Craig Calcaterra

Manny Ramirez

The Cubs have hired Manny Ramirez as a hitting consultant

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Last year, Manny Ramirez was a player/hitting coach for the Cubs’ Triple-A team, with an emphasis on the “coach” part. His big league is over, the Cubs said, and they valued him working with younger players.

That experiment was considered a big success by the Cubs, so they have given Manny a more formal position:

Ramirez worked with Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler, among others, and those guys are all a big part of the Cubs’ future. It would seem now that Manny is too.

Elvis Andrus is in The Best Shape of his Life

Elvis Andrus
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Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News reports:

Shortstop Elvis Andrus on Monday surged to the lead for most times invoking the spring training cliché “best shape of my career” by a Ranger.

One thing. Andrus appeared to be telling the truth . . . He joined a group of about a dozen teammates who religiously worked out daily at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. He took up yoga and Pilates to increase his flexibility.

The difference is striking. Andrus dropped about 12 pounds and lost the puffy look to his face. He energetically bounced around the field during an informal workout that included seven projected starting position players.

Andrus hit a poor .263/.314/.333 last season and saw his stolen base success rate fall to 64 percent. He signed an eight-year, $120 million contract extension in April 2013.

(Thanks to Emily for the heads up)

Cal Ripken Jr. denies Gregg Zaun’s claim that he hazed and abused young players

Cal Ripken
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Gregg Zaun made claimed on Friday that, when he was coming up witht he Orioles, veteran players such as Cal Ripken Jr. hazed and, in Zaun’s words, physically abused him. And, for the record, he claimed he was fine with it and that more of that should be happening to young ballplayers today.

Roch Kubatko of MASN spoke to Ripken about it and Ripken disputes Zaun’s account:

“I talked to him because he’s a friend of mine. I consider him a good friend,” Ripken said today. “I don’t know how it got all out of whack. He apologized and said he used the wrong words. There was no abuse, there was no hazing. It doesn’t do anything for team unity. He knows that and everybody who knows me knows that.”

There was “horseplay,” apparently, but Ripken denies that it was hazing or abuse and denies that it was limited to rookie players. Ripken specifically denied the anecdote Zaun told about there being “an imaginary line” on the charter flights which rookies could not cross, leading to abuse.

Brady Anderson, also named by Zaun, denied Zaun’s claims. He also called Zaun’s overall credibility into question by noting that, contrary to Zaun’s assertion, Anderson did not play in the instructional league together as Anderson was in the Red Sox’ organization at the time.

Kubatko quotes Zaun here as well, and Zaun — quite predictably — claims he was taken out of context by the “blogger” who transcribed Zaun’s comments on the radio show on which he was appearing. Not that he eliminated any actual words Zaun said but, rather, that he didn’t explain that Zaun described the alleged hazing with “enthusiasm.” Which, um, sure Zaun, that changes everything. More on that here.

So, I guess that’s that.

Joe Blanton is in The Best Shape of His Life

Joe Blanton
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Joe Blanton retired — practically speaking anyway — last season. But he’s making a comeback with the Royals this spring. And ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick has a story about him today. Guess what?

Blanton, 34, weighed more than 250 pounds early in his career. But he’s in stunningly good shape this spring and reported to Surprise weighing in the range of 215 to 220 pounds. He also pronounced himself emotionally and mentally reinvigorated by a summer away from the game.

Hmm . . . “stunningly good shape?” Is that — could that be . . . ?

Blanton is 34 years old and has a combined 5.09 ERA in 541 innings dating back to 2010, so any edge he can get will be helpful. Good luck, Joe.

Rob Manfred says a return to a 154-game season could happen one day

rob manfred getty
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Darren Rovell of ESPN reports that, while it’s not on anyone’s agenda at the moment, Commissioner Manfred is not averse to going back to a 154-game season at some point:

“I don’t think length of season is a topic that can’t ever be discussed,” Manfred told ESPN.com. “I don’t think it would be impossible to go back to 154 [games] . . . We already have some of our record books which reflect a 154-game season and obviously some of it reflects a 162-game season,” Manfred said. “So there’s some natural flexibility there. But if anyone suggests to go to something like 110 games, then there’s a real problem. That will throw all our numbers out of whack.”

Something Manfred did not say: how he would convince a supermajority of owners to cut eight games’ worth of ticket and concession sales. That’s a bit over 6% That’s 4.9% of the season [math is hard]. Figure in a 5% cut in broadcast rights too, as networks who are paying to broadcast a certain number of games likely wouldn’t want to pay quite as much for fewer games. It’s not gigantic in the grand scheme of things, but it is significant. And that’s before what I would assume to be an effort to reduce player salaries by some small percentage as well, about which the union may have something to say. Also: less baseball <<<< more baseball. But perhaps I’m just being selfish about that.

I doubt this ever becomes a serious agenda item. But, like Manfred’s comments about possibly changing the rules to outlaw defensive shifts, these offhand comments will likely lead to a lot of noise and commentary critical of Manfred simply because folks don’t like the idea of changing anything in baseball, whether the ideas are bad, good or neutral.

One thing Bud Selig was pretty good about: not mentioning anything he didn’t truly plan to do and not mentioning anything he planned to do until he was pretty sure he could get it done. Say what you want about old Bud, but that approach worked for him.