This is a new feature for BN, highlighting some of the more interesting/funny/whatever non-Cubs stories from around baseball. The Cubs are a baseball team, after all, so, in theory, you’re all baseball fans. Sometimes I think we can get a little tunnel vision when following the Cubs, so it’s nice to break it up with some stuff from around the rest of baseball. (You may vaguely recognize this feature as the MLBullets from BCB that I did last year. I parted amicably with BCB in December, and figured I’d let them keep the “MLBullets” name since it became a thing there.)
- The White Sox and lefty ace Chris Sale agreed to terms on a five-year, $35.5 million extension, which includes a $12.5 million team option for 2018 and a $13.5 million option for 2019. The guaranteed years break down thusly: $850,000 in 2013, $3.5 million in 2014, $6 million in 2015, $9.15 million in 2016 and $12 million in 2017, plus a $1 million buyout on each of his option years, if they’re declined. Sale was set to be arbitration-eligible for the first time in 2014, so the White Sox are giving Sale relatively healthy sums for his arbitration years, and then get one free agent year guaranteed at $12 million. It’s not a super cheap deal (though definitely team-friendly, as these pre-arb extensions always are), so the primary benefits to the White Sox here are (1) cost certainty, and (2) those option years. If Sale stays on track as a true ace (and stays healthy … ), then the later years of the deal, which would otherwise have come at an extreme price in free agency, will look resplendent on the payroll. For what it’s worth, although Sale has been the more successful pitcher (and is younger), a Jeff Samardzija extension would probably be a bit pricier, given his extra year of service time.
- Sources tell The Big Lead that Keith Olbermann is flirting with a return to ESPN. The two sides have had a considerably frosty relationship over the years since Olbermann left abruptly in 1997, so him coming back would be something of a surprise. Then again, if you follow his Internetting at all, you know that he’s been injecting himself into baseball discussions quite a bit more over the past few months – he’s long maintained an MLBlog (“Baseball Nerd”), but the activity there has ticked up considerably in recent weeks. I’m thinking we’re going to see Olbermann coming back to ESPN, and he’s going to have a heavy baseball lean. Just a guess.
- Speaking of national baseball coverage, a great deal of it is shifting onto cable, thanks to Fox’s creation of Fox Sports 1, a network clearly designed to compete with ESPN. Most of Fox’s baseball coverage, including all of the playoffs short of the World Series, will be shifted to Fox Sports 1 beginning in 2014.
- Remember the classic episode of ‘The Simpsons’ in which Mr. Burns, in order to win a bet with a rival company executive, brings in a group of ringers for his company softball team? (If you listen to the BN Podcast, you’d recognize the outro music from the episode – one of the best songs ever.) Well, Jonah Keri decided to assemble today’s version of the ringer softball team, together with the hilarious ways they are ultimately unable to play (as in the episode). It is hilariously awesome, and requires your reading immediately. A sample player’s story – Bryce Harper: “Reacting to Harper’s famous retort to an overzealous reporter, Krusty sues the Nationals star for copyright infringement, arguing that the phrase ‘Klown Kwestion’ is his own intellectual property. Seeking damages totaling $100 million, Krusty hires the most ruthless lawyer in town. With Lionel Hutz no longer around to work on contingency (RIP), Harper decides to defend himself. The case gets tied up for more than a year, forcing Harper to miss the game.”
- It isn’t a new conversation – we’ve had it around here in recent months – but it’s once again picking up steam: SI’s Jay Jaffe is talking about the designated hitter making its way to the National League, and he describes it as an inevitability. The players are going to want it, AL teams are tired of their pitchers risking injury in interleague games, and I’m tired of seeing the NL at a roster-construction disadvantage.
- Jaffe’s piece was largely a response to Joel Sherman – an AL guy – arguing that it’s time for the NL to adopt the DH.
- Not terribly surprisingly, Mariano Rivera is soon expected to announce that he’ll retire after 2013, which will allow him to do the farewell tour thing that served Chipper Jones well last year. Rivera has been insanely, ridiculous good, so it should be a charitable farewell.
- Speaking of which, even before the rash of injuries befell them, I was thinking the aging Yankees were going to be in for a surprisingly tough 2013/2014 stretch. Many folks seem to agree, including Ken Rosenthal, who focuses a bit more on what happens after 2013. Rany Jazayerli has a more comprehensive take, and really takes a fine tooth comb to the issues facing the Yankees, both in 2013, and beyond.
- Speaking of injury woes, Rafael Furcal is out for 2013, as he’s going to have Tommy John surgery. The Cardinals look likely to replace him in the lineup with a combination of glove-heavy Pete Kozma, and … RONNY CEDENO! Look for Cedeno to finally fulfill the promise of his 2006 Venezuelan Winter League performance.