Travis d’Arnaud is on fire since returning from the minors

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The Mets had big expectations for Travis d’Arnaud when they acquired him from the Blue Jays as part of the R.A. Dickey trade in December of 2012, but he put up a disappointing .189/.277/.269 batting line over his first 257 plate appearances in the majors prior to being demoted to Triple-A Las Vegas on June 7. However, he has looked like a keeper since his return.

After hitting .436 six homers and eight doubles over 15 games in Triple-A, d’Arnaud has continued to produce against major league pitching. The 25-year-old backstop went 3-for-5 with two RBI last night against the Padres and delivered a go-ahead opposite field single in the top of the ninth inning. He’s now hitting .318 (21-for-66) with three home runs, five doubles, and 12 RBI in 17 games since returning from the minors. Just to put things in perspective, he had just six extra-base hits in 145 plate appearances this season prior to his demotion.

So, what changed? During his time in Triple-A, d’Arnaud moved closer to the plate, which has allowed him to reach outside pitches which were previously giving him trouble. However, as this excellent piece from Marc Carig of New York Newsday points out, a lot of his struggles were mental in nature as he focused too much on results rather than feel for the game. Either way, something has clicked for him and he’s suddenly looking like someone the Mets can count on for the next several years as they attempt to return to prominence.

Sandy Koufax to be honored with statue at Dodger Stadium

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Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports that Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax will be honored with a statue at Dodger Stadium, expected to be unveiled in 2020. Dodger Stadium will be undergoing major renovations, expected to cost around $100 million, after the season. Koufax’s statue will go in a new entertainment plaza beyond center field. The current statue of Jackie Robinson will be moved into the same area.

Koufax, 83, had a relatively brief career, pitching parts of 12 seasons in the majors, but they were incredible. He was a seven-time All-Star who won the National League Cy Young Award three times (1963, ’65-66) and the NL Most Valuable Player Award once (’63). He contributed greatly to the ’63 and ’65 championship teams and authored four no-hitters, including a perfect game in ’65.

Koufax was also influential in other ways. As Shaikin notes, Koufax refused to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series to observe Yom Kippur. It was an act that would attract national attention and turn Koufax into an American Jewish icon.

Ahead of the 1966 season, Koufax and Don Drysdale banded together to negotiate against the Dodgers, who were trying to pit the pitchers against each other. They sat out spring training, deciding to use their newfound free time to sign  on to the movie Warning Shot. Several weeks later, the Dodgers relented, agreeing to pay Koufax $125,000 and Drysdale $110,000, which was then a lot of money for a baseball player. It would be just a few years later that Curt Flood would challenge the reserve clause. Koufax, Drysdale, and Flood helped the MLB Players Association, founded in 1966, gain traction under the leadership of Marvin Miller.