Craig Calcaterra

St. Louis Cardinals' Aledmys Diaz hits a single   in the fourth inning of an exhibition spring training baseball game against the Washington Nationals, Friday, March 21, 2014, in Jupiter, Fla. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Aledmys Diaz learned English from watching the Ellen DeGeneres Show

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OK, that’s the funny takeaway from this story, but it’s not really the point. The point is Derrick Goold’s get-to-know Aledmys Diaz story, which is pretty good. The Cardinals’ 25-year-old shortstop prospect faces a pretty big challenge in filling Jhonny Peralta‘s shoes, but as we noted yesterday he got off to a good start, going 4-for-4.

Goold’s story is the sort of thing you bookmark for later. From it you get the strong sense from it that the Cardinals are really hoping he pans out as an everyday replacement for Peralta. You can’t help but think of past fill-ins for the Cardinals when reading it. They always seem to come out OK after a star goes down or after they take a flyer on someone no one else thought could do the job. Adam Wainwright has missed two of the past five seasons. The Cardinals won the World Series in one of them and won 100 games in the other. Bobby Bonilla went down in spring training once and they called up a kid named Pujols who turned out OK. They have signed guys at the end of the line on multiple occasions who put up randomly amazing half-seasons or swan songs. We joke about “Cardinals Devil Magic” but it’s likely the case that they simply know when to take a chance on a short term replacement and that their good judgment married with good luck has been a key part of their success.

That could very well happen with Diaz. If so, it’ll be interesting to go back to this article and see if there was some prescience on the part of the Cardinals that, right now, just seems like optimism. Oh, and it’ll definitely be worth going back for this:

Before answering questions about his four-for-four day, Diaz told reporters that he wanted to first say how he “felt bad” for Peralta and how important the All-Star is to the Cardinals team. Diaz said that in English just 12 months after he would request an interpreter for all interviews. To improve his English, Diaz watched YouTube on his phone. One of his best teachers has been The Ellen DeGeneres Show, which he watches to learn conversation.

Which puts one in mind of this:


Paul O’Neill endorses Donald Trump, New York Daily News freaks out

Former New York Yankees player Paul O'Neill waves to the crowd as he takes the field before being honored in a ceremony before a baseball game between the Yankees and the Cleveland Indians, Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, in New York. O'Neill was honored with a plaque that will be displayed in Yankee Stadium's Monument Park. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

We’ve talked a lot about sports and politics not mixing around here. Some of you yell at us to “stick to sports.” For our part, we tell you “sorry, we ain’t sticking to sports,” at least in the way you mean, because in many important ways sports and politics have a lot to do with one other and have a lot to say about one another. We’re always going to note when they intersect in ways that matter.

But one thing I’d hope we can agree on is that who any one baseball player votes for or supports isn’t that big of a deal. Sure, if one of them makes a point of being publicly political it may be interesting to talk about. And, of course, if one comes out and says that the sitting President of the United States is a secret Muslim from Kenya it’s worthy of note and a few laughs. For the most part, however, a ballplayer’s politics are kind of boring. They’re paid to hit and throw baseballs, not hold forth on matters of economics and foreign policy. Most don’t make a big point of being political.

To the extent they are publicly political, ballplayer politics are kind of predictable. There are always risks in generalizing about groups of people, but American ballplayers tend to skew pretty conservative. This should not be surprising. Many come from geographic areas (the south, rural places and well-off exurbs) which skew conservative. Many have personal interests which, based on polling, more conservatives have than liberal people do (hunting, fishing, golf, etc.). Religion is very important to many players and in many clubhouses. They’re all rich and, again, purely on the data available, being religious and being rich are pretty good predictors of being a Republican or a conservative. There has never to my knowledge been comprehensive polling done on the matter, but I’d bet a good deal of money that if you did poll American baseball players you’d find that, as a group, they are more conservative and Republican than the country at large.

Which makes today’s Daily News somewhat amusing. Yankees great and current broadcaster Paul O’Neill was at Donald Trump’s wild Florida press conference last night. He got a shoutout at the presser from The Donald himself and said that he is a big Trump supporter. This is the cover of the Daily News today:

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No matter how “appalled” the Daily News is — and, based on Twitter chatter last night, a lot of Yankees fans are appalled as well — this shouldn’t be super shocking. Certainly not the part where O’Neill is a Republican, for reasons stated above. That he’s a Trump supporter as opposed to some other candidate could be because of a personal relationship, the sort of which Trump has with a lot of athletes, especially New York ones. If it’s more policy/political based I’ll give O’Neill the benefit of the doubt and opine that, rather than him being a wide-eyed supporter of the many vile, hateful and mendacious things Trump has said, it’s more of a function of O’Neill simply being less-than-perfectly-informed about them. If you’d like to defend Trump on this count, enjoy the comment section, but don’t expect me to come around to your way of thinking; I’ve talked about Trump at length on my personal blog.

If, on the other hand, O’Neill is in fact on board with every statement and proposal Trump has, well, he’s one guy and you’d probably be shocked what any one guy believes, even if you shouldn’t be. He certainly wouldn’t be alone based on primary results so far. The takeaway here is that we like ballplayers for the stuff they do on the field, not in the voting booth. You probably don’t want to know or think too hard about what they believe about any given topic. For cryin’ out loud, the best player from my favorite team has dabbled in Sandy Hook Truther conspiracies. We can and should still love them for the narrow reasons they came into our lives. See the above stuff about them being paid to hit baseballs. Or, in O’Neill’s case, talk about baseball.

That aside, I’ll say it’s pretty smart for Trump to have O’Neill around.  I have no idea where the election is going, but Trump could still lose in the primaries or he could have the nomination taken away from him via scheming and brokering at the Republican convention. If that happens, he may need advisors versed in handling adversity. Baseball, as has been said, is a game based on failure. If there is any former ballplayer who knows how to react when things don’t go his way or when he feels he was wronged, it’s Paul O’Neill. He could be very useful to Trump and could serve as a role model for grace in failure and defeat:

O'Neill water cooler

(via Pinstripe alley)

Phil Coke agrees to a minor league deal with the Braves

Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Phil Coke throws against the Milwaukee Brewers during the seventh inning of a baseball game, Saturday, May 2, 2015 in Chicago. (AP Photo/David Banks)

I can’t tell you how excited I am for the 2016 Braves season, fellas. A truly memorable roster is being assembled. There’s, um, that guy. And, uh, whatshisface. And who can forget old uh . . . yeah, him! Come over here, you. I LOVE that sonofagun! Remember the thing with the guy in the place? I’ll never forget it.

Added to that great group of fellas is Phil Coke. Who, according to Chris Lott, just signed a minor league deal with Atlanta.

Coke is an eight-year veteran of the Yankees, Tigers, Cubs and (just barely) the Blue Jays. He has no business pitching to anyone but lefties, but even they got to him in 2015 to the tune of .286/.333/.464, which is too much for a lefty specialist. Overall he simply allows too many hits and walks too many dudes to be given work in high leverage situations. Even if Jim Leyland used to, inexplicably, put him into games in a lot of high leverage situations. He’s fun to watch anyway. At least if he’s not pitching for your team in a situation that matters.

But hey, it’s the Braves, and they’re not going to have any high leverage situations in 2016, at least in the cosmic sense. It’s a depth move. You can never have enough depth. And old lefties never die. They just lend themselves to more and more fun on social media:


Welcome to the party, pal.