Dan's Dugout: Hornsby had the right idea • Latino Sports

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Dan’s Dugout: Hornsby had the right idea

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Baseball flowed through the arteries of Rogers Hornsby.

The Hall of Fame second baseman was so devoted to baseball that he never read or watched movies — activities he felt might hurt his keen batting eye.

The Rajah may have been right: his .358 career average trails only Ty Cobb’s .367 on the lifetime list. Despite an ornery personality that caused several teams to trade him, Hornsby was heroic on the field and proved such a good leader that he later became a player-manager.

As one season came to a close, a reporter asked him what he would do all winter. “I’ll look out the window and wait for spring,” he said.

Casey Stengel's first Mets hitting coach was Rogers Hornsby

Casey Stengel’s first Mets hitting coach was Rogers Hornsby

Hornsby, who last wore a uniform as batting coach of Casey Stengel’s original New York Mets in 1962, might be an anachronism if he were alive today. But he wouldn’t be alone.

This reporter feels the same way: it’s baseball or bust. No Super Bowl, Stanley Cup hockey, March Madness, or any other sport can compete with America’s national game.

In fact, the best thing about Super Bowl Sunday is listening to Jonathan Schwartz — a deejay with roots in the Big Band era — present his annual “Salute to Baseball” on New York radio station WNYC. He too is a baseball purist.

From now until Valentine’s Day, when pitchers and catchers report, baseball headlines will be generated off the field. A myriad of trades, free agent signings, and front-office maneuvering will compete with the gridiron for back-page headlines in the tabloids of New York and Chicago.

During the week that starts December 7, baseball may even dominate. That’s the time the owners, executives, managers, and player agents will converge on Nashville for the annual winter meetings.

Putting thousands of baseball people in one place — especially in the cavernous but isolated Opryland Hotel — is certain to produce plenty of news and probably plenty of surprises.

Potential storylines are endless:

  • After falling short in the World Series, will the New York Mets spend heavily to keep Daniel
    Yoenis Cespedes may have worn a Mets uni for the last time

    Yoenis Cespedes may have worn a Mets uni for the last time

    Murphy and Yoenis Cespedes, the third and fourth hitters in the lineup?

  • Can the Los Angeles Dodgers, champions of the National League West, up the ante to keep star righthander Zack Grienke after he opted out of his contract?
  • Will Dave Dombrowski’s arrival in the Boston front office signal a wild winter for the Red Sox?
  • How high will the Chicago Cubs bid for erstwhile Toronto southpaw David Price?
  • Do the rebuilding Atlanta Braves take offers for Gold Glove shortstop Andrelton Simmons, their most marketable but most valuable player?
  • With Dellin Betances ready to take his spot, will the New York Yankees move Andrew Miller?
  • Does Dusty Baker’s arrival as manager in Washington keep Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, and Ian Desmond from departing as free agents?
  • Since the San Francisco Giants seem to win world championships in alternating years, what will it take to lure pitching help to a staff that seems rudderless behind Madison Bumgarner?
Will Daniel Murphy return to the Mets? Bill Menzel/Latino Sports

Will Daniel Murphy return to the Mets?
Bill Menzel/Latino Sports

If the Mets lose both Murphy and Cespedes, they will not only need more offense but will need to fill a gaping hole at second base. The team, well-stocked with outfielders, may also need to sacrifice a young starter (Zack Wheeler? Jon Niese?) to land a top-tier second baseman such as Cincinnati’s Brandon Phillips.

New York knows Washington means business again too. In addition to Baker, the Nats have also added Mike Maddux, widely considered the best pitching coach in the game.

Still stunned by their four-game Championship Series sweep at the hands of the Mets, Joe Maddon’s Chicago Cubs are out to beef up their pitching. Jon Lester, the lefty they signed last winter, has thus far failed to justify his long-term contract but has time to rebound. Chicago has already floated an offer of Jorge Soler for Atlanta starter Julio Teheran — a swap of a hitter prone to frequent strikeouts for a pitcher capable of inducing frequent strikeouts.

Adding Price, of course, would cost only big bucks. The Cubs could be gun-shy in the wake of Lester’s

The Cubs feel they are close to their first NL flag since 1945

The Cubs feel they are close to their first NL flag since 1945

lackluster performance.

Then there’s Greinke, who could wind up wearing red socks, pinstripes, or the black-and-orange motif of the Giants if he doesn’t return to Los Angeles. The Dodgers already have baseball’s biggest payroll and have no qualms about expanding it even though they’ll be paying a higher luxury tax.

The big spenders in the American League have always been the Yankees and Red Sox, arch-rivals for the Eastern Division flag.

Loaded with lefthanded hitters whose pop flies turn into home runs in the Bronx, the Yankees need youth, better balance, and a reliable, healthy rotation.

If the Price is right, they could have a new lefthanded ace, supplanting CC Sabathia. New York might also consider trading for Martin Prado, whom they traded for Nathan Eovaldi last winter, as an upgrade at second base over Stephen Drew. Rookie catcher Gary Sanchez, a power hitter, might be moved to Atlanta for a young arm or two from the stacked Braves farm system.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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