Craig Calcaterra

Pete Rose holds a press conference. There were no surprises.

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A day after Rob Manfred declined to reinstate Pete Rose, the Hit King held a press conference. Rose has never cared much about optics and now that it basically doesn’t matter what he does, it should not be at all surprising that he held his press conference in Las Vegas. With cheerleaders. Which, as far as I’m concerned is all aces. There’s something liberating about having nothing to lose, and at least as far as organized baseball is concerned, Rose has nothing left to lose. Be yourself, hombre.

As for the substance, Rose had nothing new to add. He continues to draw false equivalencies between gamblers and steroid users as it suits him. He continues to self-promote, saying “to be honest with you I should be the commissioner of baseball the way I sell and talk about the game.” Not that honesty is his strong suit, at least according to Commissioner Manfred’s decision yesterday. To that point, Rose said “I tried to be as honest as I could with the Commissioner and I think he appreciated that.” That’s a telling comment, even if it was unintentional. It’s not that he was honest. Or that he even attempted to be actually honest. He merely tried to be as honest as he could. There are some limits, here. Mrs. Rose didn’t raise no fools.

The thing is, there was really nothing new to be honest about. Rose’s record of gambling and lying about it and changing his story here, there and back again over the past 26 years is an open book. Rose himself had done nothing special or different to inspire Manfred to reopen his case. It was a gift from Manfred, really. A fresh opportunity for Rose to give a new commissioner a chance to do something that would be popular right out of the gate. Maybe it was always doomed. Maybe Rose simply whiffed on a grooved fastball. Watching Rose speak a few minutes ago, I don’t think Rose himself even knew.

That’s admirable in some twisted way. Rose mentioned, several times, that he is just living the life he has. That he’s being himself. That betting on a game once in a while because it brings him enjoyment. I believe that. I certainly believe that more than I believed Rose when he claimed to realize he had a gambling addiction ten or eleven years ago. For a minute or two there it seemed like he was willing to play along with the redemption story as most would author it. Then he stopped doing that and now takes the view that he doesn’t have a problem and who is Rob Frickin’ Manfred to say that he does?

I actually don’t begrudge him that. While, if he truly is an addict I would hope that he seeks help for it at some point, he’s an American citizen with some means and the right to do anything legal he wishes to do. Including gamble on sports. If he stays within the law and doesn’t harm others we’re in no position to tell him what’s better to do with his life, even if we personally find it regrettable.

It’s just that Rose living his best, chosen life is totally incompatible with being reinstated to baseball given his past transgressions. And that he either can’t understand or refuses to accept that is the reason he’s not in baseball anymore. Not anything Rob Manfred or anyone else has done to him.

A “Star Wars” baseball team? I’ve got a bad feeling about this.

This photo provided by Disney/Lucasfilm shows stormtroopers in a scene from the new film, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." The movie releases in the U.S. on Dec. 18, 2015. (Film Frame/Lucasfilm via AP)
Associated Press
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There is a Star Wars movie coming out this week. I know, I was shocked too. There’s hardly been any talk about it.

You may have also heard that the folks who own the Star Wars franchise — an obscure, rodent-based corporation with operations in Florida and California — also happen to own ESPN. This provides an opportunity for synergy. A strange bit of synergy in which ESPN’s baseball writers were asked to put together a baseball lineup with Star Wars characters. If you scroll left and right there you see they also did football, basketball, soccer, hockey and even cricket. Disney and ESPN do NOT mess around.

My first impulse was to mock this, but then I remembered that I too work for a sports media company which has a movie studio as a corporate cousin. Universal, to be specific. I’m guessing they’d never ask me to do a baseball lineup as a tie-in for the “Minions” sequel or anything, but on the off chance they do, I don’t want to look like a hypocrite (note: all nine positions will be filled by Minions).

So let’s take this thing in the good spirit it was intended and have some fun with it, shall we? The sort of fun that all good baseball fans like to have: complaining loudly about the roster choices and team building strategy.

Here’s the lineup, written by David Schoenfield and Aimee J. Crawford (you can read their explanations for each choice here):

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 10.18.16 AM

I respect Schoenfield and Crawford’s work, but this is a friggin’ multi-level disaster of a team. For starters:

  • The manager once had the top prospect of all time under his control and TOTALLY RUINED HIM;
  • The pitcher is a known gambler with very questionable loyalty.
  • The catcher has no arms.
  • The first baseman is actually a fantastic choice on the baseball side, but he is known to pull people’s arms out of their sockets when he loses. HEAD CASE.
  • The second baseman is skilled, but he’s getting old and no position on the field ages worse than second base. He’s a Roberto Alomar on the Mets or Chase Utley on the Dodgers waiting to happen. Really, one day he may suddenly just disappear.
  • The shortstop is pretty darn good, actually (ignore the detractors who say she throws like a girl). I worry about chemistry, though. She is in a relationship with the center fielder, has a VERY messed up relationship with the right fielder and once derided the third baseman as “short.”
  • The third baseman is likewise talented as hell, but he is poor at taking instruction and once left camp early to go be with his friends.
  • The DH is hated by literally everyone.
  • A left fielder and a center fielder have to have good communication and the guys in those roles on this team are NOT on good terms.
  • Center field is the best choice here. He’s prickly, but he’s a born leader. Plus he made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs, which is a measure of distance, not speed, showing that he has FANTASTIC route efficiency.
  • Right field could be the biggest problem on the team. He’s strong, but slow. There is evidence that his power is a function of blood doping. Worst of all, he has literally tried to kill all but one player on the team and ACTUALLY DID KILL the manager. He’s arguably worse than Barry Bonds.

Then there are a lot of other issues floating around. Putting a father and a son on the same team is a total gimmick (the 1990 Mariners went 77-85). The league’s replay official, Admiral Ackbar, is never going to give our already-challenged outfielders any benefit of the doubt on diving catches. The team’s interpreter is fluent in over six million forms of communication, but he’s also doubling as the analytics department. What’s worse, no one is listening to him, with the center fielder once even yelling at him to never tell him the odds. This is what got Jerry Dipoto fired in Anaheim.

So, really, nice try ESPN. And I hope your little movie does well, Disney. But I’ve got a bad feeling about this hot mess of a baseball team.

(with abundant apologies to David Schoenfield and Aimee J. Crawford)

MLB players depart for a goodwill tour of Cuba today

Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu throws Los Angeles Angels' Kole Calhoun out at first during the fifth inning of a baseball game in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Associated Press
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Several current and former baseball players, as well as Joe Torre and other baseball officials, head to Cuba today, for a three-day goodwill tour put together by Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association.

The visiting party will include several Cuban major leaguers including Jose Abreu, Brayan Pena and Alexi Ramirez and Cuban-American Jon Jay. In his story about the tour, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says that Yasiel Puig may also attend, though it is not certain that he would. Also in attendance will be Clayton Kershaw, Miguel Cabrera, Nelson Cruz, Dave Winfield and many others. The party leaves from Miami today. Over the next three days they will conduct children’s baseball clinics and participate in charity events.

Baseball’s last interaction with Cuba came in 1999, when the Orioles and the Cuban National Team played a home-and-home series in Havana and Baltimore. Since then, the primary mode of interaction between Cuba and U.S. baseball has consisted of Cuban players, such as Pena, Abreu and Puig, defecting in order to play in the United States. With the thawing of U.S.-Cuban relations in the past year, however, the door is now opening for a more normalized relationship. It begins with this tour.