McKechnie Field

McKechnie Field and imminent gentrification


BRADENTON — It stinks that there’s probably not going to be baseball here today, because this park is pretty sweet:


I love McKechnie Field. It’s old, and despite recent renovations, it still has that old-timey feel. And of course the renovations make it more comfortable. And the food here is great. Just a wonderful park.

As many note when talking about this place, the area in which it sits is not exactly prosperous. I parked my car right across 17th Avenue from the park, right behind a homeless shelter/soup kitchen/free clinic. There are a lot of auto repair and body shops nearby. These are the sorts of elements which people cite when disparaging Maryvale Baseball Park where the Brewers train and Citi Field in New York.

My view: baseball is part of life. We shouldn’t consider it a bad thing when life happens next to a ballpark. If anything, it’d be better if the luxuries of society were closer and more accessible to more people and their necessities. That they not cloistered away in prosperous areas as though they were playgrounds for rich people. People in Bradenton work in and around this ballpark. And I can’t help but think that even if they don’t get here very often, seeing it as they walk to where they need to go makes the fabric of society a bit stronger. We already have too many things for rich people separated from the majority of people by virtual moats. Going to a baseball game isn’t cheap these days, but it’s nice to see a ballpark less characterized by that sort of thing.

Not that there isn’t some sort of gentrification going on here. Right next door to the free clinic is this, under construction:


It may be hard to tell from the photo, but looking inside you see beer tanks and a couple dozen taps in what will be a dining area. Yep, they’re putting a brewpub across from the park.  And now gone from the park?


That was Popi’s Place, a good old fashioned greasy spoon. I ate there back in 2010 and it was one of the best breakfasts I ever had. And the palce had all kinds of character. The Pirates bought it last month and closed it down. They’ll use the site for parking now, but it’ll eventually be part of a ballpark expansion. The owners weren’t forced out or anything — this story explains that they were ready to retire — but it is hard to feel great about the closing of this sort of place.

Especially when, again, according to that article, it’s part of “the City’s and the Pirates’ strategy for redeveloping the area around McKechnie Field as an arts and entertainment district.” “Arts and entertainment districts” tend not to be aimed at a neighborhood clientele. Indeed, it often means people in the neighborhood need to find new neighborhoods in which to live or work due to increased rents.

I’ll admit that I’m a naive idealist/utopianist. I have this vision of a civil society in which people come together in order to get the business of living done. That they use the banks and post offices and sidewalks and public squares more or less together. That the services and businesses that tend to serve the rich aren’t so profoundly separate and apart from the services and businesses that tend to serve the poor. That people see those who are different from them more often than we do now — literally see them — and as such, don’t forget their existence when plans and policies are made. I feel like such a thing would make our society stronger.

Maybe that’ll never exist. Maybe it never truly existed in the past either. Maybe the fact that I live in an upscale suburb specifically so my kids can go to better schools makes me a way bigger part of the problem than someone who builds a spring training complex in gated-off parking lot in a rich suburb or gentrifies a working-class neighborhood to the point were the workers actually have to leave.

I don’t know. But this is the stuff I think about when it’s raining at a ballpark.

Erik Johnson likely to open 2016 in the White Sox rotation

DENVER, CO - APRIL 09:  Starting pitcher Erik Johnson #45 of the Chicago White Sox delivers against the Colorado Rockies during Interleague play at Coors Field on April 9, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockies defeated the White Sox 10-4.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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With the White Sox losing Jeff Samardzija to free agency, Erik Johnson will likely get a shot to contribute out of the rotation to open up the 2016 season, GM Rick Hahn said in a conference call on Wednesday, per a report from’s Scott Merkin.

“As we sit here today, I think it will be an opportunity for Erik Johnson to convert on sort of the return to form he showed back in 2015 when he was International League pitcher of the year for [Triple-A] Charlotte,” Hahn said. “Obviously, he got some starts in September and continued to show the progress in Chicago he had shown in the Minor Leagues over the course of the last season.

“So if Opening Day were today, then I think Johnson is penciled in to that spot in the rotation right now. In all probability, once we get closer to spring, there will be some competition for him to earn that spot. But if we were strictly looking at today, then I would think Johnson has the inside track on filling Samardzija’s innings.”

Johnson was called up from Triple-A Charlotte in September and made six starts, allowing 14 runs (13 earned) on 32 hits and 17 walks with 30 strikeouts in 35 innings. That followed up an impressive five months in the minors where he compiled a 2.37 ERA and a 136/41 K/BB ratio across 132 2/3 innings.

Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and each included Johnson on their top-100 prospect lists, ranking him 63rd, 67th, and 70th, respectively. The right-hander was selected by the White Sox in the second round of the 2011 draft.

Major League Baseball will investigate Yasiel Puig for his role in Miami nightclub brawl

Yasiel Puig
AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi

It was reported on Friday afternoon that Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was involved in a brawl at a Miami nightclub. Details were scant at the time, but he reportedly left with a bruise on his face.

Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that Major League Baseball plans to investigate Puig under the league’s new domestic violence policy for his role in the brawl. Citing a report from TMZ, Hernandez notes that Puig shoved his sister, “brutally sucker-punched” the manager of the bar, and instigated the brawl.

The Dodgers and Puig’s agent have thus far refused to comment on the situation.

Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes was the first player to be investigated under the league’s new domestic violence policy earlier this month, as he allegedly assaulted his wife. Reyes has pleaded not guilty after he was charged with domestic abuse in Hawaii.

As our own Craig Calcaterra pointed out, commissioner Rob Manfred does not need to wait for Puig to plead guilty or to be found guilty to levy a punishment.

Dayan Viciedo close to signing with Japan’s Chunichi Dragons

Dayan Viciedo
AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
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Patrick Newman is reporting that the Chunichi Dragons of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and outfielder Dayan Viciedo are close to an agreement on a contract. Newman notes that the Dragons are close to signing pitcher Jordan Norberto as well.

Viciedo, 26, has struggled since making his major league debut in 2010 with the White Sox, batting an aggregate .254/.298/.424 with 66 home runs and 211 RBI in 1,798 plate appearances. He spent the 2015 season with Triple-A Charlotte (White Sox) and Nashville (Athletics), hitting a composite .287/.348/.450. While Viciedo can hit the occasional home run, he hasn’t shown the ability to do much else at the big league level. Given his age, he could prove himself in Japan and parlay that into a renewed shot in the majors in the future.

The White Sox signed Viciedo out of Cuba in December 2008, agreeing to a four-year, $10 million deal. The club re-signed him to one-year deals in 2013 and ’14 for $2.8 million each and $4.4 million ahead of the 2015 season.

Blue Jays sign J.A. Happ to a three-year, $36 million contract

J.A. Happ
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Update (8:45 PM EST): Per Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, Happ will get $10 million in 2016 and $13 million each in 2017 and ’18.

*’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the Blue Jays have signed lefty J.A. Happ to a three-year deal worth $36 million.

Happ, 33, had a rebirth as a member of the Pirates last season after starting the season with 20 subpar starts with the Mariners. He made 11 starts for the Buccos, boasting a 1.85 ERA with a 69/13 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.

Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported this past August that Happ’s newfound success had to do with a delivery tweak suggested by Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage. The Blue Jays are certainly hoping that adjustment is the full explanation for his success.

The Jays’ signing of Happ most likely signifies they won’t be pursuing free agent lefty David Price.

This will be Happ’s second stint with the Blue Jays. The Astros dealt him to Toronto in a July 2012 trade. He posted a 4.39 ERA with a 256/113 K/BB ratio in 291 innings with the Jays, then went to the Mariners in a trade this past December that brought outfielder Michael Saunders to the Jays.