Mark Townsend

  • New commissioner Rob Manfred open to defensive-shift ban

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 1 hr ago

    New baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has been in office a little more than 12 hours and he's already making some interesting waves. In an interview that aired on ESPN on Sunday morning, Manfred made it clear that examining the pace of the game is first on his list of priorities, but not far behind will be finding ways to "inject additional offense into the game."

    Without being prompted for an example, Manfred specifically mentioned he'd be open to pursuing the elimination of defensive shifts, which he says give the defensive team a competitive advantage.

    Rob Manfred on eliminating shifts.

    Now, this is a shift.

    Those questions aside, Yahoo's Jeff Passan has learned that key figures within the game, including general managers who believe in sabermetrics, are actually open to such changes. 

    This is very telling: I ran Rob Manfred's idea to limit defensive shifts by two sabermetrically inclined GMs -- and both said they agree.

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  • Report: Yankees reject 'clear the air' meeting with Alex Rodriguez

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 11 hrs ago

    As Ken Davidoff of the New York Post reported early Saturday, embattled Yankees star Alex Rodriguez took his "rehabilitation tour" directly to MLB headquarters on Wednesday for a "clear the air" meeting with new baseball commissioner Rob Manfred. Details of how that meeting played out were scarce at the time, but it immediately led to speculation about when a similar meeting might take place with New York Yankees executives.

    Well, according to a New York Daily News report late Saturday night, A-Rod had taken that step with some urging from Manfred, but apparently that ship has already sailed. The Yankees not only rejected Rodriguez's request according to the report, they essentially slammed the door in his face, telling him it can wait until spring training.

    Away we go.

    On the plus side for A-Rod, it appears he's made significant progress with Manfred thanks to a series of meetings that predated Wednesday's encounter.

  • 50 Cent shows off award for 'memorable' first pitch

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 15 hrs ago

    Earlier this week we learned that Topps is set to release a special set of baseball cards featuring 15 celebrities, personalities or otherwise notable humans who threw out memorable first pitches in 2014. We also learned that among those featured will be rapper 50 Cent, who unfortunately achieved that status by unleashing perhaps the worst first pitch in the history of organized baseball.

    Yes, it was really that bad.

    Bad enough, it turns out, that the new card wasn't the only "honor" the southpaw from Queens earned. He was also the runner-up in MLB Network's Social Media Award for most Memorable First Pitch, which was voted on exclusively by the fans and actually netted him a pretty nice trophy.

    Observe, via 50 Cent's personal Instagram.


    Not so much?

    To the attached (and censored) caption we go for clarification.

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  • Take a look at Ernie Banks' 1953 scouting report

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 19 hrs ago

    The path Ernie Banks took to the big leagues might be just as amazing as any of his career accomplishments. His high school, Booker T. Washington in Dallas, did not have a baseball team while he attended, so he was forced to go elsewhere to develop his skills. Banks actually played fast-pitch softball during the summer in a local church league, and later played semipro baseball for the Amarillo Colts.

    Despite scouts having very little to go on, Banks was eventually spotted and recruited by a Negro League scout named Bill Blair. At age 19, Banks signed with the Kansas City Monarchs, earning $7.00 a game. The money wasn't much, but the opportunity proved priceless because it finally allowed Banks to be seen and scouted.

    From there, Banks went on to serve two years in the U.S. Army. When he returned to baseball, he found the doors were now wide open. His name had drawn some attention, and scouts like Hugh Wise, who filed this most interesting scouting report on July 28, 1953, were quickly on his trail.

    The rest, as they say, was baseball history.

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  • Report: A-Rod attended meeting with commissioner-elect Rob Manfred

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 22 hrs ago

    Somewhere, somebody is counting down the days until the Alex Rodriguez circus arrives at New York Yankees camp in Tampa. In the meantime — and in between workouts with Barry Bonds, of course — A-Rod is continuing what's been tabbed his "rehabilitation tour," most recently heading to MLB's midtown Manhattan headquarters for a meeting with commissioner-elect Rob Manfred.

    Kevin Davidoff of the New York Post provides the details:

    Earlier this past week, the Yankees’ disgraced, returning slugger convened with commissioner-elect Rob Manfred at Major League Baseball’s midtown Manhattan headquarters, multiple sources confirmed. In an attempted signal of goodwill, A-Rod came unaccompanied by any Players Association representatives or personal attorneys.

    Yeah, it got pretty ugly for awhile.

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  • Ted Lilly charged with three counts of felony insurance fraud

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 1 day ago

    Former major league pitcher Ted Lilly is in hot legal water in San Luis Obispo County California.

    According to, Lilly pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to three separate felony charges filed by the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney's Office, all of which pertain to vehicle insurance fraud.

    It's alledged by the California Department of Insurance that Lilly damaged his RV, which is valued at around $200,000, but did not file a claim until after he purchased insurance on the vehicle. The department’s investigation revealed that Lilly's RV was damaged in a collision sometime last spring. Lilly then sought and received a $4,600 estimate from a local body shop on March 19, but did not purchase insurance until March 24. According to agency spokeswoman Nancy Kincaid, Lilly then filed an insurance claim worth $210,000 on March 28.

    Lilly, who earned around $80 million during his 15-year MLB career, faces a maximum penalty of five years in San Luis Obispo County Jail if he’s convicted. He’s scheduled for arraignment on Feb. 5

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  • President Obama says goodbye to Cubs legend Ernie Banks

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 1 day ago

    The news of Ernie Banks' death on Friday evening has been a punch in the gut to baseball fans form all over the world, but perhaps no baseball fan felt the blow stronger than the leader of the United States, President Barack Obama.

    Having spent a significant portion of his adult life in Chicago, President Obama became a fan of Ernie Banks, just like everyone else who had the pleasure of knowing him or meeting him. And though the president is never shy about sharing his allegiance to the Chicago White Sox, his respect and admiration for Mr. Cub was always clear. Perhaps never more so than Nov. 20, 2013, when he awarded Ernie Banks the Presidential Medal of Freedom

    On Saturday, the president and his wife, Michelle, joined the rest world in paying tribute and saying goodbye to the American sports icon by releasing the following statement: 

    The beer cans are said to be a toast to Mr. Cub's legacy.

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  • 14 remarkable facts from Ernie Banks' Hall of Fame career

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 1 day ago

    The legacy left behind by Chicago Cubs legend and baseball Hall of Famer Ernie Banks goes well beyond his accomplishments on the playing field. Sure, the game of baseball was his passion and his driving force, but it wasn't what defined him. When you think of Ernie Banks, you think of the person he was, the energy and enthusiasm he possessed and the kindness and loyalty he showed every day of his life.

    With news of his death on Friday evening, you can't help but feel like some of the world's optimism and happiness died along with him. He was so filled with both that it always rubbed off on those who met him. That's the man we'll remember and honor, and that's exactly how it should be.

    However, we'd be doing his legacy a disservice if we didn't take a step back and marvel at all that he did accomplish while carving out a Hall of Fame career on the diamond. 

    With that being said, here's a look at 14 remarkable facts about No. 14 in your Wrigley Field program, Mr. Cub himself, Ernie Banks:

    2. Unfortunately, Banks never played in a single postseason game and holds the record for most career games without a playoff appearance. 

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  • Ernie Banks remembered on Wrigley Field marquee

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 1 day ago

    Rest assured, though, of all the legends who roamed the field that sits behind it, none were more beloved or respected than 'Mr. Cub' Ernie Banks.

    That marquee, in all its historic yet simplistic glory, now pays tribute to the Cubs legend and baseball Hall of Famer, who died on Friday at age 83.

    The Wrigley Field marquee pays tribute to Mr. Cub on this somber night.

    We can't imagine a visual that could strike up more raw emotion in Chicago. Ernie Banks was a hero for multple generations of Cubs fans, not just those who had the pleasure of watching him. That ballpark was his second home. The place where he rewrote history and reignited the passion of a long-suffering fanbase. It's just impossible to picture an opening day at Wrigley Field without him there to welcome fans or sing the seventh inning stretch.

    That was just one of many touching tributes that came in late Friday evening, many of which you can read here.  

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  • 'Mr. Cub' Ernie Banks dies at 83

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 1 day ago

    Ernie Banks, the man whose Hall of Fame baseball career was defined by his passion and energy – and was only surpassed by his kindness and loyalty, died on Friday. He was 83.

    A family spokesman confirmed the news late Friday evening. Few details were made available, but it was announced that a news conference will be held at noon CST on Sunday in Chicago.

    Known the world over as "Mr. Cub," Banks broke in on Chicago's North Side in 1953 and never left. Not only would Chicago be the only stop in a baseball career that spanned 19 seasons, it's where his heart remained for 43 years after his retirement. He loved the city, he loved Cubs fans and he loved being their ambassador to points all over the world. That love was returned tenfold, and will no doubt continue to be expressed to his family as it grieves. The sports world immediately took to Twitter to react to his passing

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