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Hurricane Ian Wreaks Havoc With Spring Training Sites and Schedules
ALSO: DRUMBEAT INCREASES FOR ANDRUW JONES TO REACH HALLOWED HALL
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Did you know…
Less than a year after Bill Mazeroski ended the 1960 World Series with a ninth-inning home run at Forbes Field, future football star Joe Namath, then 17, hit one over that same wall during batting practice before a high school championship game . . .
Namath, a power-hitting outfielder who could both hit and throw, nearly signed a contract with the Cubs for $50,000 – big bucks at the time before his parents pushed him to pursue college football at Alabama . . .
Pardon Gabe Kapler if he’s confused, but the Giants now have twin brothers in their bullpen, with the right-handed Tyler Rogers and newly-signed southpaw Taylor Rogers on the same team for the first time . . .
Of the 13 players who hit between 40-70 home runs in the steroids-inflated season of 1998, Ken Griffey, Jr. was the only one who reached Cooperstown . . .
Barry Bonds, rejected by both the writers and the veterans committee despite a record seven MVP awards, not only hit a record 73 home runs in 2001 but had a .515 on-base percentage and 1.379 OPS [on-base plus slugging] . . .
Seeking to keep its National League pennant, Philadelphia spent more than $1 billion on six veteran free agents since 2019.
Hurricane Ian Leaves Spring Training Scheduling Nightmare
By Dan Schlossberg
Although Hurricane Ian hurdled into Florida long before the start of the 2022 World Series, its impact is still turning the baseball world upside down.
At least four teams suffered extensive damage to their spring training sites and may not be able to stage workouts or exhibition games — at least not up to major-league caliber.
The Tampa Bay Rays have already said they can’t use their usual Port Charlotte facilities, forcing them to train at Disney’s Wide World of Sports and play most Grapefruit League home games at Tropicana Field, their home park in St. Petersburg.
The Rays will also play a game or two at Disney, abandoned by the Atlanta Braves after 2018 but used for alternate home games by the attendance-challenged Rays for occasional regular-season games.
Three other teams — the Minnesota Twins, Boston Red Sox, and the Braves themselves — also reported storm damage of varying degrees.
The Twins and Red Sox train in separate sections of Fort Myers in southwestern Florida while the Braves prep for the season in out-of-the-way North Port, a small, developing community between Fort Myers and Sarasota.
Exhibition game ticket sales are usually brisk before the illuminated Times Square ball signals the arrival of the New Year. But not this year.
In fact, media members and fans who normally flock to Florida either don’t have hotels, cars, and flights reserved or are looking at the potential of expensive changes.
According to Mark Bowman of MLB.com, “Mike Dunn and his staff at the Braves’ Spring Training site deserve a lot of appreciation for the countless hours they have spent repairing the fields and facilities damaged by Hurricane Ian in September. Some of the buildings were damaged by flooding and much of the infield dirt on the fields was lost. But everything should be ready to go when the Braves arrive in February for the start of spring training.”
On the other hand, this year marks yet another clash between regular spring training and the World Baseball Classic, an every-third-year revenue-raising gimmick unwisely scheduled to start March 8 — just when managers want to start evaluating their pitching staffs.
Far too many prominent pitchers will be away from their regular teams, missing their usual workout regimens and jeopardizing their seasons.
But don’t expect teams to do the right thing and reduce ticket prices. In fact, they’re using the hype of games against “national” teams to charge even more for parking, concessions, and tickets.
As a result, spring training — normally the best time of the baseball calendar — will be FUBAR for the third straight year.
First, Covid-19 came along, halting play early in the 2020 exhibition season and forcing the creation of Spring Training 2.0, featuring all teams training in their home ballparks during the heat of summer.
Then it was the 99-day owners’ lockout, wiping out huge chunks of 2021 spring training and eating into the early weeks of the regular season as well.
Now it’s the double whammy of weather plus WBC.
After a wild winter of wacky contract signings that turned off most fans, the game sorely needs stability. Unfortunately, 2023 spring training won’t provide it.
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ covers the game for forbes.com, Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, and other outlets. He’s also written 40 books on the game. Dan’s e.mail is email@example.com.
Yet Another Endorsement Of Andruw Jones For The Cooperstown Gallery
[Editor’s Note: The following was written before New York Post columnist Jon Heyman revealed Wednesday that Andruw Jones was the top choice on his Class of 2023 Hall of Fame ballot.]
By Jeff Kallman
I’m pretty sure people still have a near-impossible time reconciling Andruw Jones’s too-staggering-decline phase to his peak through age 29. It started with his final, injury-marred Atlanta season, and continued so profoundly in Los Angeles that he became indifferent enough to be a sad punch line before he was finally bought out of his deal.
But that peak should still be enough to make Jones a Hall of Famer.
Chipper is already in the Hall of Fame and Andruw shouldn’t be far behind.
He wasn’t just a Hall-level hitter before those later-career health issues. But he was way off the proverbial charts as a run-preventive center fielder. He had a great throwing arm, a genius for finding sure routes to balls despite his habitual shallow positioning, and both elevated him where it mattered the most—not just in the highlight reels, either, though he had more than enough of those.
Jones retired with the second-most defensive runs saved above his league average for any player at any position—only Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson’s +293 out-rank Jones’s +253. Jones is also +80 ahead of Hall of Famer Willie Mays among center fielders, incidentally. Don’t be silly. I’m not calling Jones a better player than Mays, or even Hall of Famer Ken Griffey, Jr. They were just too much better all-around to kid yourself. (Baseball-Reference [via Jay Jaffe] ranks Jones No. 11 among major-league center fielders.)
I am saying, however, that taken strictly for his defense Jones was the most run-preventive defensive center fielder who ever played major league baseball.
Jones all-around at his peak was remarkable enough. For his 12 Atlanta seasons, my Real Batting Average metric (RBA: total bases + walks + intentional walks + sacrifice flies + hit by pitches, divided by total plate appearances) shows Jones’s peak value as more than worthy of a plaque:
His career value at the plate wasn’t damaged quite as much as you remember by that terrible post-Atlanta decline phase, either. In fact, his career RBA is a) only nine points lower than his peak; and, b) higher than three other Hall center fielders who played in the post-World War II/post-integration/night-ball era:
Measure him by wins above replacement-level player (WAR), and Jones’s seven-year peak WAR is above that of the average Hall of Fame center fielder. There are plenty of mostly or solely peak-value Hall of Famers in Cooperstown; they only begin with Dizzy Dean and Sandy Koufax.
Jones’s Hall of Fame teammate, Chipper Jones, wasn’t just blowing smoke when he said upon his own induction that if you wanted to beat the 1996-2007 Braves “you had to go through the Jones boys, too.”
That’s the way Hall of Famers play the game. And if the Hall now gives more value to defense than in the past, Jones assuredly deserves the honor even more.
Jeff Kallman is a regular contributor to Here’s The Pitch. This column was reprinted with his permission.
Texas manager Bruce Bochy, who turns 68 in April, is the oldest active MLB manager not named Dusty Baker . . .
The Rangers have had six straight losing seasons –- their longest dry spell since arriving from Washington in 1972 . . .
Despite 2,003 wins and three world championships over 25 years as a manager, Bruce Bochy has a losing lifetime record [2003-2029, .497 winning percentage] . . .
Even though he pitched only 64 innings in 2022 and turns 35 next year, Jacob deGrom got almost $50 million more than he got from the Mets in 2019, when he was four years younger and coming off consecutive Cy Young awards . . .
Before signing Houston native Nathan Eovaldi this week, Texas had spent $741 million for free agents in the last two years alone — and won absolutely nothing.
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HERE’S THE PITCH is published daily except Sundays and holidays. Brian Harl [firstname.lastname@example.org] handles Monday and Tuesday editions, Elizabeth Muratore [email@example.com] does Wednesday and Thursday, and Dan Schlossberg [firstname.lastname@example.org] edits the weekend editions on Friday and Saturday. Readers are encouraged to contribute comments, articles, and letters to the editor. HTP reserves the right to edit for brevity, clarity, and good taste.