Alex Rodriguez has been invited to play for the Long Island Ducks

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Alex Rodriguez may not be able to play with the Yankees during the regular season, but he may be able to play baseball nonetheless. The Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League, an independent league that is not associated with Major League Baseball, have invited Rodriguez to play for them this season.

Via Mark Herrman of Newsday:

“While some MLB suspensions have been honored by the Atlantic League in the past, if Alex Rodriguez were unable to participate in the Major Leagues this season, we would be open to exploring giving him a chance to play, stay sharp and compete against a high level of competition while helping the Ducks chase a third consecutive championship,” Michael Pfaff, the Ducks president and general manager, said Saturday in an email.

Players of Rodriguez’s caliber tend not to populate the rosters in the independent leagues. They are typically made up of players who couldn’t cut it in the Minor Leagues, older players who served no use to Major League teams even in the lower levels, and players attempting to make a comeback. Among those on the Ducks roster last season were Dontrelle Willis, Ian Snell, Bill Hall, and Josh Barfield. In the past, the Ducks have given uniforms to Jose Canseco, Jose Offerman (who ended up assaulting pitcher Matt Beech and catcher John Nathans with a bat in 2007), and John Rocker.

Rodriguez will turn 39 years old on July 27. Despite $64 million remaining on his contract between 2015-17, many believe that the 162-game suspension handed down to Rodriguez today by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz could end Rodriguez’s career as a Major Leaguer.

Update: As Keith Law points out on Twitter, the Uniform Player Contract would prevent Rodriguez from playing for the Ducks. Craig Calcaterra posted a link to the UPC about three years ago, which you can still see here. To quote from the contract:

Service
5.(a) The Player agrees that, while under contract, and prior to expiration of the Club’s right to renew this contract, he will not play baseball otherwise than for the Club, except that the Player may participate in post-season games under the conditions prescribed in the Major League Rules. Major League Rule 18(b) is set forth herein.

UPDATE: Donald Trump declines Nats offer to throw out the first pitch

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UPDATE: Welp, we wont’ get to see that:

Sad!

8:53 AM: It’s just gossip now, but Politico is hearing that Donald Trump is in talks to throw out the first pitch at Nationals Park on Opening Day. The Nats are not commenting. Neither are the Palm Beach Cardinals of the Florida State League, who no doubt feel slighted given that the president effectively is a local.

With the caveat that, on Opening Day, tickets are likely to be more expensive and thus you’re likely to have a lot more rich people and friends-of-the-owners in attendance, thereby ensuring a more conservative crowd, I’m struggling to imagine a situation in which Trump strolls on to a baseball field in a large American city and isn’t booed like crazy. He’s polling as low as 36% in some places. He’s not exactly Mr. Popular.

Oh well. I look forward to him three-bouncing one to Matt Wieters and then grabbing his phone and tweeting about how it was the best, most tremendous first pitch in baseball history. Or blaming Hillary Clinton for it in the event he admits that it was a bad pitch.

2017 Preview: Texas Rangers

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Texas Rangers.

The Rangers somehow won the AL West last year despite not being super great at any one aspect of the game. There are stars here — Adrian Beltre, Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish and Rougned Odor are all spiffy players — but the Rangers won the division by being greater than the sum of their parts. They scored a decent number of runs despite some bad collective peripheral numbers and they allowed more runs than anyone in the AL except the Twins and Athletics. Yet they had a great record in one-run games and outperformed their pythagorean record by a WHOLE lot. Luck shined brightly on the 2016 Rangers.

It’s hard to expect luck to hold in any instance, but that’s especially the case when there have been some pretty significant changes. Changes like the loss of Carlos Beltran, Ian Desmond and Mitch Moreland. In their place: A full season, the Rangers hope, from Shin-Soo Choo, a converted-to-outfield Jurickson Profar and Mike Napoli. That may wash out OK, especially if Choo is healthy, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see some regression in two of those offensive slots.

Starting pitching is also a big question mark. Cole Hamels at the top is not a problem, obviously, and if Yu Darvish is healthy and durable the Rangers have an outstanding 1-2 punch. Martin Perez in the third spot presents promise, but he’s been exactly average so far in five major league seasons. The back end of the rotation has some real problems. Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross are hurt at the moment and even if healthy, Cashner seems to be a shell of his once-promising self. A.J. Griffin is looking to pitch in his first full season since 2013. If the Rangers are strong contenders all year it’s gonna be on the “Spahn and Sain and two days of rain” model, but I have no idea what rhymes with “Darvish” and that’s sort of a problem.

The bullpen is going to look a lot like it did last year. Sam Dyson will close, but manager Jeff Banister has shown in the past that he’s not a slave to keeping guys in any one role down there. Jeremy Jeffress will likely set up but he’s closed before. Some think Matt Bush or Keone Kela could close. We’ll see Tanner Scheppers and lefty Alex Claudio. Banister has a Manager of the Year Award on his mantle and while that often doesn’t mean anything, it usually suggests that a guy knows how to deal with his pen. Banister will do OK with what he has.

Really, though, the rotation is a concern, as is hoping that a 35-year-old Mike Napoli and a soon-to-be 38-year-old Adrian Beltre can continue to be the types of players who can form the offensive core of a playoff team. There’s talent and a track record here, but there’s a lot of uncertainty. For that reason, I suspect the Rangers will fall back a smidge this year, even if they’re a playoff contender.

Prediction: Second Place, American League West.