The Washington Nationals did not have much luck finding a closing pitcher this offseason. After missing out on a few big free agents, the team decided to add veteran closer Joe Nathan.
On Tuesday, Nathan agreed to a one-year, $1.25 million minor league deal with the Nationals. As part of the contract, he has the chance to make over $3 million if he reaches his incentives. Nathan received an invitation to spring training.
Considering the Nationals’ depth in the back end bullpen right now, Nathan actually has a decent chance to have a significant role with them in 2017. The 42-year-old right-hander spent time with the Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants last season. Between the two teams, he only pitched 6.1 innings. Nathan went 2-0 and did not allow an earned run.
Although Nathan did pitch well when he was called upon last year, he certainly is not the same pitcher that he was once. He missed the majority of the 2015 season after suffering an injury to his right elbow in April while with the Detroit Tigers. The injury required him to undergo Tommy John surgery. This was the second time in Nathan’s career that he needed to have that kind of surgery. The first instance came back in 2010 when he tore his ulnar collateral ligament in spring training.
For someone who has had Tommy John surgery twice, Nathan has put together a very impressive career. He has 377 total saves, which puts him eighth on the all-time saves list. His career ERA is 2.87. Nathan is also a six-time All-Star.
Even though he is past his prime, the Nationals could still get some use out of Nathan. They do not have a definite closer going into the 2017 season. Mark Melancon was Washington’s closer for the final few months of last year after the Pirates traded him to them in late July. However, Melancon signed a four-year, $62 million contract with the Giants back in December. He was one of the closers that the Nationals missed out on this offseason. They were also reportedly interested in Kenley Jansen, but he ended up re-signing with the Dodgers. As of right now, Shawn Kelley is most likely the front runner for the Nationals’ closer job. That does not mean that Nathan cannot take the job away from him should he have a better spring training.
Nathan was not the only relief pitcher that the Nationals added this week. They also signed right-hander Matt Albers. He spent last season with the Chicago White Sox, where he went 2-6 with a 6.31 ERA in 58 games.
The Nationals desperately needed bullpen help, and they got some this week. We will see if Nathan and Albers can actually contribute to the team this year.
Flyers Remove Statue of Kate Smith
The Philadelphia Flyers have joined the New York Yankees in the removal of ties to singer Kate Smith, whose famous rendition of “God Bless America” was played at both Flyers and Yankees games.
Earlier this week, the Yankees decided to suspend the use of Smith’s rendition, which was played during the seventh-inning stretch, while they investigated allegations of racism against the later singer.
According to a report from the New York Daily News, there are conflicting claims about Smith’s 1939 song “That’s Why Darkies Were Born” which
originated in the 1931 Broadway revue “George White’s Scandals” and was considered satire but includes racist language, including the line;
“Someone had to pick the cotton. … That’s why darkies were born.”
The song was recorded by Smith and Paul Robeson, who was black.
The Flyers put out the following statement on Sunday (h/t ESPN):
“The Flyers have enjoyed a long and popular relationship with ‘God Bless America,’ as performed by the late Kate Smith, a woman who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor for her patriotic contributions to our nation.
“But in recent days, we learned that several of the songs Kate Smith performed in the 1930s include lyrics and sentiments that are incompatible with the values of our organization, and evoke painful and unacceptable themes.”
Smith, who was popular during the WWII era, recorded the offensive jingle, “Pickaninny Heaven,” which she directed at “colored children” who should fantasize about an amazing place with “great big watermelons,” among various other treats.
Smith also endorsed the “Mammy Doll” back in 1939 which was based on a racist caricature of a black woman similar to Aunt Jemima.
“The Yankees have been made aware of a recording that had been previously unknown to us and decided to immediately and carefully review this new information,” a club spokesman said. “The Yankees take social, racial and cultural insensitivities very seriously. And while no final conclusions have been made, we are erring on the side of sensitivity.”
The odds aren’t good that Smith’s songs will return to their prominent places during sporting events such as they were with the Yankees and the Flyers.
There is a lot of cleaning up to do when it comes to racism in sports, and weeding out songs attached to artists with questionable, and controversial, backgrounds such as Smith’s, is important in pushing forward towards the future.
MLB Investigating Racist Social Media Messages Sent to Cubs’ Carl Edwards Jr.
Major League Baseball is investigating racial messages sent, via social media, to Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Carl Edwards Jr. prior to his demotion to the Triple-A Iowa Cubs back on April 6th.
According to The Athletic’s Patrick Mooney, the messages have caught the attention of both the Cubs and the MLB Players Association, leading to the launch of the investigation.
Mooney had been a solid bullpen option during the last few seasons, but had a nightmare start to the 2019 season posting a terrible 32.40 ERA in just 1.2 innings of work over four appearances.
Carlos Zambrano Attempting Comeback, Signs with Indy Team
Former MLB pitcher Carlos Zambrano is attempting a comeback and has signed with the American Association’s Chicago Dogs, according to the Chicago Sun-Times’ Gordon Wittenmyer.
Zambrano last pitched in the majors back in 2012 with the Miami Marlins, but earlier in his career he finished in the top five of the Cy Young voting in the National League three times as a member of the Chicago Cubs.
Zambrano started his comeback bid last fall when he took the mound for 7 starts in the Mexican League, pitching to the tune of a 5.18 ERA, and performing even worse during a short stint in the Venezuelan Winter League.
Given his recent lack of production, it is a longshot to believe that Zambrano will return to the MLB level, but stranger things have happened.
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