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Fire breaks out at Rangers’ new stadium

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ARLINGTON, Texas — Fire broke out Saturday at the future home of the Texas Rangers, which is under construction in Arlington.

Arlington Fire Department Lt. Mike Joiner said the blaze was brought under control and no injuries were reported. The cause of the fire has not been determined.

Rangers spokesman John Blake told the Dallas Morning News that he was awaiting more information on the fire.

Blake did not immediately return a phone call to The Associated Press for comment.

The estimated $1.1 billion Globe Life Field includes a retractable roof and is scheduled to open for the 2020 Major League Baseball season

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Rob Manfred’s mistake was giving sign stealers too much leeway

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You’d like to think that competing professionals would operate ethically, within the bounds of propriety as well as the written rules. But that’s not true in the field of journalism, or politics, or professional sports; there always have been and always will be those willing to trade shards or whole slices of integrity for an advantage. In baseball, this is what happened with doctored baseballs, with corked bats, with teams taking liberties with domestic and international scouting and signings, and most notably, in the steroids era.

Ignoring those lessons of history is the mistake that commissioner Rob Manfred made as the growing problem of electronics in sign stealing emerged. As one manager said recently, the first domino of this fell when MLB implemented instant replay. Rather than stationing a fifth umpire or some sort of independent arbiter to deal with each questionable decision, MLB decided to bestow challenges on each manager, and along with that came the installation of video replay systems close to each dugout. With the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, that was like handing a bag of fireworks to a teenager; we all probably should have anticipated the falling dominoes that followed.

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Setting sights on spring training, Jose Altuve confident embattled Astros will ‘be in World Series’

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HOUSTON — A week filled with fines, suspensions, firings and impromptu press conferences as a result of their sign-stealing scandal, ended awkwardly in Houston Saturday, with the Astros meeting and greeting fans and media at their annual winter festival.

Two of the team’s biggest stars — Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman — took center stage: One for his unfazed confidence, the other for his terse tone and tenor.

Houston second baseman Jose Altuve said the Astros will be in the World Series again while pushing back on the idea that the team’s cheating went beyond the sign-stealing detailed in MLB’s report earlier this week.

“Believe me, in the end of the year, everything will be fine,” he said. “We’re going to be in the World Series again. People don’t believe it, we will. We will. We made it last year, we were one game away of winning it all.”

Altuve was the AL MVP in 2017, and since the sign-stealing scandal broke, some have questioned whether he deserved the award. In recent days, he’s also been accused of wearing an electronic device under his jersey to tip pitches, which he vehemently denies.

“You know, we all know that some people made that up,” he said. “And like I said, the best thing to happen to me was the MLB investigate that and they didn’t find something.”

While Altuve didn’t have a problem answering numerous questions about the scandal, Bregman, Houston’s third baseman, refused repeated attempts by reporters to get him to address what happened and kept repeating variations of the same phrase.

“The commissioner made his report, made his decision and the Astros made their decision,” he said. “And I have no further comment on it.”

After being pressed on if he plans to discuss the sign-stealing in the future, Bregman finally gave an answer that didn’t seemed as rehearsed. “I think in the 2020 year,” he said, “our actions will speak louder than our words.

Altuve and Bregman were the only two stars at FanFest who were part of the 2017 championship team. Many of the other big names that helped the Astros win their first title, including World Series MVP George Springer, ace Justin Verlander, who was the ALCS MVP and shortstop Carlos Correa, did not attend the daylong event where fans interact with players.

Meanwhile, Altuve was consistent is spinning the storyline forward. With spring training less than a month away, he wants the focus on baseball.

“I have two options. One is cry and one is go down and play the game and (perform) and help my team,” he said. “And you know what one I am going to do.”

MLB’s investigation of Houston began after former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers, who played for Oakland last season, told The Athletic about the team’s scheme to steal signs. Martinez said he has spoken to Fiers and gets why he came forward.

Houston manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were suspended for a year by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred on Monday after he found illicit use of electronics to steal signs during the Astros’ run to the 2017 World Series championship and again in the 2018 season. Team owner Jim Crane then fired both Hinch and Luhnow. Manager Alex Cora left the Red Sox on Tuesday after the report identified him as the ringleader of the sign-stealing scheme when he was the bench coach for the Astros in 2017.

The Astros were fined $5 million, which is the maximum allowed under the Major League Constitution, and must forfeit their next two first- and second-round amateur draft picks.

The investigation found that the Astros used the video feed from a center field camera to see and decode the opposing catcher’s signs. Players banged on a trash can to signal to batters what was coming, believing it would improve the batter’s odds of getting a hit.

“It’s a tough situation and as a team we have to stay together and go through this as a team like we’ve been doing, always,” Altuve said. “We have to talk about it at spring training and try not to let things in the past distract us for next year.”

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Cardinals’ Harrison Bader confident he’ll start in center field this season

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ST. LOUIS — Harrison Bader is confident he’ll be in center field for the St. Louis Cardinals when the season begins.

Bader was in St. Louis on Saturday taking part in the annual Cardinals Winter Warm-Up.

“I’m the starting center fielder,” the 25-year-old Bader said. “It’s my position. I’m going to take it. There’s no sense in talking about it. I’m looking forward to showing up Day One guns blazing and ready to go.”

While there is no question about his defensive ability and speed in center, it’s his bat that gives some pause.

Last season, Bader finished with a .205 batting average. He hit 12 home runs, drove in 39 runs and stole 11 bases.

“Last year, individually it wasn’t what I wanted it to be production-wise,” Bader said. “The biggest thing I’ve taken away at this point is how I responded. I’ve been very fortunate to be with people behind the scenes who’ve helped me take steps in the right direction to help me produce like I want to and how I know I can.

“There’s no secret to it. There’s no special sauce. This is a day-in and day-out grind. My swing is feeling really good. All you can do is go out there and play hard. That’s what I’ve been doing.”

“I’m the starting center fielder. It’s my position. I’m going to take it. There’s no sense in talking about it. I’m looking forward to showing up Day One guns blazing and ready to go.”

Harrison Bader

Bader finished his 2018 rookie season hitting .264 with 12 homers and 15 stolen bases in 138 games. He took over in center after Tommy Pham was traded on July 31 to Tampa Bay. His flair in the outfield, making diving catches or running down line drives in the gap, made him a fan favorite.

Bader began 2019 as St. Louis’ starting center fielder, but offensive struggles landed him on the bench. He was sent to Triple-A Memphis on July 30. When he was demoted, Bader was hitting just .195 with six home runs in 90 games.

The Cardinals brought him back Aug. 20 and Bader made a big impression in his first game after being called up. He legged out a triple, scored two runs, walked three times and made a spectacular diving catch in shallow center during a 9-4 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.

Then in a five-game stretch against Colorado and Pittsburgh, Bader got eight hits. But he tailed off again after that.

“My bat was not present last year. Plain and simple,” Bader said. “It showed up a couple of times but I wasn’t nearly as consistent as I needed to be.”

Following the season, he was a Gold Glove finalist.

“The Gold Glove recognition was nice,” Bader said. “As tough as it was at the plate, you don’t want that to carry over into the field. Regardless if I’m a .330 hitter or what I was last year as a hitter, I always want to play as a Gold Glove center fielder.

That mentality will always stick with me.”

Bader certainly might be the opening day starter in center. However, he could just as easily find himself in a platoon role.

There might be a challenge to Bader in spring training. Center field will likely be one of the most competitive battles for the Cardinals this spring.

President of baseball operations John Mozeliak has said he views center field and left field as open tryouts this spring.

Possibly in line for the job in center is Dylan Carlson, a 2016 first-round draft pick. Carlson is considered one of the team’s top breakout prospects this season. Last year, he hit .292 with 26 homers and 20 steals as a 21-year-old between Double-A Springfield and Triple-A Memphis.

Carlson has above-average speed and shows the instincts that could make him a standout defender in center.

The Cardinals are thought to be interested in dealing for Rockies star third baseman Nolan Arenado. Bader has been one of the names mentioned in trade speculation.

“I live in the present. I know my name has been tossed around,” he said. “No trade has been made so I’m going to go with, they still have confidence in me to go on the field and do what I’m supposed to do and capable of doing.”

When the Cardinals recently made a deal with Tampa Bay for pitching prospect Matthew Liberatore, some initial rumblings had Bader included in the trade. He was on a plane and when he got off, Bader said he had about 60 messages on his phone telling him he had been traded.

One of those messages, however, was from his agent, telling him he was not part of the deal.

“I’m thankful for every day I get to wear this uniform. I want to be a Cardinal. I have been a Cardinal since Day One. I want myself to be a consistent bat. I want to be a very hard out night in and night out. I don’t want any pitching staff or pitcher to think I’m an easy out,” Bader said.

That’s what he wants to show the Cardinals in spring training.

“There’s no other focus in my life than to do what I need to do to produce on the field and to help us win a World Series,” Bader said.

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