Craig Calcaterra

bryce harper getty

Video: Bryce Harper pulls a Happy Gilmore, drives a ball 340 yards

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Meanwhile, someplace near Las Vegas:

I assume after this happened the Nationals called him out in the press for his lack of focus and tried to roll back contract incentives or something.

The Padres’ offseason moves may not guarantee the playoffs, but they certainly guarantee enthusiasm

San Diego Padres Logo
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The Padres had had a busy winter already, but the signing of James Shields last night pushes it toward the ridiculous. If they get Cole Hamels, everyone in San Diego may plotz. Heck, they may plotz anyway after acquiring Matt Kemp, Derek Norris, Justin Upton, Wil Myers, Brandon Morrow Will Middlebrooks, Shawn Kelley, Brandon Maurer Josh Johnson and now Shields. It’s a totally different team than it was last year.

Is it a better team? Almost certainly. Even if Matt Kemp continues to have injury issues and Justin Upton remains the good-but-not-as-good-as-people-thought-he’d-one-day-be player from his early days in Arizona, the offense is improved. If Kemp looks like he did in the second half last year and Wil Myers rebounds to his rookie form, all bets are off. Shields provides them with a near-certain 200+ above average and, occasionally, excellent innings. The team is much stronger than it’s been.

That doesn’t mean Padres fans should start setting aside money for playoff ticket deposits yet, of course. There are a lot of uncertainties here. The new hitters conquering Petco Park is not a given, even if they are healthy. Shields has a lot of miles on the odometer. The Padres were just a 77-win team last year and, as history has shown, making 15-20 game improvements in a single season is not an easy trick. Ask the 2013 Blue Jays and 2012 Marlins how adding a bunch of big pieces in a single offseason can go.

But there is definitely reason for excitement in San Diego. For one thing, all of these additions came at a relatively limited cost. The Padres did not give up any of their top prospects to acquire the talent they got and, even if you include Shields’ deal, none of the financial outlays for the new players are particularly crazy. The future has not been mortgaged for a one-year improvement. Indeed, this could just be a year in which the Padres makes a nice little competitive surge that gets the fan base excited with a more traditional and sustained improvement on the horizon.

And that’s pretty key with this franchise. The fan base excitement. The Padres have had some successful seasons over the years, but they were somewhat isolated and never came by virtue of ownership opening up the safe and truly investing in the team. Before this offseason, their biggest-ever free agent deal was Joaquin Freakin’ Benoit, for crying out loud.

A lot of Padres fans I know — some I met as recently as back in December at the Winter Meetings — would’ve never believed that the team would be as active in the offseason as they have been this year. That Padres brass would do the sorts of things to stir up some excitement and get the Padres faithful to shell out for tickets and merch with the level of enthusiasm they are likely to this spring.

Maybe what the Padres did this winter is not enough to make the playoffs — the Giants and Dodgers aren’t going anywhere any time soon, after all — but they have certainly taken some much needed steps to kick up some excitement in San Diego.

Derek Holland’s knee beats Shin-Soo Choo’s ankle in a foot race

Derek Holland
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A year ago the Rangers signed Shin-Soo Choo to to a seven-year $130 million contract. He then missed a chunk of the season due to an ankle injury. Also last year: Rangers’ pitcher Derek Holland missed most of the season following knee surgery. Recently, they had a foot race, because that seems like a good idea for a couple of guys coming off leg problems.

Here’s Holland describing it:

“We just did the 40, just running around, goofing off and I saw him and Chirinos. They always like to go at it with each other. They raced. Chirinos is pretty quick for a catcher, but he didn’t get Choo. Then I was joking around, I say, ‘Hey, let’s go. Let’s go. I want to race. Let’s do this.’ I got out there and I took off. We were side by side for a little bit and then I started pulling away. Choo goes, ‘Man, you’re really fast. I didn’t know you had that.’ I sad, ‘Hey, don’t let this leg fool you. I’m good now. I’m feeling great.’ ”

I’m going to consider this a back-door Best Shape of His Life thing, as this could be construed as subtle propaganda about the health of Choo and Holland. If Prince Fielder officiated the race it’d be a trifecta in that regard.

 

 

Julio Franco, still going at age 56

Julio Franco
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They will take the bat away from Julio Franco when they pry it from his cold, dead hands:

The Million Stars are part of Japan’s independent “Challenge League.” Also on that team: Eri Yoshida, the woman knuckleballer who made some headlines stateside a few years back.

Franco is 56. Last year he served as a player-manager for the Fort Worth Cats of the independent United Baseball League. He last played in the bigs in 2007 at 49. He was still a very useful big leaguer back when he was with the Braves between the ages of 43 and 47. After the nuclear war, he’ll be the last ballplayer standing, I guarantee it.

(Via CBS)

Max Scherzer explains why he took the Nationals’ money and ran

Max Scherzer Getty
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Of course, me putting the way I did in the headline is totally loaded. I did that on purpose, because that’s how fans and writers almost always talk about players changing teams in free agency. As if they “left” or as if they were greedy and did something to their old team and its fan base. As if they did something wrong, even. It’s kind of nuts.

But today Max Scherzer talked about his decision to go to the Nationals. After noting that Tigers players could see that changes were going to be coming eventually — as long as two years ago — he put what motivated him into very clear terms:

“It’s the business part of the game. The business part of the game is ugly. I mean, look at it from the other side. I’ve seen so many of my friends get cut and released and all taken advantage of because at the end of the day, we say it’s the business part of the game. I just took advantage of the business side of the game to benefit me.”

And players do that a fraction of the amount that owners do. At least in major ways like Scherzer did here. There are a handful of big free agent signings each year and scores of small moves by teams — DFAs, automatic renewals for pre-arbitration players, service time manipulation, etc. — that are a function of a team exercising its power over players. No one says boo to that. But players, “well, how dare they leave us?” “How dare they seek the highest dollar?” Bonus points if the speaker uses the word “almighty” before “dollar.” Then you know you’re dealing with a sharp one.

Good for Max for knowing what time it was.