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I went to the All-Star FanFest and it was OK

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN — For the past two years people have been telling me that I needed to go to FanFest.

“Go to FanFest!” they said.

“Well, I dunno, maybe,” I said.

Just like that.

I didn’t go in New York last year because FanFest was literally ten miles away from the ballpark and I just didn’t have that kind of time and energy. Here in Minneapolis, however, FanFest is in the convention center across the street from the hotel where all the players and press conferences were yesterday. I walked into the press conference/player availability room a little after noon yesterday and, in the space of two minutes, heard three or four different players offer some variation of “I’m just soaking it all in” and/or offering their takes on Derek Jeter. At that point I decided it was safe to leave and go to FanFest.

I’m not exactly what the purpose of FanFest is. I suppose it has a lot of purposes. It’s part merchandise-selling. Part fan-excitement-generator. Part trade show. Part traveling baseball museum. All in one of those enormous airplane-hangar-size convention center rooms. They sell tickets to it for $10 a pop and the tickets look like baseball or concert tickets, so you mentally prepare yourself for some of affirmative entertainment. It doesn’t really come. You just kind of go in and wander around.

I wandered around for an hour or so trying to see if there was a there there. Here are some of the sights I saw:

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Every year there is some themed-statue thing. Statues of Liberty, corn, guitars, whatever is specific to the city, pained up with baseball logos. We have Peanuts characters this year, I presume because Charles Schulz was born in Minneapolis. I liked this theme very much and, given how much baseball appeared in Peanuts, it was quite appropriate. Joe Shlabotnik for the Hall of Fame.

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When you walk in to the big room, this is the first thing you see. Bert Blyleven was standing next to the big baseball posing for pictures (You can sort of see him behind the lady in the white t-shirt). Everything in the place was big. Big baseballs, big jerseys hanging from the ceiling a few more big things you’ll see below.

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A D.J. was spinning tunes. He was totally breakin’ it down, yo. For example, the song he was segueing into as I took this picture was “All I wanna do” by Sheryl Crow. Really, I’m not making that up. That was the hot jam he was dropping on us. Your mom was there rolling her eyes at how lame the songs were. In other news, baseball fan demographics are not the best in the world for those interested in reaching the hip, bleeding-edge tastemakers.

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Next to a green screen setup where you could have your picture taken “with” baseball stars. I watched five people go through the line. All five of them picked the Twins’ mascot, TC Bear, leaving Mauer, Cabrera, Puig and Jeter here all lonely and discarded.

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Grant Balfour isn’t even in the damn All-Star Game, but here he is parking his sweet ride in the middle of FanFest. What a guy.

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This was either an indoor Wiffle Ball game involving kids who could barely run, hit or catch or else it was Texas Rangers pregame drills. Hard to tell from this distance.

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The section with the traveling Baseball Hall of Fame exhibit was genuinely cool. Lots of memorabilia, plaques and the like. Thing I learned: Roberto Alomar has his entire name, including his maternal surname, Velázquez, on his plaque. I didn’t realize that the Hall of Fame did that with Latin players — regular MLB records and publications tend not to — but a quick scan shows that Clemente, Cepeda and Aparicio all have their maternal surnames on their plaques too. I think that’s pretty cool.

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Sorry folks, there’s no baseball that counts until Friday. Moose out front shoulda told ya.

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Another photo mockup thing, this time allowing you to have your picture taken in an MLB Network blazer on the MLB Network set. Fact: the person who looks the 356th best at this desk today will be given Chris Russo’s time slot and show. Fact: No matter who it is, whatever show that person does will be more watchable than the Chris Russo show.

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Oh no! Harmon, I warned you not to look straight into the eyes of the Witch of the Woodlands! That the curse would affect even one as mighty as you! But did you listen? Nooo!  In other news, the person who carved this Killebrew statue thinks that Killebrew choked up.

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This was a shirt that was actually for sale. For like $40. Someone created this shirt and thinks a non-crazy person would pay $40 for it and wear it out in the world where other people could see it.

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I didn’t get the price tag on these, but if I was a big famous rock star I’d buy 30 different ones and use them on tour. That way I’d get that extra cheer from the crowd when I did the “HELLO, [INSERT CITY NAME HERE]!!!” thing.

Anyway. That’s pretty much FanFest. I’m not sure it’s worth $10, but I suppose you could spend $10 on a lot of other things. If you’re on the fence about it, well, now you don’t have to go.

Angels’ Pujols has foot surgery, could be sidelined 4 months

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Los Angeles Angels slugger Albert Pujols had surgery on his right foot Friday, possibly sidelining him past opening day.

Angels general manager Billy Eppler said Pujols had the procedure Friday in North Carolina to release his plantar fascia, the ligament connecting the heel to the toes. The three-time NL MVP was bothered by plantar fasciitis repeatedly during the season, but played through the pain in arguably the strongest year of his half-decade with the Angels.

Eppler said the surgery typically prevents players from participating in baseball activities for three months, along with another month before they’re ready to resume playing in games. Opening day for Los Angeles is April 3, and the Angels hope Pujols can be ready.

“He’s at that point in his career where he’s keenly aware of what’s happening with his body,” Eppler said in a phone interview. “I don’t put the timetable on Albert like you would with your younger players. We’ll just see in Albert’s case, as he progresses, what his timetable is.”

Pujols, who turns 37 next month, batted .268 last year with 31 homers and 119 RBIs, the fourth-most in the majors – although his .780 OPS was among the worst of his career. He largely served as a designated hitter instead of playing first base due to problems with his hamstrings and feet.

Pujols heads into 2017 with 591 career homers, ranking him ninth in major league history. He is 18 homers behind Sammy Sosa for eighth place.

After playing in pain until the final week of the Angels’ disappointing season, Pujols began shock wave therapy on his foot early in the offseason, believing he wouldn’t need surgery.

But Pujols’ foot became more painful in recent weeks despite the therapy, and he huddled with the Angels’ top brass to decide on surgery after his most recent trip to see Dr. Robert Anderson in North Carolina. Continuing with conservative care would have required 10 more weeks, forcing Pujols to miss the first half of the 2017 season if he still required surgery.

“He just felt that the pain had gotten to a point where he was comfortable” having surgery, Eppler said. “If we did delay it, you’re just looking at 2 1/2 more months into the season.”

Pujols had a different type of surgery on his right foot last winter, but recovered in time for opening day. He also had plantar fasciitis in his left foot during the 2013 season, eventually forcing him out for the year when his fascia snapped.

Pujols has five years and $140 million remaining on the 10-year, $240 million free-agent contract that pried him out of St. Louis, where he won two World Series and became a nine-time NL All-Star.

The Angels haven’t won a playoff game since Pujols’ arrival and Mike Trout‘s concurrent emergence as one of baseball’s best players. They went 74-88 last season, the injury-plagued club’s worst record since 1999.

Diamondbacks hire Mike Fitzgerald to head Research and Development department

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 24:  Mike Hazen, new Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Red Sox, addresses the media during a press conference to announce his promotion before the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park on September 24, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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According to an official announcement, the Diamondbacks have acquired former Pirates quantitative analyst Mike Fitzgerald as their new Director of Research and Development.

Fitzgerald joined the Pirates’ front office in 2012, where he frequently accompanied the team on the road to help breach the divide between analytics and the clubhouse. According to a profile written by Grantland’s Ben Lindbergh in 2014, Fitzgerald’s multifaceted approach brought balance and perspective to the organization, whether he was assisting coaches in making statistically sound decisions, optimizing the batting order, weighing in on scouting and personnel decisions, developing more effective defensive positioning, or keeping players and personnel appraised of the latest developments in sabermetrics.

In the wake of Fitzgerald’s departure, Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington praised the Diamondbacks for a smart acquisition and said that the club has every intention of finding a replacement analyst, albeit one who will have some big shoes to fill.