2008 first overall pick Tim Beckham becomes a long shot

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As the St. Petersburg Times’ Marc Topkin points out here, the first overall pick in the 2008 draft, Tim Beckham, was left off Baseball America’s list of the Rays’ top 10 prospects when it was announced last week.

Beckham, a shortstop taken out of a Georgia high school, was ranked by BA as the Rays’ No. 2 prospect behind David Price headed into 2009 and the team’s No. 6 prospect a year ago.    As a 20-year-old, he hit .256/.346/.359 for high-A Charlotte in the Florida State League last season.

The Rays have traditionally had strong prospect lists, and they have a few more outstanding youngsters coming along in pitchers Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore and outfielder Desmond Jennings.  Still, their second five is nothing special at the moment and it says something that Beckham and all of his tools can’t crack the list.

Beckhan has managed to hold his own while being among the youngest players in his leagues, but he hasn’t excelled at any point since being drafted.   There’s still good reason to think that he’ll develop 20-homer power as he matures.  However, it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll last at shortstop and he’d have to get a whole lot better offensively in order to make it as a corner outfielder.   Third base could be another option for him, but not with the Rays.

With fellow 2008 top-five picks Buster Posey, Brian Matusz and Pedro Alvarez all showing a lot of promise as rookies last season, the Rays appear to have made a costly misfire.   But that’s the gamble they made by taking a chance on the raw talent.  Unlike with the Padres and Matt Bush years earlier, this wasn’t a case of the Rays going with an overdraft in an attempt so save money.   The team thought it was pretty well set at catcher and third base with Dioner Navarro and Evan Longoria, and Beckham was given pretty much the same bonus that Posey and Alvarez received.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.