Jose Abreu

White Sox rookie Jose Abreu has impressed Albert Pujols

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Jose Abreu has made a good first impression on Albert Pujols and it has nothing to do with his home run total.

OK, maybe some of it is based on Abreu’s massive power.

But Pujols, who met the White Sox slugger in spring training and has spoken with him again this weekend, said he’s impressed with how Abreu has conducted himself during his rookie season.

Abreu went to Pujols for advice in March and spent 10-15 minutes chatting with the three-time Most Valuable Player. Pujols downplayed the advice and said that the Cuban-born slugger would be on his way to big things whether they had spoken or not.

“He’s really mature,” Pujols said. “That’s pretty impressive for guys like that, having all that pressure. Leaving his country to come here to the United States and play and to be able to handle himself the way he has, I’m proud of him. I don’t know him that much but the time we spent, to be able to encourage him, I can see he’s really appreciative. I don’t want to take any credit. He no matter what, whether I helped him out or not, he’s a great hitter.”

[MORE: White Sox notes: Semien gets first outfield action]

Abreu insists Pujols is just being modest; that his advice has been extremely helpful.

Before the season began, Abreu said he likes to study great hitters in his spare time. Pujols, who smacked the 507th homer of his career on Friday, is high on that list. The two spoke again before Saturday’s game and its clear Abreu holds Pujols in high regard.

“It’s amazing,” Abreu said through a translator. “He was taking (batting practice) and he stepped just to come out and say hello to me and talk to me, which is incredible. That’s one of the reasons why we admire him so much, the kind of people he is, the kind of professional he is. We talk about a lot of things and I’m very thankful for the advice he gives me. He’s definitely a person all baseball players admire and he’s a role model for all of us.

“He can be as modest as he can be, saying all of that. But I have to be thankful to him. He said some really good things to me that I follow and I know that they are helping me and they will continue to help me. He’s that kind of person. A modest person and a real pro.”

Pujols said he’d offer similar advice to anyone who wants it. But he also admits he could identify with Abreu having come to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic with a limited grasp of English. Pujols said he wanted to reassure Abreu that the style of baseball isn’t that different from home and he would enjoy playing in the United States.

“I was in that situation myself when I came to the United States,” Pujols said. “Just to encourage, don’t try to do too much. He’s going to love Chicago. He’s going to love that city. He’s obviously going to love that park. The park is pretty hitter friendly, but for him it doesn’t matter. He’s such a strong guy that he can hit the ball in any park from right field to the left-field corner. He was just asking me questions about what the pitchers were trying to do. I told him the difference between the American League and the National League is in the National League they challenge you a little bit more than the American League. They throw you more offspeed and they don’t want you to beat them.”

[RELATED: Fresh Flowers up to White Sox workload challenge]

Pujols said he believes Abreu is in good hands as he is not only surrounded by Spanish speakers and his countrymen, but also by “great leaders in Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko.”

The National League rookie of the year in 2001, Pujols predicted before the season Abreu would win the award in the AL this season. Abreu faces stiff competition from New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, but Pujols is impressed by the quick start of the White Sox slugger.

Abreu was named the AL player of the month and rookie of the month for April after he set rookie records for homers and RBIs, previously established by Pujols.

“Any time you have a guy like that who can take the field every day and help the team out is unbelievable and pretty exciting,” Pujols said. “The season he’s having so far, I’m pretty sure he’s just going to get better because the second time around he’s going to make more adjustments and the pitchers are going to make adjustments. But he’s a smart hitter and he uses the whole field.”

Mariners sign reliever Joel Peralta

Joel Peralta
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Right-hander Joel Peralta has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Mariners that includes an invitation to spring training.

Peralta spent last season with the Dodgers and was limited to 29 innings by neck and back problems, posting a 4.34 ERA and 24/8 K/BB ratio. Los Angeles declined his $2.5 million option, making him a free agent.

He was one of the most underrated relievers in baseball from 2010-2014, logging a total of 318 innings with a 3.34 ERA and 342 strikeouts, but at age 40 he’s shown signs of decline. Still, for a minor-league deal and no real commitment Peralta has a chance to be a nice pickup for Seattle’s bullpen.

White Sox sign Mat Latos

Mat Latos
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Jerry Crasnick reports that the Chicago White Sox have signed Mat Latos.

Latos was pretty spiffy between 2010-2014, posting sub-3.50 ERAs each year.  Then the injuries came and he fell apart. He pitched for three teams in 2015 — the Dodgers, Angels, and Marlins — with a combined 4.95 ERA in 113 innings. And he didn’t make friends on those clubs either, with reports of clubhouse strife left in his wake.

In Chicago he gets a fresh start. It doesn’t come in a park that will do him any favors — Latos and U.S. Cellular Field don’t seem like a great match — but at this point beggars can’t be choosers.

 

Jason Castro loses arbitration hearing against Astros

Jason Castro
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Veteran catcher Jason Castro and the Astros went through with an arbitration hearing over a difference of $250,000 and the three-person panel ruled in favor of the team.

That means Castro will make $5 million this season rather than his requested amount of $5.25 million. This is his final year of arbitration eligibility, so the 29-year-old catcher will be a free agent after the season.

Castro showed a lot of promise early on, including making the All-Star team at age 26 in 2013, but since then he’s hit just .217 with a .650 OPS in 230 games. His power and pitch-framing skills are a valuable combination even within sub par overall production, so 2016 will be a key year for the former first-round draft pick.

Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Eminent Domain and the history of the Rangers Ballpark

Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump addresses supporters at a campaign rally, Monday, Dec. 21, 2015, in Grand Rapids, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
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Eminent Domain — the right of a government to take/buy private property for public use — and its implications has always been a controversial topic. It became far more controversial in the 1990s and early 2000s, however,  as the practice, which is intended for public projects like roads and stuff, was increasingly used in ways to help developers and businesses.

The controversy came to a head in the 2005 case Kelo v. City of New London in which the Supreme Court held that general benefits a community enjoyed from economic growth — not just direct public works — qualified as a “public use” under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The upshot: if someone had a good argument that a shopping mall would benefit the community, Mr. Developer and the government can force you to sell them their house.

This led to a HUGE backlash, with property rights people freaking out about what seemed like a pretty clear abuse of governmental power serving the interests of developers. Some 44 states have since passed laws outlawing the use of Eminent Domain for purely economic development. Some of that backlash has gone too far in the other direction, with some laws getting passed which not only required compensation to landowners if land was taken, but merely if land was diminished in value.  Like, if the government passes an environmental regulation which makes your private, for-profit toxic waste dump less lucrative than it was, the government has to pay you. It’s crazy stuff, really. And all of those laws notwithstanding, the topic continues to be a controversial one, with battles over what, exactly, is “public” what is a “public good” and all of that raging on. It’s rather fascinating. At least for boring nerfherders like me.

In the recent GOP presidential debate Donald Trump and Jeb Bush got into it on the topic, with Trump — a real estate developer, or course — defending the use of Eminent Domain to take land for economic development and Bush — a really desperate dude who at this point will take ANY position he can if it’ll give him traction — opposing it. In the days since they’ve continued to fight about it, with Trump charging Bush with hypocrisy since his brother, George W., was an owner of the Texas Rangers when they built their new ballpark with the help of Eminent Domain.

Ahh, yes. We finally get to baseball.

Today Nathaniel Rakich of Baseballot digs into that project and looks at how it all played out against the Eminent Domain debate. It touches on stuff we talk about a lot around here: are ballparks engines of economic development or merely for the enrichment of ballclubs? If they are built by a municipality, are they public goods? Wait, how can they be public goods if you can’t just walk into them for free? And the arguments go on.

It’s fascinating stuff showing, once again, that the real world and baseball intersect all the dang time and it’s handy to have a handle on just how, exactly, it does so.