The European Big League Tour rolled into London for the first time a week ago and if the comments on Twitter from numerous attendees are anything to go by, it was a fantastic event. It was described as a “magical day for Herts youngsters” on the Herts Baseball Club website report and hopefully will prove to be an inspiration for many, young and not so young, that attended.
Guthrie’s on his bike
Money is far from being the key priority when dreaming of the Majors, but one of the Big League Tour contingent showed that it’s a dream job that pays well. Jeremy Guthrie re-signed with the Kansas City Royals on a three-year contract worth $25m (averaging out at just under £100k per week). Maybe he’ll use a few of those dollars to buy up a couple of Boris Bikes for him and his wife to ride around KC on.
Guthrie’s deal was one of several recent free agent signings.
Continuing on the pitching front, Hiroki Kuroda reportedly turned down more lucrative offers before agreeing a one-year/$15m deal (£180k per week) to stay with the Yankees. Relievers Jeremy Affeldt (three-year/$18m with the Giants), Brandon League (three-year/$22.5m with the Dodgers) and Joe Peralta (two-year/$6m with the Rays) all similarly decided to sign on for longer with their current teams, whilst former Twin Scott Baker has moved leagues and joined the Chicago Cubs on a one-year/5.5m contract despite missing the whole of the 2012 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Hunter and the hitters
As for the free agent hitters, the Detroit Tigers, looking to bounce back from the disappointment of a World Series defeat, moved quickly to fill a gap in their outfield. Torii Hunter has joined the team on a two-year/$26m contract (£156k per week) after spending the last five years with the Los Angeles Angels. Former Tiger Gerald Laird will take over David Ross’s catching back-up duties in Atlanta after he signed a two-year deal with the Braves worth around $3.5m. Ross left the Braves to join Boston and the Red Sox made another roster move this week by agreeing terms on a two-year/$10m contract with outfielder Jonny Gomes who spent 2012 with the Oakland A’s.
Toronto turnaround continues
One of the more intriguing hitting options on this year’s free agent market was Melky Cabrera. He looked set for a bumper payday heading into August whilst having a career year with the Giants, only to see it all unravel when he received a 50-game drug suspension. No one knows quite what to expect from Melky in 2013, but the Toronto Blue Jays decided they wanted to be the ones to find out as they signed him to a two-year/$16m contract (£96k per week). Meanwhile the Verve’s ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’ plays quietly in the background.
Cabrera joins the gaggle of former Marlins in a revamped Blue Jays lineup that will be led by a new-old manager. In something of a surprise move, Toronto ended their managerial search by turning back the clocks and re-hiring John Gibbons. Gibbons managed the team for parts of five seasons between 2004 and 2008 before being fired and replaced with Cito Gaston, himself an ex-Blue Jays manager getting a second term in the Toronto hot seat.
Gibbons’ most successful season came in 2006 when he guided the team to a second-placed finish with an 87-75 record. That wasn’t enough to earn a postseason place, but expectations will be high that 2013 could see Toronto return to the playoffs for the first time since completing back-to-back World Series triumphs in 1992 and 1993.
Nobody should be too quick to hand out postseason spots based on offseason performances though. The Miami Marlins ‘won the offseason’ last year and that certainly didn’t create a story with a happy ending.
The other major story in the Majors over the past two weeks has been the annual round of awards being announced.
The Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw put forward a very impressive case to win back-to-back NL Cy Young Awards, but few could begrudge seeing veteran knuckleball pitcher R.A. Dickey taking the honour after his incredible season with the Mets.
Things were not so magnanimous when it came to the AL MVP Award. There were two excellent candidates in Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera and the build-up to the announcement descended into a bitter debate between those in the advance statistical camp (favouring Trout) and the traditionalists (favouring Cabrera and his triple crown).
Cabrera got the nod from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) voters and it’s a real shame that both he and Trout’s seasons got dragged into a debate not of their making. Whilst my vote would have gone to Trout (I’ve yet to read a convincing argument to dispute that hitting, fielding and base-running combined he performed better than any other player in the AL – in fact the Majors – in 2012, and that’s what the MVP Award should be about in my book), Cabrera had a great year too.