Here is a late bulletin. A number of sources are reporting that Dexter Fowler, who everybody believed was bound for the Orioles, is instead returning to the Cubs. I can’t imagine how he can do it if the T’s were crossed and the I’s dotted, but it’s happening to the Orioles chagrin and the Cubs’ delight. He appeared in their Arizona trining camp today rather than in the Orioles camp at Sarasota, Florida. The arrangement appeared to be a 3-year Orioles contract pending a physical. As it is now, the Cubs have Fowler this year and either team has an option for 2017.
Bulletin bulletin bulletin!!! Start humming the MASH theme in your head, folks. The Yankees (big shock) have their first injury of the season. Brett Gardner has a bone bruise to his elbow. I’m surprised it’s Gardner suffering the first injury. At 32 he’s one of the younger Yankees. All teams have a trainer, but the Yankees also have a Social Security consultant on the pay roll. Gardner was a walk-on at College of Charleston in 2003 but a .447 hitter by 2005. If that team had any pitching at all they’d have gone to Omaha for the College World Series. I listened to many of Gardner’s games on the radio, and I never heard a team lose more 12-11 and 15-14 games. As it is, the injury happened to him and not one of the many more likely candidates-Belt
As the teams prepare for spring training games that begin next week, no further moves have been made, particularly regarding Ian Desmond, Cliff Lee or Tim Lincicum. Those are the last 3 men who even might move before the season starts.
Meantime, Jorge Soler of the Cubs is 24 today. His first International exposure was in the 18-and-under Baseball World Cup, held in the quaint little town of Thunder Bay, Ontario. Soler played with the Cuban National team there. Had the tournament been held in a more metropolitan city like Winnipeg, he might have tried to disappear from his Cuban team then. As it was he defected a year later and set up shop in Haiti, from where he signed a 9-year deal with the Cubs. He made his MLB debut in 2014, hitting a home run in his first MLB at-bat of Matt Latos. He shined in the NLDS against the Cardinals in 2015 reaching base his first 9 times up.
Paul O’Neill is 53 today, as I will be in early April. He was a Reds’ 4th-round draft choice in 1981 out of high school. He began as a September call-up in 1985 and, in spite of leg issues that hampered him for years, he lasted until the end of 2001 with the Yankees. He was an All-Star 5 times and a member of 5 World Series winners-the 1990 Reds, and the Yankees of 1996 and 1998-2000. No other man has played on the winning team in 3 perfectos, as O’Neill has done. He was in right field as Tom Browning threw his perfect game for the Reds in 1988, and in both 1998 and 1999 as David Wells and David Cone put their names in immortality. He wore number 21 in honor of Roberto Clemente, who he had seen at Crosley Field in 1969.
In one of baseball’s more one-sided trades he went to the Yankees for Roberto Kelly. O’Neill was known not only for his excellent play .288 lifetime average, but for slamming water coolers and firing stuff on the field when he didn’t perform up to his ultrahigh standards. My wife in particular made mention of this side of his character above and beyond what he did on the field. O’Neill is now seen on TV either on Yankee pre- and postgame shows or doing color commentary with Michael Kay. His TV debut came in 1995 while still a player. He appeared on a Seinfeld episode called “The Wink.”
Bob Brenly is 62 today. He and Hall of Famer Michael Jack Schmidt both played at Ohio University and hold the school’s record with 10 home runs in a season. He was a catcher from 1981-89, mainly with the Giants. He also managed the Arizona Diamondbacks between 2001-04. As such he managed them to the 2001 World Series championship. He has broadcast with the Cubs, Fox and now the D-Backs, all on TV.
Another former Cubs player and broadcaster Ron Santo was born this day in 1940 and lost his life on a bleak December day in 2010. One of my best friends is a Santo fan in a major way and I had the sad duty of telling him of the passing of his idol. Santo was an All-Star 9 times, had 5 gold gloves and was posthumously elected to the Hall of Fame in 2012. He broadcast color commentary on radio for the cubs from 1990 to 2010, usually replaced by Randy Hundley when his health would not let him take the air. He contracted type 1 diabetes in 1958 at age 18. He hid this until 1971 for fear of being forced out of the sport. There were no pocket glucometers to measure sugar levels then, so he had to guess at where his sugar was. If he thought it was dipping low, he would have a candy bar in the dugout. Late in life the disease forced amputation of both his lower legs. I’m a type 2 diabetic, and when the disease tries to drag me down I think “If Ron Santo could do it, I can.”
Another Hall of Famer, Monte Irvin was born this day in 1919 and died last month. At the time of his death I outlined his career in baseball with the New York Giants.