Mark Townsend

  • MLB Network special to reveal Top 50 prospects for 2015

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 8 hrs ago

    With the hope of a new season also comes renewed excitement about the future of baseball and those who could become the game's next household names. That will be the focus of MLB Network this Friday night when they air a one-hour special revealing MLB.com's Top 50 prospects for the 2015 season.

    To qualify for the list, a prospect must have rookie status for the 2015 season. That eliminates a player like Javier Baez, who broke the 130 at-bat threshold in 2014 despite only joining the Chicago Cubs in August. With that guideline in mind, here are a couple things to ponder going in that will undoubtedly become the source of debates following the announcement.

    If so, the man most likely to walk through would be Chicago Cubs third base prospect Kris Bryant, who lit up the minors with 43 homers between Double and Triple A. He entered last season as MLB.com's third ranked prospect.

    What about Mark Appel?

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  • Brewers' reliever Will Smith interviews unsuspecting fans (Video)

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 9 hrs ago

    Being a relief pitcher in Major League Baseball is a tough job with an even tougher reality. Sooner or later, every fan will be able to place your face to your name, and more times than not it will be something negative that creates that connection. 

    Despite sharing a name with one of the world's most popular actors and appearing in 78 games during the 2014 seasons, that hasn't happened yet to Milwaukee Brewers reliever Will Smith. He still manages to fly mostly under the radar in his home city, and he recently used that temporary lack of recognition to his advantage to provide some comic relief.

    At the Brewers On Deck event over the weekend, Smith traded in his uniform and went undercover as newscaster Bill Schmidt to interview fans about, you guessed it, Will Smith.  

    The results were predictably entertaining. Here's a look. 

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    Not surprisingly, Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez and Hank the Dog were among the most popular Brewers, but it seemed like most recognized Smith's contributions, despite not having a clue they were actually talking to him. We'll consider that a plus under the circumstances.

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  • White Sox acquire Gordon Beckham, may move Dayan Viciedo

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 13 hrs ago

    Despite a series of high impact moves this offseason, Chicago White general manager Rick Hahn isn't ready to set his opening day roster just yet. On Wednesday, he was back to work, signing free agent second baseman Gordon Beckham to a one-year, $2 million deal.

    The somewhat surprising signing comes less than six months after Hahn traded Beckham to the Los Angeles Angels in a post deadline trade. To make room on the 40-man roster, outfielder Dayan Viciedo has been designated for assignment. That decision comes two weeks after Viciedo avoided arbitration with a one-year, $4.4 million deal.

    Indeed, that's some notable maneuvering.

    In re-signing Beckham, the White Sox at least know what they're getting, which makes him a more comfortable addition than similar free agents still available. Chicago drafted Beckham eighth overall in the 2008 amateur draft and oversaw a relatively quick development. Beckham debuted in the big leagues one year later and spent his first five plus seasons on Chicago's big league roster, hitting .245/.307/.375 in 765 games.

    As for Beckham's obviously more optimistic take.

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  • Michael Cuddyer brings card tricks, optimism to Mets clubhouse

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 3 days ago

    After finalizing a seven-year, $210 million contract with free agent Max Scherzer, it appears the rest of the NL East will need nothing short of a miracle or perhaps even some magic to overcome the Washington Nationals. With that in mind, it's probably a good thing the New York Mets had already gone out and hired a magician this offseason, signing outfielder Michael Cuddyer to a two-year, $21 million deal in November.

    And no, we're not exclusively referring to Cuddyer's baseball skills, though many times he has looked like a magician at the plate. Especially 2013, when he took home the NL batting crown. He's actually a magician with a wide range of card tricks. It's a unique talent, but it's a talent he's used for years in the clubhouse to keep teammates loose and entertained.

    On Thursday, Cuddyer spent part of his afternoon sharpening his skills in the Mets clubhouse. Only this time, he had a different audience. The Mets brought in students from PS 92 in Queens, and as you might expect, the kids were quite impressed with Cuddyer's slight of hand.

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    Actually believing they can do it won't hurt either.

  • Max Scherzer thanks Tigers fans with full-page ad

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 3 days ago

    After five seasons with the Detroit Tigers, which included four straight postseason appearances and one Cy Young award, Max Scherzer is headed east for the next seven seasons after signing a new seven-year, $210 million contract with the Washington Nationals.

    It's the end of one chapter and the beginning of another for Scherzer, but before he offcially flips the page and dons his new uniform, he wanted to say a proper good-bye to Detroit. On Sunday, Scherzer did just that, taking out a full-page ad in the Detroit Free Press that thanked the Tigers organization and the fans in Detroit for their support over the years.

    Max Scherzer thanks the #Tigers and their fans in a full-page ad in today's @freep. pic.twitter.com/5qj1H9gI4G

    With that said though, it's often a bittersweet moment when an athlete leaves behind the city where their career took off. That was clearly true for Scherzer as well.

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  • Cubs prospect recognized for helping save neighbor's life

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 3 days ago

    Before Tanner Griggs embarks on his first full season in professional baseball, the 20-year-old Chicago Cubs pitching prospect reunited with teammates of a different kind.

    On Thursday, Griggs met with the medical staff at Clear Lake Regional Medical Center in Webster, Texas and the 911 operators who helped him save the life of his neighbor Richard Gengler.

    Back in September, Griggs and Gengler, who's 61, were playing catch out in front their homes when Gengler suddenly collapsed. Griggs, who wasn't trained to perform CPR, immediately raced home to grab his phone and call for help. When he returned, Griggs realized that in order to keep his neighbor alive, he'd have to begin resuscitation efforts and learn CPR on the fly.

    With the calm voice of a stranger guiding him and poise he may not have realized he possessed keeping him steady, Griggs was able to administer the care Gengler needed. When the EMS crew arrived about three minutes later, they immediately took over and were able to regain a pulse nearly 30 minutes later. An outcome that may not have been possible had Griggs not taken charge.

    Very lucky indeed.

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  • New commissioner Rob Manfred open to defensive-shift ban

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 3 days 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. http://t.co/MJ8LSCOuqC

    Now, this is a shift. pic.twitter.com/55I1lXERop

    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 4 days 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 4 days 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.

    Maybe?

    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 4 days 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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