Earl Williams: 1948-2013

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Earl Williams, who won the NL Rookie of the Year for the Braves in 1971, died Monday at age 64. Jorge Castillo of the Newark Star Ledger writes that Williams was diagnosed with leukemia last July.

Williams was a catcher/first baseman who played eight seasons in the majors for the Braves, Orioles, A’s, and Expos from 1970-1977. In addition to his strong rookie year Williams was an above-average hitter in each of his first four full seasons, averaging 29 homers per 160 games, but hit just .235 with a .679 OPS after age 25 and was finished in the majors at age 28.

He was traded from the Braves to the Orioles in a deal that sent current Nationals manager Davey Johnson to Atlanta, and Castillo notes that he clashed with Baltimore manager Earl Weaver to the point that Williams was suspended for “a reluctance on Williams’ part to listen without interruption.”

A-Rod to join ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball booth

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Alex Rodriguez’s post-retirement renaissance continues apace. After starring as a studio host for Fox’s playoff coverage over the past couple of years, A-Rod is about to be named to, arguably, televised baseball’s top job: color commentary in ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball booth.

Michael McCarthy of The Sporting News is hearing that ESPN is going to give the gig, vacated by Aaron Boone by virtue of his hiring by the Yankees, to Rodriguez. There he’ll join Jessica Mendoza and whoever they get to replace play-by-play man Dan Shulman, who chose to step back from the Sunday night job following last season. This, by the way, marks the second time A-Rod has taken over Aaron Boone’s job given that he replaced Boone at third base for the Yankees in 2004.

The twist: A-Rod is likely to keep his Fox postseason job too. While some broadcasters work for multiple networks, it’s pretty rare for Fox to allow its talents to work for competitors like that. Apparently they believe keeping A-Rod — who five years ago was one of the most despised figures in baseball — is worth it. What a difference a few years makes.

In other news, Alex Rodriguez is likely to be shunned mightily by the current crop of BBWAA voters when he hits the Hall of Fame ballot in a couple of years. At the rate he’s going, though, their successors will put him in Cooperstown via the Ford Frick Award sometime in the 2040s.