Craig Calcaterra

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The fifth greatest general manager of all time built a team that won 14 of 16 pennants. Then he was fired.

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Mark Armour and Dan Levitt have written a book: In Pursuit of Pennants, which examines how front offices have historically found innovative ways to build winning teams. In support of that, they are counting down the top-25 GMs of all time over at their blog. Since it’s slow season, I’m going to continue linking to the countdown as it’s great stuff we rarely read about in the normal course.

The Yankees had already won a bunch of pennants and World Series titles by the time George Weiss took the reins in 1947. But from that point on, until he was dismissed in 1960 because the Yankees thought he was too old to do the job — the Yankees went on a tear unlike baseball had ever seen, winning 10 pennants and seven World Series championships in 13 years. The team he built around a core of Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford — all graduates of the Yankees farm system Weiss ran before taking the GM job — went on to win four more pennants and two more World Series championships.

Go read about Weiss here. Including why, for all of that success, he only ranks as the fifth greatest GM of all time.

Who’s your least favorite player?

Haters
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That’s the question John Paschal asks over at The Hardball Times. And it turns out it’s a much more complicated question than it seems.

Because why do we hate players anyway? Do we hate them because they’re rotten people? If so, how do we know if they’re truly rotten? Do we hate players because they do well against our team? If so, how deep can that hate really be, given that we likely suspend it the moment that player changes teams or leagues or whatever? Do we as fans have enough invested to justify hate anyway?

Some big questions. Questions which Paschal asks several people, many of whom give small answers. Like, hating a guy because “it’s an objective truth that his face and lips are stupid,” which is what one of Paschal’s correspondents says. Not that that isn’t an excellent reason to hate someone.

Jump into the hate. Embrace it. But don’t try to explain it. That way lies madness.

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

bryce harper getty
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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.