04/13/2007 7:32 PM ET
Paying tribute on Jackie Robinson Day
The significance of honoring Jackie Robinson was never lost on Robinson Cano, who not only is joining with dozens of big leaguers in wearing No. 42 this Sunday, but he was also named after the courageous infielder who broke Major League Baseball's color-barrier in 1947.
Workers paint the Jackie Robinson Day logo on the field at Dodger Stadium. (Ben Platt/MLB.com)
"He's a guy you've got to thank every single day," Cano told the New York Times. "We're here because of him. If it wasn't for him, we wouldn't be here."
Baseball retired the No. 42 in Robinson's honor in 1997, allowing only those players who were already wearing it to continue. From that group, Mariano Rivera is the only player remaining on an active roster. Rivera will be joined on Sunday -- the 60th anniversary of Robinson's big-league debut -- by manager Joe Torre and teammates Derek Jeter and Cano.
But it doesn't end there. Players all around both leagues are joining in commemorating Robinson's honor by wearing his number. It began with Ken Griffey Jr. contacting Robinson's widow, Rachel Robinson, to ask her permission then getting the official go-ahead from Commissioner Bud Selig.
Other players soon wanted to join in the tribute. In fact, all of the players on several teams -- Astros, Dodgers, Cardinals, Phillies, Pirates -- have decided to wear No. 42.
On the Rangers, Jerry Hairston Jr. -- whose grandfather Sam played in the Negro Leagues and was the first black player to play for the Chicago White Sox -- will be joined by Kenny Lofton, as well as manager Ron Washington and coach Gary Pettis.
"A few years ago, I spoke to Buck O'Neil in Kansas City and he told me I was the last link among players to the Negro League," Hairston told the Dallas Morning News. "That really hit me. My family has been very proud of its involvement for a very long time. If not for the guys like Jackie Robinson, and don't forget about Larry Doby, who knows if there ever would have been a civil rights movement. This is a great honor."
Adrian Beltre, second baseman Jose Lopez and outfielder Jason Ellison are among the Mariners players who will be wearing No. 42.
"I hope no one is offended, because I'm not African-American, but it would be an honor to wear Jackie's number," Beltre, a Dominican Republic native, told MLB.com. "I came up [with the Dodgers] in the organization he played for, and I want to do this."
"The best way for me to honor Jackie would be to get in a game and steal a base," Ellison said. "And I would love to keep the jersey. I would hang it on the wall of my memorabilia room.
"He set the groundwork for us, obviously," Ellison said. "He put up with a lot of stuff. He stuck it out and laid it out for the rest of us. It will be great, outstanding."
The decision whether to wear No. 42 was left up to individual players. Not all players chose to pay tribute in that manner, however. Garret Anderson of the Angels declined, saying he didn't consider himself worthy.
"I know pretty much everything Jackie's done," Anderson told MLB.com. "I look at what he did with his life, using baseball as a platform to accomplish what he wanted socially, and it was bigger than baseball -- much bigger.
"He represented equality, not just for black people, but for Latin people and others from across the waters. It was the time of civil rights in this country, and he stood tall and carried a heavy weight for all people.
"That's what I take from his life -- and that's why I feel unworthy of wearing his number. I feel it's his number -- it's retired. But if other guys want to do it, I'll tip my cap to them. I don't downplay any of those other players. We all have our own way of expressing how we feel about things."
Jermaine Dye of the White Sox had no doubt about putting No. 42 on his back.
"It means a lot because he paved the way for us to play Major League Baseball," Dye said. "It's a great honor and tribute to what he's done and gone through, along with the tough times he went through off the field. It will be an honor to wear his number."
Hot Hamilton has Reds thinking: Josh Hamilton hit a home run in each of his first two starts this season, and his power surge has prompted manager Jerry Narron to consider a way to work all four of his outfielders into the lineup as often as possible.
"We've got to get him on the field with what he's done," Narron told the Cincinnati Post. "The spring he had, the at-bats he's having right now. He looks like he belongs there. It's not going to be easy playing four outfielders, but we'll do what we can do."
Hamilton, who missed a week of action after being sick, definitely wants to get as many at-bats as possible.
"Hitting is all timing anyway, the more you see, the better you are," Hamilton said. "It was only a week. I've had a little longer layoff before -- that's what I told myself. I came back this spring and did well, I knew I could do it after just a week."
With a chance to get into games this weekend at Wrigley Field, Hamilton is anxious to see exactly what one of the most recognizable and historic parks in the League is all about.
"They always say it's the Friendly Confines, but I hear different," Hamilton said. "We'll see about that."
Sele adjusting to new role: Aaron Sele is now in his 15th season in the Majors. He was thrown more than 2,100 innings and won 145 games. But the seasoned veteran is getting used to a new role as a reliever with the New York Mets.
"Is it something I'll get comfortable with? I hope so," Sele told the New York Daily News. "I hope I can do that because if I'm getting comfortable then I'm doing things to help the team win."
Sele threw 4 1/3 innings of relief Wednesday night against the Philadelphia Phillies. His first two innings were scoreless and then he allowed single runs in the sixth and seventh innings before being lifted.
Overall, it was a solid outing from Sele.
"That's what he's supposed to do for us," Willie Randolph said. "He's our long guy. He did a nice job for us. I feel very confident in what he does for us. He kept us in the game, we just couldn't get any offense going. He threw the ball well."
Sele has now made 20 relief appearances in his career and he believes he is adjusting well to the role with the Mets.
"Here I'm learning as a go," Sele said. "(Scott) Schoeneweis has been a good help, Billy Wagner's been a good help and as we go along and I get more opportunities and more looks, hopefully I'll get better and better."
Blum contributions not overlooked by teammates: Geoff Blum has one of the toughest jobs in sports. Because he is so valuable off the bench, he rarely gets to start since he may be needed as a pinch-hitter. Blum's ability to excel off the bench has not been overlooked by his teammates.
"I think what he does is greatly underrated," shortstop Khalil Greene told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "He's one of the more versatile players I've been around. And he's good. Just look at the end of last season and what he did for this ballclub."
Blum can play a variety of positions, including shortstop, where he filled in late last season when Greene was lost with a finger injury. With Greene out, Blum hit .270 with two home runs and 18 RBIs in 122 at-bats. He also played well in the field.
"With his size (6-foot-3, 205 pounds) and arm strength, he makes throws from the hole not too many shortstops can make," said Greene. "From my perspective, there wasn't too much lost, just like in 2005 when he and Damian (Jackson) played second when Mark Loretta was out."
Blum finally made his first start of the season earlier this week, filling in for Kevin Kouzmanoff at third base. Blum, who has been a starter in the past with Montreal and Houston, acknowledges he would like to start more. But he also knows his current role is important.
"I think they know and I know that if they need me, I can do the job," said Blum. "Playing day-in, day-out like that, the amount of respect I heard from my peers was tremendously rewarding."
Jenks has right mentality for closer: Chicago White Sox closer Bobby Jenks doesn't take his work home with him. As a matter of fact, he doesn't even let what might happen one day affect him on the mound the next. What's done, he says, is done.
"Once I go to bed at night, I'm done being [upset]," Jenks told the Chicago Tribune. "Today is a new day. That's the way I've looked at it since I've been in this role."
His manager, Ozzie Guillen, confirmed that Jenks handles things exactly as he says. "He's fine," said Guillen. "When he's not getting it done, people are saying he's not 98 or 99 (mph). He's fine. I don't worry about him.
"Bobby is the type of guy, I don't think he cares what he did last night. When you have that mentality, where you worry about today, then you can be a closer. If you take yesterday into today, you will be somewhere in the middle. Bobby is good mentally about that."
Duncan learning from the best: St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Chris Duncan is no fool. Given the chance to learn from one of the game's greatest hitters, Albert Pujols, he's going to do so. Earlier this week, prior to a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Duncan got a bit of a hitting lesson from Pujols in the clubhouse at PNC Park.
Then, after not starting in game, Duncan smashed a pinch-hit, game-winning home run in the top of the ninth inning that gave St. Louis the 3-2 victory.
"Any time you've got one of the best hitters in the game right there, it definitely doesn't hurt to pick his brain a little bit," Duncan told MLB.com. "If I'm feeling a little funny at the plate, I'll try to ask his advice sometimes. He knows what he's talking about."
That type of thing doesn't surprise Pujols in the least.
"He's one of the first guys to come in and hit in the cage, preparing himself for the game," Pujols said. "Look at today, he wasn't even playing, but he was in the cage working on his swing, because he knew that he would probably have the opportunity to pinch-hit."
With Solomon Torres on the hill, Duncan took a key piece of advice from Pujols and smashed a fastball over the fence.
"I told him, 'Don't guess,'" said Pujols. "Just go out there and see the pitch and put his best swing on it. That's it. You should always be prepared to be in position to swing the bat. That's obviously what he did today. He got in position to get the head out. He's strong enough to hit the ball all over the park."
-- Red Line Editorial