Since the sad news of Tony Gwynn’s passing came down this morning, we have heard countless tidbits and anecdotes about his brilliance as a hitter. If you’re like me, you can’t get enough of them. Joe Posnanski wrote about Gwynn’s legacy and artistry in his latest piece for NBCSports.com:
See, for most Major League hitters – even the best of hitters – hitting is some brew of instinct and technique and muscle memory and something unspoken. It’s a physical act and it’s a mental act, but it isn’t generally an application of imagination. The cliché is irrepressible, you’ve heard it a million times: Nothing in sports is as difficult as hitting a baseball. The greatest hitters have reduced the difficulty to platitudes because, well, you don’t talk about batting. You DO it.
“See the ball, hit the ball,” Tony Perez used to say.
“Empty your mind,” George Brett used to say.
“You can’t think and hit at the same time,” Yogi Berra used to say.
Gwynn did, though He thought and hit at the same time. He would not empty his mind. He did not only see the ball (and hit it), he would see the pitcher preparation, see the smallest hitch or twist in his delivery, see the openings in the defense, see the ball release from the pitcher’s hand, see the way the baseball turned, see angles and lines and geometric shapes like parabolas. I once asked him how closely he noticed the defensive alignment. “If the second baseman was one inch more to the left or right,” he told me, “I knew.”
It’s a wonderful tribute. Make sure to set aside a few moments and read it.
Remembering the great Tony Gwynn
A report from the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly suggests that free agent catcher Welington Castillo currently tops the Orioles’ list of potential backstop targets for the 2017 season. With Matt Wieters on the market, the Orioles lack a suitable platoon partner for Caleb Joseph behind the dish, and Connolly adds that the club has been discussing a multi-year deal with Castillo’s representatives since the Winter Meetings.
Castillo batted .264/.322/.423 with the Diamondbacks in 2016, racking up 14 home runs and driving in a career-high 68 RBI in 457 PA. His bat provides much of his upside, and Connolly quoted an anonymous National League scout who believes that the 29-year-old’s defensive profile has fallen short of his potential in recent years.
For better or worse, both the Orioles and Castillo appear far from locking in a deal for 2017. Both the Rays and Braves have expressed interest in the veteran catcher during the past week, while the Orioles are reportedly considering Wieters, Nick Hundley and Chris Iannetta as alternatives behind the plate.
The Phillies reportedly signed veteran outfielder Daniel Nava to a minor league contract, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Nava began the season on a one-year contract with the Angels, during which he slashed .235/.309/.303 through 136 PA in the first half of 2016. He was flipped to the Royals in late August for a player to be named later and saw the remainder of his year go down the drain on an .091 average through 12 PA in Anaheim. After getting the boot from the Angels’ 40-man roster in November, the 33-year-old outfielder elected free agency.
Nava is expected to compete for a bench role on the Phillies’ roster in the spring. As it currently stands, the club’s projected 2017 outfield features Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera, with precious little depth behind them. Nava’s bat is underwhelming, but at the very least he offers the Phillies a warm body in left field and a potential platoon partner for one of their younger options, a la Tyler Goeddel or Roman Quinn.