The Old Man at the Ballpark

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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.

Phillies, Red Sox interested in Carlos Santana

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The Phillies and Red Sox appear intent on pursuing free agent first baseman Carlos Santana, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports. Santana rejected a one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Indians on Thursday and is expected to draw widespread interest on the market this winter. The Mets, Mariners, Angels and Indians could make a play for the infielder, though no serious offers have been made this early in the offseason.

Santana, 31, is coming off of a seven-year track with the Indians. He batted .259/.363/.455 with 23 home runs and 3.0 fWAR last season, making 2017 the fourth-most valuable year of his career to date. Although he was primarily stationed at first base over the last year, he could step back into a hybrid first base/DH role with the Red Sox, who are hurting for infield depth with Hanley Ramirez still working his way back from shoulder surgery.

As for Santana’s other suitors, the Mariners are far less likely to pursue a deal after trading for Ryon Healy last Wednesday. Neither the Mets nor the Phillies have a DH spot to offer the veteran infielder, and the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins appears to be blocking the way at first base. Then again, Santana may not find a more enticing offer outside of Cleveland, where Edwin Encarnacion might otherwise be the club’s best option at first base. During the GM meetings, Indians’ GM Mike Chernoff said he “love to have both [Santana and Jay Bruce] back” in 2018, but hasn’t backed up that love with any contract talks just yet.