The best idea I've heard all day

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Pumpsie Green.jpgCommenter CG Hudson had a great idea in the No. 42 thread this morning about how to celebrate Jackie Robinson Day next year:

This wearing of the 42 is all well and good but how about MLB getting
creative next year (I know; no chance) and having each team wear the
number of its first African American player (i.e., Indians wear Doby’s
number, Reds wear Chuck Harmon’s, etc., etc.). We all might learn a bit
more in the process.

While I don’t like that we’ve changed Washington and Lincoln’s birthday to “Presidents’ Day,” it’s not like doing what CG suggests would diminish Robinson’s legacy the way adding Richard Nixon to the party sullies George and Abe’s.  To the contrary, it honors those worthy of honor in ways they’ve never been honored before. I think it’s a great idea. I’d love it if Major League Baseball were to do this. I see only two problems:

  • The late-to-integrate teams like the Red Sox and Tigers may not much care for having their historical foot-dragging shoved in their face like this. My response: tough. History is history and part of that history is exposing who, historically speaking, was slow to come to see the light. Just because Tom Yawkey was a racist doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate Pumpsie Green. And besides, all the people who fought integration are either long dead or at least long out of control of the teams they worked for or owned at the time, so who cares what they think?
  • The second problem is that there are now 14 more teams in the league than there were in 1947, and all of them were integrated from Day One of their existence, so it’s not entirely clear what they should do. I’m sure we can figure something out, however. Maybe they go with Robinson. Maybe they go with Negro Leagues tribute. Maybe they do something else that reflects the civil rights struggle in their particular cities. As far as problems go, it’s solvable.

Anyway, the point is to use Jackie Robinson Day to honor the history of baseball’s integration and teach people a few things. Why not change it up a bit next year and give the Curt Roberts and Bob Trices of the world their due?

And for the record. here’s a list of the first black players on every major
league team in existence at the time the color barrier was broken:

Jackie
Robinson     Dodgers
Larry Doby             Indians
Hank
Thompson      Browns
Monte Irvin             Giants
Hank
Thompson      Giants (same day as Irvin; Thompson integrated two teams!
Sam
Jethroe           Braves
Minnie Minoso        White Sox
Bob Trice
              Athletics
Ernie Banks           Cubs
Curt Roberts
          Pirates
Tom Alston             Cardinals
Nino
Escalera         Reds
Chuck Harmon        Reds (same day as Escalera)
Carlos
Paula           Senators
Elston Howard         Yankees
John
Kennedy         Phillies
Ozzie Virgil, Sr.       Tigers
Pumpsie
Green        Red Sox

Make it happen, Bud!

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.