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Tim Kurkjian’s Baseball Fix – From (Ron) Washington to (Jermaine) Van Buren, baseball’s presidential name game

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You love baseball. Tim Kurkjian loves baseball. So while we await its return, every day we’ll provide you with a story or two tied to this date in baseball history.

ON THIS DATE IN 2006, I had dinner at the White House.

Former President George W. Bush is a huge and knowledgeable baseball fan. He owned the Texas Rangers from 1989 to ’94. I was living in Dallas then, so I saw him quite often at the ballpark. So, on this night, through columnist George Will, a devout lover of the game, Mr. Bush arranged baseball night for 17 people at the White House. We ate in the private residence.

The full “On this date …” archive

This is not political. I am not political. I can name all the Triple Crown winners; I can’t name all the presidents. I am hopeless. I like Mitt Romney just because of his first name. And I like George H. W. Bush because he played first base for Yale, and like Rickey Henderson, he was the rare position player who batted right-handed and threw left-handed.

Dinner at the White House was the coolest night. It began with the delightful Mrs. Bush, the most gracious host you could possibly imagine, giving us a personal guided tour of a portion of the White House, including the Lincoln Bedroom. We walked past a room that, a presidential aide whispered to us, was “where the president watches baseball.” Then we had the most perfect meal ever, which included Angus Beef Triple Play and Field of Greens.

During dinner, 17 people who loved the game, including Orel Hershiser, Harold Reynolds, Jon Miller, Mark Grace and Derrek Lee, talked about the game. We told stories, but the best part was, the President of the United States had plenty of stories from his days as the owner of the Rangers.

He also repeated the story of the first-ball ceremony before Game 3 of the 2001 World Series. The President asked Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter if he had any first-ball advice. Jeter told him he didn’t need to throw from the top of the mound, anywhere on the dirt would do. And he told the president, “don’t bounce it, this is New York. They will boo you.” The President said he was about as nervous as he had ever been in his life, but he went to the mound and threw an athletic-looking strike. The emotionally charged crowd roared its approval. It was a stunningly powerful moment less than two months after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

The president then took us into the Oval Office, which was an experience like none other. When the night ended, we met the president and Mrs. Bush at the elevator for handshakes and hugs. Mrs. Bush, so wonderful, so kind, said to me, “It’s so good to see you again, Tony.”

In honor of that unforgettable night, here is the All-Presidential, 25-man roster (24 presidents named).

C: Gary Carter, Russ Nixon
1B: Von Hayes, Reggie Jefferson
2B: Josh Harrison, Homer Bush
3B: John Kennedy, Scotti Madison
SS: Ron Washington
OF: Craig Monroe, Lou Clinton
OF: Willie Wilson, Dan Ford
OF: Michael Taylor, Brian Buchanan
Rotation: Randy Johnson, Billy Pierce, Reggie Cleveland, Babe Adams, Mudcat Grant
Bullpen: Grant Jackson, J.J. Hoover, Brad Lincoln, Jermaine Van Buren, Len Whitehouse

Other baseball notes for May 22

  • In 1938, Ted Lyons won his 200th game. He did not play a sport at Baylor. He played the trombone. A fight broke out at a football game. He joined in. His trombone was crushed. The Baylor baseball coach knew Lyons was a great athlete, a good high school baseball player, so he persuaded him to play baseball. Now he is in the Hall of Fame.

  • In 1981, Billy Gardner replaced Johnny Goryl as the manager of the Twins. Gardner was hilarious, and he was married to a beauty queen. But he roomed with his pitching coach Johnny Podres at home during the season. “Imagine being married to Miss Connecticut,” Gardner said, laughing, “and waking up every day and the first thing you see is Pod’s head.”

  • In 1992, Felipe Alou was named manager of the Expos. He had managed for years in the minor leagues, winter ball. But that year, in a face-to-face conversation, I called him, without malice, “a rookie manager.” He put his hand gently on my shoulder and said softly and respectfully, “I am NOT a rookie manager.”

  • In 1943, Tommy John was born. He won 288 games, an all-time great guy with a great sense of humor. When asked what part of the competition makes him “burn inside,” John said, “The only thing that makes me burn inside is Szechuan food.”

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Shortened MLB amateur draft to remain at New Jersey studio

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NEW YORK — Major League Baseball’s shortened amateur draft will remain at the MLB Network studios in Secaucus, New Jersey, for the first round on June 10.

MLB shortened the selections to five rounds and 160 picks in response to the new coronavirus pandemic, by far the fewest since the draft started in 1965. Before the pandemic, the draft had been scheduled to take place at Omaha, Nebraska, ahead of the now-canceled College World Series.

Clubs were able to reduce the draft as part of their March 26 agreement with the players’ association. The combined value of their signing bonus pools is $235,906,800 and the amount of signing bonus pool money eliminated is $29,578,100.

The first 37 picks will take place on the opening day and the remainder on June 11. The deadline for selected players to sign was pushed back from July 10 to Aug. 1.

Detroit picks first, followed by Baltimore, Miami and Kansas City.

Houston was stripped of its first- and second-round selections as part of MLB penalties for using a video camera to steal catcher’s signs. Boston lost its second-round selection for improper use of video.

Baseball’s draft was long held by conference call at the commissioner’s office in New York. The draft was moved to Lake Buena Vista, Florida, for 2007 and 2008.

Residents of the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico are subject to the draft.

As part of the agreement with the union, slot values to determine signing bonus pools will remain at 2019 levels and players passed over in the draft are limited to signing bonuses of $20,000 or less. That might cause more high school players to go to college. And because of the NCAA’s limit of 11.7 baseball scholarships, the change may lead to more prospects attending junior college.

All but six of last year’s sixth-round picks signed for $200,000 or more. Chicago Cubs catcher/first baseman Ethan Hearn had the highest bonus of the round at $950,000, deciding to sign rather than attend Mississippi State. San Francisco signed right-hander John McDonald, selected 326th on the 11th round, for $797,500, and Arizona gave left-hander Avery Short, picked 362nd on the 12th round, $922,500.

Among 1,082 players who were in a big league game last year after coming through the draft, 180 were first-round picks and 589 were selected during the first five rounds, according to the commissioner’s office. There were 204 from rounds six to 10, 102 from rounds 11-15 and 63 from rounds 16-20. Just 74 were from rounds 21-30 and only 50 from rounds 31-50.

Once unlimited, the draft was cut to 50 rounds in 1998 and to 40 rounds in 2012.

Signing bonus pools started in 2012 and limit the amount of money teams can spend. Each slot in the first 10 rounds is a signed a value — the range last year was $8,415,300 down to $142,200 — and each team’s values are added to a form a pool. Signing bonuses in the first 10 rounds count against the pool along with the amounts above $125,000 of players selected after the 10th round or who were bypassed in the draft and then signed.

A team that exceeds its pool is taxed, and a club more than 5% above loses a first-round draft pick the next year — a threshold never reached.

The union turned down a proposal that would have kept rounds 6-10 in exchange for cutting their slot values in half.

Teams drafted 1,217 players over 40 rounds last June.

As part of the deal with the union, teams have the right to cut the 2021 draft to as few as 20 rounds. That fits in MLB’s proposal to cut their minimum minor league affiliations from 160 to 120 in 2021, allowing each organization to drop one farm team.

For both 2020 and ’21, only up to $100,000 of each signing bonus is due within 30 days of approval and 50% of the remainder on July 1 in both 2020 and ’21.

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Tim Kurkjian’s Baseball Fix – The day Mike Schmidt realized it was time to go

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You love baseball. Tim Kurkjian loves baseball. So while we await its return, every day we’ll provide you with a story or two tied to this date in baseball history.

ON THIS DATE IN 1989, Mike Schmidt retired.

Schmidt had played in 42 games that season, he was tied for second in home runs (six) by National League third basemen at the time, and he was the active career leader in homers, RBIs, runs scored and total bases. But, at age 39, his recent play had been unacceptable to him.

The full “On this date …” archive

“We were on the bus, leaving [San Francisco’s] Candlestick [Park] for the airport to fly to San Diego,” said Bob Dernier, then a Phillies outfielder. “Mike was in the back of the bus with Chris James, Bedrock (Steve Bedrosian) and a few others. Mike looked at us and said, ‘I think that’s it, I’m done.’ Chris James started bawling. He said, ‘No, no, Mike, you can’t!’ Mike told me, ‘I can’t catch. I can’t throw.’ He was embarrassed about his defense. Defense was so important to him. He used to tell me that the All-Star team should be the Gold Glove team. He valued that more than anything, even when he was leading the league in home runs.”

Schmidt won 10 Gold Gloves; only Brooks Robinson (16) won more at third base. Schmidt led the National League in home runs eight times, which remains an NL record. He finished with 548 homers, most by a third baseman. His combination of power offensively and grace and skill defensively was breathtaking; indeed, he could play the piano and move it, too. Schmidt won three MVPs, including back-to-back years, and finished third two other times. By most measures, he is the greatest third baseman ever.

And yet it was never enough for Schmidt; he was constantly fretting about his swing. Nearly 30 years after retirement, he told me, “When I was struggling, if you had told me that I should set up in the box with my back to the pitcher, I would have tried it.”

Schmidt was hitting .203 at the time he retired. So he accompanied the team to San Diego that night, and officially announced his retirement the following day. It was so emotional. He broke down several times.

“As soon as Mike said he was done, Bedrock and I started planning the celebratory party,” Dernier said. “We were going to get Harry [Kalas, the club’s legendary play-by-play broadcaster] to speak, we were thinking about getting some Heinkens on ice. We had a great party. We were all so sad to see him go, but he had so much pride in his play, who was I to argue with that? I saw him do some amazing things. Mike was just mesmerizing.”

Other baseball notes for May 29

  • In 1981, Ellis Valentine was traded from the Expos to the Mets. In 1982, Valentine pointed his right pinky finger in my face and said, “I have more talent in this finger than most players have in their entire body.”

  • In 2010, Roy Halladay pitched a perfect game. He won the NL Cy Young Award that year. He had a replica Cy Young made for his catcher, Carlos Ruiz, because, Halladay said, Ruiz had so much to do with his success.

  • In 1941, Joe DiMaggio struck out for the third time all year. He would finish the season with 30 homers, 13 strikeouts and a 56-game hitting streak. I wrote that stat 35 years ago, and a radio guy got a little mixed up, saying, “I just read the other day an amazing stat: In the year that Babe Ruth hit 60 homers, he struck out only 13 times.” Yikes.

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Biggest needs and best fits — 2020 MLB draft guide for all 30 teams

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The 2020 MLB draft, to be held June 10 and 11, will be unlike any other. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the draft will be conducted remotely and limited to just five rounds, down from 40 in 2019. Teams will be able to sign an unlimited number of undrafted players, at a price of $20,000.

Additionally, college and high school prospects had their spring seasons cut short or eliminated altogether, leaving MLB teams with much less information on the players than they typically would have.

Here is a guide for all 30 teams, with each organization’s greatest needs, the best fits in the draft, each team’s typical approach, a list of its picks this year and more.

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