system: the Atlanta Braves. The bottom: the Los Angeles Angels, about whom Law says “I’ve been doing these rankings for eight years now, and this is by far the worst system I’ve ever seen.” Enjoy Mike Trout, though, you guys.

If you want to know the reasons and the rankings of everyone in between you’ll have to get an ESPN Insider subscription. Sorry, I know everyone hates to pay for content on the Internet, but Keith and others who do this kind of work put a lot of damn work into it and this is what pays their bills. I typically don’t like to pay for content myself, but I do pay for an ESPN Insider subscription. It’s worth it for Law’s work alone. And though he drives me crazy sometimes, Buster Olney’s daily column/notes thing is also worth the money over the course of the year.