When I was seven years-old, I was of the opinion that J.R. Richard was the greatest pitcher in baseball. This was based less on watching him — I might have seen him pitch once on a Game of the Week or something and knew nothing about pitching then — as it was on what older people said and gaudy numbers on the back of baseball cards.
But, as you probably know, Richard’s career was cut short — and his life derailed — by a stroke he suffered while warming up in the Astrodome on July 30, 1980. He would never pitch again. He would fall into drug abuse and homelessness. Only in the past several years has he gotten back on his feet, and is now a preacher and community worker.
He’s being honored by the Astros today, when he will be inducted into their “Walk of Fame” outside of Minute Maid Park. Tonight he will throw out the first pitch prior to the game.
But Richard wants more. He wants his number retired:
The Astros have been more liberal than most teams in retiring numbers, and the list of pitchers so honored includes Larry Dierker, Nolan Ryan, Mike Scott and a pair who died prematurely in Don Wilson and Jim Umbricht.
Richard hopes his No. 50, which has been given to nine players and now bullpen coach Craig Bjornson since Richard retired, will be next.
“When it happens, it happens, but I would like it to happen as soon as possible,” Richard said. “And the reason why I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn is because when you look at the statistics, my number should have been the first one retired.”
Hard to blame him. After all he gave to the Astros, one would hope that they could quit giving out number 50 to others.
Ben Cafardo of the Boston Globe speculated on Sunday that there might be a connection between the Giants and veteran free agent right-hander John Lackey, and now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports that San Francisco is indeed in pursuit.
Rosenthal says the Giants, “like most clubs seeking pitching, [are] examining [a] wide range of options” in this starter-heavy free agent market. Lackey would make a ton of sense for any contender on something like a two-year deal. His free agency is tied to draft pick compensation, but that shouldn’t be much of a deterrent.
The 37-year-old right-hander registered a career-best 2.77 ERA across 218 innings (33 starts) this past season for the National League Central-champion Cardinals and he was St. Louis’ most reliable starter during the playoffs.
It’s well known that he wants to remain in the National League.
As first reported by beat writer Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times, the Angels have signed free agent catcher Geovany Soto to a one-year major league contract. MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez says the deal is worth $2.8 million guaranteed.
Soto will offer some veteran presence at catcher for the Halos alongside 25-year-old Carlos Perez, who hit .250/.299/.346 as a rookie in 2015.
Soto slashed .219/.301/.406 with nine homers in 78 games this summer for the White Sox.
The 32-year-old backstop is a .246/.331/.434 career hitter at the major league level.
According to the official Twitter account of the Chicago White Sox, the club acquired right-hander Tommy Kahnle from the Rockies on Tuesday evening in exchange for minor league pitcher Yency Almonte.
Kahnle was designated for assignment by the Rockies last week in a flurry of moves made in preparation of next month’s Rule 5 Draft. The 26-year-old former fifth-round pick posted an ugly 4.86 ERA, 1.77 WHIP, and 39/28 K/BB ratio in 33 1/3 innings this past season for Colorado and he wasn’t much better at Triple-A Albuquerque.
Almonte, 21, had a 3.41 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 110/38 K/BB ratio in 137 1/3 innings this past season between Low-A Kannapolis and High-A Winston-Salem.
It’s a straight one-for-one deal of two non-prospects, and the timing of it — in the evening, with Thanksgiving approaching — has our Craig Calcaterra wondering whether an executive was just trying to get out of some family responsibilities …
The other day Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the Padres were in discussions with former Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire about their bench coach job. Today Jon Heyman reports that the deal is done and will soon be announced.
McGwire has been the hitting coach for Los Angeles for the past three seasons. When his contract was not renewed following the end of 2015 he was rumored to be up for the Diamondbacks’ hitting coach job. He likely view staying in Southern California to be a plus, as he makes his home in Irvine, which is around 90 miles from Petco Park. That’s a long commute, but Mac can afford the gas, I guess.