Albert Belle bobble

The Indians are going to have an Albert Belle bobblehead day. And it’s glorious.

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Albert Belle was widely reviled when he played. He committed all manner of bad acts on and off the field and he really, really pissed off reporters. When he retired, Bill Madden wrote this:

“Sorry, there’ll be no words of sympathy here for Albert Belle. He was a surly jerk before he got hurt and now he’s a hurt surly jerk….He was no credit to the game. Belle’s boorish behavior should be remembered by every member of the Baseball Writers’ Association when it comes time to consider him for the Hall of Fame.”

It was in 2001, well before Twitter and most blogs, so not many took Madden to task for it, but I’m glad to have found it. Makes me think of Belle in a totally different light. I mean, if he got Madden so bent out of shape that he openly admitted in print that writers should punish him in the Hall of Fame voting for not being nice to them, he can’t be all bad.  Indeed, he should be honored!

Albert Belle will flex his muscles for the Indians one more time.

The club is honoring Belle, once the most menacing hitter in baseball, with a bobblehead night promotion on June 1 against Tampa Bay. The bobblehead of Belle is of him flexing his right arm and pointing at his biceps – the pose he famously struck in the 1995 playoffs against Boston. In that series, Red Sox manager Kevin Kennedy asked the umpires to check Belle’s bat, believing it was corked.

I love it. Baseball needs to embrace the bad boys more. Maybe not when they’re active — Belle really was a menace at times — but once they’re old and aren’t doing harm anymore, there’s no harm in looking back at guys like Belle while sharing a somewhat relieved and uneasy chuckle about what they were like. Instead, it’s leaning  more in favor of whitewashing history. A shame really.

Anyway: next bobblehead I want to see is Jason Grimsley crashing through the ceiling of the umpire’s locker room, trying to retrieve Belle’s corked bat.

 

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.