Al Oliver

Ohio Governor John Kasich goes to bat for Al Oliver with the Hall of Fame

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Warning. Long story ahead. But it’s the offseason and I’m bored and anyone who has read my stuff over the past 5+ years know that I tend to do this between November and February.

I’m not exactly a huge fan of my governor, John Kasich. He’s OK. A nice man and, despite his best efforts, has done little if any harm to my state, but I didn’t vote for him in 2010 and, unless the Democrats put up a real tomato can next time around, I likely won’t vote for him in 2014.  But I will give him this: the man follows through. Before the baseball part of this, a rambling story from my youth:

Back in 1993, when I was a college sophomore, a couple of friends of mine and I took part in some little global affairs conference for honors students at Ohio State. Think of it as a mini-model United Nations or something. Teams of four were given a topic of global interest and were asked to give some sort of presentation on it. John Kasich, who was then a congressman, was the keynote speaker at the event. Before the presentations he gave some talk about how bad it was that the incoming Clinton Administration was seemingly all wimpy and rudderless when it came to defense and foreign policy.

That year the topic of the conference was some vague question about whether rising nationalism in Eastern Europe in the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union was a good thing. My teammates and I found this boring, so rather than answer the question we decided to come up with a military solution to the war in the former Yugoslavia, which was in no way a part of the question the conference organizers were asking.

We dove into it with the enthusiasm and flaming ignorance and naivete that only college sophomores can muster. I’ll spare you the details, but the upshot is that while every other team gave carefully-worded and politically correct answers about “balance” and “sensitivity” with respect to the varied cultures of the former Soviet satellite countries, our presentation was solely concerned with bombing the living crap out of anyone who did not love and embrace peace. We didn’t even give a nod to internationalism in our warmongering: it was to be a United States mission only.  It was truly something that only kids who watched a lot of “Iron Eagle” and “Red Dawn” on HBO in the 1980s could have put together. And it was glorious. At one point, due to us misreading an old DoD map, we had Trieste, Italy as a bombing target.

The judges and organizers of the event — scholars and diplomats who were committed to peace in an uncertain world — listened to our presentation with jaws agape. I’m sure at some point someone was asked where in the hell these little Reaganite warmongers came from, but we were oblivious to their horror. Someone weakly thanked us. We left the stage and gave each other high fives. And then we didn’t win any awards or anything at the end and felt totally ripped off about that.

Feeling slighted, we decided to print out our presentation and send it to Congressman Kasich’s office, attaching a cover letter that basically said “We were inspired by your talk at the conference. You’re right, Clinton doesn’t have a plan. Here’s ours. Feel free to use it and let us know if you want any other ideas.”  We had this vision that we’d be hired to be some sort of secret military think tank because, dudes, genius like this doesn’t grow on trees.

A couple of weeks later someone from Congressman Kasich’s office actually called me in my dorm room. I assumed he wanted to give us jobs, so I riffed about a few other equally-awesome proposals we had and explained how deciding the fate of the world like this our calling, just as much as it was America’s.  He thanked me and hung up. We never heard from him or Kasich again.  In hindsight I think he was more interested in making sure my friends and I weren’t some sort of crazy, homegrown terrorists in training.

But the biggest takeaway from all of this — other than the fact that we were actually right about what would end the crap going on in the former Yugoslavia — was that John Kasich, whatever his faults, follows through.

And so it is with baseball too.  For, once upon a time, Pittsburgh native and Pirates fan John Kasich told former Pirates star — and Ohio native — Al Oliver that he would do whatever he could to support Oliver’s candidacy for the Hall of Fame.  And he has now done that, writing the Baseball Hall of Fame on Oliver’s behalf and following through with Oliver just like he did with those dumb kids back in 1993:

Ohio Governor John Kasich has gone to bat for former Pittsburgh Pirates great and Portsmouth native Al Oliver, by writing a letter to the Baseball Hall of Fame, urging Oliver’s election. Now, the Hall has responded with a response to Kasich.

“We thank you for taking the time to write and share your recommendation and suggestion with us,” Brad Horn, Senior Director of Communications and Education, said. “Your letter will become part of materials that are available to members of the Historical Overview Committee and the Era committees that consider candidates for Hall of Fame election.”

Based on his quotes in the story, Oliver was clearly surprised and impressed that Kasich followed through like that. Which, even if you don’t have anything positive to say about Kasich’s policies, is pretty damn admirable. I’m guessing, however, that Oliver’s chances of making the Hall of Fame are far less than the chances that a crazy, half-cocked military proposal cooked up by four 19 year-old kids would one day be adopted by NATO.

OK. Gonna go see if there’s any actual baseball news going down.

The White Sox wanted Astros’ top prospects for Jose Quintana

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 27:  Jose Quintana #62 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Seattle Mariners during the first inning at U.S. Cellular Field on August 27, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
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The Astros, Braves and Nationals came sniffing around White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana during the Winter Meetings, but each appeared to find the Sox’ asking price well beyond what they were willing to give up for the starter. On Saturday, Peter Gammons revealed that the White Sox had floated Francis Martes, Kyle Tucker and Joe Musgrove as a possible return for Quintana.

It’s a strategy that worked well for Chicago in the past, most recently when they dealt Chris Sale to the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, among others, and flipped Adam Eaton to the Nationals for a trio of pitching prospects. Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow didn’t appear eager to sacrifice some of his core talent to net a high-end starter, however, and told the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan as much on Wednesday:

We’re prepared to trade players to improve our club right now. […] We’re just not prepared to trade away players that are core to our production in 2017, and those are sometimes the players that are required to get these deals done.

While Lunhow was speaking specifically to the inclusion of third baseman Alex Bregman in future deals, it’s not unrealistic to think that top prospects Francis Martes and Kyle Tucker would also be considered instrumental to the Astros’ plans for the next few seasons.

Martes, 21, currently sits atop the team’s top prospect list on MLB.com. The right-hander blazed through his first full season in Double-A Corpus Christi, posting a 3.30 ERA and career-best 9.4 K/9 over 125 1/3 innings in 2016. Tucker, meanwhile, profiles as the Astros’ second-best prospect and made a successful jump to High-A Lancaster last season, slashing .339/.435/.661 in 69 PA. Rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove is the only player left off the top prospect list, but he got off to a decent start with the club in 2016 as well, going 4-4 with a 4.06 ERA and 3.44 K/BB rate in 62 innings during his first major league season.

Daniel Szew: “Landa was a leader, happy-go-lucky guy”

FORT MYERS, FL - MARCH 1:  Yorman Landa #81 of the Minnesota Twins poses for a photo during the Twins' photo day on March 1, 2016 at Hammond Stadium in Ft. Myers, Florida.  (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Twins’ right-handed pitching prospect Yorman Landa passed away in a tragic car accident on Friday night, per a team statement. According to Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press, 22-year-old Landa was in the passenger seat of the vehicle when it struck a fallen tree.

Daniel Szew, Landa’s agent, spoke highly of the young pitcher, who was one of his first clients back in 2010. Szew acknowledged Landa for helping him expand his company, LA Sports Management, and referred to the late pitcher as a leader and his “little brother.”

Per Berardino:

He was very even-keeled,” Szew said. “That was his personality. He wasn’t wild. That’s why this is so tragic. He wasn’t a wild guy. He was a happy-go-lucky guy who took life as it came, and he was super happy — always happy.

If leadership was one facet of Landa’s personality, so was loyalty. The 22-year-old agreed to a minor league contract with the Twins on Tuesday after getting cut from the 40-man roster, fulfilling a promise to re-sign with the club despite fielding multiple offers from competing teams. The deal included an invite to spring training, and comments from his agent suggested that the right-hander was “super confident” he’d break through to the major leagues in 2017, notwithstanding a troublesome shoulder injury that hampered his progress in High-A Fort Myers during the 2016 season.

“He never wanted to leave,” Szew told Berardino. “It was the only organization he ever knew.”

Our condolences go out to Landa’s family and the Twins organization during this terrible time.