Joe Posnanski asks that questions and names some possible successors to Derek Jeter’s throne. I won’t tell you who his first choice is — you have to read it — but many of his candidates seem like good ones. My choice is on that list too, but I’m not gonna tell you right now. I may write separately about it later.
I will say, though, I’m not keen on Mike Trout for that title for the same reason Joe isn’t. He’s not exactly charismatic, even if he is pretty darn affable and, so far anyway, a safe media bet. He’s a Jersey ballplayer in the best sense of those words. That makes him accessible and relatable. But he doesn’t have all that much about him one could call enigmatic, mysterious or even somewhat intriguing.
Which I think is important. Separate and apart from playing for the Yankees and winning championships, the key for Jeter has been that you can project just about anything you want to on him in a way that lets you use him as some sort of avatar with which you explore the world of baseball. He’s a leader, even though we haven’t heard many stories about specific things he’s said or done to rally the troops. He’s an anti-PED ideal, even though he’s hardly said anything on the topic (and what he has said has been fairly sympathetic to PED users). He’s an example for all the kids out there although we know next to nothing about his personal life.
That’s not a criticism of Jeter. Indeed, most of it is pretty damned admirable. But I do think there is some need for the Face of Baseball to allow fans, reporters and everyone else to sort of read what they want into the guy in many respects while still being his own person. Tough trick. One that requires no small amount of guile, I imagine. Not every ballplayer fits that description.
The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.
Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).
A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.
The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:
A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.
The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.
Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.