You’ve probably heard that Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez died this evening at the age of 58.
If you didn’t think we would try to find a baseball angle in this, you’re probably not a very frequent reader of HardballTalk. And shame on you for that.
Craig Davis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel describes the scene before Tuesday night’s 2013 World Baseball Classic warmup game between the Marlins and Team Venezuela in Jupiter, Florida:
The death of the controversial Venezuelan leader after a battle with cancer was announced a couple hours before the nation’s entry in the World Baseball Classic faced the Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium.
A Marlins spokesman said all parties involved in the exhibition, including Major League Baseball, agreed to not have the moment of silence for Chavez.
The Venezuelan flag in the stadium was lowered to half staff for a few minutes, then raised again.
Hector Rodriguez, Venezuela’s minister of sports, called the team and told them to “concentrate on sports and leave political stuff out.”
“He was a man of baseball,” Team Venezuela manager Luis Sojo said of Chavez. “He was always aware of the team and who was on it. He was the first call I got in the morning during the tournaments in 2006 and 2009. He lived for baseball.” Perhaps there will be some kind of tribute once actual WBC games get underway.
Venezuela faces the Dominican Republic on Thursday night, Puerto Rico on Saturday evening and Spain on Sunday afternoon. Those are the teams in Pool C. Their games are being played in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
With a fourth-inning solo home run off of Phillies starter Jake Thompson, Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson reached the 30-homer plateau for the fourth time in his 13-year career. It’s a moment worth celebrating, only there’s one problem: he has just 56 RBI on the season.
There are many reasons for the low RBI total. 24 of Granderson’s 30 homers have come with the bases empty. He came into Sunday’s action hitting just .140 in 124 plate appearances with runners in scoring position and .197 with runners on base. He has hit leadoff for most of the season, meaning he’s had the Mets’ pitchers hitting “ahead” of him in the No. 9 slot as well as the Mets’ catchers typically hitting eighth. Mets catchers, collectively, have a .296 on-base percentage, the second-worst mark in the National League.
Since the end of August, Granderson has hit cleanup with Jose Reyes, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Yoenis Cespedes hitting in front of him. That change hasn’t been for naught, as he has 17 RBI in 21 games since.
Still, Granderson is on pace for the fewest RBI in a 30-homer season. Rob Deer and Felix Mantilla are tied for the record with 64 RBI. Deer (32 HR) accomplished the feat in 1992 with the Tigers and Mantilla (30 HR) in 1964 with the Red Sox. Only eight players have had 70 or fewer homers in a 30-homer season. Evan Gattis is currently sitting on 30 homers with 68 RBI.
Following the announcement of the 24-year-old’s death, Major League Baseball observed a moment of silence for José Fernández before each of today’s games. While this afternoon’s Marlins-Braves game was cancelled out of respect for the organization, Miami painted Fernández’s jersey number on the mound in honor of their former pitcher.
Other teams, like the Mets, Mariners, and Dodgers, chose to honor Fernández by hanging his No. 16 jersey in their dugout:
Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports reports that David Ortiz‘s pregame retirement ceremony at Tropicana Field was canceled at the player’s request:
The Astros and Diamondbacks each displayed a personal tribute to Fernández, writing the number 16 on their caps and etching his number and initials in the bullpen:
Rest in peace, Fernández.