And now it’s my privilege to introduce NBC Sports’ latest addition, even if he’s a man who needs no introduction around here: welcome aboard, Joe Posnanski.
Joe’s track record is well known. He comes to NBC from Sports on Earth. Before that he wrote for Sports Illustrated and before that, for many years, the Kansas City Star. Joe was named National Sportswriter of the year by the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame in 2011. He was named best sports columnist in America by the Associated Press Sports Editors twice. He’s the inaugural winner and namesake of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance’s “Joe Posnanski Award,” given to the top Internet baseball writer of the year. He’s written four books, one of which — The Soul of Baseball — is, in my view, a top-5 all-time baseball book.
Apart from all of that official stuff, I say — and have said, long before I knew he’d be joining me at NBC — that Joe is the best baseball writer around. I know that’s subjective — we all have our favorites — but in my estimation Joe loves the game, understands the game and writes about the game better than any other guy who gets paid to do so, full stop. Along with Rob Neyer and Bill James, Posnanski is one of the biggest single influences on my understanding of baseball and on my writing. Rob and Bill helped me approach baseball analysis in a different way. Posnanski changed the way I thought about the personalities and stories which surround the game. And now Joe’s going to be writing here. So, yes, I’m a little bit giddy.
He’s going to writing all over NBC Sports.com, actually. He will be doing what he’s always done, covering all sports, and you’ll be able to read all of that work at our main page. But if you know anything about Joe’s work you know he’s rather baseball-heavy and quite prolific, writing both long columns and blog posts (sometimes long blog posts). Which will be great for us because that means his work will be showing up here at HardballTalk as well.
Joe’s first column for NBC drops today. It’s about Alex Rodriguez and what he used to be, back before the quarter billion dollar contracts and back before the celebrity. How he got to where he is now and how things could have been different (if, in fact, they ever could have been).
Jose’s first “[Player] is in The Best Shape of His Life” post is TBD, but I assume we have that in his contract.
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.
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.