Mark Townsend

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Mark Townsend is the Big League Stew's weekend editor.

  • Ryan Howard training to become 'superhuman that happens to play baseball'

    Don’t count out Ryan Howard just yet.

    The former National League MVP may be 37 years old and unemployed for the first time in his major-league career, but he’s not ready to walk away either.

    That was evidenced in a new video posted by Whistle Sports titled ‘No Days Off.’ The video takes us behind the scenes in Howard’s rigorous offseason training, which his training partner says is aimed at creating “a superhuman that just happens to play baseball.”

    That sounds like some pretty serious business. And as you’ll see in the video below, it most certainly is.

    It’s noted that Howard is up by 6:30 every morning getting in his first hitting session of around 150 swings. Thus begins another day filled with baseball and non-baseball activities that Howard hopes will bring more strength, mobility and durability to his game.

    Obviously, at 37, it’s an uphill battle. That’s just the nature of life, but the willingness to work hard is the surest way to climb that hill and remain in peak condition.

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  • Pablo Sandoval looks lean and mean in new training video

    Pablo Sandoval is working hard again to get in shape. (Getty Images)
    Pablo Sandoval is working hard again to get in shape. (Getty Images)

    The photo of a slimmed-down Pablo Sandoval that surfaced during the Winter Meetings was not a photoshop or an illusion. It was the very real result of Sandoval’s hard work since undergoing shoulder surgery in April. Work that continues right now as the veteran third baseman looks to reclaim his career, his job with the Boston Red Sox and his status as one of baseball’s best pure hitters.

    In case there was any lingering doubt, Sandoval afforded us a glimpse into his rigorous workout regimen on Friday through a series of live videos on Instagram.

    Unfortunately, those videos are not available to be shared directly, but some savvy fans caught their own videos and screenshots, allowing us to witness the leaner and meaner “Panda” in action.

    (@KFP48 on Instagram)
    (@KFP48 on Instagram)

    Is Pablo Sandoval finally dedicated to trimming

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  • Hot Stove Digest: Orioles reportedly withdraw offer to Mark Trumbo

    Welcome to The Stew’s Hot Stove Digest, our daily rundown of MLB news, rumors and gossip for Hot Stove season. Here you’ll find a quick recap of all the day’s action and other fun stuff from around the internet that we think is worth your time.

    OFF THE TABLE: It’s beginning to look like 2016’s home run king Mark Trumbo will have a new home in 2017.

    According to MASN’s Roch Kubatko, the Baltimore Orioles have reportedly pulled their four-year offer to the free agent slugger “off the table,” meaning a change of heart would be required for him to return.

    Of course, savvy fans are pointing out that the Orioles used this same technique with Chris Davis last offseason, before changing course and agreeing on a seven-year, $161 million deal. It’s always possible that will happen again, though based on  Kubatko’s report Baltimore will have to up their offer significantly to get in the same ballpark. It’s said the two sides have agreed on four years, but have “vastly different salary

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  • Joe Maddon hosts hometown fundraiser with help from Bill Murray

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    The passion, energy and goodwill of Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon may be unmatched within the baseball world. If there’s one person outside baseball who matches it, it would be actor, comedian and diehard Cubs fan Bill Murray.

    On Friday, those two forces of positive energy reunited in Maddon’s hometown of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, and they did so for a good cause as Maddon hosted his annual Hazleton Integration Project fundraiser.

    The event served as the official kickoff to a weekend filled with activities benefiting Maddon’s hometown project. Maddon himself arrived early, helping to break ground on a new $250,000 playground project on Thursday.

    According to the Citizens’ Voice, Hazleton Creek Properties founder William Rinaldi is

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  • Is Joe Buck ready to step away from baseball broadcasting?

    The 2019 World Series may be Joe Buck's swan song from baseball broadcasting. (Getty Images)
    The 2019 World Series may be Joe Buck’s swan song from baseball broadcasting. (Getty Images)

    We may be nearing the end of an era in baseball broadcasting.

    Joe Buck, the lead play-by-play voice for Fox Sports who has called 19 World Series since 1996, says he’s considering leaving his baseball responsibilities behind once his current contract expires.

    Buck first hinted at the life-altering decision during a podcast interview with Brad Straubinger on Dec. 7. He expanded on his comments this past Tuesday during a Q&A session with 590 The Fan’s Tim McKiernan, essentially confirming that he’s prepared to walk away from his baseball gig following the 2019 World Series.

    “Yeah, I think I — I love it — but I’ve been doing it for a long time and I feel like somebody else should do it. I’ve done enough. I’m signed for three more World Series, and that’ll be 22 — which is stupid to even think about. If somebody said right now, before I walk outta here, you’re done, I’ve had the greatest career

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  • Blackhawks goalie to wear Cubs-themed mask during Winter Classic

    The Chicago Cubs will be well represented at the 2017 Winter Classic.

    With the Chicago Blackhawks set to play the St. Louis Blues at Busch Stadium on Jan 2., it’s been revealed that Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling will be wearing this epic Cubs-themed mask.

    You can already feel the anger emanating from St. Louis and especially the areas around Busch Stadium.

    Some are calling it trolling on Darling’s part. Others say it’s just a heavy dose of reality for St. Louis sports fans to absorb before the World Series champion Cubs arrive for the first time as champions in April. As for us, we’re simply calling it a pretty sweet looking mask that captures the essence of Cubs history and the franchise’s most memorable season since 1908.

    From the baseball-stitch design to the likenesses of Cubs first

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  • Record six MLB teams hit with luxury tax bills ranging from $3M to $32M

    In case you weren’t aware, Major League Baseball is alive and thriving as the calendar nears 2017.

    Of course, the thriving part is not exactly equal among the league’s 30 teams. Some are doing better than others, and others are doing much, much better than others. The system is not perfect, as Tampa Bay Rays owner Stu Sternberg pointed out this week. But the money is coming in and going out faster than a Billy Hamilton stolen base.

    As evidence, check out the luxury tax bills that were sent out on Friday. According to the Associated Press, a record six teams — which makes up 20 percent of the league — exceeded the luxury tax — or “Competitive Balance Tax,” as it’s officially worded — with fees ranging from $2.96M to $31.8M. The total money reached $74M.

    Crazy, right?

    That’s a lot of dough on top of an already absurd amount of dough that’s being spent, but some teams are now routinely cruising by the payroll threshold without even batting an eye.

    Baseball’s luxury tax was designed to

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  • Hot Stove Digest: Will Dodgers up the ante to acquire Brian Dozier?

    Welcome to The Stew’s Hot Stove Digest, our daily rundown of MLB news, rumors and gossip for Hot Stove season. Here you’ll find a quick recap of all the day’s action and other fun stuff from around the internet that we think is worth your time.

    WILLING TO PAY: Rumors surrounding a Brian Dozier trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers have been swirling for weeks and may gain some momentum now that the Dodgers are reportedly willing to include a top rated prospect.

    According to Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan, the Dodgers have shown a willingness to include top pitching prospect Jose De Leon in a potential trade for Dozier, which could tip the scales in their favor should Minnesota go through with moving the slugging second baseman.

    [Jeff Passan: Why the future Dodgers are downright scary]

    Power-hitting second baseman Brian Dozier would be a perfect fit for the Dodgers. (Getty Images)
    Power-hitting second baseman Brian Dozier would be a perfect fit for the Dodgers. (Getty Images)

    The Twins likely want more, but the 24-year-old right-hander would represent a great starting point in trade talks.

    Read More »from Hot Stove Digest: Will Dodgers up the ante to acquire Brian Dozier?
  • Marlins reach reported agreement with Brad Ziegler as bullpen takes shape

    The Miami Marlins struck out on adding an elite closer to the their bullpen this offseason, but have reportedly struck a deal with an appealing consolation prize in veteran Brad Ziegler.

    According to Ken Rosenthal FOX Sports, Miami reached a two-year, $16M deal with the 37-year-old side-armer on Friday. The agreement reportedly includes performance incentives, but won’t be finalized until the veteran takes a physical.

    The Marlins have now added two key relievers in a span of 24 hours. On Thursday, they signed right-hander Junichi Tazawa to a two-year, $12 million contract. Both Ziegler and Tazawa finished the 2016 season with the Boston Red Sox, who have also lost Koji Uehara in free agency.

    The Marlins pursuit of bullpen help has been no secret this offseason. They made aggressive offers to both Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen, with reports indicating they actually offered Jansen more than the Dodgers. Jansen ended up opting for comfort and familiarity, while Chapman received a

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  • Hall of Famer Rod Carew undergoes successful heart and kidney transplants

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    On the field, Hall of Famer Rod Carew was regarded as one of baseball’s greatest hitters of all-time. That label was earned through his tenacious approach at the plate. Carew approached every at-bat like it was the most important of his career, battling until the bitter end and often winning. When he didn’t, he made his opponents earn every success enjoyed against him.

    For the last 15 months, Carew has brought that same tenacity to his biggest battle off the field, which has literally been a fight for his life. On Friday, that fight took a positive turn as the Minnesota Twins announced the six-time batting champion underwent successful heart and kidney transplants during a 13-hour operation at Cedar-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

    “The entire Minnesota Twins family is happy to report that Rod Carew had a successful heart and kidney transplant surgery today at Cedar-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, and is expected to make a full recovery,”

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