Aaron Miles opts for retirement

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One of the ultimate underdogs, Aaron Miles put together a nine-year career in the big leagues after debuting at age 26. Now he’s opted to calling it a day, according to his Triple-A team, retiring at age 35.

After receiving 12 at-bats with the White Sox at the end of 2003, Miles was traded to the Rockies for Juan Uribe over the winter. It proved to be his big break. He became the Rockies’ primary second baseman and finished fourth in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting after hitting  .293/.329/.368 with six homers and 47 RBI in 2004.

Miles spent two years with the Rockies and then three with the Cardinals, where his versatility made him a favorite of manager Tony La Russa. He turned in his best season in 2008, hitting .317/.355/.398 in 379 at-bats. All of those rate stats were career highs.

Unfortunately, that big year with the Cards made him too expensive to keep. The Cubs went on to sign him to a two-year, $4.9 million deal that proved to be a complete waste of money. He hit .185 in 157 at-bats in 2009 and was then sent packing, eventually to return to St. Louis.

Miles’ last hurrah came last year. An underdog to make the Dodgers out of spring training, he ended up getting 454 at-bats and hitting a respectable .275/.314/.346 with 45 RBI. Nevertheless, he wasn’t offered any big-league deals over the winter. He went on to re-sign with the Dodgers in May to play in Triple-A. His retirement comes after he hit .235 in 18 games for Albuquerque.

Standing just 5-foot-8 and listed at 160 pounds, Miles never really looked the part of a major leaguer. He wasn’t even really taken seriously as a utilityman initially because it didn’t look like he had the arm to play shortstop or third base. Miles, though, ended up playing in 932 games. He even started at shortstop 97 times. He also was the preeminent mop-up man among position players over the last decade. Five times he pitched for the Cardinals, allowing two runs in five innings.

All in all, it was quite a career for a little guy without any real power (19 career homers) or speed (30 stolen bases). He made about $9 million in his nine years, and he probably has a future in coaching if he wants one.

Report: The Yankee Stadium charity is a secretive, self-dealing boondoggle

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The New York Times has a blistering report on the New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund. The Fund is the charity the Yankees created in 2006 as a means of making up for the negative impact the construction New Yankee Stadium had on the surrounding community, primarily via its taking over 25 acres of parkland.

The idea of the Fund was a good one: to distribute $40 million in cash grants and sports equipment, and 600,000 free baseball tickets to community organizations in the Bronx over four decades. And it has been distributing funds and tickets. As the Times reports, however, the manner in which it has done so raises some red flags. Such as:

  • Charitable donations have, in an amazing coincidence, often gone to other charities which share common board members with the New Yankee Stadium Fund;
  • Funds have gone to many wealthy groups in affluent parts of the Bronx far away from the Stadium while the area around the stadium remains one of the most impoverished in the nation. For example, a private school in a wealthy part of the borough and a rec center in a gated community have gotten a lot money that, one would think anyway, could be and should be devoted to organizations closer to the ballpark that are in greater need; and
  • There has been almost no transparency or oversight of the Fund. Reports which were supposed to have been submitted have not been. And no one, apart from the Times anyway, seems to care. The Yankees certainly don’t seem to. Indeed, as the article notes, the team has worked hard to keep the Fund’s operations out of its hands. They just got their new ballpark and write the checks and hand out the tickets. Everything else is someone else’s problem.

Cronyism in private philanthropy is not uncommon. As is a lack of oversight. Often it’s the best connected people who receive the benefit of such funds, not the people most in need. This is especially true in charities whose creation was not born of a philanthropic impulse as much as it was born of a need to put a good face on some not-so-good business dealings.

If the Times’ report is correct — and the lack of anyone coming forward to dispute it on the record despite the Times’ requests that they do suggests it is — it appears as if the New Yankee Stadium Community Benefits Fund is one of those sorts of charities.

Who is the fastest sprinter in baseball?

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We’re not talking the 100 meters here. We’re talking practical baseball sprinting. That’s defined by the StatCast folks at MLB as “feet per second in a player’s fastest one-second window,” while sprinting for the purposes of, you know, winning a baseball game.

StatCast ranked all players who have at least 10 “max effort” runs this year. I won’t give away who is at the top of this list, but given that baseball’s speedsters tend to get a lot of press you will not be at all surprised. As for the bottom of the list, well, the Angels don’t pay Albert Pujols to run even when he’s not suffering from late career chronic foot problems, so they’ll probably let that one go. I will say, however, that I am amused that the third slowest dude in baseball is named “Jett,” however.

Lately people have noticed some odd things about home run distances on StatCast, suggesting that maybe their metrics are wacko. And, of course, their means of gauging this stuff is proprietary and opaque, so we have no way of knowing if their numbers are off the reservation or not. As such, take all of the StatCast stuff you see with a grain of salt.

That said, even if the feet-per-second stuff is wrong here, knowing that Smith is faster than Jones by a factor of X is still interesting.