Posted in Baseball

Ch-ch-ch-changes…

Pirates OF Andrew McCutchen warms up before an exhibition game between the Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Ballpark in 2010 (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)
Pirates OF Andrew McCutchen warms up before an exhibition game between the Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Ballpark in 2010 (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)

The fans in Pittsburgh watched Andrew McCutchen play his last game as a Pirate on tv Oct. 1. He went one-for-three, hitting a double off of Gio Gonzelez and left the game for a pinch-runner. The Pirates went on to win 11-8 over the playoff-bound Washington Nationals, notching their 75th and final victory of 2017.

Last night, the Pirates traded McCutchen to the San Francisco Giants for reliever Kyle Crick and minor league outfielder Bryan Reynolds.

The Giants, very much in win-now mode, will be interesting to watch. In addition to McCutchen, they added longtime Tampa Bay Rays star third baseman Evan Longoria this offseason. I don’t remember the last time a team acquired two players who were so strongly identified with a different franchise in one winter. Neither is the star that they once were, but magical things seem to happen in San Francisco.

The Pirates are clearly hoping to build for the future. Crick gives them a potentially interesting reliever who’s ready to help at the big league level and Reynolds gives them a lottery ticket for 2020 or so. Given the lackluster return Pittsburgh got for two years of Gerrit Cole, this isn’t an awful package for one year McCutchen.

But it’s the end of an era that once showed such promise in Pittsburgh, and it’s sad that the team wasn’t able to do more when they had McCutchen than go to the playoffs three times and only advance to the Divisional Series once.

And more bad news for Pirates fans… team owner Bob Nutting says this cycle is going to keep happening until there’s a “fundamental redesign of the economics of baseball; that’s not what we’re going to have.”

But as frustrating as it’s gotta be, at least the Pirates have a plan and an owner willing to take some responsibility for the team’s moves. You can argue that Nutting should be willing to risk more of his own money or sell the team to someone who is, but he’s out there sharing his point of view with the media and the fans. (Contrast that with Mets ownership, where everyone is content to let GM Sandy Alderson take all the fallout from unpopular moves even though it’s unclear what financial resources he’s got to work with.)

In other news of interest:

Posted in Baseball

Yankees continue to squeeze fans

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Yankee Stadium (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)

Remember the days when it felt like the Mets’ owners just viewed their fans as walking wallets? They still screw up sometimes, but they’re doing better. (Winning also helps.)

Yankees fans aren’t so lucky. This week, the Yankees announced that they are doing away with print-at-home tickets, ostensibly over counterfeiting concerns. Traditional paper tickets, which can also be counterfeited, are still being used.

So it really seems like an escalation of the Yankees’ war against StubHub. The new policy adds an extra barrier to buying tickets from StubHub on the day of the game – you would have to pick up your paper tickets at a StubHub office about half a mile away from the stadium.

If you buy your tickets on the Yankees’ ticket exchange, which will not let sellers offer their tickets below the face price, you will be able to have them sent to your smartphone. (No smartphone? You’re still out of luck.)

When Yankees Chief Operating Officer Lonn Trost went on WFAN’s Boomer and Carton show, he made his feelings about some of his team’s fans pretty clear:

“The problem below market at a certain point is that if you buy a ticket in a very premium location and pay a substantial amount of money. It’s not that we don’t want that fan to sell it, but that fan is sitting there having paid a substantial amount of money for their ticket and [another] fan picks it up for a buck-and-a-half and sits there, and it frustrates the purchaser of the full amount….And quite frankly the fan may be someone who has never sat in a premium location. So that’s a frustration to our existing fan base.”

Trost is being a bit ingenous when he talks about premium seat tickets selling for $1.50, but even if that happend, so what? When you go to a baseball game, do you ask the person next to you how much they paid for their seats?

Cal Ripken Jr. wants to turn youth baseball into baseketball to attract more kids, but it’s clear that teams have an idea about which fans should be at MLB games.

Roger Dean Stadium, spring training home of the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins, got rid of the popular right field grass berm (ticket cost: $15-$20) and replaced it with a new 136-seat club section (ticket cost: $52-$60).

That’s just the latest example of what happens almost every time a ballpark gets renovated or replaced… affordable seats get replaced with more expensive ones.

 

On some level, the folks in charge at MLB want to go back to the days when baseball was America’s game. But it’s going to be hard for that to happen as long as executives keep making decisions that prioritize maximizing short-term revenue gains over growing the number of baseball fans.

Posted in Baseball

Cardinals sign Jeremy Hefner

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Jeremy Hefner signs autographs after batting practice at Citi Field in 2012 (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)

Jeremy Hefner will pitch in the St. Louis Cardinals organization next year after missing the last two seasons while recovering from Tommy John surgeries.

Hefner pitched for the Mets in 2012 and 2013, making 36 starts and 14 relief appearances. He was one of the guys who always seemed to find time to sign autographs on days he wasn’t pitching.

Here’s hoping he gets back to the major leagues in some role.

Source: Hardball Talk

Posted in Autographs, Baseball, Uncategorized

A late holiday surprise: Mark McGwire’s autograph

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I found a surprise waiting for me in Friday’s mail – a signed Mark McGwire 1988 Topps card. When McGwire joined the Los Angeles Dodgers as their new hitting coach for the 2013 season, I mailed this card (one of my favorites of the late 1980s) to him and asked for an autograph. I didn’t really expect to see it again, but it wasn’t a big risk – I must have at least a dozen more.

Well, almost two years later, I have my autograph. And if it’s the last one I add to my collection in 2014, it’s a fine way to end the year.

Most people can’t look at McGwire without seeing a cheater who used steroids, and they’re not wrong.

But I also remember the 1998 home run race between McGwire and Sammy Sosa that captured national attention, even though I wasn’t really paying much attention to baseball that summer. (I was too busy graduating college and figuring out what came next.)

And I remember the young Oakland Athletics slugger who hit 49 home runs in his rookie season and was half of Oakland’s “Bash Brothers” with Jose Canseco. I loved watching their home runs on sports highlights shows long before any of us were really thinking about steroids in baseball.

McGwire will never earn a place in Cooperstown, and I won’t  argue that he belongs there. But he definitely does belong in my collection, and his autograph joins Clayton Kershaw‘s as one of my favorites that I got through the mail in 2014.

You can follow Paul’s Random Baseball Stuff on Facebook or Google+, see my photos on Flickr and Instagram, and follow @Paul_Hadsall on Twitter, where I talk about about a variety of things in addition to baseball.

Posted in Autographs, Uncategorized

Happy Thanksgiving

This Thursday, Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving. While our popular traditions surrounding the holiday involve eating too much, getting ready to shop for bargains and watching football, the federal holiday of Thanksgiving was created during the Civil War as a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

So at the very least, I invite you to spend a few moments this week thinking about some of the things that make you feel thankful.

I’m thankful for all of the people who chose to spend a few minutes signing autographs for me.

The number of cards arriving in the mail last week decreased as I’ve had less time to write letters, but I did get my first 2014 Topps Update cards signed.

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Until his All-Star selection this year, Pat Neshek probably had a bigger fanbase among autograph collectors than the fans of whichever team he happened to be playing for in a particular year. Neshek is among a small number of Major League Baseball players who collect cards, and the only one who will actually trade signed cards with his fans.

Continue reading “Happy Thanksgiving”

George Greer, the Mets’ Triple-A hitting coach who received credit for “fixing” Travis d’Arnaud during his midseason demotion to Las Vegas, has been reportedly been snagged by the St. Louis Cardinals. (Adam Rubin, ESPN New York)

So, scratch one potential candidate off the list for the Mets’ major league hitting coach vacancy….