Craig Calcaterra

Yasiel Puig

Yasiel Puig is not on the market


USA Today’s Bob Nightengale says that teams asking the Dodgers about Yasiel Puig are being told that he is not available for trade. He adds an “at least for now” on to the end of that. Not sure if that’s his gloss of if he’s implying that the Dodgers would, in fact want to move him.

That tea leaf reading aside, this response doesn’t seem surprising to me even if the Dodgers do want to trade Puig. He’s coming off of a bad season filled with injuries. His stock could not be lower at the moment. Even if Dodgers brass has secretly decided that they want to part ways with the guy, it would make perfect sense to do so after he’s had some time to rebuild some value. The guy, when healthy, was an electrifying performer. If he put up a couple of months of nice production and good behavior, he’d be worth way, way more to potential suitors than he is now.

All of that said, it seems premature to even think about trading him. He’s under a team-friendly contract and is controlled by them through 2018. He’s only 25 years-old. If the Dodgers implode this year, sure, maybe consider it. If he has a materially negative impact on the club in ways that don’t kill his trade value, why not. But at the moment, he is second to probably only Adrian Gonzalez in terms of “bats the Dodgers really need to perform if they want to win the NL West” and if they dealt him their lineup would have a pretty big hole in it.

Must-Click Link: Big Men Die Young

Mets pitcher Jon Rauch walks to the dugout during their Interleague MLB baseball game in Toronto

This article is about basketball, not baseball, but it’s still amazing and fascinating and heartbreaking and important. It’s from Jackie MacMullan at ESPN and it’s about how a great many NBA big men have either died young or have battled serious health problems.

Moses Malone, Darryl Dawkins and many other big men have passed away far too soon. Larry Bird, who has a serious heart ailment, talks about how he’s simply accepted the fact that there are not a lot of men his height or taller walking around at age 75 and has adopted a certain sort of fatalism accordingly. Bill Walton and Bob Lanier talk about the sort of denial professional athletes can have about their health and fitness after their playing careers are over. It also talks about research on the health risks of super tall people and how, evolutionarily speaking, they’re kind of screwed in important ways. It’s super powerful stuff.

I link it here, in part, because it’s simply a great article. But I also link it because so many of the things talked about apply to all athletes, baseball players included. No, there aren’t a ton of ballplayers who are 6’9″ like Larry Bird — Jon Rauch, pictured above, was the tallest-ever ballplayer at 6’11” —  but there are a great many of them who are at the extremes, physically, in one way or another.

I also link it because, as sports fans, I feel like we are just starting to appreciate the physical toll placed on the men and women who entertain us. CTE and football players has gotten a lot of attention of late, but these modern-day gladiators undergo all manner of punishment for us. We should always appreciate that, even if they are paid well and even if they wouldn’t trade what they do for anything.

Bye-bye sliding pits: Rogers Centre to install a full-dirt infield

Rogers Centre
Associated Press

When Astroturf debuted in Houston, it was still limited to the outfield and the portions of the infield where grass had always been in major league ballparks.

But in 1970, with the opening of Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, someone realized that some efficiencies could be achieved (i.e. money could be saved and changeovers to a football stadium) if the dirt was eliminated between the bases and, instead, sliding pits were installed. Little dirt sections surrounding the bases, but not in the baseline proper. Sliding pits, became the standard in artificial turf ballparks from then on. Eventually, of course, artificial turf in baseball stadiums started to disappear to where, as of now, only the Blue Jays and Rays play on the fake grass.

The Rays, however, got rid of the sliding pits 15 years ago and have played with a full dirt infield for most of their existence. The Blue Jays, however, still sharing their ballpark with football teams and other events, have kept their sliding pits. That is, until this year. They announced yesterday that a full dirt infield will be installed starting next week and will be in place for the 2016 season:

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 10.26.57 AM

This marks the first time since June of 1970, when the Reds left Crosley Field for Riverfront, that there are no sliding pits in baseball. Eventually, if the Jays can figure out the logistics of their long-discussed conversion to a grass infield and if the Rays can ever figure out how to build a new park, the era of artificial turf will be completely over.