Ugueth Urbina is out of prison — and allegedly throwing 90

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Roy Hobbs said that some mistakes you never stop paying for. He apparently wasn’t talking about attacking the help with a machete and pouring gasoline on them, because you do stop paying for that. After about seven years or so:

That tweet is from for major league pitcher Ugueth Urbina’s son Juan Urbina standing with Ugueth himself. The son is saying “Finally with my father!” Juan Urbina, by the way, is a 19 year-old pitcher in the Mets’ system.

This courtesy of our friend Nick Collias, who tells me that Venezuelan newspapers are reporting that Urbina is out of jail after serving a little over seven years for attempted murder. Urbina was sentenced to 14 years, but no one is quite sure why he was released early.

Urbina pitched from 1995 through 2005 with the Expos, Tigers, Red Sox, Rangers, Phillies and Marlins. He twice saved 40 games or more and was still an effective pitcher, aged 31, at the time of his arrest and incarceration. He turns 39 in February, but unless the Venezuelan prison system has an intense baseball program, we probably won’t be hearing from him again in the majors.

UPDATE: NOT SO FAST! Nick Collias updates us:

Alexander Mendoza at El Nacional reported this morning that Urbina’s fastball was still touching 90 while he was playing in the pen in Venezuela. Juan Vicente Zerpa, the general manager of the Leones de Escogido (Urbina’s old haunt in the winter leagues) said after welcoming Urbina back to society, “I heard that he’s going to come to the park and we’re going to have a conversation.” Kind of ominous-sounding, no? If this were a Scorcese movie, I’d be wary.

So it would seem that all of your “heh, the Marlins are gonna sign him now” jokes may not be so funny after all!

Just kidding, they’ll still be hilarious.

Must-Click Link: Where’s Timmy?

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Tim Lincecum last pitched last season for the Angels and he did not pitch well. Over the winter and into the spring there were reports that he was working out at a facility somewhere in Arizona with an aim toward trying to latch on to another team. He didn’t. And, given how his velocity and effectiveness had nosedived over the previous few seasons, it was probably unrealistic to think he’d make it back to the bigs.

But now, as Daniel Brown of the Mercury News reports, he seems to simply be gone.

He’s not missing in any legal sense — his friends and family know where he is — but he’s out of the public eye in a way that most players at the end of their careers or the beginning of their retirements usually aren’t. He’s not been hanging around his old club, even though the Giants say they’d love to honor him and give him a job if and when he announces his retirement. He’s not hanging around his high school or college alma maters even though he makes his home in Seattle, where they are. He’s gone from being one of the most identifiable and conspicuous presences in baseball to having disappeared from the public eye.

Brown’s story is an excellent one, touching on Lincecum’s professional rise and professional fall, as well as the personality traits that may suggest why he’s not eager to be making headlines or posing for pictures. A good read.

 

Major League Baseball claims it will “redouble its efforts” on expanded netting

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Yesterday, during the Minnesota Twins-New York Yankees game at Yankee Stadium, a young girl was injured after a foul ball flew off the bat of Todd Frazier and into the stands along the third base line where she was sitting. In some parks that ball would be stopped because of netting down the line.

There was no netting that far down the line in Yankee Stadium, because (a) Major League Baseball does not require it; and (b) the Yankees have still not committed to expanding it like other teams have.

A few minutes ago, Commissioner Rob Manfred released a statement about the injury:

I’m not sure how baseball can “redouble” its efforts given that its efforts thus far have been to completely delegate the responsibility of expanded netting to the 30 clubs.

This delegation came in December of 2015 when Major League Baseball released its recommendation — not its mandate — that teams provide expanded netting. Teams were “encouraged” to shield the seats between the near ends of both dugouts (i.e., the ends of the dugouts located closest to home plate) and within 70 feet of home plate with protective netting or other safety materials of the clubs’ choice. At the same time, they launched “fan education” guidelines about where to sit and whether or not they’ll be protected.

While these recommendations were better than nothing, they also seemed far more geared toward diminishing the liability of the league and its clubs than actively protecting fans from screaming projectiles.

The stuff about fan education was obviously a creature of an assumption-of-the-risk calculus. It was, essentially, a disclaimer of the “don’t say we didn’t warn you” variety and, as such, was aimed more at shielding baseball from liability over batted ball or bat-shard injuries than at directly shielding fans from such injuries. Even the netting recommendation could be construed as MLB insulating itself from being joined in a lawsuit at a later date if a club were to get sued over a fan injury. A way of saying “hey, we told the Yankees [or whoever] that they should do more, please don’t sue us too.”

It’s one thing to do all of that and walk away, as the league seemed content to do in 2015. It’s another thing to walk back today, as Manfred is, claiming that the league will “redouble” such transparently ineffective efforts. It’s frankly insulting. Yet this is baseball’s approach to the matter. The league is, for whatever reason, afraid to tell its clubs that it has to do something that is so clearly prudent. It, apparently, is waiting for a someone to be killed by a foul ball before mandating netting rather than meekly suggesting it.

Oh, I’m sorry. Waiting for someone else to be killed. Because it has happened before. Absent prudent protections it will, inevitably, happen again.

While Major League Baseball may have been safe from being held responsible for such things due to its ticket disclaimers and assumption of the risk arguments in the past, it won’t be in the future. One would hope it will not take death or debilitating injury of a fan for the league to accept it.