Bill Baer

HOUSTON - JUNE 18:  Carlos Gomez #27 of the Milwaukee Brewers makes a catch in the seventh inning on Tal's Hill on a fly ball by Jason Castro #15 of the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on June 18, 2013 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Astros will renovate Minute Maid Park, remove Tal’s Hill

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MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports that the Astros will renovate center field at Minute Maid Park, removing Tal’s Hill ahead of the 2017 season. The club had made renovation plans but put them on hold for a year.

The plans, announced in June last year, aimed to move the center field fence in to 409 feet from 436 feet. With the additional space behind the fence, the Astros also planned to add in concession stands and additional spots for fans to view the game.

The removal of Tal’s Hill is a long time coming. The Astros put the hill in deep center field as an homage to older ballparks which had various quirks. One of them was Crosley Field, the Reds’ ballpark from 1912-70. Left field there had a 15 degree incline. Tal’s Hill? 30 degrees. It’s incredible that no one has suffered a career-ending leg injury due to the hill. It has always seemed like an inevitability, and anachronistic in today’s game. Good riddance.

Braves pull Jim Johnson back from waivers; Jeff Francoeur clears waivers

ATLANTA, GA - JULY 31:  Closer Jim Johnson #53 of the Atlanta Braves throws a pitch in the ninth inning during the game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Turner Field on July 31, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)
Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images
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Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball reports that reliever Jim Johnson was claimed on waivers by an unknown team, but the Braves couldn’t work out a trade and pulled him back as a result. Heyman also notes that outfielder Jeff Francoeur cleared waivers.

Johnson, 33, has compiled a 3.61 ERA and a 41/16 K/BB ratio in 42 1/3 innings. Because he was pulled back from waivers, the Braves are unable to place him back on waivers. The Braves can make a handful of other roster maneuvers or let him walk into free agency after the season.

Francoeur, 32, has put up a .247/.287/.387 triple-slash line with seven home runs and 31 RBI in 261 plate appearances this season. As he cleared waivers, that means the Braves can negotiate a trade with any interested team. Like Johnson, Francoeur will become a free agent after the season.

Joe Girardi has been inconsistent in handling Yankee players’ farewell tours

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - JULY 29: Manager Joe Girardi #28 of the New York Yankees waits in the dugout after taking pitcher Ivan Nova off the mound during the fifth inning of a game against the Tampa Bay Rays on July 29, 2016 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
Brian Blanco/Getty Images
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Jack Curry of the YES Network, citing Michael Kay, reports that soon-to-be-retired Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez asked Joe Girardi if he could play third base on Friday, his final game. Girardi said no. ESPN’s Andrew Marchand reported earlier in the week that Girardi said, “My job description does not entail a farewell tour. My job description is to try and win every game and put everyone in the best possible position, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

I would be a lot more sympathetic to Girardi’s position if he treated Derek Jeter the same way. In 2014, Jeter’s final season, the future Hall of Fame shortstop played in 145 games and stepped to the plate 634 times, batting a meager .256/.304/.313. He was worth -0.1 Wins Above Replacement according to FanGraphs, the worst mark among 22 qualified shortstops.

In 2014, the Yankees finished 84-78, 12 games out of first place in the AL East and eight games out of the second AL Wild Card slot. The Yankees didn’t have any eight-win options at shortstop — just Brendan Ryan and Stephen Drew — but the club could’ve vied for a serious upgrade in the offseason leading into 2014, or acquired one at the trade deadline. But they didn’t. The Yankees were wholeheartedly committed to giving Jeter his farewell tour.

This year, the Yankees have already traded Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran, and Ivan Nova. They’re 57-56 in fourth place, seven games back of first place in the AL East and they’re 4.5 games out of the second AL Wild Card slot. They’ve given up. Yet Girardi’s concern even after trading away arguably the best closer in the game, the best set-up man in the game, and one of the best offensive players in the league is that he’s trying to win games? His reasoning is incongruous when matched up with how he handled Jeter. There’s no defense behind not letting Rodriguez play every day this week if he wanted to, but even more so, there’s no reason not to let him play the field in his final game.

Lots of people don’t like Rodriguez and lots of people like Jeter, that much is obvious. Playing time, however, shouldn’t be decided by a popularity contest. But that’s exactly what it has been with Girardi’s Yankees.