Andy Miller

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Great Moments in Trashing Star Players: Gary Sanchez Edition

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There’s a long and rich history, particularly in major markets like New York and Boston, of scribes trashing star players. Maybe not truly, unequivocally great players, but most superior talents with a flaw are eventually given the drive-by treatment by a columnist at some point or another.

Over the weekend it was Gary Sanchez‘s turn. He’s the subject of a Randy Miller column at NJ.com in which his big flaw — his pitch blocking — is used as the jumping off point for an anonymous scout to say some truly silly things:

“Sanchez has got a ways to go defensively, and I knew it all along,” a Major League scout for an opposing club told NJ Advance Media. “He gets very lazy. He wants to reach instead of shifting his feet. He tries to get away with stuff because of his strong arm.”

How big a problem is this?

“I’ll tell you what,” the scout said. “I’ll go on the record right now and say it: For the playoffs, you watch, Austin Romine will catch more than Sanchez. Romine doesn’t have much of an arm, but he’s the better catcher.”

At the outset, can we agree how hilarious it is that a guy who demanded anonymity for his fiery quotes says “I’ll go on the record right now . . .”? Because it’s pretty hilarious.

Beyond that, yes, I think anyone who has watched Gary Sanchez catch realizes that he’s not a good plate blocker. The scout chalks it up to laziness, which is oddly judgmental and presumably not based on anything other than a gut character judgment. I’m more inclined to say it’s a matter of technique that could likely be improved with work in spring training, but fine, I’ll stipulate that he’s not good at blocking and often reaches when he should be blocking.

Beyond that, however, this is ridiculous. While he’s not Yadier Molina behind the dish, Sanchez’s arm is obviously great. He’s no worse than an average pitch framer. And you know what? I’m guessing that if you polled every pitcher on the Yankees staff, they’d say they’d rather have that extra run support that comes from Sanchez’s homers than whatever is lost from the occasional passed ball. He’s hitting .280/.349/.541 with 30 homers despite missing a lot of time this year. He’s got 50 homers in his first 161 games as a major leaguer. You don’t find that in a catcher very often and when you do, you put him behind the plate unless and until he develops an actual phobia of catching pitches or bows his knees out, whichever comes first.

All of which is to say that, no, I do not believe that Austin Romine is going to catch more in the playoffs than Sanchez is. No matter what this off-the-record/on-the-record scout says. Or no matter what the columnist who sought him out, likely specifically to find an anti-Sanchez take, says.

Trevor May joins eSports team Luminosity

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When he’s not throwing baseballs, Twins pitcher Trevor May is an active gamer. He streams on Twitch, a very popular video game streaming site, fairly regularly and now he’s officially on an eSports team. Luminosity Gaming announced the organization added May last Friday. It appears he’ll be streaming and commentating on Overwatch, a multiplayer first-person shooter made by Blizzard Entertainment.

May is the only current athlete to be an active member of an eSports team. Former NBA player Rick Fox owns Echo Fox, an eSports team that sports players in games including League of Legends, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, Street Fighter V, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Mortal Kombat X. Jazz forward Gordon Hayward is also a known advocate of eSports.

The NBA in particular has been very active on the eSports front. Kings co-owners Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov launched NRG eSports in November 2015. Shortly thereafter, Grizzlies co-owner Stephen Kaplan invested in the Immortals eSports team. Almost a year later, the 76ers acquired controlling stakes in Team Dignitas and Team Apex. The same month, the Wizards’ and Warriors’ owners launched a group called Axiomatic, which purchased a controlling stake in Team Liquid, a long-time Starcraft: Brood War website which has since branched out into other games. And also in September 2016, Celtics forward Jonas Jerebko bought team Renegades, moving them to a group house in Detroit. In December 2016, the Bucks submitted a deal to Riot Games in order to purchase Cloud9’s Challenger league spot for $2.5 million. The Rockets that month hired someone specifically for eSports development, focusing on strategy and investment. Last month, the Heat acquired a controlling stake in team Misfits.

Once an afterthought, eSports has grown considerably in recent years and now it should be considered a competitor to traditional sports. League of Legends, in particular, is quite popular, reaching nearly 15 million concurrent viewers at its peak in the most recent League of Legends World Championship. That championship featured a prize purse of $6.7 million with $2 million of it being split among winner SK Telecom T1’s members.

Goose Gossage rants against modern baseball again, but at this point it’s not his fault

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Rich Gossage is at Yankees spring training again this year. And again, as he has many times in the past, he went off on modern baseball, coddled pitchers, rich players, the good old days when men like him were tough and how today’s young breed has been ruined by it all.

It’s nothing new, of course. But at this point, you may be surprised to hear, I don’t hold a bit of it against him. He’s 65 years-old and has been retired for 23 years. He’s a man whose views on all of this stuff are well known and it’d be just as silly for us to point and gawk at those views for a fourth or fifth time as it would be for us to expect him to change his mind about it all. For all but the rarest breed of man, the stuff you believe at 65 is not going to change all that much.

I’m posting about it, though. Not to draw attention to his views, but to draw attention to the interview in which they came. They’re posted at NJ.com, which printed the actual transcript of the interview of Gossage by reporter Randy Miller. If you go read it, look more closely at the questions than the answers.

It’s starts off fine, with Miller asking Gossage about what he thinks of Aroldis Chapman returning to the Yankees. Gossage, to be clear, is the first to broach the subject of modern closers and pitcher usage, calling Chapman a “one-inning guy.” Fine, we know he feels that way. It’s a non-sequitur that one might expect Gossage to take.

But it’s also one which Miller then pursues to a questionable degree, setting up questions on a tee that are clearly calculated to get Gossage going on those well-worn topics. Stuff like  “You were a three-inning guy, right?” “Do you miss the old days?” “Do you think pitchers are being babied nowadays?” etc. etc. Anyone who has paid a lick of attention over the past couple of years knows exactly what Gossage is going to say about those things.

Which makes me question the intent of the interview and the manner in which it was presented at NJ.com. The conversation itself is fine. It’s one that occurs between old timer special instructors and members of the media almost every day at spring training. But it’s also one that, if real news isn’t involved, gets put in the reporter’s back pocket. Here, however, it seems calculated to create a “YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT GOOSE GOSSAGE SAID!” piece.

We’re all in the clicks business, so I get the impulse, but given how many times this same territory has been covered — and how we know, with 100% certainty, that it will result in a lot of blog posts, tweets and various digital content slamming Gossage as a dinosaur with no filter — it strikes me as borderline mockery. I know Gossage is a big boy and that, if he didn’t want that kind of coverage he could politely avoid those topics. But there’s a pretty good sense that he’s not wired that way so maybe people should lay off of him, both because what results is not really newsworthy, but because getting those quotes serves to diminish a guy who has taken a lot of lumps in the past few years.

I’m not trying to be too hard on Miller here, as he has a job to do. But at some point this is like bear-baiting. I know Gossage has brought a lot of this stuff on himself in the past couple of years — and I suspect that, maybe, he just doesn’t care — but he’s a Hall of Famer and a human being at at some point it strikes me that laying off of that stuff with him is the right thing to do.