We have a lot to get to on this holiday weekend, so let’s jump right in with some news from around the league …
- Not unlike the Chicago Cubs in this upcoming IFA period (which opens up tomorrow, by the way), the Boston Red Sox were restricted from signing players for more than $300,000 from 2015-2016, for exceeding their bonus pool in the previous period. In order to partially circumvent those limitations, the Red Sox apparently got “creative” and started engaging in “package deals,” signing/paying multiple players from the same training facility, with the purpose of attracting the one they actually wanted. The money, as you can imagine, is not equally or rightfully distributed, and these sort of deals have been strongly frowned upon, until now. So strongly frowned upon, it would seem, that MLB plans to penalize the Red Sox for engaging in these types of deals quite heavily. Ben Badler at Baseball America guessed that the penalties might include signing restrictions for the upcoming 2016-17 international signing period, and possibly even granting free agency to a few of Boston’s top 2015 international signings free agents, but it was actually even more harsh than that. According to Jeff Passan, the Red Sox have been banned from signing any international free agents for the next year and have had five of their teenage prospects declared free agents. That is a very, very serious punishment and serves to underscore just how serious MLB is taking this issue. Lesson learned: no package deals. [Brett: Not that I’m saying the Cubs would have done that kind of thing in this upcoming period to get around the restrictions, but, just in case, it’s probably good that this happened to the Red Sox before the Cubs even had the chance. Now they know for sure what not to do.]
- Bad news out of Los Angeles, as multiple NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw will head to the 15-day disabled list, and things aren’t looking good for a prompt return. Following an MRI on Thursday, Kershaw was diagnosed with a mild disc herniation and received an epidural injection for pain relief. Thankfully, the injury will not require surgery, but the recovery time is not yet known. Teammate Scott Van Slyke had a similar injury (although all backs are different) and it took him nearly two months to return (and a month after to feel 100% after the epidural injection). It’s a bummer for Dodger fans, of course, but also baseball fans in general. Kershaw was having yet another utterly dominant year, posting a ridiculous 1.79 ERA/1.69 FIP/2.16 xFIP and 5.5 fWAR.
- Democratic Congresswoman Cheri Bustos has withdrawn her support for the “Save America’s Pastime Act,” after reportedly hearing out her constituents and learning more information on the matter. The bill, you’ll recall, was created in response (opposition) to a California lawsuit aimed at forcing Minor League organizations to pay their players higher (or at least, minimum) wages. You can read Cheri’s full press release here, but she’s essentially expressed interest in supporting the players’ right to a fair wage. It would have been nice for her to, you know, not support it in the first place, but I guess I’ll give her a “better late than never.”
- MLB has responded to the recent backlash (see below). Feel free to discuss this in the comments, but keep it as civil and focused on this singular baseball matter as possible, please and thank you.
MLB has release a new press release about the "Save America's Pastime" bill. pic.twitter.com/bimjJmAjWb
— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) June 30, 2016
- At FiveThirtyEight, Rob Arthur and Ben Lindbergh write about the infield shift and how it works … probably. Despite a 1,233 percent increase in the use of shifts since 2011, the league wide batting average on balls in play has actually increased from .294 to .300 and the batting average on ground balls is up even more (.228 to .242). It’s possible that confounding effects (like batters hitting the ball harder) are camouflaging the shifts’ benefits, but those are hard to detect and prove. Even still, not every team has fully embraced the shift – like the Chicago Cubs – whose front office and manager are as forward thinking as any team in baseball, but shift almost the least amount. Even further, the shift data that we do have, is mostly incomplete and makes any concrete conclusions really hard to make. In order to find an answer, the guys at FiveThirtyEight found a workaround: comparing the production of the most shifted hitters against the least. The answer, as you may have guessed, is that the the most-shifted players’ offense suffered the greatest. There’s a lot in there, though, and it’s a fun read. Check it out.
- If you’re squeamish, skip ahead to the next bullet. If not, read ahead. In a freak accident late last week, Phillies pitching prospect Matt Imhof was struck with a large piece of metal during a postgame stretching routine. The result of the incident was a fractured nose, two fractured orbital bones and loss of vision in Imhof’s right eye. Unfortunately, after a series of surgeries, the damage to his eye was considered so severe that the eye was removed. Imhof explains the story here. Just an awful story, but he appears to be in good spirits. The 22-year-old was in his second full season with the High-A Threshers, sporting a 3.69 ERA over 173 career innings after being the Phillies’ second round pick in 2014.
- Walt Disney Co. agreed to acquire a one-third stake in the video-streaming unit of MLB Advanced Media, a deal that also comes with a four-year option to buy an additional 1/3 stake down the road. I’m not sure we’ll understand the full implications of this merger/purchase for a while, but it’s not a surprise that there’s interest, given how far-reaching the technology MLB has built out has become.
- At Baseball is Fun:
- The Yankees’ Double-A affiliates, the Trenton Thunder, mounted one of the most exciting comebacks you’ll ever see, capped off by a walk off inside the park home run.
- Later, the New York Yankees went nuts in the ninth on their own.
- Happy Bobby Bonilla Pay Day! If you don’t know what that is, you should give the short read a look, believe me.
- And lastly, Kendrys Morales played in the outfield for the first time in eight years and actually made an awesome catch (which helped beat the Cardinals)!