Craig Calcaterra

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The Rockies just had a brilliant idea

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source:

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — It’s Day 5 for me here in Arizona and I’m about to take in Game 6. Not too shabby. Today’s matchup: the White Sox vs. the Rockies. It’s a battle of lefties: Jose Quintana vs. Tyler Matzek. Quintana has pitched well so far this spring, allowing one run on three hits in four spring innings. That creep can roll. I don’t have the White Sox’ lineup yet, but the Rockies are trotting out Tulowitzki, Morneau, Drew Stubbs and a generally major league sort of lineup. It’s a sleepy, normal day in spring training. A day after Ferrell-fest, that’s probably a good thing.

I’ve been walking around Salt River Fields here this morning and, as always, it’s fantastic. A great facility. Great view. Wide concourses. Nice people. And the home team’s social media folks are on point too. I happened upon this cool glove, and tweeted the photo out:

The Rockies in response:

That’s pretty brilliant, actually. Really, every day should be Prince Day.

Oh, and because I have been criminally negligent in posting equipment bag pics:

source:

Let’s have a fun game and a day with no pitcher injuries, OK? I would love a day with no pitcher injuries.

Joe Maddon on the Will Ferrell thing: “I thought it was brilliant”

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source: AP

Joe Maddon, from this morning’s media session, when asked about the Will Ferrell stuff from yesterday, passed along by my friend JJ Stankevitz from CSNChicago.com, who is at Cubs camp:

If you want to connect to a different generation of baseball fans, maybe it’s important to include part of the pop culture outside of the industry that they’re really into, whether it’s music, whether it’s comedy, whatever it may be to get maybe this ancillary group to become more involved with us. And then that’s jut going to draw the kids in or that younger generation in on top of it. I thought it was brilliant.

Never thought of it. Perfect time to do it — spring training game, of course, it matters but it doesn’t’ matter in the bigger picture. But it mattered in the sense that I am certain — I would like to believe it, I would say, pretty strongly that kids who would never watch what would happen in a baseball game watched yesterday because Will Ferrell was involved. And then with Will Ferrell or whomever starts talking more about baseball and gets the kids drawn in through those means, that’s great also. Whoever thought of it, I thought it was brilliant.

Perhaps he’s overselling what Will Ferrell can accomplish, but I think he’s right on about the incorporation of non-sports pop culture in some way helping to broaden baseball’s appeal. Even with the Ferrell thing I have had several friends who aren’t baseball fans ask me about it. It drew the interest of people outside the game. That event isn’t likely to have any sort of big lasting impact, but the idea of placing baseball in front of people, even for the moment, who wouldn’t think much about baseball is a good one. It’s a good way to prevent that whole “I don’t even think about baseball until the World Series” mentality that seems common.

Dontrelle Willis has decided to retire

dontrelle willis getty
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Brewers manager Ron Roenicke just said that Dontrelle Willis has decided to retire.

A decision that, on the baseball merits, probably should’ve happened a long time ago given that he hasn’t pitched in the bigs since 2011 and hasn’t pitched effectively in the bigs since 2006.

But you can’t really fault a guy for keeping at it if people keep giving him a chance. And people have given D-Train a chance. He was signed by the Brewers last month. Before that he did stints of various lengths with the Giants, Angels, Orioles, Cubs, Phillies, Reds, Dbacks, Tigers and Marlins. He also pitched for the Fresno Grizzlies, Long Island Ducks and Bridgeport Bluefish in independent ball. It may simply be a case of him more or less running out of teams. Heck, this isn’t even his first time retiring.

Of course there was a time when Willis was considered to be the next big thing. And for a while he was a big thing. Between 2003 and 2006 he was 58-39 with a 3.44 ERA, which in those days amounted to an ERA+ of 121. He won 22 games in 2005, made the All-Star team and finished second in Cy Young voting. Then, in December 2007, he was traded by the Marlins to the Tigers alongside a fellow named Miguel Cabrera for Burke Badenhop, Frankie De La Cruz, Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller and Mike Rabelo. That ended up being one of the dumber and more lopsided trades in baseball history even with Willis falling off a cliff. With the idea that Willis would be an ace for years to come it was practically obscene.

And now he’s done. We think. He has said he was done before. But maybe this time it’ll stick. Who knows. All we know for sure is that, for now, one of baseball’s more interesting people is hanging it up.

Ned Colletti: not a fan of a Ned Colletti Twitter parody account

Ned Colletti
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There’s a fellow who, for several years, has run a Ned Colletti parody account on Twitter, known as “@DodgerzGM.” As far as parody accounts go it’s pretty good in that it’s not some one-note joke beaten into the ground and it’s not mean spirited. It’s funny and has some good satirical bite, but it’s pretty harmless as these things go.

As Jorge Arangure reports over at Vice, however, Twitter has shut it down. Possibly based on complaints from the Dodgers and/or Ned Colletti. And even better, Arangure asked Colletti about it and he was . . . surly. Go check the story out.

In other news, when I was at Camelback Ranch on Tuesday, I was wandering around the practice fields, over where fans and the general public can wander around too. Also wandering there: Ned Colletti. And I do mean wandering. Hands in his pockets, stopping to talk to a scout here or there, but clearly interactions of a personal nature — “Hey, how ya doin’? It’s been a while!” as opposed to matters of pressing business.

Put differently, it was just one of many signs, I have now learned, that Ned Colletti happens to have a lot of time on his hands these days.

The Padres are . . . relaxed

Matt Kemp
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PEORIA — Ariz. — Because I am an utter glutton for punishment, I decided to brave crosstown Phoenix traffic yesterday afternoon and go from the daytime Cubs-Angels game over to the evening Dodgers-Padres tilt. Why? Partially because the first Will Ferrell game I saw was fun so why not see a second one? But also because this Padres team is so fundamentally different than what we saw last year that I wanted to grok their new zeitgeist for myself.

It has been two years since I’ve been in Peoria, actually, and a whole lot is different. For one thing, the complex at which the Padres and Mariners train has been totally redone, and it’s pretty fantastic. Standing inside the Padres clubhouse and you think you’re inside the Cubs’ brand new clubhouse over at Sloan Park. It’s big, open, airy and filled with natural light.

But the architectural changes are not the most notable thing. That would be Matt Kemp, holding court and seemingly setting the tone for a loose, happy clubhouse.

Kemp, who was wearing a T-shirt with the case of the movie “The Sandlot” on it, has a mini Marshall amp in his locker hooked up to his iPhone and soon after I arrived he started playing jams. Maybe not the jams you’d expect. Blasting from his speaker was “The Promise,” by When in Rome. When that didn’t really grab anyone (except for 40 something baseball writers who were straight grooving on it) he switched to Hall and Oates. “Private Eyes,” if you care. Except that song sounds so much better in a big major league clubhouse with an All-Star outfielder clapping his hands to the beat [they’re watchin’ you — clap-clap — they see your every move”] than it does on the radio in your mom’s 1979 Buick LeSabre.

That party didn’t last too long, as Kemp disappeared outside the back door of the clubhouse. I followed and found myself next to the Padres’ outdoor basketball court, tucked in between the clubhouse and the practice fields. There were 20-30 players there, watching an in-progress three-point competition, complete with the racks of balls around the arc, NBA-style. It was a team competition, with the 5’6″ Alexi Amarista cleaning up for the team in action at the moment. His touch was nice, but one-time Cubs prospect Jay Jackson had a nice touch too. Everyone was else was either rebounding, watching, trash-talking or some combination of the three.

Even manager Bud Black was getting into the act, hanging out on the court and talking his fair share of trash too. Earlier I saw him taking part in the team’s ping pong competition. All teams do that, but I’ve not seen a manager involved. Hell, it’s not often you see a manager do much besides hang in his office and talk to the coaches in the few hours before the game. But Black was.

I talked to some Padres employees after the clubhouse closed. They had seen me tweeting about the atmosphere and wanted to let me know that, no, this was not unusual this spring. Matt Kemp has been holding court, happy and loose as hell. He, in turn, has taken pressure off of Justin Upton who, while always tabbed to be a superstar, has never struck anyone as the rah-rah leader type. I’m told that he’s really loose too, happy the spotlight isn’t on him, allowing him to be himself. Wil Myers is a tad tired of answering questions about covering center — he either will or he won’t hack it — but he seems pretty happy to not be asked about being a prospect at a crossroads or the subject of one of the more infamous trades in recent years.

A good clubhouse and good team chemistry doesn’t win ballgames. Ultimately the Padres’ fate hinges on that outfield defense. On Yonder Alonso living up to his potential. On the rotation — which looks pretty spiffy on paper — staying healthy. On whether the Dodgers and Giants stumble enough to allow San Diego to break into contention.

But it doesn’t hurt either. And while it’s only March 13 and no battle plan survives engagement with the enemy (with said engagement more than three weeks away), at the moment the Padres have mood and attitude covered like crazy.

It’s quite a zeitgeist to grok, actually.