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.

Orioles re-sign Michael Bourn to a minor league deal

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 04:  Michael Bourn #1 of the Baltimore Orioles hits a single in the fifth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays during the American League Wild Card game at Rogers Centre on October 4, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
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The Orioles have re-signed outfielder Michael Bourn to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league camp, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Bourn, 34, joined the Orioles last year in a trade from the Diamondbacks on August 31. Though he compiled a meager .669 OPS with the Diamondbacks, Bourn hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with the O’s through the end of the season.

Bourn, a non-roster invitee to camp, will try to play his way onto the Orioles’ 25-man roster. If he does make the roster, Bourn will receive a $2 million salary, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports points out.

Shelby Miller is in the best mental shape of his life

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 24:  Shelby Miller #26 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches in the first inning during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on May 24, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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Diamondbacks starter Shelby Miller had about as bad a season as one can have. He was the headliner in the trade that sent 2015 No. 1 overall pick Dansby Swanson, All-Star outfielder Ender Inciarte, and highly-regarded pitching prospect Aaron Blair to the Braves. It was a trade that was pilloried at the time and continues to be pilloried to this day.

Miller didn’t do then-GM Dave Stewart any favors with his 2016 performance. He went 3-12 with a 6.15 ERA and a 70/42 K/BB ratio over 101 innings. That included a bout with mechanical failure, as he kept hitting the mound with his follow-through. He went on the disabled list. And after that, he was demoted to Triple-A. After getting fired, Stewart expressed remorse over acquiring Miller — or, more accurately, giving up Swanson to do so.

So, the 26-year-old Miller heads into 2017 without any momentum. To his credit, though, he’s going into the new season with a very positive perspective. Via Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports:

I’m just in a really happy place, away from the field, on the field. […]

Maybe it’s just the way I go about everything, trying to be positive in every single aspect of life. Baseball’s not perfect. I’m not perfect. I know bumps in the road are going to happen. Last year was obviously not just a bump, but a huge mountain. Right now, that’s completely behind me. I’m not worried about any of that.

I’m really ready for this year, ready to redeem myself so much.

Even pitching coach Mike Butcher sees the change in Miller’s mentality. “He’s not a different guy. But you can see there’s a presence in him. That’s what we need. Just be Shelby Miller. You don’t have to live up to anything. Just be yourself.”

Manager Torey Lovullo, too, praised Miller. “I saw a guy who had spent a lot of time taking care of his business in the weight room — he looks fantastic, in fantastic shape,” he said.

It sounds like Miller is not only in great mental shape, but great physical shape, too. Is it the “best shape of his life”? Only time can tell.