Bill Conlin, the 2011 Spink Award-winning writer who fell into disgrace after being accused of child molestation five months after receiving his award, died in a hospital in Largo, Florida yesterday. He was 79.
Conlin spent five decades covering sports for Philadelphia newspapers. For those of us outside of Philly, he is best known as a fixture on ESPN’s “The Sports Reporters” from its inception until a few short years ago. Conlin was smart. He was frustrating. He was combative. He was funny. Before his retirement he was, like a lot of aging writers, increasingly out of touch. Occasionally, though, you could see his sportswriting brilliance shine through, even near the end. His winning of the 2011 Spink Award came long after he had lost his fastball as a writer and, in many ways, was a gold watch for years of service from the BBWAA.
But anything one can say about his professional legacy was blown away when, in December 2011, it was revealed that niece had accused Conlin of molesting her when she was a child. The accusation came in the form of a complaint to police, as his niece became concerned about children related to Conlin being in his presence. Due to statute of limitations issues no charges were ever filed against Conlin, but eventually three other complaints were made against him. After the allegations, Conlin withdrew from the public eye and spent his final two years on Earth in disgrace.
If the allegations against Conlin were true — and to date there has been nothing to contradict them — he was nothing short of a monster.
The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.
Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.
Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.
Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.
The Nationals announced on Saturday afternoon that the club acquired closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates in exchange for reliever Felipe Rivero and minor league pitcher Taylor Hearn.
Melancon, 31, put together another solid season for the Pirates, leaving the club with 30 saves, a 1.51 ERA, and a 38/9 K/BB ratio in 41 2/3 innings. He led the majors last season with 51 saves and has a 1.80 ERA since joining the Pirates in 2013. Melancon is earning $9.65 million this season and can become eligible for free agency after the season.
With Melancon out of the picture, the Pirates intend to have Tony Watson take over the closer’s role.
Rivero, 25, has handled the seventh and eighth innings for the Nationals this season, compiling a 4.53 ERA and a 53/15 K/BB ratio in 49 2/3 innings. He’s just shy of one year of service time, so the Pirates will have control of him for a long time.
Hearn, 21, was rated the Nationals’ 27th-best prospect by MLB Pipeline. He was originally drafted by the Pirates in the 22nd round of the 2012 draft but he didn’t sign and ended up going back to college. The Nationals took him in the fifth round of last year’s draft. This season, between rookie ball and Single-A Hagerstown, Hearn put up a 2.79 ERA and a 39/13 K/BB ratio in 29 innings. He’s a long way away from the majors, so he’s essentially a lottery ticket for the Pirates.
The Nationals needed an upgrade at closer as Jonathan Papelbon has struggled this season. The right-hander has allowed runs in each of his last three appearances, ballooning his ERA up to 4.41 with a 30/13 K/BB ratio in 32 2/3 innings. It will be interesting to see how Papelbon, who has never made a habit of letting his feelings go unspoken, handles a demotion to the eighth inning.