Justin Upton AP

Luis Gonzalez says that Justin Upton didn’t provide leadership to the Diamondbacks

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People affiliated with the Diamondbacks continue to throw Justin Upton under the bus and play the grit-grit-grit card. The latest: Luis Gonzalez, who spoke to Arizona Sports 620’s Doug & Wolf:

“What we’ve gained now, is a couple of blue collar guys that are going to play the D-back way. Which means they’ll go out there and play hard, give everything they’ve got … There were times when Justin was on, he was a superstar. But when he was off, he would get in his shell and would have those slumps and those streaks.”

Hey, at least he has those superstar moments.

In other news, many folks have said that maybe race has impacted the way in which the Dbacks have talked about Justin Upton recently. The argument: only white guys are ever described as “gritty” and often black stars are accused of dogging it if they play smoothly rather than with dirt in their teeth, etc.  I am aware of that general phenomenon, but I don’t really buy it here.

For one thing, the guy being called “gritty” in all of this is Latino.  For another, more important thing, I think that the use of racial code words to describe players is more of a jackass fan thing, and occasionally a media thing, rather than something real baseball professionals do these days, even if they used to do it a lot. I find it hard to believe, frankly, that a modern front office is trafficking in that noise and I tend not to buy such explanations unless and until there is a reason to do so, and here there is really no reason for it. They sent out Trevor Bauer for the same reasons they sent out Upton, and last I checked he wasn’t black.

What I think is really going on here is just some fetishization of hard-nosed play at the expense of actual talent, and one can make that mistake regardless of their racial attitudes.

That said, this passage from the article is the best typo/Freudian slip ever:

Gonzalez, having been part of the D-backs’ lone World Series team back in 2001, says that while Justin Upton is a great player, the organization had a desire to add more lunch pale-type assets in the offseason.

Not that actually saying “lunch pail” would turn that into some deep and meaningful point of analysis.

 

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.