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Negro Leagues Baseball Museum’s Bob Kendrick Talks About Historic Impact

Tucked onto the corner of 18th and Vine Streets in Kansas City, Missouri sits one of the more culturally significant museums in the United States.

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM) tells the story of how these segregated leagues evolved from creation until eventually being fully integrated with Major League Baseball.

Podcast to be Named Later had the privilege Monday afternoon to interview NLBM President Bob Kendrick about the museum, the Negro Leagues themselves, pioneers such as Jackie Robinson and Buck O’Neil, along with the legacy and stories that still mean so much today.

The foremost impression you get from hearing Kendrick speak is his obvious pride. From the first question forward, you discover the smile on his face when all you hear are words.

When asked what he hoped people would take away from the museum, he answered:

“You will walk away with a newfound appreciation for just how great this country really is.”

Kansas City was the birthplace of the modern Negro Leagues. Rube Foster, an extraordinary pitcher in his own right, organized the Negro National League a block and a half away from the museum in 1920 at a local YMCA. His story could (and should) come right out of Hollywood.

“He did everything. A great player, great manager and a great owner. And—believe it or not—he died in an insane asylum.

Kansas City was also home to the Monarchs. Their most famous player—among Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell and Ernie Banks—was Robinson, of course, who played his rookie season there in 1945.

The stars of the recent movie “42,” including Harrison Ford (Branch Rickey) and Chadwick Boseman (Robinson), put on a fundraising screening in Kansas City that drew over 1,400 viewers.

Kendrick explains the impact:

“We could not be happier to see the film be so successful at the box office. We owe a great deal of gratitude to the folks at Legendary Films and Warner Brothers…for making this epic opportunity happen for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.”

The cornerstone of the museum is the “The Field of Legends.”

Twelve life-sized statues adorn this field and are positioned as if they were playing a game of baseball but, as Kendrick explains, reaching it is not easy.

“You have to earn that right and you do so by learning their story. By the time you bear witness to everything they endured to play baseball in this country, the very last thing that happens is now you can take the field. In many respects, you are now deemed worthy to take the field with 10 of the greatest baseball players to have ever lived.”

The Kansas City Royals have also embraced the continued influence the Negro Leagues still play in modern society.

Recently for a Sunday game at Kauffman Stadium, fans were encouraged to “Dress to the Nines.”

Instead of the usual ballpark attire, fans dressed in formal clothing like they did for after-church doubleheaders generations before.

Not only was there an overwhelming response, other clubs with rich Negro Leagues heritage such as Washington and New York are considering such events in the future.

The Museum, and Kendrick himself, portray the establishment and success of the Negro Leagues as a celebration.

When asked why the history of the Negro Leagues was important to remember, his response was short and profound:

“Because it is the history of this country.”

Podcast to Be Named Later was privileged to speak with Bob Kendrick. Listen to the interview here or by visiting the website. Enjoy.

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Detroit Tigers and Torii Hunter: A Perfect Match on the Road to a Title

The Detroit Tigers brought outfielder Torii Hunter on board for the 2013 season for two reasons: To help stabilize the top of the batting order to set up Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder and give a veteran voice in the clubhouse.

If April is any indication of what Hunter brings to the table at the plate, then the mission has been accomplished.

One of three Detroit regulars to hit over .300 in April, Hunter has indeed bridged leadoff hitter Austin Jackson to the heart of the lineup by hitting a very impressive .375 in the first month of the season. Scoring 17 runs himself, he has nine extra-base hits over his first 22 games.

The home run production is on the wane—hitting only one so far—but with the big boppers behind him, the Tigers need him to be reaching base, not swinging for the fences.

Seeing the ball perhaps better than he ever has, Hunter could improve on last year’s career-high average of .313 with the Los Angeles Angels.

There is always a smile on his face and he has taken full advantage of the opportunity Detroit gave him on his quest to win a World Series ring. That infectious personality has to be rubbing off on those around him.

His base-stealing days are over—he hasn’t even attempted a stolen base this year yet—and he will likely strike out more than 100 times this season, but his fast start is one of the big reasons why the Tigers find themselves at the end of April in first place in the American League Central.

One of the bigger keys to his success has been avoiding grounding into double plays.

That process started last year with the Angels, as the number dropped from a career-high of 24 in 2011 to 15. This year, he has hit into only one.

The nine-time Gold Glove outfielder has played 21 of his 22 games in right, starting 18. His two assists put him on pace for a third-straight year of double-digits, and he has yet to commit an error.

Hunter took a $6 million pay cut to chase after his first title. For both the Tigers and himself, that sacrifice of dollars for a championship run could pay off in spades come October.

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Detroit Tigers Need to Build Momentum After Sanchez Masterpiece

Friday night’s superb performance by Anibal Sanchez may have been the tonic the Detroit Tigers needed to kick start their season going forward.

Going into Friday’s 10-0 whitewash of the Atlanta Braves, the Tigers had split their first 20 games and were a game and a half behind the Kansas City Royals for the American League Central division lead.

With most of the early season chatter focused on the daily plight of the Tigers bullpen and who would close, Detroit has come out of the gate surprisingly flat in a year where experts had forecast them to win the Central with ease.

Nagging injuries to Andy Dirks and a slow start for Victor Martinez dampened the offense, however. Rick Porcello could not carry his fabulous spring north and has really struggled in his three starts.

Brayan Villarreal struggled so much in his seven appearances out of the pen, he was demoted.

The Tigers had reached the 9-5 mark and a one-game lead in the division as of April 17 after taking the first two of a three-game set in Seattle against the Mariners. Then, the bottom fell out.

The Mariners beat Justin Verlander the next afternoon and the Los Angeles Angels swept the Tigers over the weekend to put Detroit back to .500.

Besides Sanchez setting the franchise record for most strikeouts in a game with 17, each Tiger batter reached base. Detroit reached base 21 times Friday, including two doubles from the struggling Martinez.

Knocking down a red-hot team like the Braves is very important going forward. Yes, it is April, but the 10 runs scored were the most Atlanta has given up in a single game this year.

Detroit’s longest winning streak this year is four, immediately followed up by a four-game losing streak. The Royals and the Chicago White Sox are going nowhere in the standings. Any postseason run the Tigers want to get on will only come at beating them.

The Minnesota Twins and Houston Astros are on the schedule after the Braves leave town, theoretically giving the Tigers a brief respite in the schedule before a showdown in Washington against the Nationals before Mother’s Day.

Jose Valverde has been named the closer and the focus now has to change to winning, not surviving.

With all the headlines this year focused on what is wrong with the Tigers, Friday’s performance by Sanchez and the offense can change those stories to how red-hot the Tigers are.

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Report: Bruce Rondon Recalled from Toledo; Tigers Future Closer Set for Debut

The Detroit Tigers have recalled Bruce Rondon Tuesday, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Rondon was called up after the Tigers placed right-handed reliever Octavio Dotel on the disabled list retroactive to April 20.

Rondon was auditioned this spring by the Tigers for the closer’s role, but struggled with control and the pressure of pitching back-to-back days.

In turn, the Tigers sent him back to Triple-A Toledo to see how he could fare as a closer on that level while the big club decided to start the season by going with a closer-by-committee approach.

Rondon has excelled in his opportunity with the Mud Hens.

In seven appearances, Rondon has finished six games, saving three. In 7.2 innings, he has struck out nine while walking two. He has not given up a run and scattered five hits.

With the closer’s situation still unsettled, and with former closer Jose Valverde undergoing extended spring training with a minor league contract, it remains to be seen whether Rondon will be given a couple of weeks to join that closing committee or if he will take Dotel‘s role of a seventh inning/setup up pitcher.

The Tigers have struggled out of the gate, going 9-9 in their first 18 games, and have only three saves so far. Joaquin Benoit and Phil Coke have finished 10 of the 18 games the bullpen has entered.

By and large, the Tigers have had good pitching. Their 3.70 ERA is fifth in the American League.

Still, the collective bullpen has a record of 1-4 with an ERA of 4.53.  

With nagging injuries to Dotel and a slow start to Brayan Villarreal, they may find both Rondon and Valverde helpful, even if they do not close.

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Talent, Not Payroll Size, Will Determine Success of 2013 Detroit Tigers

As the Detroit Tigers go through the 2013 season, a lot will be made of the $148,693,600 salary they have on the payroll.

That is a substantial number. Sports Business Daily estimates that the Tigers will have the sixth highest payroll in Major League Baseball this year, an increase of 13.4 percent over 2012.

The amount of payroll, however, does not translate always into success on the field. The Boston Red Sox had $175 million of payroll last year and lost 93 games.

Each piece of the Tigers roster will determine how well they do this year—from Justin Verlander and his $20 million to Avisail Garcia and his league-minimum $490,000.

What gets lost in the constant talk of escalating salaries is the need of putting a team on the field that actually meshes. It is all well and good to have a potential All-Star at every position, but if they cannot produce, it becomes a giant waste of money.

That is not to say flashing the cash is a bad thing. But a smart general manager needs to determine whether a spot on the roster would be better filled by getting someone via free agency or from their farm system.

Detroit does have the advantage of being able to spend money when needed. Prince Fielder and Torii Hunter are examples of players the Tigers lured via free agency. They traded for Miguel Cabrera and Anibal Sanchez and kept both when they became eligible.

The Tigers are also fortunate to be able to reward players, like Justin Verlander, that came through their system to prevent them from leaving.

It is a luxury, but the Tigers realize that in order to compete they have to spend that money.

They also realize in the end that every guy on the roster is important to their overall success.

Monday’s Opening Day win over the Minnesota Twins is a good example of that.

After removing Verlander from the game after five innings, Jim Leyland had to depend on his patchwork bullpen for four to get it. Drew Smyly did his best to nearly blow Verlander’s handiwork.

Yet, Al Alburquerque, Joaquin Benoit and Phil Coke picked up their games and the Tigers held on for a 4-2 win.

The bottom of the lineup—not as heralded as the big-hitting Cabrera or Fielder—also contributed by stealing bases and executing sacrifices. The first game of the 2013 season showed what the Detroit Tigers were all about—playing together as a team.

We will hear all year about the money spent by the Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Yankees in trying to buy themselves a pennant. However, the reality is spending money guarantees a team nothing.

The Tigers will deal with this in the next few seasons trying to find the balance between paying high salaries and making sure all the puzzle pieces fit. If they end up with a World Series ring in the next three years then perhaps other teams can learn from the Tigers lesson as opposed to trying just to make a big splash.

*Specific salary and payroll information via Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

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Report: Rick Porcello Wins Fifth Spot in Detroit Tigers’ Rotation

After being offered to anyone that wanted to pay the right price this offseason, Rick Porcello has won the fifth spot in the Detroit Tigers‘ starting rotation over left-hander Drew Smyly.

Matthew Mowrey from The Oakland Press tells us more:



In six starts this spring, Porcello went 4-1 with an ERA of 3.00. In 24 innings, he struck out 24 while not walking a batter.

Porcello knew he had to impress in order to stay with the Tigers and delivered in spades.

Smyly also pitched very well and has earned himself a spot in the bullpen, presumably in the role of long reliever.

In six starts, Smyly went 4-0 with an ERA of 3.38, posting a better spring ERA than Doug Fister and Justin Verlander.

The move to keep both pitchers on the main club still gives the Tigers some trade options if whatever they end up settling on for the closer’s role does not pan out.

As the only left-handed starter on the roster, Smyly could also get the occasional spot start to cool down an excessively left-handed hitting lineup.

The other news Tuesday is that infielder Matt Tuaisosopo has been told he has earned a spot on the team.

The non-roster invitee is hitting .327 with four home runs and 10 RBI. 

The Tigers are expected to bring 13 position players up north when the season starts Monday in Minneapolis as the Tigers face the Minnesota Twins.

Brayan Pena and Quintin Berry are expected to grab two bench spots with Ramon Santiago, Danny Worth and Don Kelly fighting for that last spot.

Spring statistics are as of Monday, March 25 and via 

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Report: Detroit Tigers Send Rule 5 Jeff Kobernus Back to Washington Nationals

The Detroit Tigers announced Saturday that they have returned Jeff Kobernus back to the Washington Nationals, according to CBS’s Danny Knobler.

Kobernus was selected in the Rule 5 draft by the Boston Red Sox at the end of the winter meetings in Nashville. The Red Sox, in turn, traded the outfielder to Detroit for utility player Justin Henry.

However, in 10 games this spring, Kobernus only hit .220 and posted an OBP of .291. For a player that had not played at a higher level than Double-A before, that simply was not good enough to stay in the majors.

Under the rules of the Rule 5 draft, any player selected must stay on the 25-man roster the entire season, unless injured. The Tigers could not demote him without offering him back to his parent club, the Nationals.

While it was not a surprise that Kobernus did not make the Tigers roster, it is surprising that the Tigers and Nats could not work out a trade for the 24-year-old left fielder.

Kobernus has been a consistent .280 hitter in the minors with blazing speed. He stole 42 bases last year in Harrisburg in 82 games. He also can stretch out an extra base, turning singles into doubles and doubles into triples.

He has been a middle infielder in the Nationals organization and played six games at second for Detroit.

With uber-prospect Nick Castellanos already sent back to minor league camp and nagging injuries to Andy Dirks, Quintin Berry and Avisail Garcia, Kobernus could have grabbed some playing time with Detroit early in the season to either spell Dirks in left or Torii Hunter in right.

He was not ready to play full-time in the big leagues, but the conventional wisdom was Detroit and Washington would have made a minor deal to keep Kobernus with the Tigers once the team was healthy enough to send him back down.

Detroit also has Kyle Lobstein from Tampa via Rule 5—after the Tigers acquired him via a trade with the New York Mets—but he has been less than impressive posting an ERA of 7.50 in 12 innings.

Don Kelly and Matt Tuiasosopo—both non-roster invitees—are battling for the last position spots on the roster and—with Saturday’s decision—are now odds-on favorites to make the team.

*Spring statistics as of Friday, March 22 and courtesy of Baseball Reference.

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Dominican Republic vs. Puerto Rico: World Baseball Classic Live Score, Analysis


Dominican Republic 3 Puerto Rico 0

W: Deduno

L: Alvarado

S: Rodney

Dominican Republic WINS the 2013 WBC.

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Scott Kazmir Makes His Bid Count in Starting Rotation Audition

Scott Kazmir wants to be the fifth starter for the Cleveland Indians.

After Monday’s four–inning, scoreless performance against the Los Angeles Angels, he may have made a successful case.

Against a full roster—minus Albert Pujols and Mike Trout—Kazmir shut the Angels down.

In his stint, Kazmir allowed three hits, walked one and struck out four in what ended up to be a scoreless tie. If Indians manager Terry Francona thought he had a hole at the back end of his rotation, Kazmir’s outing may have started to fill it.

A non-roster invitee, the 29-year-old left-handed starter is looking to earn his way back into the major leagues. The first-round pick of the New York Mets in 2002, Kazmir made the majors two years later as a member of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

By 2007—his third full season—Kazmir started a league-leading 34 games and led the American League in strikeouts with 239. After making back-to-back All-Star games in 2007 and 08, Kazmir was a leading member of the Rays team that won the pennant.

It was in that World Series, however, Kazmir showed major control problems which, along with injuries, led to his departure out of Major League Baseball. In two starts against the Philadelphia Phillies, Kazmir walked 10 in just 10.1 innings.

Traded to the Angels in 2009 at the deadline, Kazmir found his way with six magnificent starts down the stretch. A terrible postseason and a dreadful 2010, along with some injuries, cost him his job with Los Angeles.

He has spent the last two years outside the big leagues. In fact, last year, he pitched for the Atlantic League’s Sugar Land Skeeters. With a record of 3-6 and an ERA of 5.34, it looked like Kazmir’s dream of coming back was done.

The Cleveland Indians, however, invited him a spot at spring training and he has taken every advantage.

Coming into Monday’s start, Kazmir had pitched four scoreless innings in two relief appearances, giving up no walks and two hits while striking out five.

In his start against the Angels, Kazmir mixed the speed of his pitches well and had very good movement. When he did allow baserunners on, he pitched around trouble effectively and had batters strikeout.

After that performance, he told’s Glenn Moore that he wanted the job.

Once considered by Baseball America as the No. 7 prospect in all of baseball before the 2005 season, Kazmir can deliver the goods, if healthy.

He may not be able to ever throw 200 innings or contend in the strikeout race again, but good left-handed pitching is very hard to find. Kazmir could be on the verge of reinventing himself into a much-needed commodity.

If so, then the Indians are the lucky beneficiaries. 

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Detroit Tigers: Openly Shopping for a Closer Delays Bruce Rondon’s Era

The Bruce Rondon era for the Detroit Tigers is on hold.

Just one day after Tigers manager Jim Leyland openly talked about his worry about the closers role to start the season, CBS Baseball Insider, Danny Knobler, writes Tuesday that the Tigers are openly looking to acquire a closer via trade.

The Rondon experiment was a of roll the dice from the very start.

Without ever throwing a pitch at the major-league level, the 22-year-old hard throwing Venezuelan was expected to start the year as the Tigers ninth-inning main man.

Control issues, however, have plagued Rondon in his four spring training appearances.

In 3.2 innings, Rondon walked five batters while striking out six. Add the five hits allowed and he carries a WHIP of 2.727.

The main concern appears to be the lack of strikes. Even with such a small sample size, Rondon has a walk rate of 12.3 per nine. A closer look at his minor-league statistics shows that he struggles when reaching a new level.

With the Single-A West Michigan club in 2011, Rondon walked 34 in 40 innings, good enough for a 7.6 walks per nine.

With Toledo—the Tigers Triple-A club last year—he walked seven in eight innings, topping out at 7.9 walks per nine.

Rondon was able to succeed at West Michigan because he simply did not allow base hits. In that 40 innings, Rondon only allowed 22 hits and zero home runs. When you throw in the 61 strikeouts recorded in that number, Rondon’s wildness never came back to hurt him.

Rondon had better control last year in stints with Advanced-A Lakeland and Double-A Erie. In 45 innings with those clubs, Rondon only walked 19. While not outstanding, the walks per nine ratio dropped to roughly 3.8.

The Tigers gambled that he would be able to harness his wildness and—if these reports are true—lost.

After an offseason that saw starting pitcher Rick Porcello offered to anyone who would listen, the Tigers came to spring training without an offer they were willing to take.

What started with Rondon being pulled from his next scheduled appearance to Leyland’s comments on the radio to in effect start trade negotiations via the media has turned what should have been a quiet spring training into a circus.

There are other closers on the market.

Andrew Bailey has lost his job as the Boston Red Sox closer and could be had if the price is right and the Washington Nationals have three closers at the back end of their bullpen.

UPDATE: (h/t fellow Tigers Featured Columnist Brett Kaplan)

ESPNChicago’s Bruce Levine tells us that the Tigers have asked the Chicago Cubs about Carlos Marmol recently as well.


Former Tiger closer José Valverde is also available via free agency along with Francisco Rodriguez if the Tigers want to go that route and not make a trade.

Whatever leverage the Tigers might have had this winter in trying to get a new closer has disappeared.

With general manager Dave Dombrowski and Leyland not comfortable with any of their internal options to use as closer, the Tigers have very publicly told the rest of the American League that they have a gaping hole.

For a team where so much is expected, this is not the way anyone wanted to start.

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