General

Classic?-UPDATED

Have you been watching the World Baseball Classic? If you have, and if you are enjoying it, stop reading now.

Ok, you are still here so here it goes. This is simply a cynical money grab by MLB with a fake product.

Look, I would love to see a real tournament with the best players in the world representing their countries and putting it all on the line. Luckily, soccer does that and it is called the World Cup. Sadly, MLB doesn’t come close. Consider some important differences.

In the World Cup, the best players in the world play. They play every game and they play the entire game with only three substitutions allowed for an 11-man side. The MLB version has many of the best players staying away and has pitch counts of 65 for the opening rounds and rules on how often a pitcher can be used.

Now I know what you are going to say, you are going to say that MLB clubs won’t risk having their star players hurt at the WBC. You are right, but consider this. Do you know who the highest paid athlete in the world is? (Hint, he plays soccer) It’s Cristiano Ronaldo, who earns about $50-million (not a misprint) a year to play soccer in Spain. When the World Cup comes along, he suits up for a country that doesn’t have the greatest relationship historically with Spain, Portugal, no matter what.

So what you say? Soccer is stupid because they go to a shootout if they are tied. Well yes, they do, but that’s after 120-minutes of running up and down a field and guess what MLB is doing for the WBC? The equivalent of a soccer shootout! From the rules page:
For any inning beginning with the 11th inning, the Federation Team at bat shall begin the inning with runners on first and second base.

That’s right, you get two runners on to start an inning and three outs to score. They still play the bottom of the inning, but this is a soccer shootout, just with less superstars on the field.

So count me out of caring a whiff about this whole thing. If they want to create a real tournament with everyone from MLB eligible and games played for real, I would be the first one there. And here’s how I would do it. Start spring training early like you did this year. Have the teams play about a month of the usual spring training games and then crank up an eight-team tournament based on the College World Series format of double-elimination. You split the teams into two brackets and have them play until each bracket has a winner. (five days max). Then you play a best-of-three series to proclaim a winner. The whole thing would take eight days, weather permitting, but you could be smart and schedule it in places where rain is very, very unlikely (Arizona) or in domed stadiums. Yes there would be injury risks but that would be something to watch. I would love to see a U.S. roster with Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw, and others going all out to win a title. Until that happens, this is just a way for MLB to sell some merchandise and TV rights with an inferior product. To use a good analogy for March, it’s the NIT of baseball tournaments and I want the madness.

UPDATEAnd just in case I didn’t convince you. The tiebreaking rules for this tournament should do so. Even MLB doesn’t understand them!

Sunday Sauce

Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be right-handed. That’s how that song goes right? The latest proof of that “adage” is the contract Mike Dunn signed with Colorado for at least three years and $19-million.

Yankee fans, do you remember Dunn?  Big lefty, limited control and a guy traded to the Braves for Javier Vazquez.

Ironically, the other guy the Yankees got in that trade was Boone Logan, another lefty like Dunn, who got almost the same contract three years ago when he left the Yankees, and is currently a free agent reportedly seeking at least $8-million a year.

Perhaps it is time to sign Betances to an extension?

Day 1

If there was any doubt that pitching prices are out of control, the opening day of the Winter Meetings proved that to be the case.

Rich Hill, a 36-year old journeyman who has exceeded 100 innings twice in his career, signed a three-year deal  at $16-million per year.

Then Mark Melancon signed the richest closer contract in MLB history, four years and $62-million. And the contract contains an opt-out after two years when Melancon will have collected over half the value of the deal.

In a related development, Brian Cashman asked about his pursuit of pitching, said it was “less likely” the Yankees would add a starter from outside the organization and that the Yankees “were going to compete to a certain extent” for Chapman. Chapman also said he wanted a six-year deal. I won’t say the Yankees are out, but I don’t think they are going to give Chapman a $100-million which is probably what it is going to take to sign him at this point.

The Red Sox exercised the option on John Farrell’s contract for 2018 while Dave Dombroski confirmed they would like to stay below the luxury tax limit next year. Boston has been linked in some reports to Encarnacion, but their payroll is already at $160-million with another $20-million in expected arbitration awards, so it’s hard to see that happening.

Finally, the Nats are reportedly close to acquiring Chris Sale from the White Sox. Scherzer, Strasbourg, and Sale, wow.

Sunday Sauce

With the CBA done and the Winter Meetings about to start expect the hot stove to pop this week. Teams now know what the ramifications are for various payrolls and they can start spending accordingly.

I expect we will start to see relievers coming off the board quickly now. Mark Melancon reportedly has multiple offer of $60-million or more which means Chapman and Jansen are going to get huge contracts.

Carlos Beltran got $16-million and a full no-trade clause for next season in Houston. Encarnacion’s agent announced that he expects him to sign during the winter meetings. 

For the Yankeees a small move this week. They lost Jacob Lindgren to Atlanta. The timing was odd as they non-tendered him after the deadline for Rule 5 protections. He isn’t going to pitch in 2017 after undergoing TJ surgery in August, but he has a big arm and was once viewed as a potential closer of the future. Atlanta gave him a 40-man spot and the Yankees now have an open spot on their 40-man if they want to select someone in the Rule 5 draft Friday.

I will be posting as news breaks at the Winter Meetings.

Sunday Sauce

I thought I would try something new and throw together a bunch of different musings into a somewhat coherent article, so welcome to Sunday Sauce. I will try to do this weekly.

Let’s start with the new CBA, which isn’t here yet and the deadline is December 1st. No real worries yet about it not getting finalized, but an interesting note from Ken Rosenthal this week. Rosenthal reports that MLB and the MLBPA are negotiating over changing the rules for September callups. The current system, with everyone on the 40-man roster eligible to be called up is nuts as you play a completely different game over the last month of the season to the first five months and games become endurance affairs as managers mix and match to their heart’s content. Well that may change.

Rosenthal reports that September rosters may be capped at 28 in exchange for a roster expansion to 26 during the entire season. This argument is all about service time for players, so the MLBPA would be exchanging the opportunity to get multiple players a month of service time in September, for the chance to get one player a full year of service time. That part makes sense, and I like the idea of a 26th man on the roster to bring back things like pinch hitters, but I fear that most teams will simply add another arm to the bullpen and call it a day. With MLB fighting for quicker games, they can’t allow that to happen. So my solution would be that teams need to have an active roster containing at least 13 hitters at all times. Keep an eye on this one.

The Yankees shuffled their 40-man roster as expected and the two notable moves were saying good-bye to Ackley and Eovaldi. Well, Ackley is probably really gone since they requested release waivers on him, but Eovaldi was simply DFA’ed. It wouldn’t shock me to see the Yankees work out some minor league deal for this year with a major league component for next year with him. It would allow him to rehab and allow them to have a potentially useful arm on the staff next year. Remember, Pineda and Sabathia are free agents after 2017 and Tanaka can opt out, so the rotation is a huge question mark going forward.

Great sign for the Yankees that Gleyber Torres was named MVP of the Arizona Fall League. Torres was the key to the Chapman deal and has been as good as advertised since coming over. He is now the youngest MVP in Fall League history and will open the season at AA.

Brett Cecil got a four-year/$30-million deal from the Cardinals yesterday. This is a guy who was a lefty specialist last year, throwing 36 innings and posting a 3.93 ERA. Yes, he has good strikeout numbers and yes, he has had a couple of good seasons out of the pen in the past. But this guy gets $7.5 million a year?  Add in the $7-million a year the Astros are going to pay Charlie Morton, and you can see that pitching prices this offseason are going to be insane. If you have a youngish starter or reasonable ability, the smart move would be to trade him.

Finally, today is one of my favorite types of Sundays in NYC. We have all three teams home, which means we get a MSG-doubleheader with the Knicks at 12pm and the Rangers at 7:30pm sandiwching a Giants game at 1pm. Should be a great sports day. Enjoy your Sunday!

Game 7

The baseball gods have smiled on us and we have one last game on the 2016 schedule. Some time tonight one franchise will end an enormous title drought while one will see its drought continue. There will be triumph and tragedy. It’s going to be a great night.

It was just two years ago that we were treated to one of the great Game 7’s in history. Madison Bumgarner coming out of the pen to stifle a Kansas City offense for five innings on two-days rest. I still maintain that 1991’s Atlanta-Minnesota Game 7 was the greatest one I’ve seen. On the flip side, the 7th game if the 1985 World Series was a clunker.

You would expect it to be a close game with both managers heading to the bullpen early. Considering the rest they’ve had, both Miller and Allen can probably go 40 pitches tonight. Will that be the difference?  We shall see.

Enjoy the game, and enjoy further proof that Curt Schilling is an ass.

Cleveland and…?

This much we know, Tuesday will be a pretty magical night in Cleveland. Not only will the World Series start on the banks of Lake Erie, but the Cavaliers will raise their championship banner when they open the NBA season against the New York Knickerbockers.

But which NL team will be there as an opponent?  Before last night I think the smart money was on LA. Now it has shifted to Chicago, but should it have?

Jon Lester is a wonderful pitcher, especially in the postseason, but Kenta Maeda has had a great “rookie” year. And the Dodgers have Clayton Kershaw looming for a Game 6 start and you can bet a Game 7 relief appearance.

So don’t punch that Cubs World Series ticket just yet. But one thing is for sure, the next two or three games of the NLCS should be a lot of fun.

Checking My Predictions

Every April I make my baseball predictions, every October I sort through the rubble of those predictions. This year I wasn’t terrible.

My worst prediction was picking Baltimore for last in the AL East-whoops!  I got half the AL playoff field correct, but none of the division winners  I had picked Toronto, KC, and Houston to win their divisions with Cleveland and Texas as the wild cards. I also picked Houston to make the World Series.

My NL picks were much better.  I struggled again picking division winners, only correctly identifying the Cubs, but I picked every NL playoff team except for the Dodgers.  I also had the Cubs going to, and winning, the World Series.  As someone who comes from a family filled with Cubs fans, that’s where my loyalties will lie this October.

As for the real playoffs, the fields are set.  Baltimore heads to Toronto on Tuesday with the winner going to Texas.  The Mets host the Giants on Wednesday with the winner headed to Chicago.  Boston travels to Cleveland  and LA travels to Washington in the other two series. (Sidebar- what would have happened if Boston won today because they would have been tied in the win column with Cleveland, but 1/2 a game behind because of the Cleveland rain out Thursday.  Would MLB have made Cleveland and Detroit make that game up since home field would have gone to Boston if the two teams were tied?)

I will have a review of the Yankees season tomorrow.

 

Countdown To Baseball Armageddon?

Cleveland and Detroit waited over four hours today, in miserable conditions, before finally canceling a game that should have been postponed from the start.  Why did they wait so long? Because the Tigers are part of baseball’s nightmare scenario- a five-way tie for the final wild card spot. The odds are tiny, estimated at 0.04%, but the possibility exists. Even without that, we have the possibility for a tie with a smaller number of teams and that is why today’s Cleveland-Detroit game was so important. At 85 wins, Detroit is currently 1/2-a-game behind Baltimore for that final spot. Depending on how the weekend shakes out, today’s game will need to be played if Detroit is within a 1/2-game, ahead or behind, of the final wild card spot. That make-up game would happen on Monday. And if, two or more teams were still tied after it, not a remote possibility, they would need to have a playoff Tuesday- the day the AL Wild Card game is already scheduled for.

Try this scenario on for size. Detroit finishes half a game ahead of Baltimore and Seattle for the final wild card. They have to make up their game on Monday and lose, creating a three-way tie for the final spot. That creates a two-day tournament between the three teams, which means you can’t have a wild card game until Thursday, or the day the ALDS is supposed to start. So then you face the prospect of starting the ALDS, or at least half of it, one-day late and with a team that played at possible three-or-four-consecutive games already. And all of this assumes you don’t have another rain out along the way.

So, expect MLB to wait forever to play any other game that could matter this weekend. That means the Yankees and Red Sox will probably play through the rain drops tonight and the Yankees and Baltimore, with even more rain on the way this weekend, should expect their series to be a lengthy affair. Fun fun!

A Terrible Loss

Reading the news this morning of Jose Fernandez’s death brought me instantly back to August 2nd, 1979. Then it was Thurman Munson, taken far too soon in a plane crash. Today it is Fernandez, taken even sooner in a boat crash. Somewhere in Florida there are plenty of six-year olds who feel the way I did so long ago and my heart goes out to them and everyone affected by this tragedy- especially Fernandez’s unborn child.

The loss of Fernandez seems harsher because of his personality and his potential. Here was someone who risked his life to get to this country and played the game with a certain kind of joy that you don’t often see.

And he was so good at it! Among starting pitchers, only Randy Johnson (twice), Pedro Martinez and Kerry Wood, have ever had a higher K/9 rate than the 12.5 Jose put up this year. He was 38-17 in his career for a team that only won 45% of their games over the same period. He had a career ERA of 2.53 and an ERA+ of 150 (The average is 100) He was 24, and about to hit arbitration and provide financial security for his family for a long time.

What a sad day.