Joe Morgan

Joe Morgan had his statue unveiled at Great American Ballpark. And he said something interesting.

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Last night Joe Morgan became the sixth former Red to have a statue at Great American Ballpark. Before him: Joe Nuxhall, Ted Kluszewski Frank Robinson, Ernie Lombardi and  Johnny Bench. The statue was dedicated before the game and sits at the northwest entrance to the ballpark, which is the main entrance. So: pretty cool.

Also pretty cool: all eight starting position players for the 1975-76 World Series champion Reds — the Great Eight, as some call them — were on hand. Including Pete Rose, who was given permission from Major League Baseball. Cincinnati never lets you forget about the Big Red Machine, but man, when you have a lineup with Morgan, Bench, Rose, Perez, Concepcion, Griffey, Foster and Geronimo in it they can be excused for reminding you. Just insane.

A third pretty cool thing? What Joe Morgan said at the presentation. After noting that Johnny Bench once said that getting his statue was more important to him than getting into the Hall of Fame — and noting that, at the time, he doubted that — Morgan said this:

“Johnny, you were right,” Morgan continued. “Today is a better day. The Hall of Fame is about numbers and playing on great teams. You only get a statue or a sculpture if they want you to be remembered.”

I love that sentiment on an emotional level in that, absolutely, the statue thing or any other honor the home team gives former players comes from a much more heartfelt place in which fan sentiment and history and all of that are mixed up into nothing short of a big hug.  On a personal level that has to be among the most satisfying things that can happen to an athlete.

But I also love it because, even though I’m sure he didn’t mean it this way based on his past comments on the matter, maybe it will nonetheless help remind those who seek to keep PED users out of the Halll of Fame that it’s not their job to decide who will and who will not be remembered. It is not their job to make the judgment that, baseball accomplishments aside, some players are to become part of history and others aren’t. That’s the stuff of statues and memorials and special days. The Hall of Fame is — or at least should be — about baseball.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

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Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.