So they apparently play baseball in Ireland

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The Irish influence on 19th century baseball can’t be overstated. Indeed, in his “Historical Baseball Abstract,” Bill James wrote this:

“Baseball in the 1890s was dominated by Irish players to such an extent that many people, in the same way that people today believe that blacks are born athletes, thought that the Irish were born baseball players.”

Insert a century and an ocean and the idea of specifically-Irish baseball players seems kind of odd. Descendants of Irish-Americans of that era have been assimilated, so we tend not to think of them as Irish in the same way they used to be thought of (for better and for worse). No one back in Ireland plays it of course. Or at least that’s what I thought before I read this:

Baseball may be America’s National Pastime, but the Irish have been playing baseball for over a decade. “The Emerald Diamond” is an award-winning documentary that tells the story of Ireland’s new found obsession with the game. Originally released in 2006, “The Emerald Diamond” is being re-released in March 2011 as part of a national screening tour to raise funds for non-profit groups and youth baseball leagues in Ireland and America.

Apparently there are youth and adult leagues all over Ireland now. Got their own website and everything. File that under stuff that (a) I did not know before this morning; and (b) makes me happy.

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.