Lots going on around baseball as we gear up for Spring Training games, including Matt Wieters finally signing (with the Nationals). Elsewhere …
- Dexter Fowler’s comments about the personal, familial impact of President Trump’s travel ban – and the subsequent reactions of many Cardinals fans – were a big story around baseball the past couple days, and if you haven’t seen any of the fallout, I recommend a really great write-up on the matter at the St. Louis Post Dispatch from Jose de Jesus Ortiz. Therein, Ortiz writes that Fowler has no plans to lash out or back down from his comments on the travel ban, because, despite the reaction, they weren’t politically charged comments for him. They were personal.
- “The question was asked out of empathy toward my family,” Fowler said Monday. “I appreciate that. If anybody is asking about my family, then I’m going to let them know. Obviously it affected my family. My wife’s Iranian.” Fowler wasn’t randomly speaking out against the President or his actions, he was responding to a question about a travel ban that affected him directly. I can’t say enough good things about Ortiz’s article, so I’ll just point you in the right direction. Regardless of where you fall a) politically OR b) on this particular issue, I’d strongly encourage you to give it a read.
- And before I let it go, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan had another interesting take on the whole thing: examining what Fowler actually said, and about how it became a prism through which to view the state of online sports discourse. After scrolling through a series of hateful comments, Passan landed on one that read, “Did any of you actually read what he said?” Which, when you think about it, is a really good question. Setting aside the fact that Fowler has every right to voice his opinions whether or not they are deeply polarizing … Fowler’s comments were not very politically charged. “It’s huge,” Fowler said. “Especially any time you’re not able to see your family, it’s unfortunate.” That’s it. He said it’s unfortunate when you’re unable to see your family. In any other context … well, I think you see the point. (One other small thing about all of this: let’s try not to make this about fans of certain teams being better or worse than any others. That is beside the point. Hateful speech is hateful speech regardless of where it comes from. Rooting it out is the problem, not shaming the city that holds some of the people who propagate it.)
- In a completely different direction, Ken Rosenthal has a wonderful “You heard it here first!” on an expectedly big season from starter Shelby Miller in 2017. Miller, you’ll recall, was acquired by the D-Backs from the Braves last season in exchange for, as Rosenthal puts it, “(gulp) [Dansby] Swanson, (gulp) center fielder Ender Inciarte and (gulp) right-hander Aaron Blair.” Obviously, that’s a ton to give up for almost anyone, let alone a pitcher who wound up being as bad as any regular pitcher in baseball last season. Even still, Rosenthal and the D-Backs coaching staff are expecting Miller to return to form. More at Fox Sports.
- On Monday, Pirates owner Bob Nutting held an annual closed-door meeting with his players and then answered some questions immediately thereafter. At Bucco Blog,
- Rick Ankiel has written a book surrounding the relatively amazing story of his breakout as a pitcher, extreme wildness melt down in the playoffs, and return as an outfielder. That alone, is worthy of a note here. But earlier in the week, Ankiel went on the radio to promote his book and admitted to drinking vodka before a start, to deal with the added pressure and weight of the game. Craig Calcaterra has more at NBC Sports. It’s an interesting peak behind the curtain and yet another reminder that baseball players are real life human beings.
- At FanGraphs, Dave Cameron has been going through the best and worst transactions of the offseason. The Cubs, as we know, made the former, by acquiring Wade Davis from the Royals in exchange for Jorge Soler, and have avoided the latter – which came out earlier this week – by, uh, not doing something stupid. You can see the full list at FanGraphs, but I suspect you’ll find “#5 Cardinals Pay High Price for Outfield Upgrade Acquire: Dexter Fowler” the most interesting. In short, Fowler likely peaked last season, but still commanded an enormous contract. He may very well continue producing at a high level, but it’s a suspect gamble for a team chasing the Chicago Cubs. In addition, they may not have known this at the time, but the loss of Alex Reyes makes this transaction even worse in retrospect.
- Hey, that’s a familiar name:
— MLBRosterMoves (@MLBRosterMoves) February 20, 2017
- It’s pretty hard to believe that Matt Murton is 35 years old already. I hope he absolutely kills it for the Tigers this season, and finally lives up to the promise of his 2006 season with the Cubs: .297/.365/.444 (and the years he crushed it in Japan).
- You know how Joe Maddon sometimes does wild and crazy things during Spring Training to loosen up his players? Last year, for a few examples, he brought in zoo animals, mimes, and karaoke machines to lighten things up. Well, the Phillies organization seems to have caught wind of this outrageous phenomenon and is trying something out of the box of their own … playing music!!!
— Phillies (@Phillies) February 21, 2017
- It’s just too funny.
- And speaking of baseball being fun … did you know that during the 2016 season Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle had to comfort one of his players who thought he saw a ghost? Apparently, the hotel the team was staying at in Milwaukee has a long history of “hauntings,” but … well, LOL.