Jason Hammel
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Jason Hammel to retire

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Rangers right-hander Jason Hammel is set to retire from Major League Baseball just one day after making the team’s Opening Day roster, according to multiple reports from MLB.com’s TR Sullivan and Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. While Hammel has informed the team of his decision, a formal announcement has yet to be made.

After finishing out a two-year gig with the Royals in 2018, the 36-year-old righty signed a minor league deal with the Rangers in February, then made it abundantly clear that he wouldn’t settle for anything less than a spot on the 25-man roster.

“I certainly won’t go to Triple-A,” he told Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News last week. “This is a grind. If it requires me to go home, I know my family is waiting for me and has been for a while. I’m more than willing to go home and spend time with them.”

The Rangers eventually placed Hammel on their Opening Day roster with the intent of using him in long relief and spot starts. That may not have been enough of a guarantee for the veteran starter, however, especially considering his recent streak of bad luck in the majors. And, as he told Texas GM Jon Daniels, his priorities had shifted from baseball to his family, making the decision to step away from his MLB career an easy one.

Hammel hit some career-low numbers last year, pitching to a 3-12 record in 18 starts with a 6.02 ERA, 2.8 BB/9, 6.5 SO/9, and 0.9 fWAR across 127 innings in the rotation and bullpen. It was a disappointing finish to a long career, one in which he racked up a cumulative 298 starts and 20.1 fWAR for the Rays, Rockies, Orioles, Cubs, Athletics, and Royals from 2006 through 2018.

The Rangers have yet to name a replacement.

Straight-away center field will be 385 feet at London Stadium

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Marley Rivera of ESPN has a story about some of the on-field and in-game entertainment, as well as some aspects of the field conditions, for this weekend’s London Series.

The fun stuff: a mascot race, not unlike the Sausage Race at Miller Park or the President’s race at Nationals Park. The mascots for London: Winston Churchill, Freddie Mercury, Henry VIII and the Loch Ness Monster. I suppose that’s OK but, frankly, I’d go with Roger Bannister, Shakespeare, Charles Darwin and Guy Fawkes. Of course no one asks me these things.

There will also be a “Beat the Streak”-style race which had better use the theme to “Chariots of Fire” or else what the heck are we even doing here.

They’ve also taught ushers and various volunteers who will be on-site to sing “Take me out to the ballgame,” which is a pretty good idea given how important that is to baseball. As a cultural exchange, I think some major league team should start using “Vindaloo” by Fat Les during the seventh inning stretch here. It’s a banger. It also seems to capture England a bit more accurately than, say, “Downton Abbey” or “The Crown.”

That’s all good fun I suppose. But here’s some stuff that actually affects the game:

The end result will have some interesting dimensions. The field will be 330 feet down each foul line, and it will have a distance of 385 feet to center field, which will feature a 16-foot wall. Cook also said it would have an expanded, “Oakland-like” foul territory, referencing the Athletics’ Oakland Coliseum expanse.

Those dimensions are unavoidable given that the square peg that is a baseball field is being shoved into the round hole that is a soccer stadium. As Murray Cook, MLB’s senior field coordinator tells Rivera, that sort of thing, while perhaps less than ideal, is at least in keeping with baseball’s strong tradition of irregular field conditions. It will, however, be one of the shortest dead center distances in baseball history.

Oh, and then there’s this:

Protective netting was also an important issue addressed when building the ballpark, with Cook stressing that his team has implemented netting that “is the largest you’ll ever see in any major league ballpark.”

[Craig makes a mental note to bookmark this for the next time MLB says it won’t mandate extended netting in the U.S. because doing so is too difficult]