With major league baseball still on lockdown through the holidays, there still isn’t much to report from around the league. Negotiators from league owners and the players association met briefly last week, but mainly to hash out some technical details as opposed to core economic issues. And so, we wait.
Unfortunately, the most notable news for the Detroit Tigers was the sudden tragic death of first base coach, Kimera Bartee on Tuesday. No cause of death has been announced, but Bartee apparently collapsed in Omaha, Nebraska while visiting his father. He was 49 years old.
Bartee was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles back in the 1993 MLB amateur draft. He reached the major leagues as an outfielder with the Tigers in 1996, racking up 20 steals in 110 games in his rookie season. He was with the Tigers for three more major league seasons, then continued his playing career with a year in Cincinnati in 2000, and a year with the Colorado Rockies in 2001 before retiring.
Bartee got into coaching and scouting after his playing days ended. His major league level coaching career began in 2017 with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Tigers hired him prior to the 2021 season a roving outfield and baserunning coordinator. He was promoted to first base coach in July, and had been retained for that role again next season.
From the Athletic’s article on his passing.
“Like many across baseball, I was devastated by the news of Kimera’s passing,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said in a statement. “From the start of spring training last year, it was clear that ‘KB’ was the epitome of a player’s coach, having an uncanny ability to build deep connections with anyone from a rookie to a 10-year veteran.”
The staff of Bless You Boys would like to express our condolences to Bartee’s family. The rain of tributes pouring in from the baseball world on social media make clear what a well-liked and impactful person and coach he was.
Tigers cut ties with farm hands
Per a report from Lynn Henning of the Detroit News, the Tigers and six farmhands have parted ways. A few were briefly notable, but none are at all likely to come back to bite them. Nolan Blackwood was a near side-arming right-hander who was acquired in the Mike Fiers trade back in 2018. Pinto and Moreno both touched triple digits early in their pro careers and were on the radar as possible relief prospects, but never really developed enough in their secondary pitches or fastball command. DeCaster broke out with a nice season of relief work in 2019, but needed to develop further and didn’t show enough this season.
Tigers and six of their 2021 pitching farm-hands have said goodbye, either by one party’s or the other’s choice. The six who no longer are employed by Detroit: Nolan Blackwell, Ethan DeCaster, Sandel De La Cruz, Gerson Moreno, Wladimir Pinto, and Rodolfo Fajardo.
— Lynn G. Henning (@Lynn_Henning) December 21, 2021
Buck Showalter to the Mets
While there are no player transactions at this point, a couple of teams did land a new skipper in recent days. The New York Mets surprised no one by hiring Buck Showalter after an unofficial advocacy campaign from several national writers. Max Scherzer was also reported to have strongly pushed for Showalter, though whether that had any impact on owner Steve Cohen and new GM Billy Eppler’s decision is unknown. This will be Showalter’s fifth major league stop as a manager. He’s been in broadcasting since his final season with the Baltimore Orioles back in 2018. The bizarre refusal to use ace reliever Zack Britton in the 2016 AL Wild Card game remains his last notable moment as a manager, so he’ll have a chance to erase that memory.
Meanwhile, the Oakland Athletics have a new manager to replace long-time skipper Bob Melvin, who was hired by the San Diego Padres early this offseason. Mark Kotsay, who played for numerous teams over a 17-year career in the majors, will take over the A’s as they continue to explore options for a new stadium and turn into rebuilding mode. Kotsay has been a member of Melvin’s coaching staff since 2016, and was most recently their third base coach.
Around the horn
The Athletic, which continues to produce high quality sports writing while so many long-time industry stalwarts have reverted to content farms, has their best of 2021 selection of articles unlocked for your holiday reading pleasure.
You may remember a bit of commotion around Justin Verlander’s contract when the lockout began. Apparently the hold-up that prevented his contract being made official prior to the lockout was small enough that it was allowed to be resolved. The one-year deal with a player option for 2023 with the Houston Astros is now official.
An umpire in the Mexican League appeared to be intoxicated during a recent game and was removed by the rest of the umpiring crew.
MLB payrolls dropped four percent in 2021, reaching the lowest point in a full season since 2015. CBS Sports examines 10 teams with the most to do to compete in 2022 once a new CBA is completed. Meanwhile, MLB’s anti-trust exemption is facing a legal challenge from former minor league clubs forced out during the league’s re-organization of the minors last year. Giants’ manager Gabe Kapler has started a foundation to promote diversity in sports, baseball in particular, and discussed the project with NBC News. The Rays continue to succeed via platoon advantage. The Tigers did well in that regard this year too. Finally, Shohei Ohtani is the most popular player in baseball, which is only his due.
Baseball is awesome
If you want to start prepping for the 2022 amateur draft, Prospects Live has you covered with a really good podcast offering an early look at the next crop of young talent.
Meanwhile, Orchard Lake-St. Mary’s high school in West Bloomfield is cranking out some high end draft talent these days. A season after sending shortstop Alex Mooney to pro ball, there is another highly ranked prep star on the way.