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Sports Commentary 11/12/13 – The Return of the Hot Stove League

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Photo Credit: Elsa/ Getty Images Sport

Photo Credit: Elsa/ Getty Images Sport

IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE…..

Look out your window.  It’s beginning to look a lot like…  It’s not what you think.

If you listen carefully you can almost hear the crack of the bat.  The boys of summer are playing the games of their off season, and even in those games it’s not always what you think.

Jacoby Ellsbury turned down his qualifying offer from the Red Sox.  Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano and Hiroki Kuroda have declined their qualifying offers with the Yankees.  It’s not that they don’t necessarily want to stay put, though Granderson appears to be on the move, not fitting into the Yankees plans, and Ellsbury is rumored to want to play close to home, on the west coast, but players of their caliber frequently turn down qualifying offers, expecting to get longer term deals for more annual money.  At this point turning down a qualifying offer is as much a part of the game as changing pitchers three or four times in the seventh inning of a close game.

More surprising, or it would have been a month ago, is Don Mattingly deciding to stay on as manager of the Dodgers.  While the playoffs were still going on it was hard to tell who wanted less to do with whom.  Mattingly had the option but seemed in no hurry to pull the trigger.  The Dodgers appeared bent on pushing him toward the door when they fired his closest friend on the coaching staff, bench coach Trey Hillman.  Yesterday it was announced Mattingly will stay on with most of his staff intact, third base coach Tim Wallach moving into the dugout to replace Hillman.  It’s as much a part of the game of baseball as sending Dave Roberts from first, down a run and down to your last out in game four of the American League Championship series, trailing 3-0.

The Minnesota Twins have announced that all star catcher Joe Mauer is retiring.  From catching that is.  Starting next season the former New Britain Rock Cats star will be the Twins full time first baseman.  Switching a catcher, with all that crouch time on his knees and all those dings and dents from foul balls and errant pitches, to another position late in his career, primarily outfield or first base, is as much a part of the game as arguing a home run call over fan interference, or going ballistic when the call is reversed.  And, in the case of the 30 year old Mauer, the process was accelerated a bit when he missed six weeks of last season with a concussion.

In 2017 the Atlanta Braves will move into a new 42,000 seat stadium built with nearly $700 million of Cobb County money, ending their 20 year lease at Turner Field, which was originally built as an Olympic stadium for the 1996 games and was converted into a baseball field.  Political football to get a new stadium is as much a part of baseball as calling for an 0-2 low and away curveball.

Don’t be fooled by what you may have seen outside your window this morning.  This is as much a part of the baseball season as the All Star break.  Stoke up the hot stove and feel the warm.

With some much needed sunshine on a steel gray November day, I’m Scott Gray.

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