Pirates announce Joel Hanrahan will begin season as closer

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Joel Hanrahan entered camp as the favorite to claim ninth-inning duties in Pittsburgh and the Pirates wasted little time making it official, announcing this afternoon that he’ll begin the season as closer.

While his 3.62 ERA last season may appear mediocre, Hanrahan had a breakout season with 100 strikeouts and a .221 opponents’ batting average in 70 innings. Among all pitchers with at least 50 innings last season only Carlos Marmol (16.0) and Billy Wagner (13.5) racked up more strikeouts per nine innings than Hanrahan (12.9)

He also cut down on his walks, handing out a career-low 3.4 free passes per nine innings, and served up just six homers in 294 plate appearances. Hanrahan lacks closer experience, but he certainly doesn’t lack closer stuff. Pittsburgh may not have a ton of late leads to protect, but with left-hander Evan Meek (2.14 ERA, 70/31 K/BB ratio in 80 innings) setting up Hanrahan the back of the bullpen should be one of their few strengths.

Report: Mariners enter into a ballpark naming rights deal with T-Mobile

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Maury Brown of Forbes reports that T-Mobile will be the new naming rights partner for the Seattle Mariners’ ballpark beginning in 2019. Their park had been known as Safeco Field since it first opened in the summer of 1999. The 20-year naming rights deal with Safeco ended with the close of the 2018 season.

Brown reports that the deal will be around $3 million a year, which doesn’t seem like a whole lot. Then again, I have long been skeptical of how much naming rights actually bring back to the naming rights partner. That’s especially true when the partner is slapping its name on a ballpark that was known as something else beforehand. People tend to still use the old name and, I suspect, resent the new one a bit. Maybe that’s less the case when the park has only been known by corporate names, and no beloved traditional name is being displaced, but I still question if anyone really makes a single purchasing decision based on the name of a ballpark.

I know this much for sure, though: despite the relatively small cost of naming rights here, none of the most notable Seattle-based companies — which include Amazon, Starbucks, Nordstrom, Microsoft, Costco and Alaska Airlines — felt it was worth it. Possibly because they know people are gonna call the place “Safeco” for several years regardless.