There’s a whole lot to get to today, so let’s jump right in to some bits from around the league …
- At Deadspin, Emma Baccellieri writes that the MLB Players Association is failing them, and I think the following graph does a great job of expressing how:
— Emma Baccellieri (@emmabaccellieri) January 22, 2018
- Baccellieri’s piece is quite strong and explores how the free agent model is unfair to players, how the revamped luxury tax was a big loss (see above), how the union has been losing the public relations battle on this issue (teams are just being smart!) and a lot more. If you have any interest in the slow market, the accusations of collusion, the reasons behind certain player and team choices, or the impending labor fight that *will* happen some time in the next few years, this is a great starting point.
- But we’re not done with that yet. At FanGraphs, Nathanial Grow writes that even the threat of a strike might not help the Players Association now or in the 2021 CBA battle. Essentially, players would have to strike during the season when it would hurt the owners the most, but that’s especially difficult, because it would hurt the players even more (financially and in public perception). Which, I mean, sure, but isn’t that also the cost of a strike? Of course, the other point is that owners are better-positioned to endure a strike than the players, and, in fact, it’s possible that *they* might lock out the players, before the opposite happens. It’s going to be an ugly few years and a rough negotiation, I can tell you that much already.
- Alex Rodriguez will be calling games for ESPN on Sunday Night baseball this season, joining a cast that includes Jessica Mendoza, Buster Olney, and Matt Vasgersian. Rodriquez will, however, continue to work for Fox during the postseason (of course ESPN’s parent company, Disney, just acquired 21st Century Fox, including their regional sports networks, so there’s a bit of horizontal integration going on here (#synergy #synthesize #TPSreports)), so you can prepare yourself appropriately (excitement? anger?) for that when the Cubs return this October.
- Stop using drugs, you dinguses:
Houston #Astros pitcher Dean Deetz receives 80-game PED suspension and minor league 1B Jonathan Singleton gets 100-game suspension for failing third drug test
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) January 23, 2018
- Dean Deetz issued a response, denying any knowledge of using PEDs:
comment from Dean Deetz, just suspended for a positive PED test pic.twitter.com/7FW6kEA2r6
— keithlaw (@keithlaw) January 23, 2018
- I want to believe him so badly, and, yet, when the same excuse is used for every single player, it gets harder and harder. Just admit it and move on.
- As for Singleton, he has famously had issues with marijuana in the past, and was wise and fortunate to sign the $10 million deal he got from the Astros before he even reached the big leagues. It was controversial at the time – many thought he was giving away too much – but if he hadn’t, he might have been left with nothing.
- In response to calls for robot umpires, Commissioner Rob Manfred recently said, “In all candor, that technology has a larger margin of error than we see with human umpires.” So The Hardball Times took the bait and dug into the physics of a roboump. It’s an interesting read, but warning: math. It turns out, Manfred probably isn’t totally full of bologna.
- In an effort to troll me (I can only assume), Mike Petriello (MLB.com) writes that the Cardinals’ Jose Martinez is “the best hitter you know nothing about.” In support of his theory that 2017 wasn’t just a fluke for the 29-year-old, Petriello shares Martinez’s .411 Expected wOBA (xwOBA) for 2017, and how it was behind only Aaron Judge (.446), Joey Votto (.424), Mike Trout (.423), and J.D. Martinez (.423) among hitters with at least 250 plate appearances (Martinez had 307 PAs). Indeed, Martinez’s .411 xwOBA – which determines what a hitter’s wOBA should have been, based on quality of contact – was the 16th best mark by a player over the last three seasons. But whatever. All I know is that he hit a paltry .222/.300/.259 in 30 plate appearances against the Cubs last season, so I ain’t afraid.
- In another effort to REALLY troll me, Eno Sarris (FanGraphs), writes about “What Jack Flaherty Has in Common with Clayton Kershaw,” and unfortunately, it’s not both like pizza. I’ll let you get into the particulars, but in short, Cardinals pitching prospect Jack Flaherty’s slider during the second half of the year was better than anybody else’s (including Kershaw), as he got a 28.7% whiff rate and a 75% ground ball rate on that pitch alone. Which, just, wow. Stay away from the slider, boys.
- Grant Brisbee shares his refreshing/different take on the potential for a pitch clock in 2018, and it’s fun, if nothing else. Basically: the pitch clock will create chaos … so let’s embrace it. Studies have shown that the longer a pitcher holds the ball, the faster he can throw it. So, with less holding, we should see slower fastballs, and more contact. And with that extra contact, extra chaos.
- And let me just make my own argument for a second: I see a lot of pitchers talking about how much a clock will hurt their ability to succeed, and it’s like, yeah, we know. That might not be explicitly written in the Commissioner’s plan, but, come on, he wants more contact at the plate out of this – even if it leads to longer games. After all, chicks dig the long ball:
BIF: Even Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux Admit That Chicks Dig the Long Ball (1999) https://t.co/5mg6VA9zKE
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) January 15, 2017
- Ready to feel good about Cubs ownership? Mets owner Jeff Wilpon decided to finally speak to the media about his organizations’ tight payroll ways, and it didn’t go well:
Over a decade ago, Mets were top 5 in payroll. Asked if he could foresee that happening again, Wilpon: “I’d rather look at what we do in terms of wins and losses. Being top 5 in payroll, I don’t think that won us a World Series.”
— James Wagner (@ByJamesWagner) January 23, 2018
- At first, I’m like, OK, I understand that a high payroll shouldn’t be the goal, but also … you know that’s not what is meant. For another example, consider this. According to Wagner, the Mets get 75% of David Wright’s salary paid through an insurance policy, but they still count the whole thing against payroll because:
Among the factors Jeff Wilpon cited in counting David Wright's insurance covered salary as part of the payroll is the cost of the policy, "which is not cheap."
— Mike Puma (@NYPost_Mets) January 23, 2018
- Facepalm. Wilpon goes onto explain that the Mets don’t get enough credit for the times they do spend, and Wagner pointed out that they’ve spent the fourth most in baseball this winter, but also … the winter isn’t even close to over and none of Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Eric Hosmer, J.D. Martinez, or Greg Holland are going to the Mets, so they’ll likely move well down that list when all is said and done.
- Here are some remaining highlights, via Anthony DiComo:
Some highlights of Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon's conversation on payroll: pic.twitter.com/5wQiXxzMvq
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) January 23, 2018
- Wanna know how cheap the Mets are? They once charged Brian McRae $600 for a broken dugout toilet (I mean, sure, he broke it and that’s on him … but $600 from a potential billion dollar organization? It just gives me the lulz):
- And finally, at The Washington Post, Chelsea Janes writes that Bryce Harper’s brother, Bryan Harper (real creative, folks), has been invited to big league camp this Spring, which means the two could play together for the first time in years. Earlier this offseason (when the Nats re-signed Bryan Harper), some speculated that the opportunity to play with his brother at the Major League level might push Bryce to re-sign with the Nationals – let’s hope that isn’t the case past 2018.
- Also … what will the back of their jerseys say?