Julio Franco, still going at age 56

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They will take the bat away from Julio Franco when they pry it from his cold, dead hands:

The Million Stars are part of Japan’s independent “Challenge League.” Also on that team: Eri Yoshida, the woman knuckleballer who made some headlines stateside a few years back.

Franco is 56. Last year he served as a player-manager for the Fort Worth Cats of the independent United Baseball League. He last played in the bigs in 2007 at 49. He was still a very useful big leaguer back when he was with the Braves between the ages of 43 and 47. After the nuclear war, he’ll be the last ballplayer standing, I guarantee it.

(Via CBS)

Jim Crane thought the heat over sign-stealing would blow over by spring training

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The Astros’ sign-stealing story broke in November, a steady drumbeat of coverage of it lasted through December and into January, when Rob Manfred’s report came out about it. The report was damning and, in its wake, Houston’s manager and general manger were both suspended and then fired.

After that a steady stream of media reports came out which not only made the whole affair seem even worse than Manfred’s report suggested, but which also suggested that, on some level, Major League Baseball had bungled it all and it was even worse than it had first seemed.

Rather than Manfred and the Astros putting this all behind them, the story grew. As it grew, both the Red Sox and Mets fired their managers and, in a few isolated media appearances, Astros’ players seemed ill-prepared for questions on it all. Once spring training began the Astros made even worse public appearances and, for the past week and change, each day has given us a new player or three angrily speaking out about how mad they are at the Astros and how poorly they’ve handled all of this.

Why have they handled it so poorly? As always, look to poor leadership:

Guess not.

In other news, Crane was — and I am not making this up — recently named the Houston Sports Executive of the Year. An award he has totally, totally earned, right?