Posted on: November 18, 2011 2:31 pm
Edited on: November 18, 2011 6:25 pm
Baseball does not need a salary cap. The results show it.
The owners no longer push for it, and that's probably the biggest reason labor agreements now get done so smoothly in this sport, and why the newest deal is now on track to be formally announced early next week, according to sources.
Details of the new agreement remain somewhat sketchy, but some of what we know seems positive. The revamping of draft-pick compensation for signing free agents, in particular, looks like a big improvement; the current system had become awkward and unhelpful to either side. Realignment and expansion of the playoffs are good for the game, too.
And then there are the new rules about the draft itself. Not good.
Commissioner Bud Selig and some owners wanted hard slotting for draft bonuses. While they didn't get that, the union eventually agreed to a system that will penalize teams for overspending on draft bonuses, including taking away future picks for teams that "overspend."
Really bad idea, and here are two reasons why:
First, under the current system, the draft is the best way for mid- and low-revenue teams to keep up with the big spenders. The Rays built a contender by smart drafting and smart spending, and the Nationals, Pirates and Royals are now doing the same.
Second, bigger draft bonuses help baseball as an overall business attract the best athletes available. Curbs on bonuses (combined with a lack of full scholarships given out by college baseball) push good athletes towards football and basketball, and that's bad for baseball.
More on that in a bit, but the worst part of the new system is the potential effect on mid- and low-revenue teams that have come to understand that draft spending is more cost-efficient and productive than free-agent spending.
General managers and scouting directors understand that, and it's why they're near-unanimous in behind-the-scenes opposition to the new rules. Owners who say that they want to build teams on scouting and player development (which is most of them) should understand that, but obviously don't.
Maybe they need to go and run teams themselves.
Look at the experience of Frank Coonelly.
When he worked for Selig, he was responsible for screaming at teams that spent more than baseball recommended. When he went to work for the Pirates at club president, he started to ignore the limits himself.
"It only took for him to be in the system to understand," said agent Scott Boras, who represented the Pirates' top two picks last summer, and negotiated above-slot deals for both (for a combined $13 million). "[These new rules] illustrate that those in the commissioner's office are not in the system."
Boras has data to back up a point I've made for a long time, which is that almost all of the biggest draft bonuses turned out to be good deals. The Nationals certainly don't regret the $25 million combined they spent to sign Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper.
Imagine how much they'd need to spend to add that kind of talent through free agency.
Imagine if the Pirates (pre-Coonelly) had paid Matt Wieters $6 million out of the draft in 2007, rather than passing on him because he wanted "above-slot" money. If they had Wieters, they wouldn't have had to give Rod Barajas $4 million to be their catcher in 2012, let alone have paid Ryan Doumit almost $9 million for the last two seasons.
Selig's backers would no doubt argue that in a true slotting system, Wieters would have accepted the slot number the Pirates were offering, because he couldn't make more money by slipping to a lower-drafting but higher-paying team.
But this new system doesn't provide for true slots. If the Pirates passed on Wieters because he was too expensive (and they didn't want to risk losing a future draft pick), a team like the Yankees could sign him for big money and say, "Forget the future pick." Their future pick is going to be lower in the first round, anyway, and it's not of nearly as much value to them as the Pirates' pick is to Pittsburgh.
It's a bad system, but there are ways to fix it.
One possibility: Allow each team one exception pick a year, where the bonus wouldn't count against draft-pick penalties. Or even allow an exception every other year.
Or, if you really want to allow the draft to serve the teams that need it most, allow an exception to teams drafting higher.
The point is, the new system already needs fixing -- and it can be fixed.
Baseball needs to allow the draft to benefit the teams that need it most, and it needs to allow the system to benefit the sport, by helping to attract the best talent.
Without significant signing bonuses, Bubba Starling is playing football at Nebraska, instead of playing baseball for the Royals. And Archie Bradley is playing football at Oklahoma, instead of playing baseball for the Diamondbacks.
Baseball is better for having signed them, and two teams that need to develop through scouting and the draft are better for it, too.
The new system isn't a disaster, but it's not good. The bigger news, though, is that baseball once again has labor peace.
And no salary cap.
Some fans, especially fans of small-market teams, remain convinced that a cap would help. But baseball has proven that it doesn't need one.
While it's true that big-spending teams enjoy an advantage, it's also true that smart management is even more important. The low-spending Rays have made the playoffs three of the last four years (same as the Yankees, and one more time than the Red Sox).
With no cap, baseball has had nine different champions in the last 11 years. And the Cardinals, one of the two repeat champs, did it without a super-high payroll.
The Yankees annually spend far more than everyone else, yet the Yankees have won just one of those last 11 World Series.
Good thing, too. Because if the Yankees were winning every year, you can bet that the other owners would have been pushing for a cap.
Instead, the owners pushed through a new deal that has some pluses -- and one significant minus.
Posted on: August 12, 2010 12:07 pm
Edited on: August 12, 2010 12:16 pm
Only the Mets, right?
Only the Mets could have a player arrested in the clubhouse, after a fight with his father-in-law -- in the team's family room, in front of his teammates' wives and children!
Only the Mets could have their manager tell reporters that he'd definitely use Francisco Rodriguez to close today's game against the Rockies -- if Rodriguez gets back from court in time -- after his morning arraignment! Of course, about an hour after Manuel said that, the Mets announced that Rodriguez has been placed on the restricted list for two days, meaning he can't pitch, they won't pay him and they have a couple more days to figure out what to do next.
No, it's not funny when a family dispute gets so heated that someone (Rodriguez's father-in-law, in this case) needs treatment at a hospital. But it sure is Mets-like.
Is there any team in baseball that has embarrassed itself more over the last four years?
I'm sure I'm missing something, but here's the list:
1. The collapse. On Sept. 12, 2007, the Mets held a seven-game lead over the Phillies with just 17 games to play. They went 5-12 the rest of the way, and the Phillies won the division by one game.
2. The concussion. After outfielder Ryan Church suffered his second concussion in three months, the Mets allowed him to fly with the team from Atlanta to Colorado. The Mets later admitted this was a bad idea.
3. The firing. After going back and forth on whether to dump manager Willie Randolph, the Mets had Randolph fly to California with the team in June 2008. Then, two hours after the first game of the trip, the Mets announced that they had fired Randolph -- at 3:12 a.m. New York time.
3. The collapse, part II. In September 2008, the Mets didn't lead by seven games, but they did lead the division by half a game on Sept. 19, and led the wild-card race by 2 1/2 games the next day. They lost six of their last nine games, lost the division to the Phillies and lost the wild card to the Brewers on the final day of the season -- in the final game ever at Shea Stadium. Oh, and the Mets scheduled their Shea Goodbye ceremony for after the final game, when there was nothing to celebrate.
4. The press conference. First there were the stories about assistant general manager Tony Bernazard allegedly taking his shirt off and challenging Mets minor leaguers to a fight. And there were stories about Bernazard allegedly fighting with Rodriguez on a team flight. Then, when the Mets fired Bernazard, they somehow made things worse and more embarrassing. On live television -- on Mets-owned SNY -- Minaya accused New York Daily News reporter Adam Rubin of campaigning for a job with the team. To make things even more complicated, and more embarrassing, Rubin worked part-time for SNY, and in fact it was an appearance on SNY before the press conference that reportedly set Minaya off.
5. The surgery. This January, the Mets picked a fight with their most talented player, complaining publicly about the timing of center fielder Carlos Beltran's knee surgery. The Mets claimed they didn't know Beltran was having surgery. Beltran's agent, Scott Boras, said he had told them.
6. The Maine problem. Convinced that starter John Maine had a physical problem that was causing him to lose velocity, Manuel and pitching coach Dan Warthen made the decision to remove Maine from a start in Washington after just five pitches. Warthen later told reporters that Maine is "a habitual liar in a lot of ways as far as his own health." Maine had an angry exchange with Warthen on the Mets' flight home that night. He never pitched in another game for the Mets, and recently had season-ending shoulder surgery.
7. The bullpen fight. During a game against the Yankees that same week, Rodriguez and bullpen coach Randy Niemann got in what The New York Times described as "a heated confrontation" in the bullpen, in view of fans. Niemann later took responsibility.
8. The arrest. According to Kevin Burkhardt of SNY, Rodriguez went directly to the family room after Wednesday night's 6-2 Mets loss to the Rockies. While there, he apparently got into an argument with his wife, and when his father-in-law stepped in, the confrontation got physical. Rodriguez's father-in-law was taken to a local hospital. Rodriguez was arrested.
There's more. Those are just the highlights. Or the lowlights.
Only the Mets.
Posted on: July 25, 2010 10:39 pm
Scott Boras says people are drawn to power, as in power pitching or power hitting. He says it's why everyone seems to want to see power pitcher Stephen Strasburg (a client of his), and he argues that it will also be true with top draft pick and power hitter Bryce Harper (another client).
Fair enough, but if people really are drawn to power, they should be drawn to the Alex Rodriguez (also a client) push for 600 home runs.
So far, the feeling is that they haven't been, at least not nationally and only to a small extent locally. But it was hard to tell last week, because the Yankees were playing at home and they always draw near-capacity crowds, chase or no chase.
There were some signs that fans in New York cared, based on the noise and flashbulbs that accompanied each A-Rod at-bat after he reached 599 on Thursday night, and by the disappointment when an A-Rod at-bat after that ended without a home run.
But no newspapers from outside the area staffed the try for 600. No national television crews showed up.
So here's the question: With A-Rod taking the chase to Cleveland, will Indians fans show in anything like the numbers they did to see Strasburg pitch at Progressive Field last month?
The Strasburg game, on a Sunday afternoon, drew 32,876, which is still the only Indians crowd of more than 26,000 since opening day. The Indians are last in baseball in attendance (yes, behind even the Marlins).
Strasburg's first nine starts have averaged 36,351, and more of the games have been on some form of national television.
On to 3 to watch:
1. So what are the chances that A-Rod gets to 600 in Yankees at Indians, Monday night (7:05 EDT) at Progressive Field ? Well, he's a .375 career hitter against Tribe starter Jake Westbrook, but that includes just one home run in 24 at-bats. And what are the chances that the A-Rod chase for 600 goes on beyond this three-game series in Cleveland? Well, A-Rod went homerless in 15 at-bats in a four-game series in Cleveland last year, and he went homerless in 13 at-bats in a four-game series in Cleveland the year before. In all, he's homerless in his last 32 at-bats at Progressive Field. Either that means he's due, or it means the chase will head for Tampa Bay this weekend. At least we know that A-Rod will play this week, or at least that he plans to. After he was hit on the hand by a pitch Sunday, Rodriguez said there was "no question" he would be in the lineup Monday.
2. When the Angels traded for Dan Haren on Sunday, manager Mike Scioscia told reporters that there's a chance Haren's first Angel start will come right away, in Red Sox at Angels, Monday night (10:05 EDT) at Angel Stadium . If Haren starts instead on Tuesday, he would face ex-Angel John Lackey in Lackey's first Anaheim start as a visitor. Either way, Haren's second Angels start could be just as interesting, because there's a chance that it would be next Sunday night, against Rangers acquisition Cliff Lee.
3. Strasburg's first nine starts have been against nine different opponents. That streak ends with Strasburg's next start, in Braves at Nationals, Tuesday night (7:05 EDT) at Nationals Park . But this will be Strasburg's first meeting with fellow hyped rookie Jason Heyward, because Heyward went on the disabled list on June 28, the same night Strasburg lost 5-0 to the Braves in Atlanta. Remember, that was the game when Ian Desmond couldn't turn a double play that might have allowed Strasburg to hold the Braves scoreless through seven innings.
Posted on: June 9, 2010 1:25 am
See what happens when you push the envelope just a little?
See what happens when, as Stephen Strasburg said, you give him "a little bit longer of a leash"?
What happens is the seventh inning Tuesday night. What happens is the inning that turned Strasburg's debut from outstanding to stunning. What happens is the moment of the baseball season so far, ahead of two perfect games and another no-hitter, ahead of Jason Heyward's opening day home run, ahead (yes) of Armando Galarraga and Jim Joyce.
The seventh inning was three more strikeouts, giving Strasburg 14. It was a sellout crowd standing and chanting, "Let's go Strasburg!" It was a 99 mph fastball for strikeout No. 14, with Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty simply clapping his hands, along with the 40,315 fans.
"That was one of those memorable innings," Riggleman said later. "You just don’t get that many of those."
Later on this season, perhaps even on Sunday in Cleveland, Riggleman is sure to drive us crazy by pulling Strasburg early. Later on this season, even if Strasburg helps get the Nationals truly into the pennant race, the team is determined to shut him down if he reaches a predetermined innings limit (thought to be about 100 for his major-league season).
Maybe that makes sense. Maybe it doesn't. But it's going to happen. Scott Boras, Strasburg's agent, admitted Tuesday that he and Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo discussed exactly those limits during last summer's negotiations after the Nats took Strasburg with the first pick in the draft.
Boras strongly believes that young pitchers need this kind of protection. He points to Dwight Gooden and Larry Dierker, and he says that pitchers who throw too many pitches at 21 run too high a risk of getting hurt and ruining careers by the time they get to 30.
"We want these performers to be elite as long as they can," Boras said.
Argue with him if you want. Point out that pitchers need to be pushed a little, allowed to push the limits a little, to become the best they can.
But understand this isn't an argument that you're going to win. The decisions have already been made, and the Nationals are going to do this Boras' way.
Even Tuesday, Riggleman admitted that he was never going to let Strasburg's pitch count hit 100. He admitted that he thought about pulling Strasburg after six innings and 81 pitches, before allowing him seven innings and 94.
"He could have gone 195," Riggleman said. "We'll make sure we don't do that."
There will be days when Strasburg shows frustration with the limits, as he did the night at Triple-A Syracuse when the Nats allowed him just 52 pitches in five innings.
Tuesday, they allowed him seven innings, and it's great that they did.
Great for him. Great for us.
One more thing about Strasburg's debut: The Nationals decided not to give him a scouting report on his first-night opponent, the Pirates.
They'll leave that for later.
Tuesday, Strasburg just let catcher Pudge Rodriguez call the pitches. Including, as Rodriguez said with a grin, "one changeup I shouldn't have called."
That would be the one Delwyn Young hit for a fourth-inning home run.
Posted on: March 5, 2009 7:46 pm
PHOENIX -- OK, so Manny Ramirez signed with the Dodgers for $45 million.
Last November, when the negotiations started, didn't the Dodgers offer Ramirez $45 million? And if so, why did it take so long for him to say yes?
Well, here's the explanation:
Yes, the Dodgers' first offer was for two years and $45 million. But that first offer also included a third-year team option that would have brought the contract up to $60 million. Agent Scott Boras thus considered it a $20 million a year contract, while the contract Ramirez just signed is for $22.5 million a year -- or $25 million a year, if he opts out after the first year.
Ramirez said at today's press conference that by waiting, he got three things. Boras said the three were a higher annual value (as just explained), a complete no-trade clause and the opt-out clause.
Boras also said today that Ramirez had told him at the beginning of negotiations that he didn't want to talk seriously to other teams unless there was no way of making a deal with the Dodgers.
As for the long negotiations, Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said: "I felt like I spent Thanksgiving with Scott, Christmas with Scott, New Year's Eve with Scott and Groundhog Day with Scott."
Boras: "As Ned said, we were two people in the closet looking for the light switch."
One more thing. With Manny signing with the Dodgers and Rodrigo Lopez agreeing to a minor-league contract with the Phillies, Boras has only one remaining free agent: Pudge Rodriguez.
While Rodriguez has had some offers, no one has been willing to offer him anything more than a part-time job. As always, Rodriguez still thinks he can play every day.
Posted on: December 24, 2008 10:26 am
A post-Teixeira, pre-Christmas look at the winter's winners and losers:
1. Yankees. Who else? They got the best pitcher. Maybe the two best pitchers. They got the big-prize hitter, too. They ruined Boston's winter. Yes, they have more money than anyone else. But this winter, the Yankees also seem to have had the best strategy. Their huge early bid for Sabathia seemed to work just as intended, scaring off any potential competition. The decision to offer an opt-out clause helped eliminate any anxiety Sabathia and his wife felt about moving to New York. Then, after going public with their desire to sign Sabathia, the Yankees hid in the background in the Teixeira talks, seeming to know that they could always get their man in the end.
2. Mets. The Wilpon family may not feel like winners, after reportedly losing hundreds of millions in Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme. But their team is a winner, for getting Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz in the bullpen. Not only that, but the Mets could be seeing the Derek Lowe market come back to them, once again allowing them to make a play for the starting pitcher they identified as their top choice. Oh, and it doesn't hurt that their old rival in Atlanta is having a horrid winter.
3. Phillies. It wasn't flashy, but the world champs did pretty much what they needed to. They re-signed Jamie Moyer, and they replaced Pat Burrell with Raul Ibanez. The negative is that Chase Utley needed surgery and will miss the start of the season, and the Phils tried but failed to get Mark DeRosa from the Cubs to fill in for him.
4. Dodgers. They got the left side of their infield back, by re-signing Casey Blake and Rafael Furcal. They proved to all the doubters that owner Frank McCourt does have a little bit of money. And if McCourt truly wants to bring back Manny Ramirez (and if he can afford it), Ramirez now seems more available to them than ever. One more thing: in star-crazy Southern California, it doesn't hurt the Dodgers that their neighbors in Anaheim failed to sign a free-agent star.
5. Scott Boras. He still has a slew of clients left needing jobs, but when Boras got Mark Teixeira the eight-year, $180 million contract with the Yankees, he also proved a point. The Red Sox may have thought they were calling his bluff with owner John Henry's dramatic late-night e-mail last week, but Boras proved it was no bluff.
1. Red Sox. They can moan all they want about how hard it is to compete with the big-dollar Yanks, but as Tony Massarotti astutely pointed out on his Boston Globe blog, the Sox lost out on Teixeira for less than $2 million a year, or roughly 1-2 percent of their 2008 payroll. They simply miscalculated, thinking the Yankees weren't getting involved. It's not a fatal mistake. The Red Sox still have a fine team, and they have plenty of money available to make it even finer. But Teixeira was the one player that the Sox themselves identified as the key to their winter. They didn't get him, and the Yankees did. For Boston, it doesn't get much worse.
2. Braves. Let's see, they didn't get Jake Peavy, and they didn't get A.J. Burnett, and they didn't get Furcal. Oh, and you might have noticed that two of their division rivals are listed among the winners. Worse yet for an organization that has prided itself on professionalism, the Peavy and Furcal negotiations ended angrily, and in public.
3. Angels. It hardly matters now whether they preferred Teixeira or Sabathia, because they didn't get either one. While they're still overwhelming favorites in the American League West, the Angels want to be a team that can compete with the Yankees and the Red Sox when it matters. They traded for Teixeira last July because they thought he could deliver a World Series. He didn't, and now he's gone.
4. Orioles. Teixeira grew up in Maryland. Burnett lives there. The Orioles never became a serious contender for either one. They'll see both on Opening Day at Camden Yards, but only because the Yankees will be the opponents that day.
5. The WBC. The problem isn't that Alex Rodriguez has changed his mind and now wants to play for the Dominican Republic. The problem is that when the richest player in the game spurned Team USA, no one here cared. The second edition of the world tourney is still three months away, and already far too many players are bowing out. I love the concept of a baseball world cup. In practice, it's not working out too well.
Posted on: November 26, 2008 3:41 pm
Angels general manager Tony Reagins said today that his team has no issue with Mark Teixeira's left knee, and also insisted that the Angels haven't ruled out trying to re-sign their free-agent first baseman.
"Mark Teixeira is a priority," said Reagins, a day after both CBSSports.com and the Los Angeles Times reported that the Angels have shifted their focus from Teixeira to CC Sabathia.
A source with knowledge of the Angels plans told CBSSports.com on Tuesday that one reason for the shift was long-term concern over Teixeira's knee. Teixeira had minor surgery to clean out the knee in November 2007, and it did not give him any trouble in 2008.
"With respect to Mark Teixeira, we have zero concern about his medical status," Reagins said. "It's never been raised as an issue."
Scott Boras, who represents Teixeira, said this morning that he had specifically asked the Angels whether they had any concerns, and that he was told there were none.
Reagins wouldn't discuss Sabathia, saying only: "We have interest in looking to improve our pitching staff."