Craig Calcaterra

Blogger at NBC Sport.com's HardballTalk. Recovering litigator. Rake. Scoundrel. Notorious Man-About-Town.

Good riddance to Tal’s Hill

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For the past few years, the Astros have discussed getting rid of Tal’s Hill, that little rise of grass on the warning track in center field. It was supposed to happen last offseason but the Astros’ playoff run went later than the people planning the renovation anticipated (i.e. a postseason run happened at all) but, as we noted recently, it is going forward this offseason.

In fact, this very day the equipment is on the field in Minute Maid Park, getting rid of one of baseball’s weirdest park features:

I’m fine with this. Tal’s Hill was kind of dumb. It was a forced quirk that came at a time when ballpark designers went with faux-retro designs. It seemed fun and unique when first revealed, but it was totally inorganic, like so many other distinctive features of ballparks built in the 1990s and early 2000s were. Pointless overhangs and jutting outfield walls. Friezes. Things that, in old parks, were necessitated by real estate constraints (e.g. Fenway Park has odd dimensions and the Green Monster because they literally did not have the land to build the park in a different way). The new ballpark designers were trying to force history and charm on people from day one. Thus, Tal’s Hill.

We’ve mostly gotten out of that retro-era and form is starting to at least attempt to do a better job of following function. Thank goodness. In that spirit, good riddance, Tal’s Hill. A design feature people liked because the Astros told them it was fun and meaningful, even if there was no purpose for it whatsoever.

Carlos Beltran plans to play in 2017

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MLB.com’s TR Sullivan reports that Carlos Beltran plans to keep playing in 2017. He hopes for the Rangers, but if not, he’ll enter the free agent market.

Beltran will turn 40 next April, but he still hit .295/.337/.513 with 29 homers and 93 RBI over 151 games between the Yankees and the Rangers, splitting time between the outfield and DH.

Someone will sign him, likely pretty quickly after he formally files for free agency as he is highly unlikely to receive a qualifying offer.

Stephen Strasburg experiences discomfort during bullpen session

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The Nats have the edge in the NLDS, but if they get past the Dodgers they may have to continue their World Series quest without Stephen Strasburg.

Strasburg pitched a bullpen session yesterday but stopped it early after feeling some discomfort. Strasburg has been out since early September with a tear in the pronator tendon of his elbow so, presumably, it was his elbow that was barking.

Nationals manager Dusty Baker downplayed it all today, but the Nationals were hoping that Strasburg would be available to pitch if they reached the NLCS. Now that plan is in question.