<span class="vcard">Craig Calcaterra</span>


Cuban second baseman Jose Fernandez defects


There’s going to be a new Jose Fernandez in major league baseball soon. This one doesn’t pitch, however. He’s a second baseman from Cuba and, it appears anyway, he has defected.

Fernandez is 26 and, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America, he is a polished, finished product with excellent plate discipline and on-base skills, though not much power. His defense is said to be adequate. That’s a bit of a different mix than we’ve seen from past Cuban players, many of whom have profiled as having elite tools but maybe not as much in the way of polish and plate discipline. Of course, we’ve also seen that many of the more recent Cuban products have been a but undersold. Many didn’t expect much of Yasiel Puig and Jose Abreu, for example.

If the usual timeline holds it may be next season before he is secure with non-U.S. permanent residency and his immigration paperwork is finalized. At that point, he would be a free agent.

David Ortiz has been added to the Fox World Series broadcast

David Ortiz

It’s pregame panel stuff, not in-game commentary. But if you’ve been missing some Big Papi in your life, tune in to the World Series next week:

One of Major League Baseball’s best postseason hitters returns to the October stage this year, only this time he trades his lethal bat for a microphone. David “Big Papi” Ortiz has been added to FOX Sports’ World Series pregame and postgame show roster for the first two games of the 2014 Fall Classic . . . Ortiz joins fellow major leaguer Nick Swisher, World Series Champion Gabe Kapler and Hall-of-Famer Frank Thomas as analysts live from Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City beginning Tuesday, October 21 at 7:30 PM ET on FOX. Kevin Burkhardt anchors all of FOX Sports’ World Series pregame and postgame coverage.

I guess we never can know about this stuff. Fox has used A.J. Pierzynski in the past and before we saw him I think everyone thought he’d be terrible but he was actually really good, and I’d be shocked if he doesn’t have a good post-playing career in the booth. Same with Pedro Martinez, who has been a refreshing, mostly no-B.S. change of pace from the usual.

I’m curious to see how Ortiz does. If he avoids the tack that some players bring to the booth — the near inability to criticize his fellow players — he’ll probably be pretty good.

Photo: They’re tearing the bleachers down at Wrigley Field

Wrigley Field AP

The Wrigley Field renovation is well underway:


I assume they’ll put those bleachers back. If they don’t, post-college kids in Lincoln Park are gonna have to find another place to day-drink next summer. At least now they’re mostly contained.

HBT Classic: The 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers Are The Future Of Baseball

Kirk Gibson Dodgers home run

Note: This post originally appeared on HardballTalk on October 21, 1988. In light of today’s rush to make instant history and draw instant lessons from the Kansas City Royals’ success, I reprint it here in order to show that the idea is not new.

OAKLAND — Sure, the Los Angeles Dodgers are an intriguing tale for the typical reasons. A team that hasn’t won even 75 games the past two years wins the World Series over a favored opponent. On Thursday evening, the Dodgers beat the Oakland Athletics 5-2, finishing them off in five games and winning their first World Series in seven years.

But the Dodgers are more than just an enchanting success story. They represent the changing game of baseball.

In the post-healthy era, the game is going through a remarkable transition. Functioning limbs are out. Horrible, hobbling knee injuries are in. Before 1988, strapping, vibrant players posted MVP seasons and led their teams to championships. Now, surly, limping veterans are the key to success.

Enter the Dodgers. The Dodgers had the fewest functioning knee ligaments among MVP candidates this postseason, with zero. But no team had more improbable pinch-hit home runs from players with no healthy ligaments than the Dodgers. The team has one. That one came in their wild 5-4 win over the Oakland A’s in Game 1 of the World Series.

The last big-league club to win the World Series with a slow, hobbled MVP candidate was the 1979 Pirates, led by a waddling Willie Stargell. Those Pirates teams played an exciting brand of “cripple ball” throughout the decade: the ’71 Pirates featured Richie Hebner, a grave-digger in the offseason, suffering from trench foot during the Fall Classic. In 1975 they lost — albeit valiantly — in the NLCS even though Richie Zisk posted a line of .500/.583/.600 while suffering from an attack of the gout.

For the Dodgers, leg injuries pay off in the field too.  Because of Kirk Gibson’s destroyed lower body, Mickey Hatcher was around to cover for him in left field, hitting .368 in the World Series, thereby providing a two-pronged attack. This versatility has baseball analysts raving. “Let’s be clear what we’re talking about here,” wrote Peter Gammons of the Boston Globe. “We’re not just talking about a hurt knee, or a badly hurt knee. We’re talking about what one might decide to argue is the most hurt knee of a walkoff-home-run-hitting sonofabitch of all time.”

The Dodgers have found a winning formula. These days, if you have two healthy knees, you’re more likely than ever to get caught stealing. So just step awkwardly off a curb – Dodgers hitters are the least likely to go all the way to a crosswalk – and take your chances with your legs. Hurt your knees to make that ninth inning home run all the more dramatic.

Let the high-payroll Mets and A’s overpay for healthy young sluggers who will inevitably tire out from all of that running around the outfield (Daryl Strawberry, Jose Canseco, Lenny Dykstra). Maimed-ball is inspirational, and effective. This is where the game is heading. The Dodgers just do it best.