J.J. Hardy and the Orioles agree to contract extension

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J.J. Hardy cut off contract extension talks with the Orioles when the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement by the end of spring training, but now Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that Baltimore is close to signing the impending free agent shortstop to a new deal.

According to Rosenthal it’s a three-year deal worth at least $40 million and includes a fourth-year option.

Announcing a contract extension one day before the ALCS is odd timing, especially after Hardy and the Orioles avoided talks throughout the regular season, but with free agency right around the corner and plenty of teams in need of a good all-around shortstop–chief among them the Yankees–Baltimore obviously didn’t want to see him hit the open market.

Hardy was acquired from the Twins in a lopsided 2011 trade and then signed a three-year, $22.5 million extension to stay with the Orioles. In four total seasons in Baltimore he’s hit .259 with a .720 OPS while consistently rating among the best defensive shortstops in baseball.

Fan Graphs says he’s been worth an average of $17 million per season for the past four years, so the Orioles got a huge bargain on Hardy from 2011-2014 and maintaining that level of performance would make the new contract a relative bargain as well. However, this new deal will begin with his age-32 season and that’s always a big risk for shortstops.

Astros greeted with boos in first spring training game

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The Astros and Nationals share a spring training facility, so it was only natural that they would open Grapefruit League play together. The Astros were the home team. Here’s the lineup they rolled out.

Teams typically include at least a few regulars in their spring training lineups as a courtesy to the fans, who are spending money to see big league players play baseball. This is especially the case for home games. However, the Astros have decided to roll out a lineup with a combined 323 MLB plate appearances.

There might be a reason for that. Houston was lustily booed as they took the field. This was after running a video on the scoreboard celebrating their 2019 AL championship.

That’s all with the team that beat them in the World Series (and is widely regarded as baseball’s current heroes for beating the big bad cheating Astros) in the other dugout, of course. Nationals starter Max Scherzer has not thrown at any Houston player, and the game is now in a rain delay. But it seems like the Astros decided to spare their players from some possible rough treatment, both from fans and opposing pitchers.

The same could not be said for Astros mascot Orbit, who was also booed.

One can quibble with the merits of booing a bunch of players who have barely touched the big leagues because you’re mad at Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman, but sports fandom is something of an irrational business. Fans are going to want their pound of flesh, especially when they paid for the right to be in the ballpark and give the Astros a piece of their mind. Some of them even brought props! This is just how it all works, unfortunately. If you’re in an Astros uniform, you’re probably going to get booed.

Welcome to the 2020 season, Astros. It’s probably going to be like this all year.

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