Bob Feller on Willie Mays' catch in the '54 Series: "Meh"

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Willie Mays catch.jpgI missed this last week, but my buddy Vince Grzegorek pointed me to a two-part interview of Bob Feller from the Cleveland Plain Dealer in which the living legend disses Willie Mays’ amazing catch of Vic Wertz’s fly ball in the 1954 World Series:

PD: The 1954 World Series?

BF: The first thing that comes to mind has to be the Dusty Rhodes’
bloop home run.
PD: Not the Willie Mays catch against Vic Wertz?

BF: A lot of center fielders could have caught the ball Mays caught.
He put on the act pretty good; he always did. He let his hat fly off,
then threw the ball back to the infield. The ball was hit into a small
wind. The ball came down like a popup. He was playing shallow, but Vic
Wertz was the hitter, so he should not have been playing shallow.

PD: So you’re not impressed by the catch.

BF: Not at all. Not at all.

Feller has a habit of saying arguably impolitic things about famous stuff that happened during his heyday. I still can’t get over the fact that, when asked about Lou Gehrig’s “luckiest man on the face of the Earth” speech a couple of years ago Feller said “He’s wrong. I am. I’m still alive.”  Yikes. But you know what? When 91 years-old you reach, so opinionated you shall be too.

As for the catch, many people think of Mays’ play as the stuff of legend. But Feller was there and didn’t view the thing through newsreel nostalgia. I’ve watched the catch as objectively as possible and I still think it’s great, but it’s probably worth listening to Feller about this. I’ll grant that maybe he still harbors some resentment over his heavily-favored Indians team losing that Series, but it’s also possible that he saw that catch a little bit differently — and a little more realistically — than the rest of us did.

Yankees trade Sonny Gray to the Reds

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The deal was much talked about all weekend and now the deal is done: The Cincinnati Reds gave acquired starter Sonny Gray and lefty Reiver Sanmartin from the Yankees in exchange for second base prospect Shed Long and a 2019 competitive balance pick.

The key to making the deal happen: Gray agreeing to a a three-year, $30.5 million contract extension. The Reds will likewise hold a $12 million club option for 2023. The deal had been struck and a window granted through close of business today to get Gray to agree to the extension and, obviously, he has.

The Reds will get a pitcher coming off of a bad season in which he posted a disappointing 4.90 ERA in 23 starts and seven relief appearances. He was hammered particularly hard in Yankee Stadium but pitched better on the road. Great American Ballpark is not a great pitcher’s park itself but any change of scenery would be nice for Gray, who had become much unwanted and unloved in New York. In Cincinnati he has the assurance of a spot in the rotation and, even better for him, he will be reunited with his college pitching coach, Derek Johnson, who joined new manager David Bell’s Reds staff earlier this offseason. If he bounces back even a little bit, the Reds will have a useful starter at a below market price for four years. If he doesn’t, well, they haven’t exactly gone bankrupt taking the chance.

The Reds will also get Reiver Sanmartin, 22, who started in the Rangers system before being traded to the Yankees. He’s a soft-tosser who figures to be a reliever if he makes the big leagues. He played at four different levels last season, with one game at Double-A and the rest below that, posting a composite 2.80 ERA in 10 starts and 13 overall appearances while striking out 7.8 batters per nine.

The Yankees will get Shed Long, who is ranked as the Reds’ seventh best prospect. The 23-year old second baseman hit .261/.353/.412 at Double-A in 2018 and has hit very close to that overall line for his entire six-year minor league career. He strikes out a bit and may not stick at second base long term, shifting to a corner outfield slot perhaps, but he’s a legitimate prospect.

The Reds get another starter with some upside. The Yankees get rid of a problem and gain a prospect and a draft pick. Sonny Gray gets some job and financial security at a time when it is not at all clear what his future holds. Not a bad baseball trade.

UPDATE: Welp, the Yankees don’t have a prospect anymore. They just traded long to the Mariners for outfielder Josh Stowers. Stowers was a second-round pick in last year’s draft. He’s 21 and batted .260/.380/.410 with five homers and 20 steals over 58 games in Short-Season ball in 2018. He’s ranked by MLB.com as the Mariners’ No. 10 prospect, but now he’s New York bound.