Hank Aaron passes away at 86
It’s been a tough stretch for baseball in terms of losing all-time greats, as we’ve seen some of the game’s greatest pass away in a short period of time over the last year or so. Perhaps none hit as hard as Hank Aaron, who passed away on Friday. Aaron is, of course, one of the greatest to ever play the game. What strikes me about Aaron’s career is that, as someone who obviously did not see him play, I mostly heard about the home run record growing up. It was never explicitly put this way that I can remember, but it always felt like he was just a good player who played for a long time and that’s how he got the home run record.
Once I got older and started learning about things like Baseball-Reference, I learned the truth, which is that Aaron is one of the best all-around players of all time. Yes, he did play for a long time and in that sense he was an accumulator, but he was great in all of his seasons. He made the All-Star team in every year of his 23-year career except for the first and last seasons. He still remains the all-time leader for both RBI and total bases. And, perhaps my favorite stat, he has over 3000 hits, and he would still eclipse that mark if you set his home run total to zero. He is one of the five or so greatest position players to ever play the game.
Of course, Aaron was not just a great player and that was all there is to tell about his story. While he was doing these great things in the field, he was still playing in an extremely racist country and dealing with vitrol throughout his career. That only grew when he got closer to Babe Ruth’s record. It’s an important part of his story and one that cannot be forgotten, as it left emotional scars he would carry for the rest of his life. Bradford William Davis at the New York Daily News puts it better than I ever could.
To be honest, most of the deaths we’ve seen of all-time greats, while of course sad, haven’t hit me as hard as this one. It’s not that I had any personal connection to Aaron. He wasn’t a former Red Sox player so I didn’t have that kind of second- or third-generation experience like I did with someone like Ted Williams. I never met Aaron. But there was something about his presence that seemed larger than life, even relative to other all-time greats.
Padres sign Jurickson Profar
Transitioning from the loss of a legend in the sport to a transaction is pretty much impossible, so we’re just going to dive right in. Before the Red Sox made their move to sign Enrique Hernández, it was the Padres signing another utility man in which Boston had some interest. That would be Jurickson Profar, who heads back to San Diego on a three-year deal worth $21 million, the same AAV as Hernández’s deal.
Profar had spent last season in San Diego as well, and the former number one prospect had his best season at the plate, finishing the year with a 111 wRC+. Of course, it was a shortened season, so how much stock you want to put into a career-year in 2020 is a valid question. As far as his fit on the Padres, there’s certainly not a clear position. They already have a full infield with Eric Hosmer, Jake Cronenworth, Fernando Tatís Jr. and Manny Machado, to say nothing of Ha-Seong Kim, who was signed this winter as well. Then, in the outfield they have Trent Grisham, Wil Myers and Tommy Pham. My guess is that either they believe the DH is coming or they have a trade in the works. Either way, Profar will play all over the place, but it’s hard to even see where the playing time will come even without a set position.
Before the Hernández signing was reported, we learned that Boston had strong interest in Profar as well. It makes sense as a pair of versatile players whose best position is at second base. Now, with the context of the Hernández deal, I think the players are close enough that I’m fine taking the guy with one fewer year on the contract. I think Profar is probably the better hitter, but Hernández brings an energy that is hard to match in this league, and his defense is more versatile as well, particularly in the outfield with his ability to play center. I would have been fine either way, though.
Marlins sign Anthony Bass
The Marlins added pitcher Anthony Bass to their roster on Friday, giving the reliever a two-year deal worth $5 million total. Bass is coming off a strong season in Toronto, having pitched 26 games in the 60-game season and finishing with a 3.51 ERA with 21 strikeouts and nine walks. Miami is missing a true lockdown reliever at the end of their bullpen, and while Bass isn’t that he’s another option they can throw in the late innings to try and hope someone takes a step forward and takes over the ninth.
But really, we know the story here. Fish sign a fish.