February 25, 2021

Germán Apologizes To Teammates, Who Say He Is Skating On "Thin Ice"

Yankees pitcher Domingo Germán made his first public appearance since being suspended under MLB's domestic violence policy with an apology via Zoom. To the Steinbrenner family. To his teammates. To the Yankees front office. And finally to "those around me who love me".

Germán neglected to specifically apologize to his girlfriend, Mara Vega, whom he assaulted at two different locations on the night in question, in September 2019. Presumably, Germán he has done that privately, as he mentioned they have "talked about it a lot, many, many, many times" and "promised to each other not to go through something like this ever again".

Luke Voit said Germán "messed up. A lot of guys look at him differently now, but I believe in second chances, and the guy deserves a second chance. . . . [B]ut he's skating on thin ice and he needs to get his life together. . . . He needs to grow up and be a man." Last week Zach Britton said: "Sometimes you don't get to control who your teammates are."

February 23, 2021

After Eliminating 43 Minor League Clubs, MLB Announces Teams Comprising 11 Leagues

Before the coronavirus wiped out the 2020 minor league season, the manfredvirus had destroyed 43 minor league teams. (One of the eliminated teams was the Vermont Lake Monsters, a Short-Season A club in Burlington, a few miles from where I grew up.)

MLB recently announced the new league structures for the remaining 120 teams, complete with generic soulless names (Triple-A East, Double-A Central, Low-A West, etc.) which offer sad evidence of the contempt in which Commissioner Rob Manfred holds both the sport and its rich history. If the league names are changed, who would bet against corporate sponsorship? (Scientists fear the manfredvirus could be fatal to baseball.)

C. Trent Rosecrans and Melissa Lockard (The Athletic) offer an informative overview, noting that travel during the pandemic will be limited: "all teams will play six-game series with one day off per week". (You ever notice how teams don't sweep a series as much as they used to? Sigh. Players today lack the gut instinct to win every goddamn day!)

Tentative starting dates for the various seasons are April 6 (Triple-A East), April 8 (Triple-A West), and May 4 (all other leagues). Triple A teams are scheduled to play 142 games, with Double-A and High-A and Low-A teams scheduled for 120 games. All seasons will end September 19.

Triple-A East
20 teams; 3 divisions

Midwest: Columbus Clippers (CLE), Indianapolis Indians (PIT), Iowa Cubs (CHC), Louisville Bats (CIN), Omaha Storm Chasers (KC), St. Paul Saints (MIN), Toledo Mud Hens (DET)

Northeast: Buffalo Bisons (TOR), Lehigh Valley IronPigs (PHI), Rochester Red Wings (WSH), Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (NYY), Syracuse Mets (NYM), Worcester Red Sox (BOS)

Southeast: Charlotte Knights (CHW), Durham Bulls (TB), Gwinnett Stripers (ATL), Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp (MIA), Memphis Redbirds (STL), Nashville Sounds (MIL), Norfolk Tides (BAL)

Triple-A West
10 teams; two divisions

Eastern: Albuquerque Isotopes (COL), El Paso Chihuahuas (SD), Oklahoma City Dodgers (LAD), Round Rock Express (TEX), Sugar Land Skeeters (HOU)

Western: Las Vegas Aviators (OAK), Reno Aces (ARI), Sacramento River Cats (SF), Salt Lake Bees (LAA), Tacoma Rainiers (SEA)

Double-A Central
10 teams, two divisions

Northern: Arkansas Travelers (SEA), Northwest Arkansas Naturals (KC), Springfield Cardinals (STL), Tulsa Drillers (LAD), Wichita Wind Surge (MIN)

Southern: Amarillo Sod Poodles (ARI), Corpus Christi Hooks (HOU), Frisco RoughRiders (TEX), Midland RockHounds (OAK), San Antonio Missions (SD)

Double-A Northeast
12 teams; two divisions

Northeast: Binghamton Rumble Ponies (NYM), Hartford Yard Goats (COL), New Hampshire Fisher Cats (TOR), Portland Sea Dogs (BOS), Reading Fightin Phils (PHI), Somerset Patriots (NYY)

Southwest: Akron RubberDucks (CLE), Altoona Curve (PIT), Bowie Baysox (BAL), Erie SeaWolves (DET), Harrisburg Senators (WSH), Richmond Flying Squirrels (SF)

Double-A South
Eight teams; two divisions

Northern: Birmingham Barons (CHW), Chattanooga Lookouts (CIN), Rocket City Trash Pandas (LAA), Tennessee Smokies (CHC)

Southern: Biloxi Shuckers (MIL), Mississippi Braves (ATL), Montgomery Biscuits (TB), Pensacola Blue Wahoos (MIA)

High-A Central
12 teams; two divisions

Eastern: Dayton Dragons (CIN), Fort Wayne TinCaps (SD), Great Lakes Loons (LAD), Lake County Captains (CLE), Lansing Lugnuts (OAK), West Michigan Whitecaps (DET)

Western: Beloit Snappers (MIA), Cedar Rapids Kernels (MIN), Peoria Chiefs (STL), Quad Cities River Bandits (KC), South Bend Cubs (CHC), Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (MIL)

High-A East
12 teams; two divisions

Northern: Aberdeen IronBirds (BAL), Brooklyn Cyclones (NYM), Hudson Valley Renegades (NYY), Jersey Shore BlueClaws (PHI), Wilmington Blue Rocks (WSH)

Southern: Asheville Tourists (HOU), Bowling Green Hot Rods (TB), Greensboro Grasshoppers (PIT), Greenville Drive (BOS), Hickory Crawdads (TEX), Rome Braves (ATL), Winston-Salem Dash (CHW)

High-A West
Six teams; one division

Eugene Emeralds (SF), Everett AquaSox (SEA), Hillsboro Hops (ARI), Spokane Indians (COL), Tri-City Dust Devils (LAA), Vancouver Canadians (TOR)

Low-A East
12 teams; three divisions

Central: Carolina Mudcats (MIL), Down East Wood Ducks (TEX), Fayetteville Woodpeckers (HOU), Kannapolis Cannon Ballers (CWS)

South: Augusta GreenJackets (ATL), Charleston RiverDogs (TB), Columbia Fireflies (KC), Myrtle Beach Pelicans (CHC)

North: Delmarva Shorebirds (BAL), Salem Red Sox (BOS), Lynchburg Hillcats (CLE), Fredericksburg Nationals (WSH)

Low-A Southeast
10 teams; two divisions

East: Daytona Tortugas (CIN), Jupiter Hammerheads (MIA), Palm Beach Cardinals (STL), St. Lucie Mets (NYM)

West: Bradenton Marauders (PIT), Clearwater Threshers (PHI), Dunedin Blue Jays (TOR), Fort Myers Mighty Mussels (MIN), Lakeland Flying Tigers (DET), Tampa Tarpons (NYY)

Low-A West
Eight teams; two divisions

North: Fresno Grizzlies (COL), Modesto Nuts (SEA), San Jose Giants (SF), Stockton Ports (OAK)

South: Inland Empire 66ers (LAA), Lake Elsinore Storm (SD), Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (LAD), Visalia Rawhide (ARI)

Players (And Union) Appreciate Mather's Honesty; MLB Condemns Only A Portion Of His Comments, While Ignoring Most Of Them; Some MFY Players Not Thrilled About Immature Pitcher Returning From Domestic Violence Suspension

The Players Union issued a statement on the wide-ranging offensive comments made earlier this month by now-former Mariners president and CEO Kevin Mather:

The Club's video presentation is a highly disturbing yet critically important window into how Players are genuinely viewed by management. Not just because of what was said, but also because it represents an unfiltered look into Club thinking. It is offensive, and it is not surprising, that fans and others around the game are offended as well. Players remain committed to confronting these issues at the bargaining table and elsewhere.

Josh Donaldson of the Twins likely spoke for many players when he thanked Mather for being so honest:

Gerrit Cole of the Yankees, a member of the executive subcommittee of the MLBPA, said that every player:
needs to wake up and read the news about the guy with the Mariners. Those conversations are being had in a lot of clubs, unfortunately. That's what a lot of clubs are acting on. . . . If you start to play with the beginning of the bell curve [of a players' career], so you maximize what it is and you're only doing it strictly to be more efficient business-wise, that's just frustrating. . . . I think it's bad faith. . . .

It's happening with a lot of clubs . . . They're not putting the best players on the field for people to see. This guy is talking about players making him money. The product is the people he's talking poorly about. . . . I don't know how to fix it. I just know I don't like it.
MLB released a statement addressing only a small portion of Mather's buffet table of offensiveness:
We condemn Kevin Mather's offensive and disrespectful comments about several players. We are proud of the international players who have made baseball better through their outstanding examples of courage and determination, and our global game is far better because of their contributions. His misguided remarks do not represent the values of our game and have no place in our sport.
As Craig Calaterra notes, MLB ignored Mather's comments "about service time manipulation, lowballing players with low service time, and making decisions about players options — and sharing it with the Bellevue Rotary Club and not the player — a year in advance. Probably because . . . MLB is greatly in favor of those things."

Also: "Mather was not forced to resign for the sentiments he voiced because those sentiments, by definition, represented the team's thinking. He was forced to resign because he shared the team's wildly unpopular anti-fan and anti-player sentiment out loud. It's always about the blowback, not about the transgression."

Mather ran afoul of the baseball version of "It's not the crime, it's the cover-up."

Now he wants to "make amends". Jeff Passan (ESPN) says that's impossible.
Any one of [Mather's] blunders is incalculably foolish. Together, they expose pathological levels of arrogance, hubris and myopia. . . .

It wasn't just that Mather said what he did. It's that he thinks it in the first place. And that he believed a group of Rotarians represented the right audience to tell his warped version of the truth. And that in an apology, he deemed the episode a "lapse in judgment" . . .

The mistrust sown by his comments reverberated deep in the player ranks Sunday, sources told ESPN. The gamut of feelings ranged from "angry" to "sad" to "what the [expletive] was he thinking?" . . .

Mather's statement that he is "committed to make amends" and will "do whatever it takes to repair the damage I have caused to the Seattle Mariners organization" sounded rather familiar. Perhaps it's because in 2018, after a Seattle Times report exposed two complaints from female employees against Mather, he said: "I am committed to ensuring that every Mariners employee feels comfortable and respected." . . .

It's the easiest thing in the world to sit in a tower of privilege and look down on others, to denigrate, to act with impunity because history showed you could without consequence. . . . [Also, Mather is] the last person who should be talking about others being bad at speaking English.
Ken Rosenthal, The Athletic:
The Mariners should have dismissed [Kevin Mather] the moment they acted upon what the Seattle Times reported in 2018 – that before Mather . . . was one of three club executives accused by women of inappropriate workplace conduct . . .

His cringeworthy musings, one more misguided than the next, are Exhibits A through Z in why many players and fans hold owners in contempt. If this is how ownership types really think, why should any of them be trusted? . . .

About the only thing Mather said worth applauding was, "No one cares if wealthy sports team owners lose money. Shut up and move on." The rest was a window into an imperious executive's soul. . . .

By the time the session was over, Mather had given the union 45 minutes of bulletin-board material, at a time when tensions between the players and owners are the highest they have been since the players were on strike in 1994-95. . . .
Mather Video



Yankee pitcher Zach Britton, an MLBPA representative, was asked about teammate Domingo Germán, who is returning from an 81-game domestic violence suspension:
Sometimes you don't get to control who your teammates are. That's the situation.
An idiot fan tweeted at Britton, telling the pitcher "you still don't know the circumstances of what took place, so just STFU and pitch". [How would this dolt know what Britton knows? Part of the incident happened at an event attended by numerous Yankees and other teammates were intimately involved with the other portion of the incident. There's a very good chance Britton knows exactly what happened.]

Britton replied: "Hah you think I don't know the circumstances? Get a clue bud. Was asked the question BTW, gave my answer. Don't care if you are sensitive to it."

Lindsey Adler (The Athletic) reports additional details of the incident:
In September 2019, Germán and his girlfriend attended a charity gala held by then-teammate CC Sabathia. Many of Germán’s 2019 teammates were also there with their families. Germán slapped his girlfriend at the event, sources said, but the MLB investigation focused primarily on what happened at his home later that night.

According to multiple league sources, including a person with knowledge of the MLB investigation, Germán was intoxicated and became physically violent toward his girlfriend until she hid in a locked room. The victim is said to have contacted the wife of another Yankees player, and the couple drove to Germán's home late at night. The victim remained with the teammate's wife, while the player attempted to calm down Germán, who is said to have been angry and belligerent.

The incident was reported to MLB by a different member of the Yankees staff, whom Germán's girlfriend had told about it. The victim did not call law enforcement, so there is no police report from the night of the assault.

MLB quickly put Germán on administrative leave, pending an investigation. The league is said to have worked to help remove the victim from the situation, providing her with resources and connecting with her family. . . .
Last summer, while serving his suspension, Germán posted a series of messages on his Instagram Story, one of which announced, "I've left baseball. Thanks everyone." Yankees officials were unaware of any intention to retire. Germán later apologized for the post and said he was going to continue to play baseball.
On Wednesday . . . Germán posted a vague message on his Instagram Story that said, in Spanish, "Everything is definitely over. Thanks again for everything," an apparent reference to his relationship with his girlfriend, whose initials he included in the post. He then scrubbed his account before posting a black and white photo of himself with a caption that said "back to the playing field. Thanks God for everything."

More on Germain's Instagram strangeness and addressing his teammates.

February 22, 2021

Mariners Pres.-CEO Kevin Mather Outs Himself As A Contemptable, Manipulative, Racist Asshat (Update: Mather, Who Also Has A History of Sexual Harassment, Resigned Monday Afternoon)

UpdateKevin Mather resigned Monday afternoon as Mariners' president and CEO, following reports of his offensive comments made at a February 5 appearance at a Rotary Club in Bellevue, Washington.

Mariners Chairman John Stanton said he was "extremely disappointed" to learn of Mather's "inappropriate" comments, which (naturally) "do not represent our organization's feelings about our players, staff, and fans". However, Stanton (a minority owner beginning in 2000 who became managing partner in 2016) already knew, or should have known, that Mather was a shithead. 

Seattle Times, July 25, 2018 (emphasis mine):
In the years before he became president of the Seattle Mariners, Kevin Mather and two other top team executives were accused by women of inappropriate workplace conduct, resulting in the complainants receiving financial settlements, The Seattle Times has learned.

The complaints, which surfaced in 2009-10, roiled the organization internally, triggering reviews and staff-wide sexual-harassment seminars, The Times found after interviewing more than three dozen people who have worked within or around the Mariners organization. Along with Mather, who at the time was executive vice president of finance and ballpark operations, the complaints also involved then-team President Chuck Armstrong and then-Executive Vice President Bob Aylward.

The three women involved left their jobs. All three executives remained in their positions, and two were later promoted. . . . [T]he complaints did not appear to result in any legal finding of wrongdoing by the team or the three executives.

Armstrong and Aylward declined to comment. Mather said in a brief statement that he's proud of the team's culture and the contributions women make throughout the organization. . . .

"I think our culture is represented by the way we treat people. . . . ," said [Mariners owner and managing partner John] Stanton . . . "Certainly, we're not perfect." . . .

(On Wednesday, the Mariners issued a statement acknowledging that Mather had been the subject of two workplace complaints from female employees. The team said that it had "made amends" to the workers. Mather said he's learned from the mistakes.) . . .

Seattle lawyer Robin Phillips wrote to the Mariners, outlining complaints by two executive assistants aimed largely at Mather, according to three people with knowledge of the matter. Two of the people said Aylward's executive assistant complained that Mather had repeatedly rubbed her back and made suggestive comments that made her feel uncomfortable. In interviews with The Times, a former colleague of the woman recalled her taking steps to avoid interactions with Mather, and another recalled her privately expressing frustration at Mather's interactions. . . .

"He had been touching her back and stuff, and she wasn't very happy about it," the second colleague said in an interview. The person requested anonymity, fearing retaliation by the team.

Mather's own executive assistant said he was mean and had made her uncomfortable with inappropriate jokes and comments about female colleagues in her presence . . .

In Aylward's situation, his executive assistant had reported seeing porn on Aylward's screen after he asked her to help with a frozen computer. While she was helping, pop-up porn images filled his screen, according to two sources. . . . [C]ourt records show Aylward, while an executive VP with the Mariners in September 2003, had been arrested by Seattle police for patronizing a prostitute.  . . . Aylward would not say whether he told the Mariners about the arrest.  . . . Aylward retained his executive VP job. . . .

Mather had been responsible for overseeing the team's human-resources department until shortly after the 2009 allegations surfaced against him. . . . 

* * *

Seattle Mariners President and CEO Kevin Mather seems like a colossal dick — with plenty of contempt for his employees and possessed of a strict refusal to interact with them in anything resembling good faith. He's also proud that he doesn't give one single shit about the team's fans. Last, but not least, he's clearly more than a little racist and feel fine about broadcasting it to strangers.

That's my take. I'll let you decide for yourself.

Craig Calcaterra (Cup of Coffee) explains (emphasis mine):

Video surfaced yesterday of Seattle Mariners president Kevin Mather speaking to the Bellevue, Washington Rotary Club back on February 5. And his comments were . . . not good. Insensitive and borderline racist in some ways. Kinda collusion-y and service time manipulation-y in others. The video has been removed, and Mather has issued a fairly pathetic and generic apology — see below — but obviously nothing dies on the Internet, so you can read the full transcript at Lookout Landing. . . . 

When asked how the team helps international players learn English, Mather, speaking of former Mariners pitcher and current M's special assignment coach Hisashi Iwakuma, said, "I'm tired of paying his interpreter . . . His English suddenly got better when we told him that." Mather's opinions about English speaking continued when talking about prospect Julio Rodríguez, saying he has, "a personality bigger than all of you combined . . . He is loud. His English is not tremendous." . . .

He said that the Mariners were not going to start the service clocks of any prospects last season under any circumstances . . . saying . . . "The risk was, if our major-league team had a COVID-19 outbreak, or injuries, and we had to call people up from the taxi squad, we were a little short on players. Because there was no chance you were going to see these young players at T-Mobile Park. . . . We weren't going to start the service-time clock . . . The risk paid off."

Which is basically an admission of service time manipulation. . . . He went on to say that [two top prospects] will likely be up this year "in late April" which is exactly when you'd call them up to make sure they fell short of the amount of service time necessary to give them a full year, thus pushing back their free agency another season. . . .

[Mather also said] Kyle Seager, who will make $18 million this year, was "overpaid" and that it will be his last year in Seattle, which means that in his eyes the team has already decided to decline his $15 million 2022 option. That led Seager's wife to tweet this: "So should we put our house in Seattle on the market now, orrrrrr?" . . .

Mather made a couple of comments about "the neighborhood" in which Safeco Field sits, saying he worries about fans having to wait in line to get into the ballpark because "I worry about the neighborhood." He then made a weird comment about how (a) he doesn't let employees park in the garage across the street from the ballpark because he can charge fans up to $50 to park there, so he makes employees park down the street. Then he said that he has to provide a police escort for them to get to their cars because of "the neighborhood." . . .

Mather also said that the Mariners didn't do too terribly financially last season because . . . "our payroll was as low as it was going to get, thank goodness" and because the team's TV deal pays well. . . . He also talked about how the team likes to give out lowball contracts to pre-arb players and wants to do more of that in the future, which is something everyone knows teams want to do but something which you rarely hear them say out loud.

Overall, Mather came off as callous, calculating, and otherwise horrible. . . . [T]he apparent predeterminations with respect to various financial moves . . . is something I and other league critics accuse the clubs of all the time, but which they tend to deny or at least finesse. Not Mather. He's pretty straightforward about it.

Late last night, Mather issued an apology: ". . . I take full responsibility for my terrible lapse in judgment. My comments were my own. They do not reflect the views and strategy of the Mariners baseball leadership . . . "

Given that Mather is the President and CEO of the Seattle Mariners — and given that he was speaking at an event in his official capacity, not just shooting the shit at a bar — I am struggling how to think that a "these were just my opinions, man" apology does a single thing to make anyone feel better. He is the boss. He is the person who tells the baseball operations department what to do. When he speaks about the team's plans, opinions, and strategy, they ARE the team's plans, opinions, and strategy. . . .

Kevin Mather answers to one man and one man only: Mariners majority owner John Stanton. As Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times tweeted last night, it seems pretty clear that Stanton would not allow Mather to issue this apology if he planned to fire him over all of this. . . . [I]n the eyes of the team, Mather's primary transgression was not the substance of what he said but merely the fact that he said it out loud.

The term "lapse of judgment" should only be used, if ever, after someone blurts out a few words in the supreme heat of the moment, when in anger or distress and not thinking clearly at all. It is a nothing more than an insult to everyone listening when it's used to excuse hundreds of words spoken calmly, and with plenty of thought beforehand, on a variety of topics.

February 20, 2021

Sexual Harassment Claims Reported Against A Third Mets Employee In The Last Four Weeks;
Mets President Sandy Alderson Will No Doubt Tell Us He Is Shocked Once Again

In the last four weeks, three Mets employees (two current, one former) have been accused of sexual harassment.

Brittany Ghiroli and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic report that in addition to general manager Jared Porter and former manager Mickey Callaway, the Mets also fired Ryan Ellis, an organizational hitting coordinator, three days after Porter was terminated. 

Porter sent more than 60 unsolicited text messages (many of which were sexual) and photos (including one of a penis) in June 2016 to a female reporter he met only once when employed by the Cubs. ESPN reported that it obtained the texts and pictures in 2017, but did not report on them because the woman feared retaliation from either Porter or her employer. The Mets fired Porter on January 18, 2021.

Two weeks later, on February 1, The Athletic broke the story that Callaway had been "accused of harassing [at least five] female reporters during his tenure with several teams". Callaway was suspended from his job as the Angels' pitching coach the following day.

In Ellis's case, three female Mets employees told the team's Human Resources department in 2018 that he had "made explicit and threatening overtures" to each of them. One woman stated that Ellis told her "I stare at your ass all the time. If only I could have 15 minutes alone with you." Also: "He verbally described what he wanted to do to me. He said that he wanted to put me up against the wall." The woman documented the comments in a journal she kept.

Another woman had a brief sexual relationship with Ellis in 2017, but for months after she ended the relationship, Ellis sent "persistent, unwanted text messages" that were sexual in nature. A third woman reported that Ellis often made sexually suggestive comments to her and other low-level female employees. Ellis would also call her late in the evening and ask if her boyfriend was home.

The Mets claim that these complaints "were investigated properly". That seems highly unlikely, as two of the women never heard anything back from the Mets and one woman did not hear anything until last month. That was when "new information" concerning Ellis emerged and the Mets quietly terminated him on January 22. "They were asking about the relationship part," said one of the women. "They weren't really interested in the harassment. It was about they caught him in a lie."

If Ellis, who was married at the time, had admitted back in 2018 that he had a fling with one of the women, I guess he'd still be working for the Mets. And, presumably, free to harass low-level female employees.

Mets president Sandy Alderson, re Porter: "[T]he full breadth of the situation was not really apparent to us until . . . we had a chance to read [the news article]. . . . Those are the kinds of things that [we] find abhorrent and not tolerable . . ."

Mets president Sandy Alderson, re Callaway: "I was appalled by the actions reported . . . I was unaware of the conduct described in the story at the time of Mickey's hire or at any time during my tenure as general manager."

Mets president Sandy Alderson has not commented re Ellis . . . but I'll bet he will be shocked by them and they are bad and the Mets have no tolerance for stuff like that.

Well, except for, to use one example, when Ellis did it in 2018.

February 19, 2021

Lindy's (Spring Training Magazines, Part 1)

My isolated small town's supermarket carries Lindy's, so I grabbed a copy last week.

I will have to drive three hours south to the "big city" (pop. 35,000) to look for the Athlon and Street & Smith's annuals. (As luck would have it, I have to head down on March 5 for a medical appointment.)

Lindy's picks the Red Sox to finish fourth in the AL East in 2021. 

MFY: "The Yankees probably can't finish first with a rotation of Gerrit Cole and assorted misfits. But rest assured, by the ghost of George Steinbrenner, that help will be forthcoming."

Blue Jays: "It is time for the child prodigies to take the next step. Vlad Jr. should be blasting dingers by now, and not just in the Home Run Derby."

Rays: "Where do the Rays stand after trading Blake Snell? Well, they picked up Michael Wacha, who has been one of the worst starters in the game the last two years."

Red Sox: "The Red Sox seem hellbent on dislodging the Rays as the cheapest team in baseball. The difference is, except for the left side of their defense, they have no real keepers."

Orioles: "Earl Weaver wouldn't like this team: no big bopper in the middle of the order (that's what they paid Chris Davis to be), no ace (or two) in the rotation, no vacuum cleaners on defense."

Red Sox

Well, that was a mess. Boston set the tone for its dismal 2020 in February, when the team traded former MVP Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers for a package of prospects and, more importantly for the Red Sox, salary relief. . . . [The team] also avoided free agency, signing only a handful of players despite holes all over the roster.

The result was as predictable as it was ugly. A team that two years earlier had won 108 games and the World Series finished dead-last in the AL East . . . with its lowest winning percentage since 1965 (.400, or a 97-loss season over 162 games). . . .  [I]t's clear that contention isn't in the 2021 cards either. Presumably the goal under general manager Chaim Bloom is to rebuild the roster and farm system, and turn Boston into Tampa North, complete with slimmer payrolls. . . .

Rotation: Assuming Eduardo Rodriguez returns in full health (and signs are good), he'll be Boston's No. 1 starter, and not just because the rest of the rotation is a problem. The lefty was excellent in 2019 . . . With newly improved control, [Nathan Eovaldi] posted a career-high ERA-plus (126) and strikeouts rate (26.1 percent, three points above the MLB average). . . . Tanner Houck was a surprising revelation as a 2020 rookie, allowing one run in 17 innings across three September starts. . . . Chris Sale is unlikely to help before the second half of the season, if at all. . . .

Bullpen: Matt Barnes is the closer, but he won't be for long should he continue to walk batters at a 5.4 pace per nine innings, as he has the past two seasons. . . . Ryan Brasier throws hard and gets a lot of swings and misses. He also gives up a lot of loud contact. Phillips Valdez found a modicum of success last year . . . Like Barnes, he walks too many batters. .A positive Covid-19 test limited Darwinzon Hernandez to 8.1 innings . . . Austin Brice is a thrift store version of Matt Barnes — lots of strikeouts, lots of walks . . . Josh Taylor, who missed most of last season recovering from Covid-19, is the most trustworthy lefty in the bullpen.

Catcher: Formerly a glove-first catcher with a weak bat, Christian Vazquez now is one of the team's triumphs in player development . . . He makes better contact these days and pops an occasional home run. Vazquez had the benefit of a .344 BABIP last season, which he is unlikely to repeat . . . Kevin Plawecki batted .341 last year in limited duty, about 140 points higher than his career average. Don't expect a repeat.

Infield: The Red Sox have a choice at first base between prospects Michael Chavis and Bobby Dalbec. It's likely to be Dalbec, who hit eight homers in 23 games last year, but also struck out 39 times in 92 plate appearances. . . . Same with Chavis, whose free-swinging ways — 50 strikeouts and eight walks in 158 plate appearances last year — rob what value he brings with his power. . . . Chavis is likely to begin the season as the second baseman . . . The job eventually will go to top prospect Jeter Downs, perhaps later this year. Xander Bogaerts . . . had a team-best 131 OPS-plus last season, although the metrics crowd said he hit too many ground balls, made less hard contact and was fooled by breaking balls to often. Bogaerts is an acceptable shortstop as long as he hits well. Third baseman Rafael Devers managed to finish as an above-average MLB hitter last season, despite a terrible start. Through his first 21 games, Devers slashed .183/.239/.317, but he went .307/.350/.573 the rest of the way. Just 24 years old, he isn't close to his ceiling. Devers, though, remains a subpar defender.

Outfield: Alex Verdugo's task last season was to at least faintly mirror [Mookie Betts's] production . . . [He led] the team in WAR with a 1.9 score and finishing second in OPS-plus at 126, while playing above-average defense. Look under the hood, and you will find some issues, such as a ground balls rate of 52.2 percent . . . and a mediocre hard-hit rate. Then you remember that Verdugo is only 24 and still getting his career off the ground. . . . Hunter Renfroe has three things going for him: power (career .486 slugging percentage), an ability to crush lefties (career .258/.339/.573 slash line) and above-average defense. On the downside, he is an unapologetic hacker (career .290 OBP and 28 percent strikeouts rate) and virtually useless against righties (.216/.268/.449). . . .

Designated Hitter: Somehow a hitter of [J.D. Martinez's] caliber got beat by fastballs all season long; he hit a measly .186 with a .372 slugging percentage against heaters. . . . [G]ive him the benefit of the doubt and see what he's doing at midseason.

Manager/Organization: Chaim Bloom's first year in Boston was as rough as it gets. Regardless, it was the first step in what now looks like a multi-year rebuild. Next step: better player development and restocking the farm system, and getting ahead of the curve analytically.

MFY

Is it fair to call the 2020 Yankees a disappointment? If nothing else, their season was uneven: a 16-6 start, followed by a 5-15 stretch that cost them the American League East title and almost knocked them out of playoffs contention, and then 12-6. . . . Tampa Bay snuffed out New York in a hard-fought Division Series. . . . 

[Gerrit Cole, with the largest contract in the history of free agency] looked like the final piece to a loaded, terrific roster. Cole did his part, but the Yankees' ship sprang many leaks along the way . . . New York's World Series drought is now 11 years and counting . . .

The core is still in place and very strong. The farm system continues to produce blue chippers like an assembly line. The team might not dominate free agency . . . but it hasn't retrenched financially in the same manner as the Red Sox and Cubs. The gap between dangerous and champion, though, hasn't been bridged, as the Yankees are running short in their rotation, and some of their sluggers are health risks.

Rotation: [Cole posted] a third straight sub-3.00 ERA and . . . remains a top-five pitcher in MLB. . . . Who knows what Domingo German will provide after he missed the 2020 season due to a domestic violence suspension? . . . With Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and J.A. Happ all gone, the Yankees will have to fill out their rotation with cheap veterans or some of their prospects. 

BuIlpen: Aroldis Chapman has given up a decisive home run in each of the last two postseasons that has sent the Yankees home. More concerning is his continued drop in velocity . . .

Catcher: What are the Yankees going to do with Gary Sanchez? He continued his long and slow tumble into the muck last year, with a 69 OPS-plus and a 36-percent strikeouts rate. . . . [From 2018-20] Sanchez has a .200/.296/.453 slash line, and his problems behind the plate are well documented. . . . [He has power, but] even that has become a lesser asset given that he flails away at everything and keeps swinging and missing. Sanchez has virtually no trade value at this point. . . .

Infield: [Luke] Voit comes with red flags. He walked half as much as he did in 2019, endured a big jump in strikeouts and often was back on his heels against breaking and offspeed stuff. . . . [Tyler Wade has] no power to speak of, he needs BABIP luck to be productive. About the only positive for shortstop Gleyber Torres last year was that he took more walks than normal . . . he was too passive at the plate. . . . 

Outfield: Aaron Judge's biggest problem is that he's played in only 63 percent of the Yankees' games the past three seasons. He missed half of last year because of a calf injury and posted the worst wOBA, hard-hit rate and average exit velocity figures of his career. . . . Per advanced metrics, [Aaron] Hicks is one of MLB's worst outfielders. . . . [He] gets terrible jumps and has subpar speed.

Designated Hitter: Like Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton lives much of the time on the IL, having played in only 18 percent of the Yankees' games the past two seasons. He showed up for 23 games last year . . .
Rays
An assemblage of spare parts, platoon players, former top prospects, unexpected developmental success stories and other misfit toys, the Rays last season embodied what is an organizational mindset, namely the sum is greater than the parts. Using a lot of depth and plenty of flexibility, Tampa Bay blazed its way to an AL-best 40 wins . . . Just two victories — and possibly an ill-fated pitching change — separated the Rays from a World Series trophy.

Yet barely two months removed from the Fall Classic, Tampa put payroll ahead of contention, trading staff ace Blake Snell to the Padres for four prospects. The Rays got plenty in return, headlined by Luis Patino, one of the game's best pitching prospects. They also made themselves worse for 2021 . . . Always trade a player too early rather than too late; the moment he becomes too expensive, send him packing; create a foundation of cheap, pre-arbitration players who are 25 or younger. It's a cynical, profoundly fan-unfriendly way to operate a franchise. . . .

Is Tampa Bay's alleged philosophy of "Always trade a player too early rather than too late" really "cynical" and "profoundly fan-unfriendly"?

Perhaps. But it was also one of Branch Rickey's key mantras and his enlightened way of thinking was decades ahead of his fellow front office executives. Indeed, Rickey's ideas still seem beyond the ken of some of today's GMs, even seventy years later.

AL Central: White Sox, Twins, Cleveland, Royals, and Tigers. ("As long as Tony La Russa takes his Metamucil and doesn't nod off in the dugout, the White Sox are good to go.")
AL West: Athletics, Angels, Astros, Mariners, Texas.
AL Wild Cards: Blue Jays, Twins.
AL Champions: MFY.
AL MVP: Alex Bregman (Astros).
AL Cy Young: Gerrit Cole (MFY).

NL East: Atlanta, Nationals, Mets, Phillies, Marlins.
NL Central: Cardinals, Brewers, Reds, Cubs, Pirates.
NL West: Dodgers, Padres, Diamondbacks, Giants, Rockies.
NL Wild Cards: Padres, Brewers.
NL Champions: Atlanta.
NL MVP: Fernando Tatis, Jr. (Padres).
NL Cy Young: Walker Buehler (Dodgers).

February 18, 2021

Padres Sign Tatis To 14-Year (!) Contract Extension


Fernando Tatis Jr. has started only 139 major league games.

The Padres just signed him to a 14-year contract extension ($340 million). That's the longest contract in baseball history; Tatis wasn't even eligible for arbitration for another year!

Tatis has a 154 OPS+ in his two seasons in San Diego (154 in 2019 and 155 in 2020). He turned 22 the day after New Year's. There are only six other players who have posted an OPS+ of 154 or greater through age 21: Mike Trout (166), Cap Anson (162), Ted Williams (161), Jimmie Foxx (157), Albert Pujols (157), and Rogers Hornsby (155). Four Hall of Famers and two future Hall of Famers.

But 14 years is a really long time.

* * *

The Red Sox traded pitchers Jeffrey Springs (LH) and Chris Mazza (RH) and a suitcase full of cash to the Rays for minor leaguers Ronaldo Hernández (catcher) and Nick Sogard (infielder). Hopefully, Chaim Bloom's familiarity with Tampa Bay's farm system allowed him to take advantage of the Rays.

Pitchers and catchers report today.

February 16, 2021

MLB's Shitty New Rules From 2020 Will Return In 2021

Most of the shitty new rules MLB introduced into the shortened 2020 season have returned for what everyone hopes will be a full-length 2021 campaign.

ESPN's Alden Gonzalez and Jesse Rogers answer a bunch of questions about the upcoming seasons, including these:

How will spring training games look different this year?

In some cases early on, they may only last seven innings, or even five. The league is allowing managers to agree upon a shortened game, in part, due to less players being available to use since minor leaguers won't be around in late February.

They'll also have the ability to end an inning before three outs if a pitcher has reached his pitch count. That way, managers can map out exactly how many pitchers he's going to use on a given day and dress only those players. Overall, it limits players in the dugout and bullpens.

After March 14, games will be nine innings, unless managers choose to shorten them to seven, because later in spring is when regulars can play a full nine and starting pitchers are likely to throw more innings.

Once the regular season begins, what rule changes will we see?

Seven-inning doubleheaders are back. So are expedited extra-inning games as a runner will once again be placed on second base for each team from the 10th inning on. The three-batter minimum rule for relievers is also back, but the league hasn't taken any action toward banning or limiting the shift.

What about the DH in the NL and expanded playoffs? That is not mentioned in the health and safety protocols.

As of now, neither will happen in 2021. But it's still possible both could be implemented before Opening Day.

The DH has a chance largely because of safety concerns. . . . But the sides haven't come to an agreement for various reasons, which include what the players will give back in order to add 15 hitting jobs to the National League.

A five-inning spring training game in which some half-innings last only one or two outs?



MLB Plans "Minor Changes" To Baseballs In 2021 "To Reduce Offense Slightly"

MLB is messing with the baseball again. But this time, they are admitting it.

Eno Sarris and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported last week on an internal memo MLB sent on February 5 to "general managers, assistant general managers, and equipment managers outlining minor changes that might combine to reduce offense slightly in the 2021 season".

Sarris and Rosenthal:

Research conducted by Rawlings says the balls will be centered more in the midpoint of the established COR range, which is from .530 to .570 with a midpoint around .550, as the first report on the home run rate surge stated. So the COR likely changed around .01 to .02 at most, and the ball mass was likely reduced by less than 2.8 grams. That might seem like no big deal, until you compare this situation to what happened in Korea when the Korean Baseball Organization deadened the ball there. 

[*: "COR is the coefficient of restitution, or the relationship of the incoming speed to the outgoing speed. So, in other words, this new ball will be less bouncy."]

On the field, Korean baseball was drastically different from one year to the next: Slugging in KBO was down 14 percent and homers were cut by a third. That happened after the KBO changed the ball size by one gram and moved the COR by .01 to .02 (from a midpoint at .4254 to one at .4134). So with changes of the same magnitude as those being implemented by MLB this offseason, the game in Korea changed dramatically from one season to the next. . . .

The MLB memo includes a footnote that says an independent lab found that fly balls that went over 375 feet lost one to two feet of batted ball distance with the new ball. That also sounds like no big deal, but every 3.3 feet of distance increases the likelihood of a home run by ten percent. An analyst familiar with the physics and math of this situation said the relationship was linear enough to estimate that this change will reduce home run rates by around five percent. 

"It'll be like adding five feet of outfield walls to every wall in the big leagues," the analyst said. But it's hard to know the specifics without knowing what the drag difference will be. The memo mentions nothing about the drag, which has been a major factor in differences in how the ball has performed in the last few years. Drag is more difficult to control than bounciness, one source said. Others felt the drag difference would be negligible. 

Reaction within the league's front offices and coaching ranks was mixed. 

"It sounds to me as it will result in more ball consistency and a very, very slight deadening of the ball," said one general manager, referencing the memo's language about placing the ball in the middle of the 'specification range.' 

When asked if it seemed baseball was deadening the ball on purpose, one general manager agreed: "That's the desired result." . . .

With strikeouts in the game surging, one risk in deadening the ball is that it will leave the game with all those swings and misses and fewer big flies. But a five percent reduction in homers won't bring us back to before the live ball era; it's more likely the ball will fly like it did in 2017, a season that broke home run records before 2019 made mincemeat of those home run records. . . .

The addition of five more [unidentified, as of now] teams using humidors, bringing the total number to 10, also might impact offense. The Mariners, Mets, Red Sox, and Rockies already store their balls in humidors. So do the Diamondbacks . . .

February 14, 2021

So . . . Truck Day Was Last Monday

I'm embarrassed to say I missed Truck Day. It was last Monday.
I assumed it was being delayed because I thought MLB and the Union had not agreed on the length of the 2021 season.

Pitchers and catchers will report this Thursday (February 18) and the first game of the spring is scheduled for two weeks from today (February 28). The revised spring schedule includes games against only five teams: Atlanta (9 games), Twins (8), Rays (8), Orioles (2), and Pirates (2).

The Red Sox signed outfielder-first baseman Marwin Gonzalez, 31, to a one-year deal ($3 million). 

Martín Pérez has returned to the pitching staff. The team declined his $6.25 million option last November, but Pérez re-signed on Friday for 2021 at $4.5 million (with $6 million option for 2022). (Sounds like no other team expressed any interest.) Pérez allowed two earned runs or fewer in seven of his team-high 12 starts in 2020.

Boston invited 22 non-roster players to training camp, including first baseman Triston Casas, infielder Jeter Downs, outfielder Jarren Duran, right-handed pitcher Thad Ward, and second baseman Nick Yorke.

February 12, 2021

An Announcement For 2021, And Beyond

The Joy of Sox will no longer have regular season game recaps.

Every winter for the past four or five years, I have wondered if it's time to end the blog. I put off making the decision, spring rolls around, and I'm always glad to come back. The 2021 season will be the 19th season I have blogged about the Red Sox. I began writing about the 2003 season at my old Pedro site and in late August of that year, I created my little corner of the internet. This is my 8,775th post.

I'm coming back in 2021, but to paraphrase the Bard, I'm not coming back all the way.

Major League Baseball has been working hard in recent years to push dedicated, life-long fans away from the game they love. Sadly, that work has had results.

Separate from that, my connection to the Red Sox has weakened with each World Series title. That trade-off, however, is one I will never regret. There are many things in this world worth following avidly besides baseball.

As I mentioned, I started posting online about the Red Sox in 2003, which was extremely fortuitous. That season and the one that followed was the absolute peak of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry (and the absolute peak of my obsession with the Red Sox). 

Nothing will (or can) match 2003-2004. If you did not experience that excruciating, exhilarating, 21-month, 408-game mega-season first-hand, you will never truly understand it. That is simply a fact. The day-by-day-by-day drama (of any baseball season, really) can be truly experienced only in real time. No book can do it justice (not even this one, though you'll be a happier person (as will I) if you own a copy). Like the old-timers say, "You had to be there", living it, inning after inning, game after game, idle, non-baseball hours dragging on as you obsessed about what had happened and wondered about what would happen, until it ended in the most unbelievable way possible. (I'm far from alone in still asking myself: Did that really happen?!?)

It really did . . . and it was another full year before I realized what the lasting effects might be. The 2005 Red Sox were swept out of the ALDS in three games. As I wrote later that night:

When Edgar Renteria ended the second consecutive Red Sox season with an infield grounder, I went out to walk my dogs, and I was somewhat surprised at how I felt. . . . I didn't mind all that much. Sure, winning is better than losing. I'd rather be anxious and pacing, waiting for Game 4 to start. But it seems that within my baseball heart, the glow of 2004 has failed to dim. . . .

The short series was frustrating . . . but there was no real angst over the final result, certainly no weight of history on the shoulders. Later on in the evening, I actually said: "Hey, you can't win them all." . . . [D]eep down, I'm content. . . .

The ripple effects of 2004 — and the promise of 2006, now a mere dot of light on the horizon, but soon to come into clearer view — will keep me quite warm through another winter.

My brain was re-wired in October 2004 and that's how it's been ever since. Which is not to say I have not enjoyed the many successes that have followed. The 2007 season was made extra special by a diverse and active crowd of game-threaders and another from-the-near-dead postseason comeback, the occurrence of which I was as confident as I was of the next day's sunrise (a marked difference from 2004). There was 2013, a satisfying cleansing of the palate after suffering through the dismal backwash following the Tito Years, though I was somewhat distracted by the interviews and writing of Don't Let Us Win Tonight. And the joyous, unstoppable juggernaut of 2018, starring the much-missed Mookie Betts.

The period of 2003-2018 was without question the greatest time to be a Red Sox fan. The franchise also won four championships during the 1910s (1912-1918), but those teams did not have the long history of coming up short that made these recent titles so satisfying.

Stunned after the brutal, crushing, gut-punch of 2003, I seriously wondered if I would ever see the Red Sox win the World Series. Boston's final game that season began on my 40th birthday, so I presumably had numerous seasons ahead in which to hope, but how many times can even a masochist put himself through something like that? The 2003 Red Sox seemed about as good as it got, and if they couldn't make it happen, who could? Fifty-four weeks later, I had my answer. And now I have seen the Red Sox win four World Series championships. FOUR! I also have a day-by-day-record of my mindset (more or less) and what was newsworthy as each of those historic seasons rolled on.

I no longer worry about watching the Red Sox every day, of immersing myself completely in their current season so if they do win it all, I'll have gone through the full experience. I don't need to do that any more and, if I'm being honest, I really don't want to. Fifteen years ago, following the team was a part-time job even on the slowest days. 

My main reason for watching the Red Sox now is because I enjoy watching the Red Sox. There's only one problem. I don't enjoy watching the Red Sox in the manner in which the games are presented to me.

If you have been reading my posts for a while, you are undoubtedly familiar with my ever-growing list of grievances, my numerous complaints, about MLB and NESN. In brief: I have zero patience for gaffe-prone announcers who remain blissfully ignorant of their nightly missteps or who mail it in so often their face should be on a stamp; the incessant advertising makes me sick; and while the slower pace-of-play bothers me, MLB's refusal to intelligently deal with it annoys me much more, because MLB cannot do anything without somehow fucking things up and Rob Manfred's crusade to trash the fundamental competitive structure of the game by adding gimmicky rules better suited to beer-league softball, none of which will solve the problems he claims he wants to solve, and all of which causes me headache-level infuriation, as well as a profound sadness over the clear realization that I've already begun losing one of the few things I've loved for nearly my entire life.

Also: I switched time zones two seasons ago (Eastern to Pacific) and added a fourth day to my work schedule. Now, night games usually begin at 4 PM and weekend day games start before noon. Watching every game is not a priority and these earlier start times don't make it any easier. (Note: Game recaps would return for playoff games, but that will most likely not be an issue in 2021.)

Plus: I have another book project I began researching several years ago. I cannot walk away from the idea and I have neglected it for too long. I have to make it my priority in 2021. (And if anyone knows an agent . . .)

February 10, 2021

Benintendi Traded To Royals As Part of Three-Team Deal

The Red Sox traded outfielder Andrew Benintendi to the Royals on Wednesday as part of a three-team trade with Kansas City and the Mets.

Boston received outfielder Franchy Cordero and two players to be named later from the Royals and right-hander pitcher Josh Winckowski and a player to be named later from the Mets.

Benintendi, 26, capped a stellar 2018 season (.290/.366/.465) with a remarkable, game-ending catch against the Astros in ALCS Game 4, giving the Red Sox a 3-1 lead rather than having the series tied 2-2. 

Benintendi slumped in 2019 (.266/.343/.431) and went 4-for-39 last year before a right rib injury ended his season. His value was at an all-time low, so what the Red Sox got back will not likely get your heart fluttering.

Cordero, 26, appeared in 79 games over three seasons in San Diego (2017-19), hitting .240/.306/.431 for a league-average 99 OPS+. He had 42 plate appearances for the Royals in 2020, hitting only .211/.286/.447, with some power.

Winckowski will turn 23 on June 28 and pitched in A+ ball in 2019. (There were no minor league seasons in 2020.) He was in Toronto's system until two weeks ago, when he was sent to the Mets in the Steven Matz deal.

February 8, 2021

Awareness And Accountability ("You See A Lot Of Actions In MLB That Would Never Be Tolerated, Except That People Are Forced To Tolerate Them Every Day.")

I do not subscribe to Baseball Prospectus. However, I do subscribe to Defector (the fairly new site at which many former Deadspin writers have found a home after their previous space was destroyed by corporate shitheads).

I'm glad I do, because Defector posted this bit of writing from BP. Ginny Searle writes with eloquence and a precise, measured tone I will call "dispassionately furious".

Time to Untune that String
Ginny Searle, Baseball Prospectus, February 2, 2021

When something happens with consistency and regularity, it becomes a pattern. When that pattern is exerted relentlessly on a particular group, it becomes an expectation. This is not inherently a bad thing. It's a rough sketch of how trust is formed, the basis of the rapport that reporters are expected to build with players, coaches, and executives. The ability to learn the rules of that interplay is one of the most critical if invisible tasks in which a reporter engages. . . .

There's a critical corollary to this system (and let's be clear, it is a system), however: Both parties are supposed to be able to walk away. It's the recourse you are meant to have when someone is being disrespectful, unkind, or otherwise breaking trust. It has immemorially been and remains a fundamental flaw in human society, though, that relationships are so often inequitable. . . . 

It's not that those who hold and exert power imbalances for their own ends don't know what they're doing. Quite the opposite, rather—these people are typically drawing on and reaffirming the playbook of abuse, aware that their power insulates them from consequences. This is, basically, an outline of the formation and maintenance of a system of oppression. . . . When that responsibility is eschewed, the person whose dignity is being violated is far too often presented with a choice between important resources to one's livelihood or personhood and a damaging, potentially deleterious relationship. Aware of this, the person breaking trust and boundaries often chooses to offer incentives to maintain the relationship. . . .

The existence of a network for women to support each other and ward one another away from potential abuse is unsurprising in the context of an overarching system that makes no sincere provisions for its prevention. . . . The heartening nature of that mutual support is contrasted with the dismaying reality of why it is so deeply necessary. . . .

There is a society-long impulse toward maintaining the status quo . . . One factor enabling actors such as Callaway to act in this fashion unabated for a decade-plus is their assumption that those they victimize will observe their degree, priority, and place—because they are often in positions where they see few other options. That same insularity enables those who hired or oversaw people such as Callaway to dodge responsibility for what happened in their tenure as outside of their sphere. The system doesn't work for those of lesser priority because it's not intended to . . . Fashioning accountability is a clear threat to the system MLB has in place—and it should be, because the present system is already quite literally deracinating, displacing; recall the reporter harassed by Jared Porter left not only the industry but the country.

***

Mets president Sandy Alderson, in three weeks connected to two former employees engaging in pervasive harassment, said the only thing he would ever be expected to say: He was unaware . . . The question of how he was unaware when so many were goes unanswered along with that of it not being his basic responsibility to be aware of such matters. They won't be answered, can't, because to do so would require either an admittance of cognizance on Alderson's part or an admittance of an endemic failure of such in an avenue that is clearly within the purview of his job. . . .

One main reason behavior such as Callaway's or Porter's is eventually able to come to light is the persistence of messages, especially for reporters, in the digital age. . . . It seems as improbable to think [Callaway] was not aware his actions would eventually come to light as to think he was unaware of their rank unacceptability. He didn't care because he didn't have to. What it comes down to is that someone has to care, or be made to. . . .

So long as a system in which self-evident abuse is tolerated again and again by MLB's constituent organizations persists, as long as accountability is left to the ether, it's difficult to see progress for women within the sport as anything but chipping away at an iceberg. Even if it's moving, you'll never notice it within your lifetime.

Regarding Mets GM Sandy Alderson:

[He] revealed the nationality of the woman Porter had harassed—a detail that had purposely been withheld from ESPN's story—and then claimed total ignorance about Porter's behavior. Alderson mentioned that the Mets had only received glowing recommendations for Porter before he was hired. When pressed, Alderson revealed that no women were spoken to when the Mets were looking into Porter's background.

Alderson's tenure at the Mets includes hiring a general manager and a manager who are accused of sexually harassing media members. Alderson's awareness of at least one incident involving Callaway, and his professed lack of knowledge about Porter's past behavior, paint a picture of a man who at best cannot be relied on to responsibly hire people into positions of considerable power.

[Accepting the inevitable statements that Alderson and the Mets could not possibly have known about all this inappropriate behavior] require[s] one to ignore the fact that Alderson, with all his knowledge and experience and extensive connections throughout the baseball world, couldn't manage to find out about Callaway and Porter what probably dozens of women within the game already knew. If the president of a baseball team can't discover one of "the worst-kept secret in sports" while vetting and then later investigating his manager, either because he didn't know where or didn't bother to look, then he probably should not be the president of a baseball team.

February 2, 2021

"The Worst-Kept Secret In Sports": Five Reporters Detail "Unrelenting" Sexual Harassment By Mickey Callaway, Former Mets Manager and Current Angels Pitching Coach

Brittany Ghiroli and Katie Strang of The Athletic report that Mickey Callaway, the Angels pitching coach and former Mets manager,

aggressively pursued at least five women who work in sports media, sending three of them inappropriate photographs and asking one of them to send nude photos in return. He sent them unsolicited electronic messages and regularly commented on their appearance in a manner that made them uncomfortable. . . .

The five women, who spoke to The Athletic on the condition that they not be identified, said that the actions by the now 45-year-old Callaway spanned at least five years, multiple cities and three teams. Two of the women said they were warned about his behavior – from fellow media members and others who worked in baseball. An additional seven women who worked in various MLB markets said that, although they had not been approached by Callaway, they had been cautioned about him. . . .

The five women pursued by Callaway described a pattern in which he regularly contacted them via email, text messages or on social media, and often a combination of the three. His pursuit put them in a difficult position at work given what they perceived as a stark power imbalance. The women were forced to weigh the professional ramifications of rebuffing him. 

The Athletic's report details numerous incidents of harassment. (Less than two weeks ago, it was reported that former Mets GM Jared Porter sent "explicit, unsolicited" texts to a female reporter while employed by the Cubs. Porter was promptly fired.)

MLB stated it "has never been notified of any allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior by Mickey Callaway", which has to be an ass-covering lie, since one the women said Callaway's years of harassment were "the worst-kept secret in sports". Now that Callaway's on-going harassment has become news, MLB has to do something, so it is investigating. Hurrah!

A New York reporter: "Two or three times a week for a month he'd send me shirtless selfies", then follow up with a request: "Now you send me one of you." . . . "He would come up to me and massage my shoulders in the dugout when he thought no one was looking. For a month, he would text me asking for nude pics. I started talking to people (who were in the media) and they said this isn't an isolated thing." Two of his texts: "I bet you look yummy on tequila." and "Our sleep doctor in Cleveland said you should always sleep naked. . . . Have to let perfect skin breathe!"

Callaway sent more than a dozen emails to another New York-based reporter, including several requests to meet up late at night. He also gave her his address and commented on her physical appearance and clothing. "He was pressing me to go have drinks with him in exchange for news. . . . When he got fired [by the Mets], it was a lot of relief."

When Callaway was in Cleveland, at least three female reporters said "rumors about Callaway's misbehavior with women were rampant" and one woman was warned to stay away from him. One Cleveland reporter said Callaway commented on her boots, asked where she was from, tried to hang out with her, and sent her shirtless selfies.

Another reporter received a "Happy Valentine's Day!" text after not having had any in-person contact with Callaway for five months. She replied to another text, which he sent in April, and Callaway responded by sending her nine pictures and a video of himself shirtless on a tractor. During one interview, Callaway put his leg up onto a railing and thrust his crotch near her face. "I felt like I had to keep up this persona of friendliness and being polite to him." After she wrote a column critical of Callaway, she heard he wanted to speak to her about it. She "vividly remembers picking an outfit that exposed no skin – despite the summer heat – and pulling back her hair. 'I remember thinking I had to do this because this man is creepy.'"

When Callaway was hired by the Angels, multiple women based in Los Angeles, told The Athletic they had been warned about Callaway's behaviour.

One of the women wondered how it was possible that multiple teams had no idea of Callaway's behaviour. "How would that be possible? At this point, it's his reputation. If they are vetting him, even an ounce of his personal life should reveal this."

Mets president Sandy Alderson, who hired Callaway in 2017, stated he was "appalled" by the reports and said the team's vetting process was thorough, though he admitted he spoke to no women.

Other coverage: Daily News, Post, ESPN.

February 1, 2021

Dustin Pedroia Announces His Retirement

 

Fuck Yeah!

Dustin Pedroia, the second baseman who spent his entire 17-year professional career with the Red Sox, announced his retirement today.

Pedroia, 37, was the American League Rookie of the Year in 2007, and a member of the World Series champions. He was named the AL Most Valuable Player the next season. Pedroia also played on the 2013 and 2018 World Series-winning teams.

Pedroia is the only major league player to win a World Series title, and MVP, Rookie of the Year, and Gold Glove awards in his first two full seasons. Pedroia played in 14 major league seasons, and his 1,506 games at second base are the second-most in team history, behind Bobby Doerr (1,865). Pedroia finishes his career with a .299 batting average and a .365 on-base percentage. 

According to the statement released by the Red Sox:

In Red Sox history, he ranks among the top 10 all-time in hits (8th), doubles (6th), runs (10th), steals (6th), extra-base hits (8th), total bases (8th), and at-bats (9th).  . . .

[Pedroia's] five games with at least five hits are the most in Red Sox history, and he is the franchise’s only player ever to record as many as six hitting streaks of 10 or more games in a single season (2016). His 25-game hitting streak in 2011 is the longest ever by a Red Sox second baseman, while his 138 steals are the franchise’s most at his position. Pedroia is the only second baseman in Red Sox history to record at least 200 hits and 100 runs scored in a season (2008, '16). He still holds single-season franchise records in batting average (.326), runs (118), hits (213), doubles (54), total bases (322), and extra-base hits (73) by a second baseman, all reached during his 2008 MVP season. Pedroia joins Yastrzemski and Mookie Betts as the only Red Sox ever to reach 100 home runs and 100 stolen bases. . . .

His .991 fielding percentage at second base is the highest in AL history; he owns eight of the 12 highest single-season fielding percentages at second base in Red Sox history, including a franchise-best .997 mark in 2014. Pedroia fielded 439 consecutive chances without committing an error during a stretch from 2009-10 and played 114 consecutive errorless games from 2016-17, both Red Sox records at second base. He also holds Red Sox single-season records for most games (160) and starts (159) at second base, both reached during the club's 2013 World Series championship season.

Pedroia was the Red Sox' starting second baseman in all 51 of the club's Postseason games from 2007-17 . . . During his 2007 rookie season, Pedroia went 3-for-5 with a home run and five RBI in Game 7 of the ALCS, as he still holds the rookie record for most RBI in an ALCS game. He is one of only two rookies ever to homer in Game 7 of an ALCS, joined by Randy Arozarena in 2020. Pedroia homered to lead off the bottom of the first inning in Game 1 of the 2007 World Series at Fenway Park; he is still the only rookie ever to hit a leadoff home run in the World Series.

January 29, 2021

AROD's Self-Help Tips (#1: Buy A Large, Gray Hammock)

Two days ago:


David Roth, Defector, January 27, 2021:

Wednesdays, right? They take it out of you. You're halfway home, sure, but there's still all this, like, week just glowering down and looming up ahead. And the days are short and strange and acidic, every day is now, and the sun sometimes just doesn't come out at all. . . . 

In light of this, we suggest you do what Alex Rodriguez and other undeniably regular human people do—get some time outside, away from your Zoom meetings, and as the popular saying goes "refresh [your] batteries." Feel free to assume a normal stance as you do this! . . .

That's better, isn't it?

The comments at both sites are gold. 

January 26, 2021

No One Elected To Hall Of Fame In 2021

No players on the 2021 Hall of Fame Ballot provided to the Baseball Writers of America Association were named on the necessary 75% of ballots to gain induction. It's the third time in 50 years no one was elected from the writers' ballots (1971, 1996, 2013).

Curt Schilling was named on 285 of 401 ballots (71.1%), a bit better than his 70% showing last year, but still 16 votes short. Barry Bonds (248 ballots, 61.8%) and Roger Clemens (247 ballots, 61.6%) also fell short.

This was the ninth year for all three players. Next year will be his last chance on the writers' ballot.

Schilling has asked that his name be removed from the writers' ballot next year. Schilling being Schilling, of course, he needed 1,136 words to make that request; in fact, he wrote 1,030 words before even mentioning it: 

I'll defer to the veterans committee and men whose opinions actually matter and who are in a position to actually judge a player.

Schilling also dragged his wife's chemotherapy into the discussion, because anyone can see how that is critically relevant to a debate over the Hall of Fame "character" clause and Schilling's chronic hate speech and his support of cop-killing seditious insurrections:

But as I watch my wife battle cancer and go through the grueling soul crushing process of chemotherapy and see her hurt every time some idiot writes another hit piece linking to other hit pieces, none rooted in any sort of truth . . . I sure as hell don't want to dump any of this on a woman who just ended her 3rd chemo . . .

I want to know how Curt's wife knows when "some idiot writes another hit piece" on him. And it's a funny thing about those hit pieces, how they simply quote Schilling's own words. But anyway, if seeing these horrible articles causes his wife actual hurt, I doubt she willingly wanders the internet actively looking for them. How does she know they exist? How does she know what they claim?

As with just about everything Schilling-related, the upshot of all this is that he is an asshole who can't keep his yap shut when it would benefit him to do so and he has brought most of his unfortunate circumstances upon himself.

Yankees May Rue Trading Reliever Adam Ottavino To Red Sox

The Red Sox and Yankees almost never do business with each other, but New York has traded relief pitcher Adam Ottavino (and pitcher Frank Graham) to Boston for a player to be named later. It's only the second trade the two rivals have made in 23 years.

This is a cost-cutting move for the Yankees. The Red Sox will be responsible for $7.15 million of Ottavino's $8 million salary this season.

Ottavino, a 35-year-old right-hander, was good in 2019 (1.90 ERA in 66.1 innings) and bad in 2020 (5.89 ERA in only 18.1 innings). That's a huge difference in ERA, but his underlying stats are not so wildly different. (He allowed six of his 12 runs last year in one zero-out appearance against Toronto.)

        OBP   SLG   OPS  BABIP    FIP
2019   .316  .308  .624   .286   3.44
2020   .353  .419  .772   .375   3.52

Who is Frank German? Over the Monster reports that he is:

a fourth round pick by the Yankees back in 2018. Now 23 years old (he'll turn 24 in late September, German pitched in High-A back in 2019, making 15 starts plus one relief appearance for a total of 76 innings that year. In that time he pitched to a 3.79 ERA with 82 strikeouts (25 percent rate) and 35 walks (11 percent rate). He was ranked number 32 in the Yankees organization prior to last season by FanGraphs, who wrote of him at the time as a current starter who experienced a velocity spike at the end of his college career, but is more likely to settle into a relief role at the major-league level.

The Red Sox had their eye on Ottavino after winning the 2018 World Series, but he ended up signing a 3/27 deal with the Yankees. Now, he says he may have become too predictable on the mound and wants to change his way of pitching.

I don't want to give away too many things but for me, multiple shapes of my breaking pitches, I think, is the area where I can be elite at. That's the category that I feel like is my specialty. So, just trying to lean into that and grab a little better control of pitches that break downward as well as sideways and everything in between. . . . I feel like over the last couple of years, I kind of fell in love with the one shape that I had of the slider, which is kind of what everybody knows. I actually got more and more consistent throwing that pitch and I just think that hitters could kind of track the break on it because it was always kind of the same. So my goal was to be a little less consistent if that makes sense.

Lindsey Adler, The Athletic:

Yankees fans can reasonably reject the Ottavino trade based on performance or principle. Ottavino is a native Brooklynite who has a great arsenal when it's working and could frustrate the Yankees now that he has been traded within the division. . . .

There's reason to believe Ottavino can put together a strong 2021 season for the Red Sox. . . . At his best, he can be lethal against a heavily right-handed lineup — which he seems likely to face against the Yankees this season. . . .

The Ottavino trade was an obvious flashpoint for a fan base tired of the championship drought that has persisted since 2009. . . .

[W]ithin the Yankees' window of contention, fans have watched free agents and trade targets be passed over because of salary or contract terms, only to later watch the team come up short in the postseason. . . . [T]he frustration was growing for years before the team executed a salary dump to stay under the luxury tax that sent a talented reliever to the team's biggest rival. It's ugly on its face, even if Yankees brass can provide a reasonable explanation.

January 23, 2021

Red Sox Sign Kiké Hernández (INF-OF) and Garrett Richards (RHP)

The Red Sox have reportedly signed the versatile fielder Kiké Hernández to a two-year contract worth $14 million and agreed on a $10 million deal for 2021 with right-handed pitcher Garrett Richards.

Hernández will likely play second base, but throughout his career, he has started games first base (11), second base (132), third base (14), shortstop (56), left field (60), center field (128), and right field (35). Hernández has a career .820 OPS against lefties.

Richards, 32 years old, has been plagued by injuries for the last five seasons, throwing a combined 198.2 innings, with only one season topping 52 innings. He had Tommy John surgery in 2018.

January 22, 2021

Henry Louis Aaron (1934-2021)

Hank Aaron died today, at the age of 86.

He was a humble and unassuming, a consummate professional – who could hit the bejesus out of a baseball.

Aaron ranks first among all major league players in total bases (6,856, a whopping 722 bases ahead of Stan Musial), runs batted in (2,297), and extra-base hits (1,477), second in home runs (755), third in hits (3,771), and tied for fourth in runs scored (2,174). Somehow, he remains grossly underrated (as does Musial).

Aaron won two batting average titles, three Gold Gloves, and is the only player to appear in 25 All-Star Games. He won only one Most Valuable Player award (1957), but he received at least one MVP vote in 19 consecutive seasons (1955-1973) and finished in the Top 10 in voting 13 times. He endured countless racist death threats before (and for a time after) becoming the game's home run king on April 8, 1974, passing Babe Ruth.

From Richard Goldstein's obituary:

Aaron was routinely brilliant, performing with seemingly effortless grace, but he had little flash, notwithstanding his nickname in the sports pages, Hammerin' Hank. . . . 

Aaron did not enjoy the idolatry accorded the Yankees' Mickey Mantle or match the exuberance and electric presence of the Giants' Willie Mays . . . But when he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982, his first year of eligibility, Aaron received 97.8 percent of the vote from baseball writers, second at the time only to Ty Cobb, who was inducted in 1936. . . .

Aaron grew up in Alabama amid rigid segregation and its humiliations, and he faced abuse from the stands while playing in the South as a minor leaguer. Years later, he felt that Braves fans were largely indifferent or hostile to him as he chased Ruth's record. And the baseball commissioner at the time, Bowie Kuhn, was not present when he hit his historic 715th home run.

In [1994], Aaron told sports columnist William C. Rhoden:

April 8, 1974, really led up to turning me off on baseball. It really made me see for the first time a clear picture of what this country is about. My kids had to live like they were in prison because of kidnap threats, and I had to live like a pig in a slaughter camp. I had to duck. I had to go out the back door of the ball parks. I had to have a police escort with me all the time. I was getting threatening letters every single day. All of these things have put a bad taste in my mouth, and it won't go away. They carved a piece of my heart away. . . .

At six feet tall and 180 pounds, Aaron was hardly the picture of a slugger, but he had thick, powerful wrists, enabling him to whip the bat out of his right-handed stance with uncommon speed. . . .

As Aaron chased Ruth’s record in 1973, he finally emerged as a national figure. He appeared on the covers of Time and Newsweek and . . . Charles Schulz, whose "Peanuts" comic strip had become a staple of national popular culture, turned his attention to Aaron in August 1973 with drawings that ridiculed the bigots besieging him*. . . .

[W]hen Aaron hit homer No. 715, Kuhn was not present. The commissioner was in Cleveland, speaking to an Indians booster organization. . . . Aaron viewed it as a snub, and he did not forget it. . . .

Although Aaron wasn't vocal on the larger civil rights scene, he became interested in the writings of James Baldwin, decrying patience in the face of racism. Aaron contributed a chapter to "Baseball Has Done It," Jackie Robinson's 1964 collection of first-person accounts from baseball figures telling of their battles against racism.

"I've read some newspapermen saying I was just a dumb kid from the South with no education and all I knew was to go out there and hit," Aaron wrote. "Baseball has done a lot for me, given me an education in meeting other kinds of people," he continued. But he added pointedly, "It has taught me that regardless of who you are and how much money you make, you are still a Negro."

*: The first Aaron-related strip appeared on August 8, 1973. The storyline ran for two weeks.