The Miami Marlins opened up the new stadium with fireworks, but couldn’t put together any hits off of Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse in a 4 – 1 loss on opening night. Muhammad Ali delivered the game ball, which was pretty cool and very sad at the same time. You could hear the cheers for Ali throughout the stadium, but the effects of Parkinson’s disease are painfully obvious – the tremors are very visible and Ali looked so much older (he’s 70) than the man I remember as a kid.
I met Ali when working for Sprint in Kansas City in 1992. Even then, his voice was softened and he slurred, and there were small tremors in his hands. I remember two or three things about that visit. First, his hands were enormous. When I shook his hand, his hand practically devoured mine. Second, he still had a great sense of humor – he did this joke where he claimed he could move a briefcase with his mind. When it didn’t move, he asked us, “Who do you think I am? I’m a boxer, not a magician.” Finally, what I really remember was thinking to myself that this was the closest thing to meeting God that I will likely ever experience. I mean – it was HIM, Ali. The Greatest. Of all the people I have met, it was the only time I can remember being totally awed by someone’s presence.
Back to baseball…
If you are an Orioles fan, this can’t be good… The Orioles lost a charity baseball game to the State College of Florida Manatees – a community college team – 2 – 1 in eight innings. A couple of years ago, the Manatees beat Pittsburgh, a team that went on to lose nearly 100 games… [Bradenton.com]
Andy Pettitte threw a scoreless inning against the Mets and hopes to get ready in time to join the Yankees in May. If he makes it back, he’ll get a one-year, $2.5 million dollar contract. [SI]
Torii Hunter accidentally set off the alarm in his house, leading to a visit from a couple of gun-wielding police officers. The officers were merely following protocol and the guns were never pointed directly at Hunter. However, Hunter’s identification was in an upstairs bedroom and he was tailed as he walked up to get his wallet. [ESPN]
Vanderbilt pitching recruit and potential first round draft pick Stephen Gant was found dead near his Linden, TN home apparently having committed suicide by gunshot. An investigation into Gant’s death continues. [FoxSports]
Aches and Pains
Tampa closer Kyle Farnsworth will go on the DL with soreness in his elbow caused by a muscle strain. He joins B.J. Upton (back) and Sam Fuld (surgery, right wrist) on the DL. [ESPN]
Other players who found their way to the DL as the season started include:
Tim Hudson (back)
Ryan Madson (TJ Surgery)
Carl Crawford (wrist)
Grady Sizemore (back)
A.J. Burnett (eye socket)
Ted Lilly (neck)
Stephen Drew (ankle)
Charlie Morton (hip)
Andrew Bailey (thumb)
Jose Ceda (TJ Surgery)
Ryan Kalish (shoulder)
Joba Chamberlain (dislocated ankle)
and a number of players who will get 15 days after being nicked up in spring training.
The details of the deal signed by the Reds and first baseman Joey Votto were released – 12 years and $251.5 million, the third largest contract in value and the longest in terms of years in baseball history. The deal includes a club option in 2024 (!) when Votto would be 41 years old. This more than doubles the contract given to Ken Griffey, Jr. – at one time the largest contract signing in Cincinnati history… [ESPN]
The New York Mets signed Jonathan Niese to a five year extension worth more than $25 million. Niese won 11 for the Mets in 2011. [SI]
Washington pitcher John Lannan was optioned to AAA, and wasn’t happy about it. Lannan was an opening day starter in 2009 and 2010, and has requested a trade. [ESPN]
The Twins sent pitcher Scott Baker to the DL and optioned starting pitcher Jason Marquis to AA New Britain to get work since both missed time in Spring Training. [SI]
In a late spring training trade, the New York Yankees sent pitcher George Kontos to San Francisco for catcher Chris Stewart. Stewart was given the backup job, which meant that Francisco Cervelli was unhappily dispatched to AAA. Kontos pitched well at AAA last season earning a cup of coffee in September. The big right hander is a Northwestern Grad… As for Chris Stewart, he’s a catch and throw guy – not much of a hitter even in the minors. He must be pretty good – Cervelli has logged a lot of innings the last couple of years so it’s a bit of a surprise to see Cervelli moved to AAA.
This is the time when players are optioned to AAA or recalled to the majors having earned a spot on the roster – it’s a long list. A couple of things caught my eye, though…
Nick Johnson made the Orioles roster
Felix Pie was released by Cleveland
Bill Hall was released by New York.
Those celebrating with cards, cake, or remembrances include:
(1876) Bill Dinneen – pitcher, later an umpire
(1907) Merritt (Sugar) Cain… Today, he’d get the song Cocaine played when he came to the plate. Shouldn’t Lorenzo Cain have the nickname “Sugar”?
(1938) Ron Hansen
(1951) Rennie Stennett – one of my favorite Pirates of the 1970s…
(1976) Ross Gload
(1985) Lastings Milledge