Trader Jack” is back at spring training and couldn’t be happ

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Trader Jack” is back at spring training and couldn’t be happ

Mensaje sin leerpor panxing18 » 15 Abr 2019 19:48

WEST PALM BEACH , Fla. (AP) — “. Back in baseball, where he belongs, after a season away.Now a special adviser to the Washington Nationals‘ general manager, Jack McKeon feels refreshed after a bit of a break from the place that’s been his world for most of his 88 years. He managed more than 1,000 wins in the majors, another 1,000-plus in the minors and was a GM, too.“This is in your blood. It’s your love. When I used to manage the Marlins, I’d get up at 7, go to church at 8:30, then turn around and go right to the ballpark. People said: How come you went to the ballpark alone at 9 o’clock, 9:30? I’d say that it was like my living room. My home,” McKeon said during an interview at the Nationals’ spring training facility. “I’d go out and jog. Read the papers. Smoke a few cigars and wait ’til the game started.”Those Padron cigars are still around, but only to gnaw on; he stopped lighting them up more than a half-dozen years ago after double-bypass heart surgery.“When I see people, first thing they ask is, ‘Can I get a picture? Where’s your cigar?’ So I always keep one on hand,” said McKeon, whose son, Kasey , is Washington’s director of player procurement. “I cut ’em in half, chew ’em. Just stick ’em in, like a prop.”So much else is the same as it ever was when it comes to the manager of the 2003 World Series champion Florida Marlins — today, they’re the Miami Marlins — along with the Kansas City Royals, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres and Cincinnati Reds.His nickname — earned because, as he says, “I kept wheelin’ and dealin’, and so it stuck” while running the Padres in the 1980s — is so ingrained that the license plate on one of his cars reads “Trader J.” Friends call him “Trader Jack,” and he signs text messages simply with “Trader.”Also unchanged: His knowledge of the game. His sense of humor. And, of course, his penchant for telling stories.Oh, those stories.Get McKeon started, and he’ll regale you for 10, 20, 30 minutes, each tale leading to another, a wink and a smile punctuating his promise of, “I’ll tell ya one more.”There are common threads. Every character is truly a character , depicted in detail — how tall or slender, how voices sounded, how smart (or not). There’s usually an element of self-deprecation. There’s always a punchline.On this particular morning, as birds chirped around in the breeze, McKeon got on a roll. He recalled setting up an electronic “wire” that allowed for direct communication with his pitcher in the early 1960s at Triple-A Vancouver, predating by a half-century the watches Major League Baseball tested this spring to evade sign-stealing. Or the time he wanted rope tied around a player’s feet when he reached first base so the guy wouldn’t take off when he shouldn’t. Or when he went to a pawn shop and bought a $3.95 gun that shot blanks to scare a runner ignoring “Stop!” signs at third base.“You try to absorb as much as you can,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “He’s definitely a teacher. And I try to be a student.”Washington GM Mike Rizzo wanted McKeon for precisely that purpose: passing along what he knows.“He’s a mentor to me. He’s a person that you can bounce things off of. I can. Davey can,” Rizzo said. “He checks just about every box that you need as an experienced baseball person.”McKeon was available because he was among four Marlins executives — along with Andre Dawson, Tony Perez and Jeff Conine — let go after a group led by Derek Jeter bought that team in 2017.That scuttled a plan to let McKeon run Miami for one game in September 2018 so he could break Connie Mack’s record for oldest manager in the majors.“I’m not worried about it. I’m not politicking. It would have been nice. I just didn’t want it to seem like a PR thing,” McKeon said. “If it ever happens, fine. If it doesn’t, so be it.”McKeon will be based in Washington during the season, which begins Thursday, and will travel to help minor league managers and coaches and evaluate prospects.In sum, Rizzo vowed to keep McKeon busy.Trader Jack is just fine with that after his brief respite, even if it afforded him time to go to the beach or Las Vegas or spend time with a family that includes 10 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.“I got a chance to see what the other side lives like. As the season wore on, especially near the end, it got boring hanging around. I needed to go back to work,” McKeon said , then added with a chuckle: “Plus, my wife kept saying, ‘Why don’t you go? Go. Go. Go.'” SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Accustomed to the postseason, Daniel Murphy built his free agent checklist around playoff contenders.When the ascendant Colorado Rockies showed as much interest in Murphy as he had in them, working out the details of a two-year, $24 million contract was no big deal.“When you get to a point in your career where I am at, there’s a lot more baseball behind me than in front of me,” said Murphy, who reported this week for the Rockies. “Being fortunate enough to play in the postseason the last four seasons, it is something that I want to do, and this organization is built to do that. This is a team built to win now.”The Rockies achieved a franchise first by making consecutive playoff appearances, in the NL wild card game in 2017 and the NLDS in 2018, and Murphy sees no reason to believe the progression will slow.“Hopefully I can be part of a ball club that goes deeper than that,” Murphy said. “The pitching staff is really underrated. What they were able to do at altitude last year was very impressive. I think the lineup is deep and dangerous.”The move also seems a good fit for the Rockies, who will play Murphy at first base and move Ian Desmond to center field.Murphy played in only 91 games between Washington and the Cubs last season after being delayed because of offseason micro-fracture surgery on his right knee, but in the five previous seasons he averaged 40 doubles, 15 homers and 78 RBIs with a .302 batting average and .464 slugging percentage.That type of production could help invigorate an offense that hit .256, had a .322 on-base percentage and will be without departed free agents DJ LeMahieu and Carlos Gonzalez. That batting average was the lowest in franchise history , and the on-base percentage was second-lowest.“He’s going to help our guys in a lot of ways,” Colorado manager Bud Black said. “Love the experience. Love the playoff experience. He’s been with winning teams. He’s played well in the postseason. This guy is a tough, tough player. What he does through an at-bat — the lower strikeout, controls the strike zone. That’s an at-bat that everybody watches, And his ball talk is great.”A career .299 hitter in 10 seasons, Murphy has done even more in high-leverage situations. He has hit .309 in 25 playoff games, starting with a memorable 2015 postseason in which he hit three homers for the Mets in the NLDS victory over the Dodgers and four more in an NLCS victory over the Cubs. He has a career .327 batting average with runners in scoring position.“One of the big things that I try to accomplish with runners in scoring position is being a little more aware of when I get a good pitch to hit to put a good swing on it and not miss it,” he said. “So maybe take fewer chances and try to ensure that I am going to center the baseball. Contact can kind of cover over a lack of power.”Murphy also has had great success at Coors Field, hitting .330 with 10 doubles and 19 RBIs in 26 games there.“I don’t think it is necessarily a ballpark built for more homers, but it is a ballpark that is built for more offensive production,” Murphy said. “It is a place that if you are able to make contact, there are rewards for that. And making contact is one of the few skills that I possess in this game.”Murphy, 33, has spent most of his career at second base and has not played first base regularly since playing 97 games there in 2009 and 46 in 2011 with the Mets.Both he and the Rockies see a short re-acclimation period.“He knows at this point in his career that it is best for him and best for the team he is on,” Black said. “He’s a natural infielder.”
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