New Year’s Eve has long been a somber day in baseball history, as it was on this day in 1972 that Pirates superstar Roberto Clemente was killed in a plane crash at age 38. The outfielder was personally accompanying a shipment of relief supplies headed from his native Puerto Rico to victims of a recent earthquake in Nicaragua, but the flight tragically crashed just off the P.R. coast. Clemente’s passing inspired the creation of the Presidential Citizens Medal, the United States’ second-highest civilian honor. Clemente’s legacy is acknowledged every year by MLB via the Roberto Clemente Award, and there has been speculation that Clemente’s #21 will one day be retired league-wide as a way of honoring his heroism and his iconic status in Latin American baseball.
As we remember one of the game’s true legends, here are some items from the National League…
- One interesting wild card in the Nationals’ attempts to keep Bryce Harper beyond 2018 could be his older brother Bryan Harper, MASNSports.com’s Byron Kerr writes. The elder Harper, who just turned 28, is a left-handed reliever who posted strong numbers in 2015-16 for Washington’s Double-A and Triple-A affiliates, with good splits against left-handed batters. The southpaw is preparing to return to the mound after undergoing Tommy John surgery in October 2016, and there’s at least a chance he could join his younger brother on the Nats roster this season.
- While Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen has said that the team is comfortable deploying Chris Herrmann, Jeff Mathis, and John Ryan Murphy behind the plate, MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert figures the team has to make an upgrade at catcher before the offseason is out. The D’Backs are one of the few contenders with a glaring need at catcher, which in my opinion could leave them well-positioned to sign Jonathan Lucroy or Alex Avila on a relative bargain contract, given the two free agents’ relative lack of suitors. With other needs around the diamond and little payroll space to work with, however, the Snakes still might not have enough to afford Lucroy or Avila at even a discounted price.