Not only is Travis Hafner hitting .319 with a 1.120 OPS for the Yankees, he’s turned back to the clock to when he was a bunting, base-stealing machine. Well, actually he’s never been either of those things. Until yesterday, that is.
Hafner stole second base without a throw, which was his first steal since 2010 and just his fifth steal since 2005. He also tried to bunt for a single with two outs in the ninth inning and the Yankees down 8-4, with the idea being getting on base via any means necessary by beating the Blue Jays’ shift.
Instead he bunted the ball back to the mound and Darren Oliver threw him out at first base to end the game.
Andy McCullough of the Newark Star Ledger asked Hafner to recall the last time he tried to bunt for a hit and the 36-year-old designated hitter could think of just one instance:
I tried it one time, maybe like three or four years ago. We were down a couple in the last inning, and they threw a ball, so I pulled it back. Then [the coaches] took [the sign] off.
Sure enough, Fan Graphs shows that yesterday was the first time in 12 seasons and 1,116 games that Hafner actually got a bunt down.
Veteran hurler Jake Peavy has not signed with a team. It’s not because he’s not still capable of being a useful pitcher — he’s well-regarded and someone would likely take a late-career chance on him — and it’s not because he no longer wishes to play. Rather, it’s because a bunch of bad things have happened in his personal life lately.
As Jerry Crasnick of ESPN reports, last year Peavy lost millions in an investment scam and spent much of the 2016 season distracted, dealing with investigations and depositions and all of the awfulness that accompanied it. Then, when the season ended, Peavy went home and was greeted with divorce papers. He has spent the offseason trying to find a new normal for himself and for his four sons.
Pitching is taking a backseat now, but Peavy plans to pitch again. Here’s hoping that things get sorted to the point where he can carry through with those plans.
This is fun: The San Francisco Giants recently made their last payment on the $170 million, 20-year loan they obtained to finance the construction of AT&T Park. The joint is now officially paid for.
The Giants, unlike most other teams which moved into new stadiums in the past 25 years or so, did not rely on direct public financing. They tried to get it for years, of course, but when the voters, the city of San Francisco and the State of California said no, they decided to pay for it themselves. They ended up with one of baseball’s best-loved and most beautiful parks and, contrary to what the owners who desperately seek public funds will have you believe, they were not harmed competitively speaking. Indeed, rumor has it that they have won three World Series, four pennants and have made the playoffs seven times since moving into the place in 2000. They sell out routinely now too and the Giants are one of the richest teams in the sport.
Now, to be clear, the Giants are not — contrary to what some people will tell you — some Randian example of self-reliance. They did not receive direct public money to build the park, but they did get a lot of breaks. The park sits on city-owned property in what has become some of the most valuable real estate in the country. If the city had held on to that land and realized its appreciation, they could flip it to developers for far more than the revenue generated by baseball. Or, heaven forfend, use it for some other public good. The Giants likewise received some heavy tax abatements, got some extraordinarily beneficial infrastructure upgrades and require some heavy city services to operate their business. All sports stadiums, even the ones privately constructed, represent tradeoffs for the public.
Still, AT&T Park represents a better model than most sports facilities do. I mean, ask how St. Louis feels about still paying for the place the Rams used to call home before taking off for California. Ask how taxpayers in Atlanta and Arlington, Texas feel about paying for their second stadium in roughly the same time the Giants have paid off their first.