Mark Townsend

  • Report: Drone detection system was tested at MLB All-Star game

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 3 hrs ago

    In a story that will do more to startle us than make us feel safer, the New York Times is reporting that the MLB All-Star game in Minneapolis was secretly used as a testing site for a system used to identify drones.

    According to the report, the radar kept an eye on the sky above Target Field and successfully served its purpose for the experiment. That's the good news, which should make us feel a little safer as baseball fans, Americans and, frankly, as mortal human beings. However, the troubling news is there were no measures in place to prevent drones from actually entering the stadium, and the expenses involved kept MLB from using a full blown detection system during the postseason.

    Here's more from the Times report:

    Using finely tuned detection programs brought in by the Department of Homeland Security, “Operation Foul Ball,” as it was known, identified several small, commercial drones flying in the area. Some were similar to the quadcopter that crashed on the White House lawn Monday.

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  • OFAC confirms stance on unblocking Cuban baseball players

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 13 hrs ago

    Yoan Moncada and other Cuban baseball players currently pursuing Major League Baseball contracts officially cleared a major hurdle on Friday night.

    According to Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs, Moncada's agent, David Hastings, along with other Cubans players who requested a “specific license” from the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control, received an e-mail from OFAC confirming they will not grant a specific license to Cuban nationals who are already unblocked via the general license. 

    In other words, anyone who meets the government’s requirements for the general license, which Moncada and other Cuban infielders Hector Olivera and Andy Ibanez already have, is cleared by OFAC to sign with a major league team. Now it's up to MLB to revisit its guidelines and adjust in accordance with the new regulations.

    [Yahoo Sports Fantasy Baseball: Sign up and join a league today!]

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  • Byron Buxton remains No. 1 on's prospect rankings

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 17 hrs ago

    For the second straight season, Minnesota Twins outfielder Byron Buxton is the No. 1 ranked prospect in baseball, according to's official rankings

    The announcement was made during a live special which aired on MLB Network on Friday night. Chicago Cubs slugger Kris Bryant, who was named baseball's No. 1 prospect by ESPN analyst Keith Law, was ranked No. 2. The top five also featured a trio of shortstops, which goes as follows: Carlos Correa of the Houston Astros, Francisco Lindor of the Cleveland Indians, and another Cubs farmhand, Addison Russell.  

    Despite an injury plagued season that limited him to just 31 games and a disappointing .234/.307/.395 slash line, Buxton was able to hold off the hard charging group in the eyes of's staff. Though as senior writer Jim Callis noted, the difference between Buxton and Bryant was barely noticeable. 

    Among the other notable items:

    Mark Appel settles at No. 30

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  • Red Sox take wise gamble on Alexi Ogando

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 20 hrs ago

    The Boston Red Sox search for pitching depth continued on Friday with the signing of former All-Star Alex Ogando. 

    According to Fox Sports Ken Rosenthal, it's a one-year major league deal worth a guaranteed $1.5 million, which is roughly $1 million less than Ogando was projected to earn in arbitration before being non-tendered by the Texas Rangers. 

    And yes, there's a good reason why Ogando was non-tendered just three years removed from his All-Star selection. His past two seasons have been riddled with injuries. In 2013, Ogando was limited to 23 appearances (18 starts) because of nerve damage and inflammation in his shoulder, which later morphed into a biceps issue. In 2014, he worked just 25 relief innings due to a sprained ulnar collateral ligament, which is often a precursor to Tommy John surgery.

    With that recent injury history in mind, there are obvious concerns that Ogando may not be able to hold up for a full season, either as a starter or reliever, but Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington is wise to take the gamble.

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  • MLB Network special to reveal Top 50 prospects for 2015

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 2 days 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 it airs a one-hour special revealing'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 of 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'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 2 days 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 2 days 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 5 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 6 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.

    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 6 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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