<span class="vcard">Craig Calcaterra</span>

Fernando Rodney

Fernando Rodney signs with the Padres

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This has been rumored for several days, with reports last week that the Padres were “closing in” on a deal for Fernando Rodney, but now it is actually happening: Jon Heyman reports that San Diego has an agreement with the ex-Cubs and Mariners closer.

Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com reports that it’s a one-year deal with an option, which can max out to around $7 million with performance bonuses. Not too bad for a guy who, when he’s on, is pretty darn good.

Of course the issue is whether he’ll be on. Rodney posted a 5.68 ERA in 51 innings for the Mariners to begin last season, but then turned things around following a late-August trade to the Cubs. In Chicago he posted a 0.75 ERA and 15/4 K/BB ratio in 14 outings. Maybe that was a blip. Maybe he has quite a bit left and just needed a change of scenery.

Rodney is certainly positioned to rebuild his value in San Diego. While the Padres aren’t likely going to compete in 2016, he’ll likely have the closer role all to himself, what with Craig Kimbrel traded to Boston, Joaquin Benoit traded to Seattle and Brandon Maurer moved to the rotation. Basically, if there is a save to be had or blown, it’ll be Rodney’s to register it or blow it.

Expect Ryan Howard to be riding the pine against lefties in 2016

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Yesterday Phillies manager Pete Mackanin spoke to the media for the first time in 2016, and he made a point of saying that your reputation and your salary will have little bearing on how much playing time you get this coming season. Rather, if you hit, you will play. It’s that simple.

That goes specifically for Ryan Howard who, in a move most felt was long overdue, was finally benched against lefties when Mackanin took over as manager last season. Here’s Mackanin discussing the permanence of that move in Jim Salisbury’s report at CSNPhilly.com:

“I’m going to make that decision in the spring,” he said. “But at this point, I’m going to have a discussion with Ryan and tell him, ‘If you want to face lefties, you have to hit them better. If you don’t hit them better, I’m going to platoon.’ That’s basically what we’re looking at. It’s gotten to that point . . . It’s hard for me to justify not playing a guy who led the majors in OPS against lefties and that’s Darin Ruf. It’s hard for me not to play that guy if he’s sitting there and we’re trying to win games. And it could be helpful to Ryan because he’s getting older and (it would) keep him fresh.”

It’s hard to argue with that. It was only 114 plate appearances, but last year Ruf absolutely raked against lefties, hitting .371/.447/.660. For his career (288 plate appearances) he’s hit .300/.390/.556. Howard, meanwhile, had a .418 OPS against lefties in 107 plate appearances in 2015. For his career he’s hit .219/.296/.419 against them. It’s just not working and has never really worked particularly well.

The difference now: there is really no one around with an investment in Ryan Howard. Sure, the Phillies still owe him $25 million for 2016 and a $10 million buyout after the season ends, but the man who gave that deal to him and the managers who counted on his performance as a cornerstone of their job security are no longer in the organization. Everyone in a position of authority is able to move on. That moving on involves looking for a new first baseman and power hitter around whom to build a team and, in the meantime, getting as much performance from first base as possible, regardless of who the performer happens to be.

It seems like a no-brainer, then, to do a Howard/Ruf platoon, full-time.

Pete Rose to speak to award-winning high school athletes

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It’s been quite a week for Pete Rose so far. Yesterday the Reds announced that Rose will be inducted into their team Hall of Fame and will have his number retired this year, bypassing the usual election process. Probably because he’d be no sure thing to be elected under the usual procedures. But hey, you do such things for legends. ESPECIALLY in years when you know your team is going to stink and you want a guaranteed sellout on some day in June when you might only otherwise draw 16,257 fans, many disguised as seats.

Today we learn that Rose will get another honor of sorts: He will be the speaker at the inaugural Cincinnati Enquirer Greater Cincinnati High School Sports Awards, which honors All-Star high school athletes from southwestern Ohio and northern Kentucky, as chosen by the Enquirer.

The athletes being honored get in to the dinner ceremony free. Their guests have to pay $50 a head. I’m sure getting a famous speaker like Pete Rose will help up the head count for the banquet, especially when you realize that it’s really for the paying guests, not the students, almost all of whom were born a decade after Rose was banished from the game. But hey, it’s for a noble cause:

The reason for the new awards is simple: High school athletics are central to life in our public, private and Catholic schools and in our communities. Whether it be Friday night at the football field or a Tuesday night in the gym for a girls basketball matchup, interscholastic sports promote achievement in our young people and passion among students, parents and alumni.

And who better to celebrate and speak about achievement and passion in youth sports than a guy who was banned from the sport he loves more than anything else in the world for unscrupulous behavior.

Aaron Sanchez is in the Best Shape of His Life

Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Aaron Sanchez (41) throws against the Texas Rangers during the eighth inning in Game 4 of baseball's American League Division Series Monday, Oct. 12, 2015, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Associated Press
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The Blue Jays’ Aaron Sanchez started out the season in the rotation and did pretty well over the course of 11 starts, but following a lat injury he moved to the bullpen. Now that the Jays have bulked up the bullpen, however, Sanchez is bulking up himself in order to make it back to the rotation.

Speaking with reporters at a fan event yesterday, a visibly larger Sanchez said that he has gained 25 pounds of muscle since the offseason began, thanks to workouts with Marcus Stroman. He was at 190, now he’s at 215, and the idea is for him to be stronger and have more endurance so he can stick at the back end of the Jays’ rotation. As Stroman said yesterday, “we didn’t work out twice a day for two months for him to be a reliever.” While Sanchez never claimed literal Best Shape of His Life status, the “show up at the first media event in January and talk up one’s offseason fitness regimen” is quintessential BSOHL behavior.

He’ll need more than just his strength to do it, however, as there are a lot of bodies, buff or otherwise, ahead of him. Joining Stroman on the starting pitching depth chart right now is R.A. Dickey, Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ, Jesse Chavez and Drew Hutchinson. Figure Sanchez will be in the mix with Chavez and Hutchison for the fifth spot, with the losers serving as swingmen, spot starters and, inevitably, injury replacements. Or figure on a trade during spring training.

But let no one say that Sanchez can’t make the rotation due to concerns about his durability. For that is exactly what he sought to address this winter, both in actual terms via his workout, and via his claim yesterday afternoon.

(thanks to Proudly Canadian for the heads up)

One David Eckstein Hall of Fame voter explains his rationale

david eckstein getty
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As we mentioned last week David Eckstein, got two Hall of Fame votes. One of his voters, honorary BBWAA member Chaz Scoggins, late of the Lowell Sun, made his ballot public so we knew he was one. Today he explains himself in a column.

Scoggins is on record as a guy who has no problem voting for PED players and otherwise voted for eight worthy candidates (Bagwell, Bonds, Clemens, Griffey, Hoffman, McGwire, Piazza, Raines and Schilling). As he did not vote a full ten, it seems as though he didn’t bump someone he thought worthy in order to give the Eckstein shoutout. And, of course, no one fell a vote short of anything, meaning that he didn’t tip any results which mattered, so there is no cause for outrage here.

There is cause for some eye rolling, however. Eye rolling because Scoggins traffics in the baloney in which a lot of people who extoll lesser players traffic, saying that “Eckstein wasn’t blessed with God-given talent.” Which is crazy. He was a major leaguer for ten years. By definition he had supreme talent. Think of the best guy on your high school team. Then realize that he couldn’t make most minor league teams. Then realize that the vast majority of the minor leaguers couldn’t make the majors. Then realize that most guys who make the majors don’t stick for ten years and collect 1,500 hits. Was Eckstein a hard worker? Absolutely. But don’t for one minute tell me he wasn’t blessed with incredible talent. Anyone who does what he did is, and to say otherwise is an insult to him even if it’s meant as a compliment.

That’s what gets me with this kind of thing. Eckstein may have been a great story, but he was more than a story. He was more than a guy for whom, in Scoggins’ words, it was “hard to find a scout who believed he was a major-league prospect.” Which, by the way, I find dubious as it normally takes a scout to tell a club that some dude down on the farm should be promoted anyway. That doesn’t make him a Hall of Famer or even worthy of a single vote, but it makes him more worthy than to get this sort of symbolic vote, which says way more about the voter and the lens through which he views baseball than it says about Eckstein.

Again, the vote for Eckstein was harmless here. And I will not join the crowd of people who argue that people like Scoggins should have their vote stripped or what have you. But let us be clear what is going on with votes like these. Let us not pretend that they say nothing, even if they don’t do any actual damage. They say “I, a voter, believe certain things and want those beliefs validated.” And that’s really not a great justification for a Hall of Fame vote.