Blue Jays, Yankees sign top international prospects

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July 2 is signing day for 16-year-old internationals, and the Blue Jays and Yankees have added two of the best, according to Baseball America.

Already having signed today are eight members of Baseball America’s top 20 international prospects. The Blue Jays inked No. 1 and No. 9, signing Franklin Barrero and Luis Castro out of Venezuela.

Barreto and Castro are both shortstops at the moment, though most think Barreto will end up elsewhere. Baseball America compares Barreto to “Rafael Furcal with less defense to a Shane Victorino type in center field.”

The Yankees signed BA’s No. 2 prospect, catcher Luis Torrens out of Venezuela. According to BA, he just became a catcher in February after converting from the infield. The Yankees already possess one of the game’s top catching prospects in Gary Sanchez, who was a $3 million signing out of the Dominican Republic three years ago.

The Giants, Mets, Twins, Red Sox and Phillies have also landed prospects on BA’s top 20 today. With the new CBA holding down bonuses (teams only have $2.9 million to spend on international players), the highest reported figure for a signing so far is shortstop Amed Rosario to the Mets for $1.75 million.

The Yankees stopped playing Kate Smith’s version of “God Bless America”

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The Yankees have played “God Bless America” during the seventh inning stretch since 9/11. The version they play is the most famous version, recorded in 1939 by Kate Smith. As of today they will no longer be playing the Kate Smith version, however.

Why? The New York Daily News reports that it’s because “the Yankees were made aware of Smith’s history of potential racism.” Which is a rather interesting way of putting it, because there’s not much “potential” to this:

Smith was a famous singer before and during WWII who recorded the offensive jingle, “Pickaninny Heaven,” which she directed at “colored children” who should fantasize about an amazing place with “great big watermelons,” among other treats. She shot a video for that song that takes place in an orphanage for black children, and much of the imagery is startlingly racist. She also recorded, “That’s Why Darkies Were Born,” which included the lyrics, “Someone had to pick the cotton. … That’s why darkies were born.”

I’m guessing this information was available in some Kate Smith biography or is in the memory of some of her big fans who may still be alive, but it was news to the Yankees until recently and once they learned it they decided that going with a version of the song NOT sung by Kate Smith was better. Good call!

Oh, and this was not the first time that the Yankees had to make this kind of call. Ten years ago they fired Irish tenor Ronan Tynan, who used to sing the song at the ballpark during the postseason, after he made anti-Semitic remarks. Precedent, baby.

Anyway, I’m sure someone will complain about this, but I feel like there are better hills to die on than “the Yankees should continue to play the racist lady’s version of the show tune that, despite what we think of it now, was never meant as an actual patriotic anthem.”

If you feel like dying on that hill, be my guest. But please, show your work.