I can’t claim to have known Stan Musial, who died this evening at the age of 92, and you’re sure to find far more thorough tributes to “The Man” in various other corners of the baseball media landscape.
But I figured I’d share some memories from the couple of times I was lucky enough to meet him.
I was a sophomore third-string catcher on the JV baseball team at St. Louis’ Chaminade College Prep in 2003 and our starting third baseman — a talented freshman with a very familiar batting stance named Andrew Edmonds — was one of Stan’s grandsons. Andrew of course wore No. 6, even when he eventually shifted his focus to ice hockey.
Stan would show up at Chaminade’s baseball field every few weeks, sit with his wife in matching lawn chairs just behind the backstop, and sign autographs for the duration of sloppy seven-inning high school games. I always felt bad that people were hounding him, but he never stopped shaking hands or scribbling away on different items except during his grandson’s plate appearances. St. Louis loved Stan and Stan loved St. Louis right back. It was an active mutual affection that seems likely to somehow remain.
I feel like everyone I know in St. Louis has a ball signed by Stan Musial. They spill loosely out of cabinets at my parents’ house and I keep one at my apartment that he signed for me personally. He told me not to put it in a case — “get it dirty” — so I usually keep it in my softball glove. It has a significantly different feel tonight.
Stan knew his signature gave people joy so he signed everything. He was simple like that. Pure class.
Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.
Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.
Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.
Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.
The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.
Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.
Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.
The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.
Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.
Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.
Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.