The Baseball Project is the greatest idea ever and, unlike a lot of great ideas, the execution is pretty fantastic too. It’s a supergroup of sorts, consisting of Scott McCaughey, Peter Buck, Mike Mills , Steve Wynn and Linda Pitmon, and all of their music is about baseball. They just put out their third album — appropriately called “3rd” — a couple of weeks ago.
I just heard it for the first time. One standout song among many good ones: “They Don’t Know Henry.” It’s about how, for everything that has ever been said or written about Henry Aaron, not too many people know the real Aaron. As bandleader McCaughey put it in this interview with Riverfront Times:
So much of it was manufactured. It wasn’t him. People wanted him to fit into this niche and be this guy. He was never called Hank in his entire life. Nobody who knew him would ever call him Hank, and they immediately made him “Hammering Hank,” just like when Roberto Clemente came up, he was ‘Bobby Clemente.’ That was not him. That’s the kind of thing that was foisted on these guys, especially in the ’50s if they weren’t white. Aaron didn’t want to be a well-known person. He’s a pretty private guy.
People are still manufacturing things about Aaron. Using him as their avatar for battles over Barry Bonds and steroids. Pouncing on the relatively innocuous things he says in order to take political offense. As if Aaron were at the vanguard of these sorts of political battles as opposed to a man in his 70s merely offering his personal view on the matter or, in some cases, trying to steer clear altogether. It’s a no-win situation for a guy like Aaron in the era in which he came of age and into the public life: be outspoken and flamboyant and you get called a showboat (or far worse). Keep one’s own counsel and speak rarely, have others fill the vacuum with what they’d have you stand for rather than what you do.
Anyway, give a listen. And consider picking up The Baseball Project’s new album:
Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.
Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.
Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.
Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):
We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.
Confirming a report from Tuesday, the Diamondbacks officially signed right-hander Fernando Rodney to a one-year, $2.75 million contract on Friday. The 39-year-old stands to receive up to $4 million in incentives, per Jack MacGruder of FanRag Sports, with $250,000 kicking in when the veteran reaches 40, 50 and 60 appearances and $500,000 if he reaches 70.
Rodney came three games shy of the 70-appearance mark in 2016 during back-to-back stints with the Padres and Marlins. He put up a cumulative 3.44 ERA on the year, which effectively disguised the extreme split during his performances in San Diego and Miami. The Diamondbacks aren’t anywhere close to contending in 2017, but Rodney should stabilize the back end of their bullpen while providing Arizona GM Mike Hazen with a potential trade chip during next year’s deadline.
Hazen issued a statement following the signing:
With Fernando, we’re getting an established Major League closer and a veteran presence in the bullpen. It is helpful to have someone with his experience on the back end to slow the game down and get the final three outs.