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MLB News You Should Know – April 16

Jackie Robinson honored on 75th anniversary of breaking color barrier.

Friday’s games took a bit of a backseat as teams around MLB celebrated the 75th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

It was a day of ceremonies and tributes that almost didn’t happen due to the lockout. If the owners and players had taken a few more days to reach a deal on a new collective bargaining agreement, Friday’s schedule would have been a tragic casualty. Thankfully, MLB didn’t have to deal with that black eye.

In a cool move, as all MLB uniformed personnel wore Robinson’s No. 42, the number on the back of all jerseys was for the first time identical in style and color to the 42 he wore April 15, 1947 (yes, Dodger blue — even on San Francisco Giants jerseys!). Many players donated their game-day salaries to the Players Alliance, which benefits inner-city and rural baseball teams.

 

Jackie Remembered Around MLB

 

There were countless ways Robinson’s legacy was honored around baseball. From simple or intricate designs on cleats to ceremonies to inscriptions on gloves to patches on jerseys and caps, players, managers, and coaches found their own way to honor Robinson’s history-making moment and career. Robinson’s widow, Rachel, and son David were at Dodger Stadium and provided some inspirational moments.

Here is a spin around MLB, with a small sample of those gestures:

Three months after Robinson’s debut, Larry Doby became the second Black player to appear in the majors when he played for the Cleveland Indians on July 5, 1947. Renamed the Guardians before this season, some Cleveland players gave a nod to both players. Doby was the first player to go directly from the Negro Leagues to MLB.

While Friday had tremendous meaning for a lot of players, it had a special place in Cincinnati Reds rookie pitcher Hunter Greene’s story. Greene grew up in the Sherman Oaks region of Los Angeles, where the Dodgers relocated before the 1958 season. Greene, the second overall pick of the 2017 draft, will make his second career MLB appearance when he starts Saturday’s game at Dodger Stadium.

 

Mets Honor Seaver

 

There were multiple celebrations for the New York Mets at Citi Field. In addition to it being Jackie Robinson Day, it was the home opener and the unveiling of a statue for Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver.

A three-time NL Cy Young Award winner with the Mets (1969, 1973, 1975), the statue featuring the drop-and-drive delivery for “Tom Terrific” is located outside the stadium behind the Home Run Apple. Seaver died on Aug. 31, 2020. The 3,200-pound statue, which was delivered from sculptor William Behrends’ North Carolina studio in nine pieces, is 13 feet, 6 inches long, and 10 feet high.

Seaver is considered perhaps the best player in Mets history, leading New York to three NL pennants and the 1969 World Series championship.

 

No Vax, No Entry

 

Friday was the second home series for the Toronto Blue Jays, but for the first time, players who are not vaccinated for COVID-19 were denied entry into Canada. It is Canadian policy not to allow unvaccinated nonresidents to cross the border. The U.S. has the same policy. The Texas Rangers were able to bring their full Opening Day contingent to Toronto.

But the Oakland A’s were the first team affected, having to place three players on the restricted list — relievers A.J. Puk and Kirby Snead, as well as backup catcher Austin Allen. Also, outfielder Stephen Piscotty was placed on the COVID injured list. Players on the restricted list do not receive a salary or service time for time missed.

Don’t worry, I’m sure New York Yankees fans will react calmly when the Bombers head to Toronto for the first time for a May 2-4 series and are expected to be without at least one key player.

 

Shohei Powers Up

 

As you might expect following the monster offensive season that Los Angeles Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani had last year, much has been made of the brief struggles of the reigning American League MVP.

Entering Friday, Ohtani was just 5-for-29 with one walk and 10 strikeouts. Chalk it up to feeling the pressure to repeat the 46 homers and 100 RBIs of 2021 or a lockout-shortened spring training (likely the latter).

That changed quickly in the second game of the series against the Rangers when the lefty-hitting slugger belted his first homer of the season on the first pitch of the game. Proving it wasn’t a fluke, Ohtani cranked out a 415-foot blast in the fifth inning, a two-run shot. (There is more to this game: See the next item!)

And then Ohtani donned a cowboy hat:

 

He Did What?

 

Angels manager Joe Maddon took a page out of former Arizona Diamondbacks skipper Buck Showalter’s playbook. Showalter famously intentionally walked Giants slugger Barry Bonds with the bases loaded and a two-run lead and two outs in the ninth inning on May 28, 1998. It worked as the D’backs won 8-7.

Fast-forward to Friday. Maddon, never one to be outdone, did the same thing for a second time in his managerial career, this time with Rangers shortstop Corey Seager at the plate. In this case, the stakes were a lot lower as Maddon’s decision came with the Angels trailing 3-2 with one out in the bottom of the fourth inning. It backfired in the moment as the Rangers went on to score two more in the fourth for a 6-2 advantage. But Maddon had the last laugh as the Angels roared back for a 9-6 victory.

Maddon, as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays’ bench boss, also intentionally passed Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton with the bases juiced on Aug. 17, 2008.

 

Bauer May Force Decision

 

Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer hasn’t pitched since June 28 of last season due to an investigation of alleged sexual assault by one woman on two occasions. MLB and the MLB Players Association agreed to a series of paid administrative leave for the rest of the season and, in spring training, extended through Saturday. On Wednesday, that leave was pushed to April 22.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office declined to file charges in the incident. The lockout prevented the MLB Commissioner’s Office from talking with Bauer after the DA dropped its case. MLB has been investigating whether Bauer violated the policy against sexual assault and domestic violence.

Now comes word from Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times that Bauer might attempt to show up at Dodger Stadium on Sunday to challenge whether there is a binding agreement on the recent extension of his leave.

What ultimately might happen, Shaikin reports, is that Commissioner Rob Manfred could issue a suspension by the end of Saturday to prevent any public spectacle.

 

Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

Steve Drumwright

Steve Drumwright is a lifelong baseball fan who retired as a player before he had the chance to be cut from the freshman team in high school. He recovered to become a sportswriter and have a successful journalism career at newspapers in Wisconsin and California. Follow him on Twitter @DrummerWrites.

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