Mark Townsend

  • Michael Cuddyer brings card tricks, optimism to Mets clubhouse

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 1 day 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.

    Your browser does not support iframes.

    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 2 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 2 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 2 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 2 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 2 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 2 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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  • Report: A-Rod attended meeting with commissioner-elect Rob Manfred

    Mark Townsend at Big League Stew 3 days 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 3 days ago

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

    According to KSBY.com, 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 3 days 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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