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Mets’ Daniel Murphy Gets Bryce Harper with MLB Version of Between-the-Legs Pass

Daniel Murphy might have a fairly decent AND1 mixtape with the sick moves he flashed getting Bryce Harper out at first.

Next Impulse Sports’ Pete Blackburn spotted the play of the year. OK, to be fair, it was the play of spring training, but we think you will agree it’s still something quite wonderful.

In the sixth inning of an eventual 3-1 win by the Mets over the Nationals, Washington’s Harper tried to get some slap-bunting work in with one out and nobody on.

The ball finds second baseman Murphy sprinting in to cover. This being spring, Murphy decided to err on the side of flash over substance, so he tossed the baseball through his legs to get Harper at first.

Anyone in the stands with a towel is advised to wave that over their head and scream, “Ohhh!”

The announcers were impressed when they noticed that what looked like a short-arm toss from the 28-year-old was actually a mustard-off-the-hot-dog pass to Lucas Duda: “Only the Murph, watch this. That’s that Curly Neal for the Globetrotters.”

The monotony of playing split-squad games and exhibitions that don’t matter might be wearing on guys, so it’s nice that some have found ways to infuse creativity into the game.

However, we have to think manager Terry Collins greeted Murphy in the dugout with his best Lou Brown impression, telling him, “Nice throw, but don’t ever [expletive] do it again.”

We have reached the circus-trick portion of the preseason, which means the real games couldn’t get here soon enough.

We don’t think Murphy will ever bring this bad boy out of his bag of tricks again, but it’s nice to know it’s there if he needs it.


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Dodgers Pull off Dandy of a Play During Spring Training Game with Reds

In the top of the sixth, in a game that means absolutely little in the grand scheme of things, something rather wonderful happened. 

Busted Coverage’s Joe Kinsey spotted just the latest fine play during a spring that has already featured near inside-the-park heroics and various opportunities to test out the newfangled instant replay rule. 

In Thursday’s spring training game between the Reds and Dodgers, Cincinnati’s Ramon Santiago lays down a dandy of a bunt in between first base and the mound. 

Justin Turner, a player who has enjoyed stints with the Orioles and Mets, pounces on the ball and gracefully flips it into the air for his pitching teammate to handle the rest. 

Red Patterson, a 26-year-old with a fantastic name shows all that hard work doing pitcher’s fielding practice (PFPs) has really paid off. 

Patterson grabs the ball and sprints on to first, just beating Santiago to the bag. 

As Kinsey notes, you also get the added benefit of listening to the call from Marty Brennaman, a play-by-play star who has been on the microphone for the Reds since 1974

The real treat is hearing this broadcasting legend break down the play with near anonymous players, “Here’s a bunt that he takes with him, fielded by the first baseman, flipping on to the pitcher. Pretty good act right there, and it works defensively for Los Angeles.”

The only thing missing would be Brennaman calling the players, “Players” or “Those guys.” 

Turner is batting .333 in 30 plate appearances this spring, and Patterson was recently reassigned to minor-league camp. 

With Turner playing second normally, chances are great we just saw the last of this particular act of wizardry from the Turner/Patterson tandem. 

However, they showed they make quite the duo on one beautiful day in March. 


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Texas Rangers’ Skipper Once Mailed $200 in Pennies After Being Fined

Tread lightly before fining Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington, because you may have to deal with a mountain of pennies arriving at your doorstep. 

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Stefan Stevenson (h/t Black Sports Online) has a lovely little tale about a cheeky skipper deciding to pay off a fine with pennies. For the confused few who pay everything electronically, those are the tiny copper-plated coins you can find under your car seat.

According to this story, you can apparently use them as currency. Wild!

After arguing with umpires in a recent spring training game, Washington recounted one of the more memorable exchanges he endured: 

During a game in March 2011, Adrian Beltre had been thrown out and Washington quickly followed.

 “I lost my mind,” Washington recalled. “Beltre was yelling from the dugout, ‘It was outside!’ And the umpire threw him out of the game because he told Beltre to stop and Beltre didn’t stop. And then I went out there and argued with him and I said something I shouldn’t have said.”

Sadly, we’re not likely to ever find out exactly what the manager said. However, we do have something better: a story about how Washington paid the $200 fine he earned when he failed to leave the dugout after being ejected.

Washington responded by filling a box with $200 in pennies and mailing it to Bob Watson, MLB vice president in charge of discipline. Cost to mail it to New York: About $45.

Watson called after receiving the box.

Watson: “And you just had $200 in pennies hanging around? Washington: “Yes. Bob, I didn’t have my checkbook. I wasn’t trying to be funny. Now go to the bank and put that in the [change] machine and get your $200.”

Sadly, Washington chose to pay via mail, because this would have been a nice sight: 

This story contains almost too many awesome parts. We can’t be sure if the Rangers manager had a bucket of pennies lying around the house or actually went to a bank to exchange some bills for rolls of coins. Either possibility is hilarious. 

The best part is that Watson had to deal with a form of currency that really should have been snuffed out years ago. Perhaps, and this is really just blind optimism, Watson kept the box as a memento of pure comedic brilliance. 

We have to think similar tactics would get you thrown out of stores, diners and other businesses that discarded the penny tray years ago. 

Yet just a couple of years ago, at least one person used a pile of change to pay an official fine. There is something so wonderful about that fact. 

We would never wish for a manager to get ejected but will now watch far more closely the next time an umpire kindly asks Washington to leave the premises. 

The hope is that he kicks up his feet and ponders how many more pennies he has in his secret stash back at home. 

For Watson, we imagine he will be far more careful when hitting the Rangers manager with a fine. Before deciding on a sum, a very important question must be answered: How many pennies is Ron Washington willing to mail?


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According to 41-Year-Old Manny Ramirez, ‘Super Manny’ Can Still Ball in MLB

For those who don’t remember, MLB used to feature one of the most vibrant, audacious and hard-hitting athletes in sport. Thankfully, Manny Ramirez hasn’t given up on his dream to once again star in the majors, this time as Super Manny. 

We warned that you would only encourage him, Chinese Professional Baseball League. 

ESPN Deportes’ Enrique Rojas (h/t NESN) reports the 41-year-old former big leaguer who played 19 seasons with teams such as the Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers wants back in the bigs. 

According to Rojas, Ramirez was featured on Grandes en los Deportes, a show on ESPN Radio 104.5 FM, which airs in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

That’s where he dropped the following: 

My qualities are still there, and I just need an opportunity to continue showing that the ‘Super Manny’ can help a team. For now, I have no team interested, but I’m still working. Maybe I don’t have anything this week, but who knows? Maybe next week I could get a call. 

We can only hope there is a cape involved for this Super Manny iteration of the player who was many times more character than athlete. 

Ramirez continued: 

Three weeks ago, I received a call from Taiwan to check if I wanted to return there, but I feel I can still help in MLB, in a role similar to Jason Giambi in Cleveland, for example. If it is God’s will, I could play in MLB this season. I just need a team to open the doors. I can help in the field and in the clubhouse for the younger guys.

Ah, so ManRam has come to the delusional portion of retirement, usually set aside for the later years when babbling relentlessly along the golf course takes place. 

It may seem harsh, but the declining skills of an older player aren’t the only worry of a potential organization looking at Ramirez. 

In 2009, while with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Ramirez was suspended 50 games. As the Los Angeles Times‘ Dylan Hernandez reported at the time, the test showed Ramirez’s system contained, “a female fertility drug that is used by steroid users to restore testosterone production to normal levels.”

In 2011, his time with the Tampa Bay Rays came to an end when the slugger decided to retire rather than face a second suspension under baseball’s drug policy. 

The itch to play and the ability to not only produce on the field but entertain remained, so Ramirez left for other ventures. 

As Rojas reminds, Ramirez recently ended his campaign with the EDA Rhinos of Taiwan’s Chinese Professional Baseball League, wherein he not only hit “.352 with eight homers and 43 RBIs in 49 games” but also procured some memorable highlight videos: 

And really, that remains the legacy of a player whose mere mention sparks thoughts of the classic meme before there were memes: Manny being Manny: 

Ramirez was an unbelievable talent who hit 555 home runs, garnered a .996 OPS and drove in over 1,800 runs during his prolific career. But the numbers sometimes take a backseat to the positive tests and outrageous antics for one of baseball’s more enduring characters. 

And so the will remains.

However, the larger question is if there is any need left among the 30 teams Ramirez might target. 

Rojas does note Ramirez last enjoyed a stint with the Texas Rangers’s Triple-A affiliate, hitting a mere .259 before being released. He also attempted a comeback with the A’s in 2012, hitting .302 for the organization’s Triple-A affiliate in Sacramento. 

The former slugger spoke about his time with the Rangers on ESPN Radio 104.5 FM, via ESPN: “I can’t complain about Texas. They gave me the opportunity. After my arrival from Taiwan, everybody was in game shape and I felt I was in spring training.”

Judging by those on Twitter, a Ramirez comeback is unlikely: 

NBC HardballTalk’s Craig Calcaterra believes MLB has seen the last of the outfielder: 

He’s had multiple chances to show that “his qualities are still there,” and he’s shown nothing. The A’s and Rangers gave him looks in Triple-A. He had a .697 OPS in 69 plate appearances in Sacramento in 2012 and a .698 OPS in 119 plate appearances for Round Rock in 2013.

The only thing we may see again is another report that Ramirez is in shape and ready to play in the bigs, because he seems adamant that his journey is not yet over. 

Much like throughout his career, Ramirez is going to deal with retirement in his own way, even if that means consistently pleading for a shot. 

With multiple opportunities squandered, there doesn’t seem to be anybody willing to listen. Super Manny sounds like a great character—one baseball fans would pay to watch and tune in to witness, but there isn’t one general manager out there who seems ready to believe this player actually exists. 

It’s just Manny Ramirez now, a man who had an unbelievable career, filled with amazing highs, unfortunate lows and hilarious highlights to fill out every last sentiment in between. 

Super Manny would be nice if he were real, but all that remains is a man wanting into a game that already moved on. It’s best if he does the same. 


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Watch Angels’ CJ Wilson Endure Plane Stunts, Answer Questions and Nearly Puke

C.J. Wilson‘s knowledge of the game as well as his stomach were pushed to the limit recently—and all for your entertainment. 

For the Win’s Ted Berg spotted this video of Wilson attempting to answer questions while flying with Kirby Chambliss, who Red Bull’s two-time Air Race world champion.

I guess pitchers will jump at any chance to infuse some drama during the normally mundane days of spring training. Chambliss, according to the YouTube description, took Wilson around his Arizona property in a “two-seater Edge 540 race plane.”

Chambliss started gently, asking Wilson about his playing days and what the best moment of his career has been thus far.

Wilson answers:

Hopefully I haven’t had it yet. I’m always looking for something new, something better. I’d like to throw a no-hitter. That’d be the goal. I’ve thrown like a one-hitter before. Making the All-Star team and pitching in the World Series was pretty exciting.

Getting out of the plane might be up there on his list of accomplishments. 

From there, Chambliss begins asking Wilson a series of extremely easy baseball questions. Spoiler alert: The 33-year-old left-hander doesn’t make it to the end of the five questions. 

It’s not because the questions get any more difficult but because any further examination under these circumstances would have resulted in what professional eaters like to call a “reversal of fortune.”

Right after Chambliss asks what a full count is, he performs a roll that nearly induces a cockpit full of Wlison’s lunch. Wilson explains, “We gotta chill. I almost lost it on that one.”

Hey, at least answered the questions correctly. 

Wilson is coming off a fine 2013 season. Last year he enjoyed a 17-7 record while garnering a 3.39 ERA and 1.34 WHIP, according to ESPN. He has now notched 15 or more wins in three of the last four seasons. 

That would be enough to assume Wilson is destined for great things in 2014. Now we know the pitcher can withstand an onslaught of aerial twists and turns; he even knows how far it is from the mound to home plate. 

Yup, you can go ahead and move him up on your fantasy draft boards accordingly.


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Budweiser and Ozzie Smith Are Trying to Make MLB Opening Day a National Holiday

Here’s hoping “The Wizard” has a bit more magic to offer MLB fans, because Ozzie Smith is teaming up with Budweiser for a campaign petitioning the White House to make Opening Day a national holiday. 

For the Win’s Ted Berg spotted this video that should provide a sense of optimism, however small, to those fans who feign illness every single time the baseball season begins. 

Maybe, just maybe, a baseball legend and beer company can pull off the unimaginable and combine the foolish hope that comes with Opening Day with the carefree whimsy of a day off from work and school. 

The impetus behind the campaign is simple. Smith explains in the video, “Opening Day should be a holiday. Let’s make it official. All we need is 100,000 signatures on the way to the White House.”

Yes, we have yet another petition to throw onto the pile, which seems to be massive as it pertains to Barack Obama’s tenure. 

For the White House to address the petition, 100,000 signatures are needed. As of Tuesday evening, there are a little more than 14,000 at the petition’s page, which was created on Feb. 24. Fans, however, have until March 26 to get to the magical mark. 

This is a fantastic idea that does have an obvious wrinkle, as Berg points out:

Due to Major League Baseball’s recent scheduling trend, there’s no real opening day anymore.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Lisa Brown has a similar sentiment:

The league’s 2014 opening day is Monday, March 31, although several teams play regular season games prior to opening day. The New York Yankees and the Houston Astros don’t play their first games of the season until April 1.

The Dodgers and Diamondbacks, for example, open up the season in Australia on March 22, and the two teams will also engage in a couple of exhibition games against Team Australia that will take place prior to the season opener. 

Chris Vaccaro seems to think the holiday is a fine idea, though:

We agree. 

Sure, it may be our biased affection for hot dogs, beer and baseball, as well as the notion that with 162 games to be played, anything is truly possible. 

However, if the Super Bowl isn’t gaining traction as a holiday, MLB has little chance of delivering the biggest gift to its fans in the form of a day off, so pack this daydream away next to thoughts of World Series glory. 

As for all the games taking place on various days, know that MLB would instantly remedy that if the White House actually declares the sport worthy of a holiday. 

For now, we will have to settle with faking a cough sometime in late March, culminating in a coincidental call that we can’t make it into work, because the baseball flu is quite severe this year. 


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Jesus Montero Blames Weight Gain on Overeating, Mariners Management Displeased

Jesus Montero is fat.

That sounds harsh, but it seems to be the overarching sentiment coming out of Seattle Mariners spring training, where Montero has showed up 40 pounds overweight.

The Seattle Times’ Ryan Divish (h/t The Big Lead), reports the young catcher bulked up over the winter, and not in the massive-amounts-of-muscle way. His belt size is growing and his pants are bursting, and Montero blames the weight gain on, well, eating.

Per Divish, Captain Obvious had the audacity to state, “After winter ball, all I did was eat.”

That’s excusable for an average Joe after a weekend bender in Vegas, but when you’re a professional athlete like Montero, not so much (apologies to any professional eaters in the audience). Imagine showing up to work with a hangover and telling your boss that you were blackout drunk a few hours ago…but you’re sorry. 

Things are going downhill fast for Montero, a former top prospect who was once mentioned in the same conversations as MLB wunderkind Mike Trout.

No, I’m not kidding.

Hard to believe for a middling catcher-turned-first baseman that played all of 29 games last season due to injury and a 50-game suspension after being named in the Biogenesis steroid scandal.

In those games, he had as many hits as strikeouts (21) and batted all of .208. However, the 24-year-old weighed 230 pounds, which we are guessing the Mariners might take at this moment.

While there is no mention of his current weight, Divish reports that each player is given a target weight every season—something Montero has failed to meet in Seattle on multiple occasions. 

Here is the big, beautiful specimen, via a tweet from Divish: 

All is not lost for Montero, who as recently as 2012 belted 15 home runs, batted .260 and drove in 62 runs in 135 games for the Mariners.

All optimism has been lost on general manager Jack Zduriencik, though, who had a pointed assessment regarding his nonchalant power eater, via Divish: “We are disappointed in how he came in physically.” The GM continued, “It’s up to him. I have zero expectations for Jesus Montero. Any expectations I had are gone.”

Manager Lloyd McClendon was equally frustrated: “At some point, the light has to come on for all of us. When I talked with him, I told him he’s at a crossroads. It’s time to put up or shut up.”

For his part, Montero states that he is “comfortable” with his weight and is doing all that is asked of him, including extra cardio work.

Maybe next time, Montero will instead answer for his weight with something like “big is beautiful.” At the moment, it seems the public admonishment has worked on the young athlete, who maintains, “Whatever they want. I’m here for the opportunity.”

Hopefully that means the extra work leads to some of the extra weight melting off by the start of the season, and that raw talent can beat his apparent apathy.

If that’s the case, the Mariners will have a nice asset. If not, baseball fans have just another cautionary tale that making it to the bigs is never enough, because you still have to work at it tirelessly—good advice no matter the venture.

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Marlins’ Ace Jose Fernandez Reportedly Cycled 600 Miles a Week This Offseason

Jose Fernandez picked up a nice little hobby in the offseason. Although, calling cycling 600 miles a week a hobby is just as ridiculous as Fernandez’s talent. 

South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Craig Davis (h/t The Big Lead) reports the 2013 NL Rookie of the Year hardly took time to relax this winter. The 21-year-old is doing what he can to maintain his leg strength, which includes riding his new fancy bike about 600 miles a week. 

It may be time to place Fernandez a bit higher on your respective fantasy baseball draft rankings. 

Davis spoke with an eager athlete who proved he can certainly dive into the fray and do very well when it comes to taking the mound for a struggling franchise. 

To a similar end, he jumped right into this cycling venture, straddling an expensive bike and riding around with cyclists that have been doing the same for years. 

Davis writes, “Riding in a peloton that typically contained at least 50 serious cycling enthusiasts and grew to as many as 200 on some weekend rides, he maintained a frenetic pace for nearly 600 miles a week.” 

This is the same kid who garnered a 2.19 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 187 strikeouts in his first year in the bigs. More remarkably, he managed to win 12 games and lose just six for a team that went on to a 62-100 record for 2013. 

The Marlins weren’t exactly helping their pitchers out, ranking 30th in runs, on-base percentage and slugging. Yet, Fernandez managed to go on to have a spectacular season, establishing fine numbers despite run support of just 3.71 runs per outing

It all makes sense when you consider the work he is putting in heading into his sophomore campaign. Fernandez explained to Davis why he chose to hop on a bike to build legs he hopes can carry him longer than the 172 innings he pitched last season: 

On the bike you can do intervals. You go hard and then slow down. It’s kind of like an inning, is the way I see it. I’m going really hard for 10, 12 minutes and then I slow down for 5 or 6 minutes. Conditioning-wise, it’s amazing. I’m glad that I did it. Let’s see how it’s going to work out this year. I’m not sure, but I feel really good.

That conditioning, by the way, is paying off in the form of a more established physique for a young athlete who was already as svelte and lithe as most come. Still, he is down from the 240 pounds he pitched at last year and is in remarkable condition. 

Marlins pitching coach Chuck Hernandez spoke with Davis, sounding optimistic about his young ace’s physique heading into the 2014 season. “His legs are going to be strong, obviously. It kept him in good shape and he came to camp in good shape. Past that, I’m really not interested in his bike.”

Hernandez may not be a bike fan, but he really likes Fernandez’s condition, “He’s slimmed out, he’s grown into a man now. He looks great.”

Now at a reported 215 pounds, Fernandez is proving preparations began long ago to make this upcoming year and even better one for both him and the Marlins contingent. 

Being an ace means far more than getting outs and locking down wins. It means leading from the front, showing others that even the best have to put in months of work. 

Fernandez is only 21, but he is already moving past the label of Rookie of the Year and into the far more important role as team leader. 


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Jonny Gomes Celebrates World Series Win with Massively Awesome Tattoo

Human beard Jonny Gomes decided a lifetime of memories wasn’t enough to savor his 2013 World Series triumph, so he went out and got a massive tattoo to commemorate the moment. 

HardballTalk’s Craig Calcaterra spotted a couple of tweets spawned from a recent bro hangout between Gomes and fellow Red Sox champion Mike Napoli. 

The two took time away from whatever champs do (groom their beards?) to show off a tattoo that is big, ornate and wonderful. 

Here are some images, thanks to Napoli

We need to gather our thoughts and enjoy this suddenly relevant clip of Captain Caveman: 

The first thing you will notice is that the tattooed version of Gomes also rocks a fantastic beard. In fact, you could really say this was a nod to his entire team that, as you might recall, was more ZZ Top cover band than baseball club toward the end of the season. 

On one arm, there is a massive tattoo within a tattoo as our bearded victor shows off its “’13,” a permanent ink version of Inception. On the other, we see the iconic World Series trophy. 

If that weren’t enough, an American flag seems to sway beautifully in the background. 

Even the duck boat purchased by Jake Peavy makes a cameo in the art, delivering us just a little worry that Peavy isn’t pictured. Perhaps this bearded tattoo character ran off with the bright-green memento. 

Of course, not everyone is impressed by the new ink, because the dog in the background seems to be over this entire display of shenanigans. 

As for Gomes’ beard, it’s living its last days. 

The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham reports Gomes “has a deal with Philips Norelco that will involve shaving his beard.”

Not to worry, because there is plenty of facial hair in that tattoo for a team of baseball players. Well, maybe for a far less scruffy one. 


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Alex Rodriguez and Manny Machado Have Guys’ Night out at Jay-Z Concert

And just like that, Alex Rodriguez‘s one-man wolf pack grew by two. 

Yahoo! Sports’ Mike Oz took time away from Hot Stove watching to peruse the Twitter feeds of various MLB stars. 

Thanks to that report, we now have definitive proof that Rodriguez is in great spirits despite his appeal process that continues to linger.

What we have here is the baseball version of bro-ing out or, if you prefer, a snapshot of when gentlemen decide to let their hair down, put on their fancy attire and scream, “Guys’ night out!” in unison.

If you are wondering, being professional athletes means a jaunt out with buddies features a Jay-Z concert. Living the good life with A-Rod is budding star and one of the best fielders in the game, Manny Machado (Baltimore Orioles), as well as Yonder Alonso (San Diego Padres), who did hit nine home runs once. 

Alonso also posted this picture from the festivities. 

Oz does remind us that the link between all three, other than baseball, is Miami. Machado and Rodriguez are both from there and Alonso played at the University of Miami. 

So what does this all mean for you, Joe Q. Baseball Fan? Little. 

It does give us the hope that Rodriguez picked up his boys in his slick ride before the concert and had all three chant, “Let’s get weird!” before blasting a Beyonce song. 

It also means that Rodriguez is a lot closer to Machado than we previously thought. If you recall, Sporting News‘ Troy Machir reported back in June that the newly verified A-Rod was following the wrong Machado on Twitter. 

Well, it’s wrong only if you don’t want the latest scuttlebutt on interior design

In 2013, Alonso battled through injuries, managing just 97 games played. Machado, for his part, was having an All-Star season, but suffered a horrible knee injury this past September. And Rodriguez, well, we all know he could have had a better 2013. 

MLB stars are just like regular people, looking forward to the big lights and loud music that is the future. For one Thursday night in January, all of the ills of the world dissolved into sick Jay-Z anthems. 


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