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“They Don’t Know Henry”

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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:

Cubs extend Pedro Strop through 2018

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 25:  Pedro Strop #46 of the Chicago Cubs reacts during the sixth inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game One of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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ESPN’s Jesse Rogers reported over the weekend that the Cubs and reliever Pedro Strop agreed to a contract extension. He’ll remain with the Cubs through 2018 and the new deal includes a club option for the 2019 season as well. Per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, Strop will earn $5.85 million in 2018 and the club option is worth $6.25 million with a $500,000 buyout. The two sides already avoided arbitration earlier this month, agreeing on a $5.5 million salary for the 2017 season.

Strop, 31, has been a very reliable reliever for the Cubs over the last three years. He has a combined 2.65 ERA with 212 strikeouts and 69 walks over 176 1/3 innings in that span of time.

The Cubs replaced Aroldis Chapman with Wade Davis, so Strop and Hector Rondon will be bridging the gap to Davis this coming season.

Strop joined the Cubs along with Jake Arrieta in the July 2013 trade that sent Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman to the Orioles. That trade panned out well for the Cubs.

Video: John Axford discusses 2017 Oscar picks

MILWAUKEE, WI - JUNE 08:  John Axford #61 of the Oakland Athletics throws a pitch during the seventh inning of a game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on June 8, 2016 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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Sure, it may feel gimmicky to go around asking players to make predictions for the Academy Awards, but when it comes to the Athletics’ John Axford, he knows what he’s talking about. The right-hander has a proven track record of making near-perfect ballot predictions, getting 14 of 15 winners correct in 2013, 18 of 18 in 2014, 17 of 24 in 2015 and 17 of 24 again in 2016.

With a range of award-worthy films to choose from this year, Axford selected the crowd-pleasing (and record-breaking seven Golden Globe winner) La La Land for Best Picture, Manchester By the Sea‘s Casey Affleck for Best Actor and “the sweetheart of Hollywood,” Emma Stone, for Best Actress.

His full ballot was released to Twitter on Saturday, locking in La La Land for eight total Oscars. Going a perfect 24-for-24 might be a near-impossible feat, but if anyone can pull it off, Axford’s the one to do it.