Kristen Harper of CSNChicago.com sat down with Cubs legend Ernie Banks to talk about all manner of subjects. Primarily on Banks’ mind, however, was baseball’s need to bring more African-American players into the fold. It’s a good read, but this part — in which he talked about how he, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays are all interested in the topic — jumped out at me:
“Hank applied to be commissioner of baseball. They laughed at him for that and Willie Mays, he just played his own game and helped a lot of kids with the Giants and New York Mets, but we’re very concerned about the fact that the black population in baseball has really decreased,” Banks said.“It’s like you see an All-Star Game, a World Series, you don’t see any black players at all, and we’re concerned about it.”
I had never heard that Aaron made an effort to become commissioner of baseball. Or if I did once hear it I had forgotten it. For what it’s worth, I’m glad he never did it because while so many are predisposed to think of the job as some high honor, the job of the Commissioner really is to do what the 30 owners want and to grow the bottom line. Frankly, I think Aaron is above that kind of business. Or at least he has become so as time has gone on and his legend has grown larger.
Beyond that, yes, the number of African-Americans in baseball is a frequently mentioned topic. I think it’s less pressing than overall diversity in the game, which is doing quite well, thank you, but sure, in a perfect world everyone is playing baseball.
Update #2 (6:21 PM EST): Make that $37.5 million, per Heyman.
Update (6:02 PM EST): The deal is for “around” $37 million with deferrals that lower the present-day value, per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.
Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that free agent 1B/OF Mark Trumbo is close to a deal with the Orioles. He first reported that the two sides were back in touch earlier on Thursday afternoon. According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, the deal is expected to be for three years and under $40 million.
Trumbo’s market hasn’t developed as he expected. The slugger turned down the Orioles’ $17.2 million qualifying offer back in November. Then the Orioles reportedly made a four-year contract offer to him in December but pulled it off the table. Most recently, a report indicated that Trumbo lowered his expectations to a three-year deal in the $40-50 million range.
Trumbo, 31, led the majors with 47 homers for the Orioles this past season. He also hit a solid .256/.316/.433 with 108 RBI in 667 plate appearances. With Trumbo back in the fold and some slight offensive upgrades made, the Orioles figure to have a formidable offense in 2017.
The Astros avoided arbitration with pitcher Mike Fiers, agreeing on a $3.45 million salary for the 2017 season, per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle. The right-hander was in his first of three years of arbitration eligibility.
Fiers, 31, made 30 starts and one relief appearance for the Astros in 2016. He finished the year with a 4.48 ERA and a 134/42 K/BB ratio in 168 2/3 innings.
Fiers had a much better showing in 2015 as well as in limited action in 2014, so the Astros are hoping he rediscovers that effectiveness going forward. He’ll slot into the back of the starting rotation.