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MLBits: Theo for Commissioner (or is it Anyone but Manfred?), Minor League Deals, Changing Baseballs, More

Chicago Cubs

So a frog walks into a bank and sits down at the loan application desk of Patricia Whack. The frog says, “Excuse me, I’d like to apply for a loan.” Surprised, the woman replies, “Well, I guess we can help you with that, what’s your name?” The frog responds, “Kermit Jagger.” Patricia recognizes the last name and promptly quips, “Any relation to Mick Jagger?”

“Why yes!” The frog retorts, “he’s my dad.”

“Alright,” Patricia continues, “we’re going to need some collateral.” At this point, the frog pulls a tiny porcelain elephant, sets it on the table, and confidently says, “This should work.” Confused, Patricia begins shaking her head in disagreement. “I’m not sure we can accept this as collateral.” Frustrated, the frog says “Just go ask your manager, he and my dad are close friends.”

Patricia politely gets up, walks into her managers office, and says “Sir, there’s a frog outside trying to apply for a loan. He says his name is Kermit Jagger and believes this weird little elephant thing is enough to use as collateral … What should I do?”

The manager picks up the figurine and exclaims, “Why of course there’s no problem … It’s a knick-knack, Patty-Whack, give the frog a loan. His old man is a Rolling Stone!”

Now baseball.

MLB Agent Survey

The Athletic surveyed 23 player agents from across the country on a variety of important issues facing the game. And the promise of anonymity led to some really interesting and candid responses.

For example, when asked who should be the next commissioner of the league, a handful of replies fell along the lines of Anyone besides Rob Manfred would be swell. Beyond that a whopping 14 of the 23 agents polled unsurprisingly responded with Theo Epstein (and that was BEFORE he took the job as a consultant with MLB). One of the anonymous comments on Epstein:

“(Theo’s) not proud of all the decisions that he made and what ultimately transpired in the aftermath. It helped the team win, but it didn’t always help baseball. I get the vibe that he is a really good person — and it doesn’t always come off like that — (but) his heart is in the right place. (We need) somebody that looks at every single decision and says, ‘Is this in the best interest of the owners? Is this in the best interest of the players? And is this in the best interest of the fans?’ You have to look out for all three of those because it really is a tripod. Without the players, you have no games. Without the fans, you have no money. Without the owners, you’ve got no backing. We have to acknowledge that fairness needs to exist for all three parties. The fans — you can’t keep on just spitting in their face. You have to give them a product that they want to go out and see.”

Someone else said “Trevor Bauer,” though, saying “you need someone willing to be hated ….” So, maybe this wasn’t all serious.

Other topics include opinions on the Astros punishment, the toughest GM negotiators, the next crop of GMs and Managers, current PED use (which is apparently still a problem), and a lot more. Check it out.

Minor League Free Agent Contracts

Kevin Goldstein is back to writing, writing for FanGraphs after a long stint in the Astros front office, and that means we have access to some rare insight we won’t often get. His most recent column, for example, is an exploration into the complexities of free agent minor league contracts and what gets players to accept a team’s offer – spoiler, it’s NOT the most money or years, like big league deals for free agents.

There are some obvious angles, of course, and that does include money, perks, nitty-gritty details about future salary or roster designations, but I found this angle the most interesting and revealing:

Agents don’t talk about money or contract clauses first, they talk about the possibility of their player being with the big league club. I would imagine that every Quad-A shortstop right now has his agent in touch with the Reds, while avoiding clubs like the Mets, Padres and others where the position is filled by a star-level talent who tends to stay on the field. Agents for these players become depth chart aficionados, studying every team’s situation across various position families to see where their player might slide in.

This feels obvious, but it’s probably something we don’t discuss enough. And given how many free agents remain on the market and how many potential opportunities the Cubs should still be able to offer, I’d like to think the Cubs are a particularly attractive landing spot for the remaining veterans who’ll have to settle for minor league deals at the end of the offseason … which is basically right now.

MLB’s Sticky Issue

According to The Athletic’s sources, more than 75% of Major League pitchers use some substance to achieve a better grip on the baseball, in efforts spanning from an altruistic effort to control the ball better (some batters legitimately appreciate this) to more nefarious purposes like achieving artificially high spin rates to beat Yu Darvish in the 2020 NL Cy Young award race. It’s not a new problem – and, indeed, some people don’t see it as a problem at all given how common it is and how useful it can be for non-cheating reasons – but it is something the league hopes to address. In fact, a couple years ago, the league introduced some sticky baseballs in Spring Training as a trial … it did not go well.

In any case, there is a problem here to address, but it’s not as easy as simply enforcing the rules more strictly or changing the baseballs altogether. Some pitchers, who’ve gone abroad to use the better-grip baseball of the NPB and KBO have good things to say, but so far, MLB hasn’t been able to replicate that product with Rawlings in a way Major League pitchers endorse.

Fun aside? Using extra pine tar up on the barrel of your bat probably doesn’t do anything:

Odds and Ends

•   Have you ever wondered why there aren’t any/many left-handed catchers?

•   This is really cool: Jackie Robinson will be on the cover of the special edition MLB The Show 21 games this year:

•   With help from Marcell Ozuna, himself, Marc Topkin is strengthening his position that yesterday’s rumor connecting the Rays and Ozuna was simply false:

 



Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami