Hello from Hohokam Park

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I landed in Phoenix just before 9:30 AM Mountain time, took the seemingly interminable bus ride to the rental car place and was met with an opportunity to see if NBC really appreciates me:

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I asked if I could take the upgrade. So far no one has responded. I assume they’re still thinking it over.

On to my hotel in Tempe to drop off my stuff and then grab some food at a little diner:

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I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that, on doctor’s orders, I’ve gone on a mostly carb-free diet. This place makes pancakes with bacon-infused batter. I was kinda good in that I got some veggie breakfast burrito and didn’t eat all of the tortilla, but yeah, I’m probably gonna die in this place at some point over the next ten days.

On to Hohokam Park to check out the Dodgers and Cubs.

Today was sort of a lost day as far as real baseball reporter-like activity goes, as I wasn’t able to get to the park at my usual 8 AM arrival time. This kept me from (a) getting into the clubhouse when the players were just hanging out; and (b) kept me from getting a good seat in the press box. This would be my view of the game if I sat up here for it:

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No, I will not be sitting inside for it. Think I’m going to go camp out in the sun someplace and enjoy the game like God and Nature intended. By the way: that guy in front of me is Eric Stephen of True Blue LA.  We bloggers are taking over, yo.

Out into this beautiful park:

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The Cubs are abandoning it for new digs next year. The Athletics will be taking it over. The Brewers, rumor has it, will then move into the A’s place at Phoenix Municipal. The wheel goes round and round and each time it stops another old school spring training park goes down. At least if you consider Maryvale old school. I dunno. I’ll say more about it when I’m there next week, but I like Maryvale and I don’t care if it’s in a neighborhood a lot of folks don’t like to go to.

In other news, I’d like to hire these guys to do my yard work:

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I used to make fun of my dad for being so obsessive about his lawn that he’d go pick specks out of it. These guys have freakin’ Dustbusters. They’re green, too. Cool.

Hey, Edwin Jackson! Can I have an autograph?

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As soon as this picture was taken Jackson was traded three more times for reasons that are unclear.

Back inside where one learns that, even in spring training, major league prices reign supreme:

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Those are total ripoffs. Everyone knows that foam fingers are cooler than foam claws. The pricing should be reversed.

Oh, and there is a ballgame today. Starts in a few short minutes. The lineups:

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Nick Punto: designated hitter. Yup, it’s spring training.

Talk at you later, y’all. There’s baseball to watch.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.