Some things to talk about while you read John Royal's excellent take on the Crane money business...
1) Fernando of the Martinii out of the WBC
It was a throwaway line from Brian T.'s notebook on Tuesday, but it has some pretty big implications for baseball.
Outfielder Fernando Martinez (Spain) opted out of the World Baseball Classic
As I said, it was a very small part of the story, with no comment from the Astros or Martinez. But, here's what general manager Jeff Luhnow said on Jan. 17 to Brian McTaggart:
"The big challenge is ... a guy like Fernando Martinez, who's trying to make our club, [being] gone for an extended period of time. I think that potentially hurts him, even if he does well in the Classic," Luhnow said. "It hurts him because he's not there with our coaches, being seen firsthand. It makes it a little bit more difficult. The fact he's playing for Spain means he's not going to be gone the whole month. Nothing against Spain, but they're not likely to make it past the first round."
Ahh, the plot thickens.
Luhnow said publicly that F-Mart's chances of making the roster would be much smaller if he played in the WBC. I'm sure he said the same thing privately to Martinez, and so he realized that it was in his best interest not to play and get eliminated for Spain.
Tags got some reaction from F-Mart and it's about what you'd expect:
"I just thought about and I figured it would be a lost couple of weeks and I want to make the team here," he said.
Point taken and all that, as Craig Calcaterra said earlier Tuesday. What I find interesting is the implication for the World Baseball Classic. This is ostensibly a 16-team tournament, but baseball and all the countries involved want it to be bigger and better. They want a March Madness type tournament with plenty of intrigue and ratings.
The problem is if players like F-Mart get pressured successfully by their clubs to stay off the lesser light teams, there will not be much of a competition. With the bigger countries like the US, Venezuela and the Dominican, there will always been enough players to go around.
But, there won't be a groundswell of baseball around the world. Basically, this sort of thing limits the potential success of the Classic. Because of that, I can imagine that the commissioner's office probably talked to Luhnow about his public comments and asked him politely to not do it anymore. My guess is Luhnow doesn't care.
2) More Spring Training Goodness
I really like Bo Porter. I also like Brian T. Smith, though he might want to work on the formatting of some of these spring notebooks. There's a ton to unpack in this latest snapshot, but here is the things that stood out to me:
Brett Wallace homered multiple times, while Rick Ankiel hit at least two longballs. Ankiel drilled a homer to right field. With several teammates admiring the shot, Porter stepped up, joking, "You know that’s a foul ball, right?" Why? Because only deep center-field shots count in batting practice, Porter said.
More evidence that Wally's new swing is working? Hmmm.
Also nice to see Ankiel homering, though that was the one part of his skill set we were pretty sure he'd be able to duplicate with the Astros. General contact is another story...
I do like Porter's attitude about this. He may have been joking, but I think there was some truth to it when he wanted those homers going to deep center. Porter strikes me as the type who always searches for improvement, always working on getting better. Two days in and I'm liking his leadership.
Oh, and one last thing, I think I've got a new favorite nickname for Nate Freiman.
The 6-foot-7 Freiman sometimes looks more like a football tight end than a first baseman, and he towered above Wallace at first. When a throw from shortstop flew high, Freiman said, "I got you," while the ball was in the air. The response from short: "6-7, thank you."
3) Subber in Big Leagues Mag
He posted a FanShot about it, but I just wanted to mention it again. Our own minor league star, Subber10, has been writing about the Astros for the Big Leagues Mag. His Astros Preview is featured in the 2013 Big League Preview edition they have ready now.
Subber, as you probably know, has the Astros farm system down pat. His take, along with the rest of the content including fantasy baseball analysis, is worth checking out.
Plus, when he's rich and famous and running a site like John Sickels, we can say we knew him when.