Willie Mays turns 80

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Today is Willie Mays’ 80th birthday.  The occasion has brought forth a ton of remembrances of the man’s career, and with a guy like Mays they’re all worth reading.  I was particularly fond of this one in the San Jose Mercury News.  Comcast Sports Bay Area has been running a series of stories on Mays’ life and career as well, including this one on the catch he made in the 1954 Series.  Comcast will also be running a one-hour documentary on the Say Hey Kid on Sunday afternoon at 4:30 Pacific time, following the Giants-Rockies game.

I never got a chance to see Mays play, but the one thing that strikes me about him — apart from his obvious greatness — is that he had a game unlike that of most players in the 50s, what with the combination of speed, power and defense.  I often wonder which players from previous eras could compete if they were put in a time machine and plopped into 2011.  I’m sure most of the superstars would still be pretty darn good, but Mays is the one who I bet would lose the least of any of them.

Rakuten Golden Eagles sign Jabari Blash

Jabari Blash
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Former Angels outfielder Jabari Blash has signed a one-year deal with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball, the team announced Friday. Per the Japan Times, the deal is said to be worth around $1.06 million. Blash was released from his contract with the Angels at the end of November.

The 29-year-old outfielder has had a rough go of it in the majors, where he failed to duplicate the promising results he delivered in the minors. While he consistently batted above .250 with 20-30 home runs per season at the Double- and Triple-A level, he petered out in back-to-back gigs with the Padres and Angels and slumped toward a .103/.200/.128 finish across 45 PA for Anaheim in 2018.

The hope, of course, is that the environment in NPB will help him get a better handle on his issues at the plate — in a best case scenario, resulting in a full-scale transformation that could make him more marketable to MLB teams in the future. To that end, Blash expects to be utilized as a cleanup batter in the Eagles’ lineup and will focus on assisting the club as they make a run toward the Japan Series.