Jet Blue Park

Jet Blue Park is absolutely incredible

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FORT MYERS — I have seen the future of spring training complexes, and its name is Jet Blue Park. Or maybe it’s not the future, because frankly, I’m not sure who else is going to shell out the kind of dough this place likely cost besides big money teams like the Red Sox (or the cities which pay for them on the promise of hordes of fans coming from up north to visit). But either way it’s a palace.

The scale of the complex is the first thing that struck me. It’s out on the edge of Fort Myers, out by the interstate and the airport and thus they had all the land in the world on which to build it. And they used all of that land, it seems. I can’t find such figures for every park, but I’d be shocked if Jet Blue didn’t take up more square acreage than any other spring training complex, for whatever that’s worth. And there are more golf carts on site schlepping people around than I’ve seen anywhere. When I got out of my car to head over a dude came by on a cart and asked me if I wanted a ride. I declined, but by the time I got to the back fields and the clubhouse I sorta wished I had.

And it’s not just acreage. This is the clubhouse:

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Well, it’s not just the clubhouse. It’s the minor league clubhouse too. And team offices. And the weight room. And a dining hall of players and coaches. It’s just a massive building that — perhaps apropos given the name of the place —  makes one think of an airport more than a baseball facility. As do the batting cages:

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“Attention, we have a gate change  . . . your flight will now be departing from Gate E  . . .”  Even the retired numbers are huge:

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I literally couldn’t get into a good position to get them all in one shot. Had to settle for only some of them.

The massive scale is paired with some nice style, too. Unlike every other clubhouse I’ve ever been in, the Sox’ clubhouse has high ceilings and tons of natural light. What a concept: sunlight in a locker room. And tons of room to spread out. Indeed, most veterans have two lockers. You sometimes see a superstar with that setup in spring training, but lots of guys have it here.

On to the ballpark itself:

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It is, as many have noted, Fenway South. That’s actually the formal name of the complex — jetBlue Park at Fenway South — and the name of the street it’s on too. It has exactly the same dimensions as Fenway Park and the same quirks. A manual scoreboard. A Pesky Pole. And, of course, a Green Monster:

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The difference, as you can see, is that there are actually seats in the middle of the Monster, not just the top (where that red umbrella is on the top here is the actual home run line of the Monster in Boston). In order to keep things the same as in the real Fenway, there is a net in front of those middle seats:

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If the ball hits off of it it’s still in play, just as if it were to bounce off the Monster in Fenway. That’s great for the players, I suppose, but it kinda stinks for the people in those seats. I bet a lot of them would love to catch a Fenway double.

But despite all of the major league qualities of the place — and the sheer size — this somehow still feels like a spring training park. This is in contrast to Steinbrenner Field up in Tampa. That place is taller, has tunnels and too much poured concrete and it doesn’t have the same number of areas where people can hang out. It’s in the middle of a city, not some area where you’d plausibly vacation. This place is as imposing as all get-out — it’s not quaint like TigerTown in Lakeland or even the Phillies’ place in Clearwater — but it doesn’t have that same impersonal feel the Yankees’ joint does.

There is probably some larger conclusions and comparisons to be drawn from all of that.  I’ll let you draw them.

The Braves and Fulton County are fighting over a Hank Aaron statue

FILE- In this Nov. 12, 2013 file photo, a statue of Hall of Fame baseball player Hank Aaron stands outside Turner Field, the home of the Atlanta Braves in Atlanta. The Atlanta Braves pulled perhaps the most surprising move of the year. They announced after months of secret talks with Cobb County leaders plans to move to a suburban stadium and leave downtown where they’ve played since moving from Milwaukee in 1966. The impending Braves’ departure aside, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed managed to keep the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons happy. He agreed for the city to cover part of the construction costs for a new retractable-roof stadium to replace the Georgia Dome downtown. Both new stadiums are projected to open in 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)
Associated Press
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Divorce is hard. It’s hard on the kids and hard on your own emotions. Then, of course, there’s the fighting over money. Eventually you sort that stuff out too, but at some point you’ll come across something that cannot be divided between you and for which visitation schedules simply aren’t suitable.

Maybe it’s the family photo album. Maybe it’s that 60-year-old cast iron skillet which you got at that estate sale and which is perfectly seasoned and, oh God, you can’t imagine making fried chicken in anything else YOU GOT THE HOUSE, JENNY, MY GOD I GET TO KEEP THE SKILLET!!!

Um. Sorry. Got carried away there for a second. Where was I? Oh yes. Maybe it’s that statue you and your ex both love. You know, that one of the guy who hit 755 home runs and who has served as the face of your franchise for over 60 years:

For about three hours Wednesday, it looked like the statue of baseball hall of famer Hank Aaron would be staying in Atlanta.

The agency that owns Turner Field proudly announced it holds documents showing “the people of Atlanta and Fulton County” own the bronze, and that a deal had been struck with the Braves to keep the statue at Turner Field.

Then came a statement from the Braves saying, in effect: nuh huh. The statue, the team said, should go wherever the Hammer wants it.

And with those dueling press statements, the fate over one of Atlanta’s treasured sports landmarks remained in limbo, just as it has been since the day the Braves announced plans in late 2013 to move from downtown to Cobb County after the 2016 season.

The latest: Hank Aaron says he wants no part of the dispute and that the club and the city should solve it themselves. Which is absolutely the right move. And, frankly, kind of crappy of the Braves to throw it in Aaron’s lap in the first place. They’re the ones who, figuratively speaking, broke up the marriage by messing around with that younger, richer suitor after all. Now they’re trying to make Aaron either be a bad guy to Braves fans who attend games after 2016 and don’t get to see the statue or the city of Atlanta who would have yet another piece of their baseball history transplanted to the burbs? Forget that.

If I were Aaron I’d propose that we saw the thing in half. Then we’d see who values it more. I heard that approach has worked before.

Tim Lincecum is working out in an “secret location”

Tim Lincecum
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A free agent pitcher on the decline coming off of major surgery and still looking for work on February 12 isn’t exactly the definition of Big News. But as newspaper men have known for ages, if you make a bit of information sound cool enough, it becomes news.

Or, in some cases, you can make a lack of information sound cool. If you hear about a trade rumor but aren’t able to actually find out the identity of one of the teams, call it a “mystery team.” Oooh, isn’t that dramatic? Aren’t you privy to all kinds of intrigue! Or, how about this: that free agent on the decline is doing what scores of other ballplayers looking for work are doing and is working out in the Phoenix area, trying to catch on someplace. That’s kind of boring. And you don’t even know who he’s auditioning for or where to boot. Man, that’s not the sort of information that’s gonna be fun or interesting to report.

Wait!

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There. “Secret location.” THAT sounds exciting. THAT separates this bit of news from the dog-bites-man “baseball player playing baseball” non-story. *reporter cracks knuckles* “Now to sit back and wait for the plaudits for my amazing reporting skills to come rolling in.”

CC Sabathia: getting in shape and ready for baseball

sabathia getty
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CC Sabatha made headlines in October when he abruptly left the Yankees to go into alcohol rehab. After a month there he came back and gave interviews about his decision and his battle with the bottle and then disappeared into the offseason the way most players do.

He emerged the other day and spoke with the New York Daily News’ Mark Feinsand and says that he’s ready for baseball once again. Indeed, in some ways he’s more ready now than he usually is by mid February. He’s been throwing bullpen sessions for the past three weeks — he normally waits until he gets to Tamps — and he says his troublesome knee is feeling good.

 

Sabathia will turn 36 during the season. In 2015 he was 6-10 with a 4.73 ERA in 29 starts and posted his lowest strikeout rate in a decade. Late in the season, however, with the help of a knee brace, he was at his most effective in some time. He won’t need to return to 2008 form in order to help the Yankees this season, but he will need to look more like he did in September if he is to help the Yankees to the playoffs.

Jacob deGrom open to extension with Mets

New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom talks during media day for the Major League Baseball World Series against the Kansas City Royals Monday, Oct. 26, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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The Mets are currently enjoying the spoils of the best young rotation in the game, but the big question is whether this is just a brief window or the start of sustained success. Given the huge prices on the free agent market, it’s going to be next to impossible to keep the band together, but at least one member of the rotation is open to sticking around for the long-term.

While there haven’t been any talks yet, All-Star right-hander Jacob deGrom told Kevin Kernan of the New York Post that he could see himself discussing an extension with the Mets.

“I’m a little bit older, so I might be more willing to do something like that,’’ deGrom told The Post at Mets pre-camp. “You just have to look at what is fair so both sides get a decent deal. It’s something I’d have to look into and make sure I agree with it.’’

It makes sense from deGrom’s perspective. He broke into the majors later than most prospects, so he’ll be 28 this June. Depending on whether he qualifies as a Super Two, he’ll be arbitration-eligible for the first time after either 2016 or 2017. Either way, he’s under team control through 2020, which means that he’s currently on track to hit free agency after his age-32 season. The market might not be kind to him even if he manages to stay healthy, so it could behoove him to get as much guaranteed money as possible right now. The Mets could always decide to play things year-to-year, but perhaps deGrom would be willing to settle for a discount in order to get them to buy out a free agent year or two. It’s a really interesting situation to think about, but odds are the two sides will wait on contract talks until he’s arbitration-eligible for the first time.

DeGrom owns a 2.61 ERA in 52 starts over his first two seasons in the majors. Among starters, only Zack Greinke, Jake Arrieta, and Clayton Kershaw have a lower ERA since the start of 2014.