Seattle Mariners’ prospect Victor Sanchez dies

20-year-old pitcher Victor Sanchez has died from injuries suffered in an accident, the Seattle Mariners announced Saturday night.

On February 14, Sanchez was swimming in his native Venezuela when a motorboat approached and the propeller hit his head. His injuries consisted of a double skull fracture and brain hematoma.

Last season Sanchez pitched in Double-A ball for the Jackson Generals of the Southern League. He went 7-6 with a 4.19 ERA over 124.2 innings. In 2013, Sanchez pitched a no-hitter for the Clinton LumberKings. Sanchez originally joined the Mariners organization by signing a minor-league contract with a $2.5 million bonus in 2011.

 

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Alex Rodriguez will be Tested More after Suspension

The New York Yankees infielder Alex Rodriguez will supposedly be involved in increase drug testing issued by Major League Baseball following his 162-game suspension last season according to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. “Let me be clear about this; he’ll be tested exactly like every other player who has violated the program. The program requires more frequent testing for players who are coming back after a suspension.” Manfred told ESPN New York. The baseball commissioner is warning all players that have been suspended that they are subject to increased drug testing.

The new rule according to the Joint Drug Agreement, any player who has violated a drug violation is subject to six urine and three blood tests unannounced. “I think our testing is state of the art. It’s as good as it can be,” Manfred said in his interview with ESPN New York. Rodriguez who is considered the villain of baseball will undergo these random tests throughout the season along with Baltimore Orioles star Chris Davis, who was suspended 25 games in 2014.

Nj.com

Nj.com

Manfred and Rodriguez have met multiple times since A-Rod has been reinstated and both men have seemed to put the past behind them and move forward. Rodriguez told ESPN New York that Manfred has been “phenomenal” to him since the end of his suspension.

The talked about infielder is having a solid spring hitting .290, with 2 home runs, and 3 runs batted in in 31 at bats so far this spring. Hal Steinbrenner has been impressed with his progression. “I’ve been pretty impressed,” Steinbrenner said on ESPN New York 98.7’s “Michael Kay Show.”

“I’m not a coach or a scout or anything else. He has hit some pretty good balls. He has shown some power. Even to the opposite field the other day. He’s been great. He’s been working hard. He has been optimistic. I don’t think it could’ve gone better for him.”

Bottom line is A-Rod has served his punishment and is ready to play baseball again.

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Kelly Johnson is making his case for a spot on the Atlanta Braves roster

(Source: Curtis Compton/AJC)

(Source: Curtis Compton/AJC)

There has been a familiar face roaming the fields of the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, the spring training home of the Atlanta Braves. Kelly Johnson, a former first round pick of the Braves in 2000 and member of the 2005 “Baby Braves”, returned to the Braves where he spent nine years in the organization before being released after the 2009 season. Five years and six teams later, Johnson found himself back in the Braves organization this off-season after signing a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training with a chance to compete for a backup role with the team.

Heading into spring training, Kelly Johnson was on the outside looking in at a spot on the Braves opening day roster. The club had signed infielder Alberto Collaspo to a major league contract earlier in the off-season to presumably take over the starting second base job, as well as acquired infielder Jace Peterson from the San Diego Padres in the Justin Upton trade. However, a foot injury to Melvin Upton Jr. early on in camp changed the landscape of the potential Braves roster. Suddenly, Eric Young Jr., who was also competing for a bench spot as a non-roster invitee, stepped into the starting centerfield role leaving the door slightly ajar for Johnson to make his move. Johnson started off slow the first two weeks of spring training, going 2-for-19 and striking out six times in seven games. Then the he flipped the switch. Hitting safely in nine of his last ten games, Johnson has elevated his game while going 10-for-25 with 2 HR with 7 RBI and is now hitting .273/.385/.525 this spring.

With Jace Peterson all but locking up the starting second base job, Alberto Callaspo, A.J. Pierzynski, and Jonny Gomes are the only players assured of a bench role (or platoon role in the case of Gomes) for the Braves. That leaves three open spots on the bench to be decided over the course of the next week. One spot will be filled by whomever the Braves determine will be the backup centerfielder behind Young, with the top internal option being Todd Cunningham. The second spot will go Gomes’ platoon mate, most likely Zoilo Almonte. The switch-hitting Almonte has not hit well this spring, but is out of options and can not be sent back down to the minor leagues.

The last spot will come down to Johnson and his main competition of Joey Terdoslavich and Phil Gosselin. Luckily for Johnson, there has not been much competition for the remaining bench roles and his ability to play each infield positions as well as both corner outfield spots strengthens his possibility of making the club. Terdoslavich, a switch-hitter who offers power off the bench and has the ability to play first base and the corner outfield spots, was off to a hot start at the plate this spring but has not appeared in a game since injuring his wrist while turning an unassisted double play against the St. Louis Cardinals on March 21st. Gosselin, who was considered a pre-spring lock for a utility role, has seen his stock drop due to poor performances at the plate this spring. It also doesn’t help his cause that all the positions he plays are can also be covered by guys like Callaspo and Peterson who are locks to make the team.

Baring a dramatic turnaround from his competition over the final week of spring training, it appears Kelly Johnson can be penciled into the Atlanta Braves opening day roster. If used correctly by manager Fredi Gonzalez, Johnson will be the primary source of left-handed power off the bench and should factor into the left field platoon with Gomes as well as spell Chris Johnson at third base. In a year that many experts are writing off the Braves, maybe Kelly Johnson has a little bit of that 2005 “Baby Braves” magic left to lead this years cast.

Follow OutsidePitchMLB.com writer Joshua Ebbs on Twitter @JEbbsOPSN for more MLB news, updates, and analysis. 

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Gender disparity in baseball media is an intricate matter

woman-on-computerIf you look at the numbers, the profession of baseball writing looks like a man’s world. It’s not all an insidious plot, however. The percentage of women who have made/are making a career out of writing about professional baseball in print or online is small because of a complicated set of circumstances.

Female baseball writers still deal with a stigma attached to their sex. Jenifer Langosch, who formerly covered the Pittsburgh Pirates but now writes about the St. Louis Cardinals for MLB.com, spoke about her experiences in her career.

“Standards can be a bit different for women. I have never been treated poorly by my superiors, other members of the media, players or people who work for the teams because of my sex. Most of the negative comments I have received have come from fans, but they weren’t all about my gender. Some of the negativity was because I was young and I wasn’t from Pittsburgh. Some of the pressure that you feel is internal. You feel like you have to work harder to prove yourself. You feel like you are in the spotlight,” Langosch explained.

The feeling of always being in the spotlight is ironic, since comparatively few of the women in the profession have visibility beyond the publications that they write for. Langosch believes that the main reason behind the majority of her colleagues who get invited onto radio and television shows being men is simply because of the greater number of men in the field as compared to women.

However, she does say that getting ahead in the business is all about creating your own brand. That can present a challenge for women, when their audiences are less likely to take them as seriously as their male colleagues simply because of their sex. It also can be complicated by a cycle that contributes to keeping the number of women in the field low.

The lack of visibility of women in the field of baseball writing creates a loop which maintains the status quo. Girls grow up experiencing that career field being filled with mostly men and, perhaps subconsciously, eliminate that career path from their options. Seeing many more women in sports media on the broadcast side, that becomes a preferred path simply because of the visibility.

There is another obstacle, which is inherent in the job, which Langosch believes is the sole biggest reason why so few women pursue the career path of baseball writing.

“I really think it goes back to lifestyle choices. The baseball beat is a tough one, more demanding than any other in my opinion. I’m on the road 130 days out of the year, then when I’m home, I’m still working nights and weekends. That doesn’t work for women who want to have families. For women who want families along with their careers, it does present a barrier,” Langosch elaborated.

Despite the obstacles, the profession of baseball writing needs women. Not necessarily because of their sex, that facet should be irrelevant. The field needs the drive, execution, perspective and talent that women who possess those qualities can offer. Just as any other facet of society would be lacking without the participation of women, baseball media isn’t whole without their engagement.

Langosch has a few tips for those who want to attempt making a career out of baseball writing, regardless of sex.

“You have to love the writing and reporting more than the baseball. If you just love the game, just be a fan. You have to be multi-talented and multi-faceted with all mediums. You need to always be looking ahead to how the landscape of media is changing.”

Women like Langosch are working in their desired career fields, writing about professional baseball, despite the obstacles. Baseball media needs more like her with the same amount of drive and talent. Outside Pitch MLB wants to be part of a new wave of baseball writers. If you think you have what it takes, show us your stuff, no matter who you are.

Follow Derek Helling on Twitter and like him on Facebook for more news and analysis from around Major League Baseball.

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Pete Rose’s fate and Robert Manfred’s legacy

Featured image

On the 61st day of Robert Manfred’s reign as commissioner, he faces a dilemma that may define his tenure as the head of baseball  – Pete Rose.

Despite being exiled over 26 years ago from the sport for gambling, the cries to reinstate the “Hit King” have never been louder.

Manfred’s predecessor, Bud Selig, was unwavering when it came to his opposition against reinstating Rose. But Manfred told ESPN.com today that he has “no predisposition on the core issue.”

Even with Manfred’s lack of a stance on Pete Rose, the commissioner went on to say that reinstating him doesn’t necessarily mean he can work in the game again. The concern isn’t whether there is a position in which Rose can work in the big leagues, but in a place where he wouldn’t be involved with the play on the field.

“While I don’t dismiss the idea that there may be some sort of a middle ground,” Manfred explained, “I think that it is difficult to sit in New York and monitor a situation where somebody is working at a club but he’s allowed to do X but not Y, because there’s not enough eyes and ears to do that. I guess that is my concern. Maybe it can be worked out, maybe not. But it is a concern of mine, certainly.”

Baseball shouldn’t concern themselves with Rose working for a team, but rather if they ultimately decide to ignore one of the biggest icons to ever step on a diamond.

Many think the commissioner has this magic wand to wave Pete Rose right into Cooperstown. In reality, Manfred was quick to say that Rose’s immortality is not just his burden to bare.

“Technically, what’s within my jurisdiction is the question of whether he belongs on the permanently ineligible list, which relates to the integrity of the game and the institution that I’m charged with protecting. The Hall of Fame eligibility issue in some sense belongs to the Hall of Fame.”

Robert Manfred has sidestepped immediate action on Pete Rose to stand behind protocol and processes. Whether it is the right decision or wrong decision, it doesn’t sound like Pete Rose will ever stop trying to get back into the game he loves.

The true crime will be if baseball continues to filibuster a decision on Pete Rose to then just honor his 4,256 hits posthumously. If baseball reverses their decision, it should be when he can stand and accept it, not when he’s six feet under.

Follow OutsidePitchMLB.com writer Drew Fertitta on Twitter @DrewFertitta for more MLB news, updates, and analysis.

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Out of the Park 2016 to be featured in a live demo on Twitch tonight

DruckOut of the Park, one of the premiere baseball simulation games, has recently launched its newest version and those who haven’t gotten in on the action yet will be able to see a live demonstration of the game tonight.

OOTP 16 was released for Linux, Mac and PC on Monday, March 23, with its mobile companion MLB Manager 2015 hitting iOS and Android markets yesterday. Tonight, at 9 p.m. EDT, the game’s developer Brad Cook and Steve Katsoulis will be hosting a live demo on OOTP’s Twitch channel.

The pair will check out OOTP 16’s new features, including some lesser-known ones. Katsoulis will tell his tales, and we’ll answer questions from the chat room. Katsoulis’ will share a story about Kevin Kennedy encountering armed gunmen in the Dominican Republic, with a surprising conclusion.

OOTP 16 is now an official licensee of MLB.com, which is a major milestone in the game’s history. The inclusion of official MLB.com and MiLB.com licenses enables the game to include official league logos, team logos and jerseys for all 30 MLB teams, over 150 MiLB league and team logos, and historical MLB logos. MLB Manager will also include all of the officially licensed features along with some new twists.

“This promises to be the biggest year in the history of OOTP, thanks to our fruitful partnership with MLBAM,” said lead developer and lifelong baseball fan Markus Heinsohn. “OOTP 16 is the best version of the game yet, and we have more great features in the works. Stay tuned, baseball fans.”

OOTP 16’s full list of new and improved features include:

*2015 Opening Day Rosters*

OOTP16_meet_the_teamThe brand new 2015 roster sets includes all Opening Day MLB rosters, via a free update to be released shortly after Opening Day, as well as the complete minor league system down to the rookie leagues. All major league (and certain minor league) player ratings are based on Baseball Prospectus’ industry-leading player forecasting system, PECOTA. The thousands of remaining minor league players are rated manually by OOTP’s established research team.

*New international and independent leagues added*

Last year, OOTP 15 introduced seven international leagues in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Mexico, Cuba, Italy and The Netherlands. This year, OOTP 16 adds the Australian Baseball League to that list, along with several independent leagues in the US and Japan. All of those leagues feature real rosters, with countless hours of work invested in researching realistic player biographical information, statistics, and ratings.

*New team owner goals*

Team owners now give short- and long-term goals, which may include: winning the World Series within X seasons; fixing a certain weakness on the roster; extending the contract of a star player; and much more. Players’ abilities to meet those goals not only decides if they’ll be fired but also determines if their contract will be extended at a higher salary, another new feature added this year. (The “cannot be fired” option still exists in OOTP 16.)

*Improved team finances and reporting*

The team finance system has been redesigned, including new season ticket sales, a team finances screen based on widgets, a new accounting screen, and much more. In addition, the finance-related AI was recoded, resulting in more realistic player contracts and negotiations, as well as more stable long-term team finances.

OOTP16_start_screen*Completely redesigned manager and coaches system*

Managers and coaches have certain personalities and special skills or preferences, which will result in plenty of interesting choices. Managerial choices include easy-going stat-heads and hard-nosed veterans, while some pitching coaches excel at working with power pitchers and others are better suited at overseeing finesse pitchers.

*Recoded team strategy system*

Players can set their teams’ in-game strategies faster and easier than ever before, but if they play in GM-only mode, they may find that some managers won’t allow certain strategies to be dictated.

*Better playoff coverage*

A new Pennant Chase screen displays the strength of the remaining schedule and the chance for each team to make the playoffs. The related news coverage was also improved.

*Improved 3D ball flight*

OOTP 15 introduced support for 3D stadiums and realistic 3D ball flight, which was a big step-up for the series. OOTP 16 improves on that 3D
presentation and includes great-looking 3D models of all 30 MLB ballparks.

• New play modes (Manager only, GM only, and GM + Manager)

OOTP16_yankee_stadium• An improved simulation engine that incorporates the latest research and trends, such as infield shifts and pitcher usage

• Rainouts with automatic rescheduling (including double-headers), adding the realism that comes with rain-shortened and cancelled games

• Better in-game sound effects

• An enhanced interface, such as a player info pop-up when resting the mouse pointer over a button which links to a player, or automatic syncing between lineups and depth charts when making changes to either of them.

• Player profile icons that let the user easily see how many times he has won certain awards, been a World Series winner, and more

• A new Find-A-Player feature: Define certain criteria (ratings, stats, salary etc.) and find the right player

• Recoded All-Star Game features with real voting (including online league support)

• Realistic OOTP Hall of Fame selection process, including simulated voting and new stats like JAWS, HoF Standards, Black & Grey Ink Tests

• More player awards: for example, Most Valuable Player, Playoff Series MVPs, best hitters by position, and Reliever of the Year

• Better playoff history tracking, including career playoff stats for all real players in the database and playoff leaderboards

• Alternate currencies (Euro, Pounds Sterling, Yen, etc.)

• The option to define background pictures for teams and leagues

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Boston Red Sox’s David Ortiz writes in The Players’ Tribune: The Dirt.

Source: Elsa/Getty Images North America

Source: Elsa/Getty Images North America

Yesterday David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox wrote a very compelling article in The Players’ Tribune titled “The Dirt“. He touched upon his legacy and the amount of times he has been tested for performance-enhancing drugs after his name was linked to the Mitchell Report. Ortiz also goes in depth about how he has been viewed and treated by the media since ESPN reported back in 2009 that his name was on the list of players who failed a survey drug test back in 2003.

Ortiz has always been adamant about his innocence in every interview that he has given since that report listed his name, and he continues to deny knowingly taking any banned substance in this article. Ortiz has been questioned by the media repetitively about his tarnished legacy and his steroid use, but people always forget he was actually NOT mentioned even once in the 409 page Mitchell Report.

He goes on to write: “Let me tell you something. Say whatever you want about me — love me, hate me. But I’m no liar. I never knowingly took any steroids. If I tested positive for anything, it was for something in pills I bought at the damn mall. If you think that ruins everything I have done in this game, there is nothing I can say to convince you different.”

That is a pretty stern denial from one of the greatest designated hitters of all time about his alleged steroid use. His statement also shows that he knows he will never win in the public court of opinion.

Regardless of the media portrayal and public opinion of him, his stats don’t lie. He has been phenomenal in the playoffs throughout his 18 years in the league. Some notable stats for Ortiz in the playoffs: .553 slugging percentage, .962 on-base plus slugging, 17 home runs (seventh all-time), and 60 runs batted in (fifth all-time). Some other statistics in his career include: three-time World Series champion, eight 100+ RBI seasons, career .926 OPS, four seasons with a 1.000+ OPS, career .547 slugging percentage, nine time All-Star, and 466 home runs (and counting). From being able to hit big shots off lefties to hitting against the shift and still finding success, he has proven time and time again his doubters wrong. He claims in the article to watch more film than the average player, and the statistics definitely back up that claim.

I am one of those fans who believes that once a name is linked to PED’s with hard evidence, that player is forever tarnished in terms of his legacy and Hall of Fame credentials. This has made me label Ortiz a cheater all these years since I heard through the media that he was on the list of steroid users. Also, as a huge New York Yankees fan, Ortiz has been a thorn in my side since he was signed by the Red Sox. Even if us Yankee fans try and forget it ever happened, everyone remembers his heroics in the 2004 American League Championship Series against the Yankees. The only thing that I looked upon in a positive light with Ortiz before he came out with this article, was the ESPN commercial he was in with Jorge Posada, and his speech he had on April 20th, 2013 after the Boston bombings.

Looking into the rumored reports of his steroid use, the media portrayal of him, and the amount of times he has been tested since then, has changed my opinion of the man. He is one of the more passionate and smartest players I have ever witnessed, and I am glad that I am alive to be able to watch a player of his caliber. “The Dirt” has changed my opinion on the 39-year-old slugger, and I hope it does for you too.

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Start thinking about 2016: Seattle Mariners edition

This is the 25th installment in what will be a series of articles that will cover all 30 teams, going in alphabetical order.

dccb242d263021576b30f6c875e74f4fThere are books and films aplenty with the basic plot of the one who got away. Former flames, often by chance or a series or circumstances orchestrated by others, reconnect at a later point in life. The result of the reunion varies from story to story, but it usually produces compelling and relatable drama. We love narratives about redemption and second chances.

The Seattle Mariners are the one who got away in 2014. Presenting themselves with the attractive qualities of a surprisingly stellar bullpen and a starting rotation led by royalty, they were nonetheless undone by a lack of offensive production. Seattle finished 14th, 15th and 12th in the American League in slash categories. Like high school sweethearts who split because of their wanderlust, their desire to shun the restrictions of their home towns and experience life elsewhere, their love was sacrificed for their individual ambition.

This coming season represents a chance for redemption. The addition of Nelson Cruz, Justin Ruggiano and Seth Smith are what the front office has presented as a solution to the offensive woes. No longer will the Mariners be vexed by an inability to hit left-handed pitching, especially in late innings. Sporting the same regal rotation and bold bullpen, Seattle now present itself with all the charm of the first romance, but with the quagmire that ended that fling now solved.

The question that is rarely addressed in these stories is what if it still doesn’t work out? What if the wanderlust that divided a seemingly perfect union rears its ugly head again? For the Mariners, what if Cruz, Ruggiano and Smith are unable to boost the offense enough to transform valiant losing efforts into victories? What if the pitching regresses? How will this franchise endure 2015 being another season of lost opportunity?

The reality that is discovered by couples off-screen and outside of the pages is that the fate of relationships is not determined by serendipity, but by choice. Opportunities to make choices that would damage relationships present themselves daily, just like opportunities for Seattle to accomplish its objective of reaching the postseason will present themselves daily.

Fortunately for the Mariners, it’s not a drastic improvement in run production that is needed. The Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals both qualified for the postseason in 2014 despite being two of the worst regular-season offenses in baseball. They just have to score enough. Enough for the defense and pitching to do the rest.

If this team is able to solve the conundrum that vexed it in 2014,  not only 2015 but also years to come look bright. The bliss of a love believed to be destiny but really brought about by execution will bond Seattle and the postseason together for a while. There is still the lingering doubt, however, that the Mariners must overcome with their play. They may not get another chance.

If things go well in 2015, it should be a joy to start thinking about 2016.

Up next: St. Louis. Interested in the San Francisco Giants edition?

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More trouble for former 1st overall pick Brady Aiken

Larry Goren/Four Seam Images/AP Images

Larry Goren/Four Seam Images/AP Images

The Brady Aiken story just continues to get worse and worse for the 18-year-old left-handed pitcher. Aiken broke the news earlier today that he had Tommy John‘s surgery on March 25 to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow. The southpaw said in his article on The Players’ Tribune that he is ‘extremely disappointed’, but has remained optimistic about his future plans to be a professional baseball player.

After tearing up the amateur baseball circuit in 2013, playing in the Perfect Game All-American Classic and the Under Armour All-American Game, Aiken’s draft stock skyrocketed and the Houston Astros made him the first overall selection in the 2014 Draft. This is when the Aiken story gets quite eventful.

After the Houston Astros took Aiken No. 1, it was reported that the two sides came to an agreement with a $6.5MM signing bonus until Aiken underwent his physical and the Astros were put off by what they saw in his elbow. Foreseeing a Tommy John’s surgery in his future, the Astros reportedly lowered their offer to $5MM and the two parties were unable to reach an agreement before the deadline to sign arrived, making Aiken the first No. 1 overall pick to go unsigned since Tim Belcher in 1983.

Rather than enroll in college at UCLA or elect to pitch for a junior college, Aiken took to the east coast and attended IMG Academy, a private educational institute specializing in taking ultra-talented athletes and giving them some of the finest athletic instruction. It was in his first start with IMG just last week when Aiken said his elbow did not feel right and he got the news of a torn UCL shortly after.

Tommy John’s surgery has become commonplace in baseball and is getting more and more manageable to come back strong from, so there’s no reason to believe that you won’t hear Aiken’s name ever called on draft day again. Aiken said in his article that he was throwing harder than ever before the injury and that he already has a plan in place to rehab his arm and come back better than ever.

This surely affects his 2015 draft plans, although just last year the Toronto Blue Jays took East Carolina RHP Jeff Hoffman at No. 9 overall despite the fact he was out recovering from Tommy John’s surgery, so you never know what could happen.

Aiken is still very young. He doesn’t turn 19 years old until the end of the summer, so his youth definitely plays in his favor as he works to recover and make his dream a reality.

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John Buck announces his retirement

John Buck

Source: Elsa/Getty Images North America

The Atlanta Braves have announced on Twitter that catcher John Buck is retiring from baseball to spend more time with his family. He was signed by the Braves during the offseason to provide a veteran presence, but was not expected to make the Opening Day roster. Buck, 34, had a solid career which expanded over 11 seasons with a multitude of teams. His career hitting line of .234/.301/.398 was excellent for someone who had caught over 1,000 games in the big leagues. He was known for his defensive abilities behind the plate.

Buck was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 1998 amateur draft before being traded in 2004 to the Kansas City Royals in the move that sent Carlos Beltran over to the Astros. Buck played for the Royals for six seasons, before signing a one-year deal with the Toronto Blue Jays. During his single year tenure with the Blue Jays, Buck had his best season. He hit a career-high 20 home runs and drove in 66 runs batted in, and appeared in his only All-Star game of his career. After his stint with Toronto, he signed a three-year, $18MM contract with the then Florida Marlins. After not being able to duplicate the numbers that he had with the Blue Jays, the Marlins traded him after his second season back to Toronto, from where was soon flipped to the New York Mets. He had an excellent April with the Mets, hitting .241/.269/.575 with nine HR and 25 RBI. He cooled down considerably after, and was eventually traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in August. He then went on to play for the Seattle Mariners and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, before signing with, and eventually retiring with the Braves this off-season.

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