It’s a beautiful day here in Surprise, but being a Monday, it’s a lazy day too. Not a big crowd either, so I decided to take in the first six innings or so from the stands. I squatted in the first row of the tiny second deck along the third base line. Wonderful seats. And the company was fantastic.
Sitting two rows behind me was an old Rangers fan. The one with the mustache over my shoulder. I want to take him home with me. He knows a lot about baseball, he’s sarcastic, he complains a lot, but he seemed to have a lot of fun doing it. Actually, I think he is me, about 30 years in the future.
He started heckling in the first inning, but his heckling was all well-informed:
- When right fielder Engel Beltre ranged far to the gap to pull in a fly at the wall he said “Cruz doesn’t get that.” Then added “God damn Cruz.”
- When Lance Berkman popped out foul on the first pitch he said “Atta boy Berkman, make ’em work!” I love that his heckling is informed by an appreciation of both defensive range and plate patience.
- Padres’ first baseman Kyle Blanks hit a long home run. The man said “He knocked the “s***” outta that one!” Then he told the pitcher who gave up the homer, Neal Cotts, “Don’t throw another one of those, OK?”
- Later, when Berkman grounded out he said “we lose Hamilton, and we get this guy.” At that point the man’s adult son said, in a somewhat disgusted tone said “I will get you an Angels jersey if you keep this up. Do you want that?” The old man chuckled. I have this feeling he’s been driving his son crazy for years, and I hope some day my I can say I’ve done the same to my son.
There’s a fine line between being a jerk and not being a jerk. This guy seems like a master. He’s tongue in cheek enough to where he doesn’t seem mean. He’s old enough to where it’s clear that he’s not trying to impress anyone. He just likes his baseball, dammit, and prefers it if his Texas Rangers don’t suck at it. I imagine it wears thin after a while — God bless his poor son — but for six innings it was wonderful.
The Kansas City Star has covered the death of Yordano Ventura and its aftermath in a thorough, thoughtful, respectful and admirable fashion and it has all been compelling to read, even if it’s often been difficult to read. Their latest story may be the most difficult, though it is nonetheless essential.
It covers the final year of Ventura’s life which, sadly, was tumultuous. He had become estranged from his family. He was married to a woman who, at the time of the ceremony, was still married to her first husband and whose family, allegedly, later made threats against Ventura that we’re only now learning about. This includes allegations of armed men accosting Ventura at his home near the Royals spring training facility a year ago. An incident which led to him missing time due to “flulike symptoms,” but which, in reality, caused him considerable mental distress. He was again threatened, it is claimed, in Kansas City during the season. There is also an allegation that Ventura attempted suicide via an overdose of Benadryl, though that is disputed.
Beyond that, there is an arc to the end of Ventura’s life which sounds unfortunately familiar. It’s a story of a young man whose life changed dramatically in a very, very short period of time and who struggled at times to process the changes. Were it not for a fateful drive on a dark and winding road one night in late January, they all could’ve been things that, as his career matured, he could look back on as learning experiences. Now that he’s gone, however, they form the final, tragic chapter.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals and first baseman Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension. However, Hosmer also indicated that he will head into free agency if a deal is not consummated by Opening Day.
Hosmer, 27, avoided arbitration with the Royals last month, agreeing to a $12.25 million salary for the 2017 season. He is one of four key Royals players who can become a free agent after the season along with Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and Lorenzo Cain. If Hosmer does reach free agency, he would arguably be the top free agent first baseman.
Hosmer finished the past season hitting .266/.328/.433 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI while making his first All-Star team.