Craig Calcaterra

Cal Ripken

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

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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.

This is how non-insane organizations view players arriving to camp early

Yasiel Puig
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From the Los Angeles Times — headlined “Yasiel Puig says he has more respect for the game,” which is just fantastically on-the-nose — comes a story about how the Dodgers are optimistic that this is the year Puig turns a corner, maturity-wise. Part of that? The fact that he arrived to camp early.

Puig said he did so because he wants to elevate his game and be talked about as one of the best players in baseball. And not just baseball, really, as he cited Kobe Bryant and LeBron James as the sort of stars and leaders he’d like to emulate. And here’s how his team views that sort of drive:

Position players don’t have to be at Camelback Ranch until Wednesday, but Puig reported here last week with the team’s pitchers and catchers.

“That’s the first step,” said hitting coach Mark McGwire . . . “He doesn’t have to be here,” McGwire said. “He’s been here a week prior to when he’s supposed to be here. He could have stayed away today, but look at what he’s doing.”

Thank God he doesn’t play for the Yankees. If he did, some anonymous executive’s head might explode.

Beyond that: a lot of stuff in there about how Puig is vowing to show earlier to the park, work harder and listen to his coaches and teammates more. Given how the Puig narrative has gone in the past couple of years, this is a story worth bookmarking in the event a PuigSplosion hits at some point this season. Or, in case one doesn’t.

Joba Chamberlain has signed a one-year deal to return to the Tigers

Joba Chamberlain
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UPDATE: The physical is passed and the deal is official: $1 million plus incentives. Oh, and Chamberlain’s beard is gone if you care about such things.

7:12 AM: Joba Chamberlain has had a long offseason and had no team when pitchers and catchers reported last week. He has one now, however, reports Ken Rosenthal: the Detroit Tigers, where he spent 2014. He’s signed on a one-year, major league deal pending a physical.

Chamberlain tossed 63 innings with a 3.57 ERA and 59/24 K/BB ratio for the Tigers last season, though his first half was better than his second and his ALDS performance against the Orioles was a train wreck. As Rosenthal reported last month, however, Chamberlain was dealing with some family issues late last season which Tigers’ GM Dave Dombrowski says contributed to his second half decline.