Concussion-compromised Justin Morneau retires

From All-Star to pleasant memory thanks to a concussion or two, Morneau now works in the Twins' front office . . .

From All-Star to pleasant memory thanks to a concussion or two, Morneau now works in the Twins’ front office . . .

Add Justin Morneau to the list of baseball players whose careers have been compromised and then brought to a close due to concussions and their after-effects. The longtime Twins first baseman who made subsequent stops in Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Colorado has retired to take a gig in the Twins’ front office, as a special assistant.

2017, Part Two: How do you like them there apples?

Houston, you have no problem . . .

Houston, you have no problem . . .

More than a few hope it’s a trend, but the Houston Astros became the second consecutive World Series winner to end a championship drought and the third of the first four major league expansion teams to win a Series. And, the first to do it in spite of a 2014 Sports Illustrated cover story predicting it. Like the Cubs a year before them, they looked like they had fun playing baseball while they were at it. A pair of trends devoutly to be wished, meaning that for 2018 it would wonderful if the Cleveland Indians break their own such drought and have a blast while doing it.

Trading a franchise face isn’t easy, or fun

Longoria---shown here running it off with the bomb that sent the Rays to the 2011 postseason---goes to the Giants with the Rays rebuilding . . .

Longoria—shown here running it off with the bomb that sent the Rays to the 2011 postseason—goes to the Giants with the Rays rebuilding . . .

When franchise faces change franchises, it’s jarring no matter what the circumstances that prompt the changes. Even if you have lots of advance knowledge that it’s going to happen. Even if the worst kept secret in baseball is that one of them is going to change addresses.

The latter applied to Giancarlo Stanton for, oh, about the entire season before he was dealt to the Yankees. Even before the group featuring former Yankee franchise face Derek Jeter bought the Marlins, it seemed a question of where, not whether Stanton would go.

The Cardinals’ hearts match their minds in the Piscotty deal

Piscotty, shown sliding home here, just got the best slide home he could have asked for with his mother stricken with ALS . . .

Piscotty, shown sliding home here, just got the best slide home he could have asked for with his mother stricken with ALS . . .

When the Cardinals were bumped out of their final National League wild card hope at September’s end, I observed several things. Including the trio of Stephen Piscotty, Randall Grichuk, and 2016 rookie star Aledmys Diaz dropping off the OPS+ table to a collective 87 between them. The Cardinals, I noted, were going to have to figure out how to re-adjust the trio.

Is Gil Hodges really shy of being a Hall of Famer?

Gil Hodges in the Ebbets Field batting cage . . .

Gil Hodges in the Ebbets Field batting cage . . .

How beloved and respected was Gil Hodges during his playing career? Enough that when he sank into a ferocious batting slump crossing the end of the 1952 season and the beginning of the 1953 season, the entire borough of Brooklyn, if not all New York City, took up prayers for him. A devout Roman Catholic, Hodges was genuinely touched that even non-Catholic churches joined the prayer chain.

Jack Morris, Hall of Famer at last . . . but . . .

Jack Morris, in his prime with the Tigers.

Jack Morris, in his prime with the Tigers.

There are plenty of great pitchers who weren’t quite Hall of Fame great and didn’t get in. There are more than a few Hall of Fame pitchers who got in despite not quite being truly Hall of Fame great. Jack Morris, who’s been elected to the Hall by the Modern Baseball Era Committee with his longtime teammate Alan Trammell, belongs to the latter category.

Morris was as tenacious a competitor as I ever saw pitch, and that’s without remembering a certain World Series-winning game. But the Modern Era Committee just wasn’t right to elect him to Cooperstown, and there’s no disgrace in being a great pitcher who falls just short of Hall of Fame greatness.

Otani says an enthusiastic hello to the “Angels family”

Shohei Otani greets a small throng outside Angel Stadium Saturday . . .

Shohei Otani greets a small throng outside Angel Stadium Saturday . . .

It may have been as simple as one thing. Of all the major league teams with which he dealt, Shohei Otani felt the closest bond-in-the-making with the Angels.

“While there has been much speculation about what would drive Shohei’s decision, what mattered to him most wasn’t market size, time zone, or league but that he felt a true bond with the Angels,” his agent Nez Balelo said in a formal statement. “He sees this as the best environment to develop and reach the next level and attain his career goals. More than ever, I believe this is not only a special talent but a man of special character, and like everyone else I’m excited to see him in major league baseball.”

Stanton and the Yankees make a pigeon out of Jeter

Stanton to the Yankees, but who pays the bigger price?

Stanton to the Yankees, but who pays the bigger price?

The first thing that comes to mind with the Yankees about to deal for Giancarlo Stanton is: Nationals fans can relax. Bryce Harper isn’t going to be in Yankee pinstripes next year or for the foreseeable future. Dealing for Stanton means the Yankees have likely priced themselves out of next year’s free agency market.

Stanton spurned opportunities to go to his native West Coast when he rejected a deal to the Giants. Those who’ve reported on Stanton’s thinking have said he wants to go to a provable contender, but with the Giants not looking much like one anymore that took care of that.

The first Shohei Otani, not the next Babe Ruth

From a Fighter to an Angel, but beware the overkill . . .

From a Fighter to an Angel, but beware the overkill . . .

The surrealistic sweepstakes is over, apparently, never mind how enough baseball watchers seemed exhausted by it. Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani has agreed, apparently, to sign with the Angels. In Japan, he pitched like Juan Marichal and hit like Babe Ruth. If he’s going to do likewise in the United States, the American League made only too much sense.

Tracy Stallard, RIP: Acceptance

Stallard on the mound as Maris ran out Number 61 . . .

Stallard on the mound as Maris ran out Number 61 . . .

On the fiftieth anniversary of throwing the pitch Roger Maris smashed for his 61st home run of 1961, I couldn’t resist writing of Tracy Stallard. I led off by saying that if we weren’t a society that tends to think of defeat as a six-letter euphemism for mortal sin, Stallard would wear a T-shirt saying Maris had to hit a record breaker to hit him at all.