This is pretty darn interesting. Blogger Bob Lemke looks back at the hubbub when Bill Veeck’s Cleveland Indians signed Satchel Paige in 1948. Specifically when The Sporting News — through the editorials of its publisher, J.G. Taylor Spink — decried the signing as a rank publicity stunt:
“In criticizing the acquisition of Satchel Paige by Cleveland, THE SPORTING NEWS believes that Veeck has gone too far in his quest of publicity, and that he has done his league’s position absolutely no good insofar as public reaction is concerned … Paige said he was 39 years of ago (sic). There are reports that he is somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 It would have done Cleveland and the American League no good in the court of public opinion if, at 50, Paige were as Caucasian as, let us say, Bob Feller. To bring in a pitching ‘rookie’ of Paige’s age casts a reflection on the entire scheme of operation in the major leagues. To sign a hurler at Paige’s age is to demean the standards of baseball in the big circuits. Further complicating the situation is that suspicion that if Satchel were white, he would not have drawn a second thought from Veeck.”
Of course, all Paige did for the Indians in 1948 was go 6-1 with a 2.48 ERA as a swingman as the Indians marched toward the pennant and then on to the World Series title. Even after Paige had won five games for the Indians, however, Spink stuck to his guns, writing another editorial criticizing Veeck for the Paige signing.
As Lemke notes, Spink’s racial views were hard to figure — he was pro-integration in baseball but later critical of Jackie Robinson — so it’s hard to see how much of this was about Paige, how much was about Veeck, how much was about Spink and how much of it was simply about bad baseball analysis and an underestimation of what was left of Paige’s skills. But either way, I had never heard this before and think it’s pretty fascinating.
MASN’s Roch Kubatko is reporting that the Orioles have “some level” of interest in free agent outfielder Denard Span. The Nationals did not make a $15.8 million qualifying offer to Span, which means he doesn’t come attached with draft pick compensation unlike other free agents such as Alex Gordon and Dexter Fowler.
Span, who turns 32 in February, hit a solid .301/.365/.431 with five home runs, 22 RBI, 38 runs scored, and 11 stolen bases, but took only 275 plate appearances due to back and hip injuries. He underwent season-ending hip surgery in September but is expected to be ready to participate in spring training.
The Mets and Royals have also reportedly shown interest in Span’s services.
ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Blue Jays are on the prowl for relievers with closing experience. Ryan Madson is one of the names on their list.
Madson, 35, had a career rebirth with the Royals in 2015. He signed a minor league deal with the club that paid him a salary of $850,000 if he made it back to the majors. Due to a plethora of arm injuries, Madson hadn’t pitched in the majors since Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals as a member of the Phillies. For the Royals, he wound up becoming a crucial member of the bullpen, finishing with a 2.13 ERA and a 58/14 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.
While Madson allowed five runs in 8 1/3 post-season innings, he pitched well when it mattered most, as he hurled three scoreless frames in three appearances in the World Series against the Mets.
Madson has closing experience, with 55 career saves. 32 of them came in 2011 when he took over the closer’s role from Brad Lidge.
After signing Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ, and trading for Jesse Chavez, the Jays have bolstered their rotation but it was reported on Saturday that interim GM Tony LaCava is still focused on upgrading the pitching staff.
ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that free agent pitcher Trevor Cahill is looking for a one-year, bounce-back deal. The Pirates are one of the potential teams he is considering.
It’s no surprise that the Pirates are on Cahill’s list. Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage has garnered a reputation as a miracle worker after turning around the careers of a handful of pitchers, including Edinson Volquez, Francisco Liriano, and J.A. Happ. Volquez parlayed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Pirates into a two-year, $20 million deal with the Royals last December. Liriano signed with the Pirates on a one-year, $1 million contract and turned that into a three-year, $39 million deal. Happ, dealt to the Pirates from the Mariners at the most recent trade deadline, just signed a three-year, $39 million contract with the Blue Jays.
Cahill, once a highly-regarded pitching prospect, has scuffled over parts of seven seasons in the majors. The 27-year-old owns a career 4.13 ERA with a 754/427 K/BB ratio in 1,083 2/3 innings. Cahill had some brief success after signing with the Cubs as a free agent in mid-August, compiling a 2.12 ERA in 11 appearances out of the bullpen.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Blue Jays have narrowed their search for a new general manager down to two candidates: current interim GM Tony LaCava, and Indians vice president of player personnel Ross Atkins. Former Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos resigned last month.
LaCava was promoted to interim GM on November 2 and has already made a handful of moves along with new president Mark Shapiro. The club acquired Jesse Chavez in a trade and signed pitchers Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ to multi-year deals.
Atkins worked under Shapiro in the Indians organization for 15 seasons, so it is no surprise that he is a finalist for the open GM position.