The Clemente family gives up the push to retire #21 across baseball … until Selig’s gone

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Roberto Clemente’s widow Vera Clemente and his sons Luis and Roberto Jr. were in Pittsburgh yesterday for a ceremony commemorating Clemente’s 3000th and final hit. Dejan Kovacevic spoke with the Clementes regarding a movement they’ve been trying to get rolling over the past several years: having Roberto Clemente’s number 21 retired throughout all of baseball.

Major League Baseball hasn’t been all too receptive, however, so the Clementes are gonna wait Bud out. Here’s Roberto Clemente, Jr.:

“It’s become pretty clear to us this commissioner doesn’t want anything to do with it, to be perfectly honest. That just means we’re going to have to wait until there’s a new commissioner. And we will.”

I dunno. Roberto Clemente Jr. is 47 years old. I figure Bud has another 50-60 years in him, so it may be the next generation’s fight.

Seriously, though, I’ve never been a fan of retiring Clemente’s number across baseball. He was a fantastic player and he died under heroic circumstances, but he was not a pioneer in the way Jackie Robinson was. Hiram Bithorn was the first major leaguer from Puerto Rico, and there were Latin American players from other countries before him as well.  In light of that, to give him the same honor Robinson received seems inappropriate.

Moreover, for reasons I’ve explained previously, I’m also not a fan of the alternative suggestion Vera Clemente has made in the past: giving each year’s Clemente Award winner the number 21 to wear throughout the year following him winning the award. It’s just too complicated, still necessitates retiring 21 — otherwise how does the honoree stand out? — and could lead to awkwardness if a player doesn’t want to change his number but feels obligated to do so lest he be seen as offending the memory of Roberto Clemente.

I get wanting to do something for a special person’s memory, but I don’t think baseball is in danger of either forgetting or dishonoring Roberto Clemente. Bud is right to let this one lie.

Didi Gregorius continues to be ridiculous

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Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius had another fantastic night last night. He went 3-for-3, hitting a home run for the fourth game in a row, had an RBI single and reached base safely in all five of his plate appearances in New York’s 7-4 win over Minnesota.

For the year that gives Gregorius a line of .372/.470/.833, putting him atop the American League in average, slugging, OPS, and OPS+. He also leads the league in total bases (65) and RBI (29). He leads all of baseball in fWAR at 2.2, edging out Mike Trout despite the fact that Trout has played in two more games. He’s second behind Trout in homers with nine.

After last night’s game he insisted that he is not a home run hitter:

“I do have a lot of home runs, but it’s not like I am going out there to try to hit them . . . I’m not a power guy like Judge and Stanton, who hit 50 to 60 and up. Those are the guys who actually hit home runs. One year, let’s say, I hit five — then you ask me where that part went . . . if they go out, they go out. I’m just mostly trying to barrel it up and get a good swing . . . I try to hit line drives and if you check most of my home runs they were line drives,” he said. “It’s not like I am going up to hit deep fly balls.”

Given that he hit 25 homers last year and 20 the year before, he’s being a bit modest, even if he’s not likely to keep up this torrid pace. That modesty is not stopping some people from getting a bit carried away, of course:

 

We’ll forgive Bob for the hyperbole. Didi has been fun to watch.