February 24, 2020

Mason Saunders, Long-Time Bull-Roping Enthusiast, Also Enjoys Playing Baseball

Mason Saunders and Jaxson Tucker won $26,500 in a team-roping rodeo competition last December in Wickenburg, Arizona.

Saunders learned bull-roping when he was 15 or 16, and he's been doing it for roughly half his life. "It's just part of who you are". (He and Tucker grew up 30 minutes from each other in North Carolina.) Team roping involves two people, one rider roping the head of the steer while the other ropes its back legs.

Although Saunders has been involved in the rodeo community for years, he's also well-known to many people whose knowledge of rodeos is either non-existent or limited to Baskets the Clown.

To those people, Saunders is known by a different name.

Madison Bumgarner.

He says "everybody" in baseball knows about his rodeo life. "Word gets around." ... Well, almost everyone. "The media didn't know ... until now." Back in 2016, Bumgarner admitted he had entered rodeos before, but made no mention of using an alias.
They are smaller rodeos. I have never bought a PRCA [Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association] card. Obviously, even if I fill it out I won't be able to go all year, and the heavy season for the PRCA is during the summer months. ... When I get done [playing baseball], I'd like to be able to fill out the card. ... I look up to a lot of those guys. ... I have a lot of really good friends in the rodeo world. ... I heel more than I head. My brother-in-law [Tanner Saunders] is a header, so it doesn't make such sense for me to be a header, too. We rope together a lot in the winter time, so I will be the heeler.
Last March, Bumgarner competed in a rodeo during spring training - three days before pitching three innings for the Giants in a Cactus League game against the Athletics.

Bumgarner learned roping and met Ali, his future wife, around the same time. (He used her birth name and a shortened form of Madison for his alias.)
I met my wife when we were 16. Her family had a few more horses, performance horses. Her family team-roped. ... I wanted to try it, but I wanted to know somebody really good to learn from. That was her dad, Mark Saunders, and brother, Tanner. ... [I'm n]ot good enough to please myself or to be as successful as I want to be. Everything I do, I take very serious. ... I want to master things. It drives me in everything I do.
Now, Bumgarner's secret is out. His Baseball-Reference page includes: "Alter Ego: Mason Saunders", with a link to The Athletic story.

Schadenfreude 266 (A Continuing Series)


Kristie Ackert, Daily News:
A new year, a new set of injuries for the Yankees.

Luis Severino, who missed all but the final weeks of 2019, was shut down Thursday with "concerning," forearm soreness which began in October ...

The Yankees are already going to start the regular season without two rotation regulars. James Paxton, who had back surgery earlier this month, and Domingo German, who is serving a suspension under the MLB/MLBPA joint domestic violence policy. ... [T]he Yankees starting pitching depth is being stretched thin. ...

[T]he Yankees need to figure out what is going on with Severino's elbow, a mystery that dates back to the American League Championship Series.

Severino ... had two MRIs and a CT scan over the winter trying to determine the cause of the soreness, which the Yankees say he only feels when he throws his changeup. ...

Severino was shut down last spring, right after signing a new four-year $40 million contract, with right rotator cuff inflammation and missed most of the season after suffering a strained, or partly torn, lat muscle during his rehab.
George A. King III, Post:
Three days into full-squad workouts, the Yankees need a MRI machine to take a team picture following a 2019 season in which they wore out the injured list by using it 39 times.

Luis Severino was slated to throw live batting practice Thursday ... but he didn't, which led to Aaron Boone and GM Brian Cashman explaining why.

Boone and Cashman said the former staff ace was scratched due to right forearm soreness that the manager didn't believe was related to the shoulder and lat injuries that limited him to three September starts and two in the postseason last season after signing a four-year, $40 million deal.

Yet, there is a sense of trepidation about the circumstances involving James Paxton (back surgery) and Severino ...

Severino's issue follows Aaron Judge experiencing a right shoulder problem that has kept him out of full batting practice during the first three days of full-squad workouts. It is also the second setback for a Yankees starter, as Paxton isn't expected to return from back surgery until June at the earliest. Paxton had the surgery on Feb. 5.
Bill Madden, Daily News:
We are barely two weeks into spring training and already the Yankees are down two starting pitchers for the month of April. ...

Cashman thought he'd finally hit upon a bonafide No. 1 in Luis Severino ... He's so far seen him constantly hurt after signing a four-year, $40 million extension last February. Severino is now hurt again — shut down with what was described as forearm pain — and joins James Paxton as projected Nos. 2-3 Yankee starters ... who will instead not be part of the rotation to start the season. And, of course, there is also Domingo German, who ... hit an impasse himself by getting suspended 81 games for domestic violence.


George A. King III, Post:
Two MRI exams and a CT scan during the offseason didn't find the reason why Luis Severino's right forearm was sore ... and forced him to be shut down Thursday.

So after being examined by Yankees doctor Chris Ahmad on Friday morning, Severino was making plans to fly to New York and begin three days of testing at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital on Monday. ...

The need for extensive testing be done on the 26-year-old right-hander stems from previous tests not delivering a reason for the soreness. ...

After Ahmad examined Severino, the pitcher said he didn't get a diagnosis. ...

With the discomfort in the forearm below the elbow, Severino doesn't believe the cause is related to the hinge. Nor does he think a serious issue is lurking.

"I don't think there is something wrong ..." said Severino ...

It is the second consecutive spring training Severino, 26, has been sidelined. A year ago, he was diagnosed with an inflamed right rotator cuff. While rehabbing that injury, Severino strained a lat muscle. ...

"It's strange to hear this stuff again," Severino said. "We're dealing with it and seeing what we can do."
"This stuff"? ... I thought you just said there was nothing wrong. But I have to say, you sound worried in your quotes in the next story.


Kristie Ackert, Daily News:
Luis Severino is headed back to New York on Monday to undergo a battery of tests to try and determine what is causing the forearm soreness near his right elbow. The Yankees right-hander ... has been shut down from throwing indefinitely and is alarmed, frustrated, but yet still hopeful that this medical mystery that began back in October will be solved ....

"I hope, man. I hope this is nothing. I hope this goes away tomorrow ...," Severino said before meeting with the doctor. "I hope it's nothing." ...

Severino is already a week and a half behind the other Yankees starters. Friday he said that he is hopeful he will avoid beginning a second straight season on the injured list. ...

Adding to the frustration is the fact that Severino was shut down right before his first 2019 spring training start with rotator cuff inflammation. Sometime during his rehab from that injury, Severino suffered a severe lat strain, forcing him to miss the first 151 games of the season. After signing a four-year, $40 million deal in February 2019, Severino did not make his first start until Sept. 17 and pitched just 12 regular-season innings.


January 3, 2020


February 6, 2020

February 22, 2020

Baseball Is Back – And The Red Sox Are 2-0!

The Red Sox held on to edge the Rays 4-3 this afternoon in Fort Myers, Florida.
Rays    - 000 000 003 - 3 10  1
Red Sox - 000 010 03x - 4  7  1
On Friday, the Red Sox beat the Northeastern University Huskies 3-0. Twenty-six players saw action in seven innings for Boston, including third baseman Jantzen Witte, who drove in two runs.
Huskies - 000 000 0 - 0  4  0
Red Sox - 000 003 x - 3  6  2
And the Yankees managed only three hits today in a 2-1 loss to the Blue Jays. So far, so good!

Fans checking in with Gameday this year will learn that – for the 18th consecutive season – MLB is unable to provide pitch-by-pitch accounts for spring training games. (GDGD began in 2003, I believe.) Every ball in play appears to have been hit on the first pitch, while all walks and all strikeouts are four balls and three strikes, respectfully. That is the opposite of helpful.

Earlier this week, Eduardo Rodriguez fell in the bullpen and twisted his left knee. It doesn't seem to be anything to worry about, though EdRo will not face the Giants tomorrow, as previously planned.
I was throwing before the live BP and I fell down ... Just my spike got stuck a little bit. ... I went outside today and threw a normal bullpen ... everything feels great. I'm not really too concerned about it. ... I know how it is when something is really, really bad. It happened to my right knee like 10 times. ... It just felt like a twist, rolled it a little bit. Nothing really crazy.
Rafael Devers is back in camp after his girlfriend gave birth in the DR to a baby girl, Rachelese.

February 21, 2020

#FireManfred

John Hirschauer, National Review, February 12, 2020:
Commissioner Rob Manfred is mulling a fundamental change to Major League Baseball, a development that should not surprise anyone, given the obstinate disregard he's shown for the traditions and inheritance of the sport since succeeding Bud Selig in 2015. The latest novelty entertained by his office is a proposal that would expand the MLB playoffs from their current ten-team format ... to a field of 14. Per ESPN, the proposal would add "a reality TV-type format to determine which teams play each other in an expanded wild-card round," the perfectly farcical cherry on top of a perfectly farcical plan to further upend the game of baseball. ...

This "televised seeding showdown," in which division winners pick their opponents, is supposed to engender "excitement" among fans. Like most ventures entertained and enacted by Manfred, it is a gimmick, designed to appeal to some amorphous and never-specified group of "potential fans" whose support is, as always, yet forthcoming. ...

With an expanded playoff field and a proposed three-game-series format, luck and randomness would play an even larger role in the postseason than they already do. And even this proposed change, which threatens to turn the MLB playoffs into a low-grade goat rodeo, is but a drop in the bucket compared to the other injurious "innovations" and novelties countenanced and enacted by Manfred.

He changed the rules about hard slides into second-base to break up potential double-plays, effectively removing one the sport's precious few contact plays. ... In the name of improving the pace of play, he nixed the traditional four-pitch intentional walk — which sometimes produced unforgettable moments — and replaced it with a simple hand signal from the dugout. An impending rule change will force relief pitchers to face a minimum of three batters or finish a half-inning before teams make a pitching change, removing key strategic decisions from the game.

In short, from the moment Manfred assumed the commissionership, he has time and again imposed novelty upon a fan base that did not, and does not, want it. ...

Manfred thinks he's the captain of a sinking ship, free to do whatever he deems necessary to rescue the vessel from its ultimate demise. ... He ought to be more careful about changing it.
You don't usually see The National Review linked at this blog! Hirschauer does commit a few errors in his article, including faulting Manfred for the coming invasion of robot umpires that will Destroy The Human Element.

Jay Jaffe, FanGraphs, February 13, 2020:
Four weeks after Commissioner Rob Manfred issued his report on the Astros' illegal sign-stealing efforts ... new revelations about the scheme continue to emerge, some of which challenge his findings or call his judgment into question. So long as such information keeps coming to light, Major League Baseball can't make this scandal — or the justifiable outrage from players within the game and fans outside of it — go away. Not even a leaked report about a cockamamie 14-team playoff format will deflect attention from Houston's various schemes. ...

While Luhnow, Hinch, Cora, and Beltrán have been held accountable to a degree with the loss of their jobs, not everybody believes that they've been punished enough, and there's still widespread dissatisfaction over Manfred's inability to discipline the players involved, because their punishment would have to be collectively bargained.

Manfred traded immunity for information, but now that we know that the information he conveyed to the public wasn't complete — and that the high volume of complaints lodged against the team prior to Fiers' whistleblowing didn't prompt vigorous investigation sooner — there's a great deal of frustration over the commissioner's own lack of accountability. Given his involvement in such disparate and unpopular plans as the aforementioned expanded playoff format, the institution of the three-batter rule, and the effort to reorganize and contract the minor leagues, fans aren't exactly confident in the product they're being presented with.
Re "the product", it's Jaffe again: "Some of the New Roster Rules Are Garbage"
I'm not sure any of these additional rules is actually necessary. They're just one more way for the Manfred regime to drain a little bit of fun out of the game and to look busy while failing to address more pressing concerns.
That's exactly what I wrote two days earlier:
I suppose Manfred has to look like he's doing something about this "problem". But I'd rather his "make-work" efforts didn't destroy a key part of baseball's essential competitive structure for the last 150 years.
Craig Calcaterra, NBC Sports, February 11, 2020:
The new postseason proposal would be terrible for fans and for the game

Yesterday someone at Major League Baseball leaked a new postseason idea they have brewing for 2022. The upshot: wild cards would be eliminated, there would be seven playoff teams in each league, up from five, and from there the format of the postseason would radically change.

Since it was a leak and not some official announcement, there was no one from Major League Baseball spinning it. Thankfully for the league there is no shortage of national baseball writers who are happy to do the spinning for them. ... [T]he spin basically goes like this: "this is great as it gives more teams a shot at the postseason, which in turn will generate excitement, and of course now that the postseason is more attainable for teams, it will serve as an anti-tanking device."

Which is all wrong, of course.

To increase the value of something — to make it more special and exciting — one does not increase the supply. That's basic economics. ...

[L]et's look at ... [what] we would've gotten over the past decade if the proposed postseason system were in place:

2010: an 82-win team makes the postseason
2011: an 81-win team makes the postseason
2012: an 83-win team makes the postseason
2013: an 81-win team makes the postseason
2014: two 79-win teams tie for a postseason spot
2015: two 83-win teams make the postseason
2016: a 79-win team makes the postseason
2017: three 80-win teams tie for the postseason
2018: three 82-win teams tie for a postseason spot
2019: an 84-win team makes the postseason ...

Maybe you like that. If so, good for you. But I can tell you a group of people who should not like it: the players. This is because, contrary to what some of those national writers are saying, the new postseason format would not discourage tanking. It would encourage it.

It would allow a team that appears to be headed for about 80 wins or so — what we now call a losing team — to stand pat and say, with a straight face, that they think they're a playoff contender. It would give total license to 85-86 win teams to stand pat or even shed salary as they'd stand a very good shot at the postseason each and every season. It would create zero incentive for the 86+ win teams to turn into 90 or 95-win teams as such a thing would be pretty pointless. ...

The more pernicious aspect of tanking ... [are] teams who, by all rights, should be going for it [but] are declining to go for it in order to save money on payroll. ... If you make 80-83-win teams "playoff teams" every year, you incentivize such behavior in a pretty significant way.

Which is to say that the proposal is one aimed at depressing salaries every bit as much if not more than it's aimed at "creating excitement" or "shaking things up." Indeed, I suspect that's the real idea behind this. I suspect it's a proposal with an eye on upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations.





February 20, 2020

King Of The Hot Takes

You-Know-Who has written a timely column today, full of exceptional insight.

He begins, in his usual folksy, oldtimer-sittin'-in-a-rocking-chair-outside-the-general-store manner:
Hey there, baseball fan. Did you ever think you'd be longing for the good old days of commissioner Bud Selig?

Wow. Major League Baseball is imploding in the Sign-Stealing Scandal Spring of 2020, and commissioner Rob Manfred is making Uncle Bud look like Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, or maybe Winston Churchill.

The hardball world is furious with the Houston Astros, and virtually no one is happy with the performance of Manfred since MLB announced its findings about the Astros scam Jan. 13.
And so on . . . Wow, indeed.

A Boston Herald writer (whose name, Bill Speros, is unfamiliar to me) faults the Red Sox for using outdated cultural references! Really!
The Red Sox lasted nearly 48 hours without any disastrous news or self-inflicted wounds. ...

The other day, John W. Henry used the plight of Stan Musial and Ted Williams — who played before free agency — to justify the Betts deal. Williams bade the Hub adieu in 1960. Musial retired when John F. Kennedy was president. The people in the Red Sox front office must think every fan is either 65 or a pink-hatted child.
Spoiler Alert: Henry did not use the plight of Stan Musial and Ted Williams to justify the Betts deal.

February 19, 2020

After The Worst Season Of His Career, Chris Sale Will Be Taking No Shit In 2020





(Red Sox Instagram)

2020 will be Chris Sale's fourth season with the Red Sox and the first season of the five-year/$145 million contract extension he signed last March.

Sale had the worst season of his career in 2019, as his ERA more than doubled from the previous year (from 2.11 to 4.40). It was also the first season since Sale became a starter in 2012 that he received no votes for the Cy Young Award votes and the first time in five years he did not receive any MVP votes.

Sale feels good and he is out to show the league he is still a bad-ass taciturn motherfucker.

And:

February 18, 2020

J.D. Martinez Says Roenicke Is A "Perfect Fit" As Manager

J.D. Martinez says manager Ron Roenicke and the Red Sox are a perfect fit.
Ron managed before, he understands it. He was a big piece of Alex's decisions. He understood Alex. Alex always used him, always leaned on him. He knows us, and we trust him. He's a familiar face. He knows the personalities in the clubhouse, and he knows how to handle everyone. I think it's like the perfect fit.
Martinez said he would not like it if MLB cuts off access to in-game video.
To go out there and take all video out ... is a little ridiculous. When I was in the minor leagues, Double-A, Triple-A, we had video systems. It's something you grew up with. You go back and check something in your swing and it helps you throughout the game. ... All of a sudden, you take that away? It's a little extreme. ... It's kind like you're watching the game live on NESN. ... Can you steal the signs? It's too hard. It's cutting in and out. There's a guy eating a sausage and ... all of a sudden [there's] the pitch.
In that example, NESN would stay on the sausage guy and miss the next pitch, but I get JD's point.
If you have to delay it, delay it. Whatever you have to do. But to sit there and take that away? I mean, it's what makes me, me. I'm a very analytical guy. I like to study my swing. I like to study what my back foot is doing, my elbow, whatever it might be. And there's a lot of guys nowadays that are like that. That's the trend of the game.
The Red Sox have reportedly agreed with catcher Jonathan Lucroy on a minor league deal (and spring invite). Lucroy, 33 and a ten-year veteran, hit only .232/.305/.355 in 101 games with the Angels and Cubs last season. His last decent year at the plate was 2016.

Alex Verdugo was assigned #12, but he asked for a different number. He went with #99.
I didn't want to wear a number that a player had just previously worn [Brock Holt, who signed with the Brewers, wore #12 for seven seasons] ... This is kind of a little bit unique. It's not like everybody's number, so it just stands out a little bit more. ... Manny Ramirez went from Boston to the Dodgers, and he wore #99.
Five players in MLB now wear #99, including Keynan Middleton (Angels), Hyun-Jin Ryu (Blue Jays), and Taijuan Walker (Mariners).

Also: The Giants have refused to invite Aubrey Huff to an anniversary celebration of the team's 2010 World Series championship.
Earlier this month, we reached out to Aubrey Huff to let him know that he will not be included in the upcoming 2010 World Series Championship reunion. Aubrey has made multiple comments on social media that are unacceptable and run counter to the values of our organization. While we appreciate the many contributions that Aubrey made to the 2010 championship season, we stand by our decision.
In November, Huff tweeted that he was teaching his kids "how to use a gun" in case Bernie Sanders wins the 2020 election, because "knowing how to effectively use a gun under socialism will be a must." In January, Huff tweeted about kidnapping Iranian women and forcing them to "fan us and feed us grapes, amongst other things". When criticized, Huff (predictably) whined: "Does nobody have a sense of humor anymore!?" (And: "Never said rape!") He also ridiculed the Giants for hiring Alyssa Nakken as an assistant coach.

Huff dismissed the Giants' statement as "progressive bullshit": "So what. ... I'm not going to ... change what I believe in just so I can go get a five-second hat tip. ... If it wasn't for me, they wouldn't be having a reunion."

Rosenthal Portrays Players Union As Bearing Co-Responsibility For Sign-Stealing Scandal; Manfred, Immediately After Saying He Learned Of Scandal In 2017, Claims His Reaction Was "Slow [Only] By A Few Months", Which Is "Pretty Damn Quick".

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, speaking on Sunday, February 16, 2020, about the sign-stealing scandal:
I think we were slow to appreciate the risk on this topic.
Ya think? Who says Manfred is completely out of touch?

Actually, Manfred and MLB may have appreciated this topic quite a while ago. It has been reported (and not denied by anyone) that the commissioner had numerous complaints about the Astros gathering dust on his desk for years. The real issue is MLB's steadfast refusal to conduct an investigation into any of those complaints.

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic has some additional comments from Commissioner Rob Manfred. A persistent theme in Rosenthal's most-recent article is that the MLB Players Union bears something close to equal responsibility for the scandal. Rosenthal appears to be letting MLB off the hook somewhat for its inaction and softening Manfred's pathetic reaction to this scandal.
Hindsight is 20-20. Unintended consequences, almost by definition, are difficult to forecast. ...

In fairness, Manfred was not alone in failing to see the future clearly. ... The union ... did not directly focus on the threat to the game's integrity.

Looking back, it's easy to say, "baseball should have seen this coming." ...

In baseball, though, things are rarely simple, and conflicting agendas sometimes distract from the most urgent matters. Thus, ... the MLBPA ... did not fully grasp the breadth of the problem. ...

Union chief Tony Clark has sounded occasional public warnings ... But not until [November 2019] ... did anyone on the players' side publicly suggest that illegal sign stealing was creating an uneven playing field.

One pitcher ... said he and other pitchers raised such fears at union meetings after the '16 season. When the same broad rules remained in effect for '17, the pitcher said the lack of action by MLB and the MLBPA was, "frankly astonishing to me."

So, why didn't MLB jump sooner? Why didn't the MLBPA? ...

Maybe it should have happened sooner. But baseball is moving toward a better place.
So: Manfred cannot be blamed for failing to predict the future; players need to speak publicly for their concern to be properly registered with the commissioner's office; and the union can go over the commissioner's head and unilaterally enact sweeping changes to the game. ... Interesting.

Manfred is desperately trying to rewrite his place in baseball history:
If you think about it when we really became aware that something was going on, it was in 2017. By 2018, we were on the corrective action. When I say we were slow, we were slow by a few months. Look, I don't think that that's the worst reaction time of all time. Do I wish we would have got there a little sooner? Yeah, I do. ...

Look, it's like looking backwards on the steroid thing. You've heard me say this before. The problem with chasing — when somebody else is doing something wrong, at the beginning you're going to be a step behind. That's the way of the world. There's no avoiding that. Do I wish we would have thought through, "Gee, yeah, something bad could happen here?" Of course I do. I hate where we are right now. I think that when we had a reasonable basis to come to the realization we had a problem, I think we were pretty damn quick to get on it.
Manfred claims his reaction to this scandal was only "slow by a few months" and when there was "a reasonable basis" to realize a problem existed, he was "pretty damn quick" to act. Yet Manfred also says (pretty much in the same breath) that he "really became aware of something" way back in 2017. Even if that knowledge came after the 2017 World Series, that's still two years before Mike Fiers's comments became public. And, of course, Manfred was spurred to act only because the scandal had become public and he could no longer ignore it.

Manfred hates where "where we are right now" − in a situation where MLB's chronic inaction and (after being forced to act) its weak response has resulted in an unprecedented number of players ripping both the Astros and Manfred in public, fans disgusted by the entire spectacle, including Manfred covering up aspects of the scandal that reflected badly on the owner of the Astros and claiming that only in "a perfect world" could he punish the cheating players.

Cardinals reliever Andrew Miller says it's "naive" to think, "Oh, we missed this huge, gaping thing."

Except we now know Manfred had complaints about the Astros from 10-12 teams on his desk, some of which were years old − and he didn't lift a finger. It's impossible to credibly claim that MLB missed this huge issue. #FireManfred.

February 17, 2020

Rob Manfred Holds A Press Conference And Bombs In Every Possible Way, Giving Illogical Answers And Insulting Reporters. (Later, Mike Trout (!) Rips Him.)

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred held a press conference last Friday in North Port, Florida.

How did it go? Well, here are a few headlines:
Rob Manfred Offers Little Insight, Shows Contempt For Reporters In Press Conference (NBC Sports)

Manfred Says Astros' Shame Is Penalty Enough. Opponents Might Disagree. (New York Times)

Rob Manfred Defends Astros' Punishment, Says He Would've Penalized Players In 'Perfect World' (CBS Sports)

Astros Cheating: MLB Network Airs Bull Durham Over Rob Manfred Press Conference (Sports Illustrated)
Manfred said that public shame was a serious enough punishment for the Astros players:
I think if you look at the faces of the Houston players ... they have been hurt by this. ... They will live with questions about what went on in 2017 and 2018 for the rest of their lives. ... [T]hey have payed a price. ... [T]hey're [not] skipping down the road into spring training happy.
Manfred referred to the World Series trophy as "a piece of metal". (The trophy is officially known as the "Commissioner's Trophy".)

Manfred was asked whether the Astros wore buzzers under their uniforms in 2019. He said the players told him they did not, and he took their word for it.

Manfred admitted that if former Houston pitcher Mike Fiers had not spoken to The Athletic about the Astros' cheating in 2017,
we would not have been able to conduct the effective investigation that we did. We would not have been able to impose the disciplines that were imposed. We would not have been able to probably take the prophylactic measures that we're gonna take with respect to 2020, and it's important — painful, but important — that we clean all that up.
Meaning that Commissioner Rob Manfred, even with a reported 10-12 separate complaints about cheating by the Astros piled up on his desk and the fact that Houston's cheating was apparently an "open secret" throughout all levels of the baseball industry, would not have begun any investigations into what those complaints about the Astros were all about.

And Manfred praised his own office's "intestinal fortitude" in sharing the "not very pretty" results of the Astros investigation.


Justin Turner of the Dodgers had a few things to say on Monday:
I don't know if the commissioner has ever won anything in his life. Maybe he hasn't. But the reason every guy's in this room, the reason every guy is working out all offseason, and showing up to camp early and putting in all the time and effort is specifically for that trophy, which, by the way, is called the commissioner's trophy. So for him to devalue it the way he did yesterday just tells me how out of touch he is with the players in this game. At this point the only thing devaluing that trophy is that it says "commissioner" on it. ...

Now anyone who goes forward and cheats to win a World Series, they can live with themselves knowing that, "Oh, it's OK. … We'll cheat in the World Series and bring the title back to L.A. Screw Dave Roberts and screw Andrew [Friedman]. It's just those guys losing their jobs. I still get to be called a champion the rest of my life." So the precedent was set by him yesterday in this case.
And then ... Manfred was ripped by friggin' Mike Trout!

Marc Carig, The Athletic, February 17, 2020:
Mike Trout, fairly or not, has been made into the poster boy for baseball's personality problem. Rob Manfred had something to do with it. A few years back, the commissioner criticized the Angels' star for not doing enough to promote the game. It was a reference to Trout's perceived public blandness. Indeed, Trout's allergy to saying anything remotely controversial has been well documented.

But on Monday morning, Trout seized the megaphone that comes with being the best player in baseball, then delivered a pointed message. He declared his belief that the Astros are cheaters, that Manfred should have punished the players responsible for one of the biggest scandals in the history of the sport, and that he looks upon the 2017 World Series championship with suspicion.

"You don't know what helped them or what not,” Trout said. "But if you know what's coming, it's going to definitely help you. It's tough. Taking a trophy away, taking the rings away, I think they should definitely do something. I don't know what. But to cheat like that and not get anything, it's sad to see."

Trout lobbing a grenade at fellow players and the chief executive of the league just might be the wildest development of the fallout. It remains rare in baseball for players to criticize other players. That tendency toward silence is embedded deep into the culture of the game. ...

To be clear, his comments won't be mistaken for some of the sharper barbs that have come from clubhouses all over the league. ... But in relative terms, this was Trout at perhaps his angriest. He was unflinching. He was even funny.

For Trout, lowering his guard is talking about the weather. But even he managed to take a sleepy Monday morning in spring training and turn it into a late-show monologue. For a few minutes, the timing of his laugh lines rivaled his timing at the plate.

Had he noticed the banging? "I didn't notice the banging. I noticed the banging off the bat, in center field." ...

Is knowing the signs an advantage? "Me going up to the plate knowing what's coming, it would be fun up there."

Indeed, it would be fun to watch. But it would never happen, Trout said, because stealing signs with technology is cheating.

"It's sad for baseball," Trout said. "Tough. They cheated. I don't agree with the punishments, with the players not getting anything when it's a player-driven thing. … Guys' careers have been affected. A lot of people lost jobs." ...

Trout conceded that he "lost respect for some of the guys." Most notably, Trout did not hesitate to share his dismay with Manfred, particularly when it came to meting out punishments to the players. ...

"Obviously, they had something to know that they were cheating," he said. "So, I don't know. It's a tough subject to talk about. Like I said, they cheated the game, cheated players. It's just tough to see."

The howls of protest coming directly from opposing players have been unprecedented. At no point during the Steroid Era was there such a unified chorus. ...

[W]ith Manfred scheduled to meet with media in Arizona on Tuesday, the vitriol about the Astros has shown no signs of slowing down. To Trout, there is an obvious reason.

"Because a lot of teams were affected," he said. "You look at the Dodgers, you look at the Yankees, we weren't in the playoffs but they were in the playoffs. You come to spring training because you want to win a ring. If you see someone cheated to do it, it's a tough thing to swallow. I'm sure a lot of people are mad. I'm sure a lot of people are going to hold back and not say much."

Bill Baer, NBC Sports, February 16, 2020:
Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke at a press conference, addressing the Astros cheating scandal and other topics on Sunday evening. It did not go well.

To start, the press conference was not broadcast officially on MLB's own TV channel (it aired the 1988 movie Bull Durham instead), nor could any mention to it or link to the live stream be found anywhere on MLB.com. When the actual questions began, Manfred's answers were circuitous or simply illogical given other comments he has made in the past. On more than one occasion, he showed contempt for reporters for doing their jobs — and, some might argue, doing his job — holding players and front office personnel accountable.

Last month, Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal broke a story about the Astros' "dark arts" and "Codebreaker" operation, based on a letter Manfred sent to then-GM Jeff Luhnow. Diamond was among the reporters present for Manfred's press conference on Sunday. Per The Athletic's Lindsey Adler, Manfred addressed Diamond, saying, "You know, congratulations. You got a private letter that, you know, I sent to a club official. Nice reporting on your part." MLB's response to the depth of the Astros' cheating ways was lacking and, without Diamond's reporting, we would have known how deeply lacking that response was. It is understandable that Manfred would be salty about it, since it exposed him as doing his job poorly, but it was an immature, unrestrained response from someone in charge of the entire league.

Onto the actual topic at hand, Manfred said he felt like the punishment doled out to the Astros was enough. Per Chris Cotillo, Manfred said Astros players "have been hurt by this" and will forever be questioned about their achievements in 2017 and '18. Some players disagree. Former pitcher Phil Hughes even suggested the players have a work stoppage over this issue.

Manfred defended his decision not to vacate the Astros' championship, saying, "The idea of an asterisk or asking for a piece of metal back seems like a futile act." The commissioner devaluing the meaning of a championship seems… not great? Counterintuitive, even? The "piece of metal" is literally called the Commissioner's Trophy. Manfred went on to brag about the league having "the intestinal fortitude to share the results of that investigation, even when those results were not very pretty." Be careful, don't hurt yourself patting yourself on the back for doing the bare minimum. ...

Because the players involved in the Astros' cheating scheme weren't punished, some — like Larry Bowa — have suggested intentionally throwing baseballs at Astros players to exact justice. Manfred [said] ... retaliatory beanballs "will not be tolerated." ... Manfred has done nothing about beanball wars in the past, but it will now give the Astros somewhat of an advantage since pitchers will now be judged closely on any pitch that runs too far inside on Astro hitters. ...

All in all, this press conference could not have gone worse for Manfred. The press found it condescending and the comments he made rang hollow to the players. Manfred seemed on edge and unprepared addressing arguably the biggest controversy baseball has faced since the steroid era. This is a dark time for the sport.
Brendan Gawlowski, FanGraphs, February 17, 2020:
The [press] conference was not broadcast on MLB Network — Bull Durham aired instead — nor did it stream on MLB.com. Whether this reflects a continuation of the league's misguided damage control policy or a misunderstanding of the scandal's resonance to fans, it was a strange way to downplay the commissioner's remarks on such a topical issue. ...

Listening to his remarks, one gets the impression that the league will remain in reactive mode perpetually as new details emerge, and that Manfred himself wants nothing more than to reach the other side of this. At one point he clumsily exclaimed "we'll have baseball in 2020!" We're all excited too, Rob. ...

At this point, the league's response to the scandal has become a part of the story. Public reporting has driven MLB's investigations and actions at every step ...

The majority of questions were, understandably, about the Astros. By the midway point of the press conference, Manfred seemed like he'd rather have been talking about anything else, saying that "[t]his has been really fun but I'd like to move on to other topics at some point." Naturally, the following question was about the Astros.

Most dissonantly of all though, in his (otherwise reasonable) explanation for why he didn't vacate Houston's 2017 title, he said "the idea of… asking for a piece of metal back seems like a futile idea."

"A piece of metal." It was just one flippant line in a half-hour conference, but it was nonetheless shocking to hear the commissioner of baseball refer to the game's ultimate prize in that manner. ...

He also dismissed the idea that the players are getting off easy, noting that their accomplishments will be forever tainted ...

One intriguing moment was Manfred's claim that, without Mike Fiers talking to The Athletic, the league probably would have never launched an extensive investigation. "Without the reporting… and the availability of Fiers, we probably wouldn't have gotten where we got to."

That's a strange message in the broader context of the scandal. Players and executives from around the league have talked about how Houston's cheating was an open secret. Danny Farquhar, at the very least, caught on to the banging scheme in real time. It strains credulity to think that the league couldn't have investigated this properly without help from the press, and Manfred's comment only reinforces the impression that damage control has been the league's unwavering priority in this matter. ...

Boston sign stealing: Somewhat lost in all the Astros news lately is that the league has still not administered discipline to Alex Cora (or anyone else) involved in Boston's sign-stealing scandal. Expect that to change in the next fortnight: "We always want the investigation to go as quickly as possible," Manfred said. "Never, however, at the expense of making sure that we have pursued every possible lead and done everything we can do to get the facts right. I think by the end of next week we should be done and have a decision out." Whether anyone will be happy about that or not, we'll see.
Craig Calcaterra, NBC Sports, February 17, 2020:
A lot of people have become armchair public relations experts as it relates to the Astros, but my personal view is that the Astros' public statements are not lacking because they're tone deaf or because they have bad P.R. It's simply because they're not sorry. ...

Athletes are lauded and mythologized for being willing to do anything to win. A century and a half of pro sports has shown us, time and again, that that anything often includes cheating. And that with few exceptions, the reward is worth the risk. It's also worth the fallout in the instances in which they are caught. The Astros won a title. They got glory and fame and in some cases money ... There is really nothing that can be done. And, on some level, the Astros know this. To the extent they feel bad it's because they got caught and because they are being scrutinized now. ...

This is one of those basic things that anyone who is into high level sports just has to make peace with somehow. Or, even, if they can't, it's something they need to stop assuming is a stain on some pure thing. Baseball is not pure, nor are the men who play it. ...

[On social media, Astros fans are] vacillating between "see, they apologized!" and "they have no reason to apologize because everyone else was cheating and no one else is talking about that, are they?!"

This last bit is what's most fascinating to me, because it involves two levels of cognitive dissonance on the part of those who hold the opinion.

First off, I'm struck by the notion that for seven years the Astros and their fans have insisted that the Astros do everything better, earlier, faster, and more efficiently than the rest of the league. Then, the moment they get busted for something that their better and faster front office innovated "Codebreaker" they insist that they were merely doing what everyone else was doing across the league. I guess the Astros are only at the cutting edge of exploiting competitive inefficiencies in non-rule-breaking ways. Pretty convenient! ...

Finally, even if the Astros are being singled out, it does not absolve them. I would hope that's not a difficult concept to grok – "I may have been copying Billy's test but Billy was copying from Suzy" hasn't washed as an excuse, basically ever – but you'd be amazed at how many Astros fans I've encountered who are arguing, basically that. Down with whataboutism, folks. It's simply crap logic. ...

[T]he most telling part [of Manfred's press conference] is when he made a snide and dismissive remark about Wall Street Journal reporter Jared Diamond's story which revealed (a) how much more sophisticated and front office-led the sign-stealing was; and (b) how Manfred apparently buried all of that in his January report on the matter. Manfred:
"You know, congratulations. You got a private letter that, you know, I sent to a club official. Nice reporting on your part."
How immature. How peevish. In this Manfred comes off like a whining child. Like someone so out of his depth in the job of commissioner that the echo sounder can't gauge it. ...

[T]here are very, very few reporters who are super critical of the league or Manfred from an editorial perspective. The reason for this is simple: a substantial part of the baseball press corps is employed by MLB itself or work for MLB rights holders like ESPN, RSNs or radio outlets which broadcast games. That Manfred can't handle even the very small amount of heat he gets from the press – that a simple factual support inspires an ad hominem attack on the reporter who, via basic reporting, revealed Manfred's own incompetence – is simply sad.

Anyway, it's a whole new week now. Maybe now people will begin to accept that not all apologies are required to be accepted. Maybe they'll begin to accept that not all bad behavior has a defense. Maybe they'll begin to accept that Major League Baseball cares far less about getting to the bottom of issues that reflect poorly on the league than it does about burying said issues in the bottom of a quarry someplace. Maybe they'll move on to baseball. To the parts about it that aren't ridiculous and pathetic.
Tyler Kepner, New York Times, February 16, 2020:
Players across the majors have reported to spring training this year with gloves, bats and barbs. When they are not lashing out at the Astros, they are lampooning them. The Astros' sign-stealing scheme was egregious enough to break established norms in professional baseball, where players rarely gang up on fellow members of the brotherhood.

But now there seem to be 29 teams of saints and one dirty band of sinners from Houston, absolved by a benevolent commissioner who granted immunity in exchange for confessions. That decision now undermines Manfred with fans and players, and he knows it. Before he even took a question on Sunday, he asserted that shame was punishment enough for the Astros.

"I think if you look at the faces of the Houston players, as they've been out there publicly addressing this issue, they have been hurt by this," Manfred said. "They will live with questions about what went on in 2017 and 2018 for the rest of their lives."

Sad faces? Constant questions? Apparently it is up to the news media to do what Manfred could not: impose some kind of lasting toll on the Astros. ... None of the active players who benefited from the scheme — stealing catchers' signals electronically and relaying them in real time by banging on a trash can near the home dugout at Minute Maid Park — have been penalized.

Had Manfred suspended the players, he would have surely faced pushback from their union. His report in January blistered the Astros' leadership but curiously spared the team's owner, Jim Crane ...

Manfred said Sunday that, in a perfect world, he would have punished the players, but he needed their cooperation to confirm what really happened. ... "If I was in a world where I could have found all the facts without granting immunity, I would have done that." ...

Who will be the first pitcher to inflict punishment at 95 miles an hour? At Red Sox camp on Sunday, reporters asked Chris Sale — who was thrashed by the Astros in the 2017 division series opener in Houston — about that. ...

"I think the game polices itself sometimes," he said. "It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I think you're going to see some stuff happen this year. I don't know if it's right, wrong or indifferent. Guys are certainly welcome to handle things however they want."
Manfred felt that public humiliation was enough of a punishment for the players, but not for the manager or the general manager.

Why not? That makes no sense.

Why not have A.J. Hinch live with questions about what went on for the rest of his life? Why not have him never skip down the road into spring training happy?


We'll take a quick break to point out that Manfred also gave a head-scratching answer to a question about the Tomahawk Chop, acting like the numerous complaints over this racist practice were a new thing that he has not had time to investigate.

Christopher Buchanan, 11 Alive, February 17, 2020:
The leader of Major League Baseball seemed hesitant to delve into the Braves' "Tomahawk Chop" controversy as he fielded dozens of questions about the Astros cheating scandal on Sunday. ...

To begin with, Commissioner Rob Manfred suggested that the Chop controversy hadn't been on his mind recently.

"You know, um, I'm sorry to admit this, but with the - all that's going on ... it's just simply too much going on and I haven't even gotten around to it. ... I just can't do better than that for you, right now."
Atlanta's baseball fans have been doing the Chop since 1991. The protests against it have also been going on for 20 years.

Manfred has been working with MLB in some capacity since 1987. During the 1994–95 strike, he served as outside counsel for the owners. He joined MLB as the Executive Vice President of Economics and League Affairs in 1998 and represented MLB in negotiations with the Players Association for new collective bargaining agreements in 2002, 2006, and 2011. Manfred was promoted to Chief Operating Officer at the end of the 2013 season and elected as Commissioner in August 2014.

All of that is to say that Manfred has been well aware of the controversy over the Chop since it began. He cannot suddenly use the excuse of the recent sign-stealing scandal to mask his years of inaction.

And in California, the Long Beach Little League and East Fullerton Little League won't have any teams named after the Astros. "Parents are disgusted," Long Beach Little League president Steve Klaus told the Orange County Register. "They are disgusted with the Astros and their lack of ownership and accountability. We know there's more to this scandal. What's coming tomorrow? With the Astros, you've got premeditated cheating."


Mike Axisa, CBS Sports, February 17, 2020:
On Sunday, it was MLB commissioner Rob Manfred's turn to face the public regarding the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal that has dominated baseball the last four months. ...

"When we began the investigation after we became aware of the Houston situation, we started with an important and fundamental goal," Manfred said at a Sunday press conference. "That was goal was to make sure that we found the facts, completed the investigation, found out what was going on, and put ourselves in position to be as transparent with our fans and other clubs. People had a right to know what happened and we achieved that goal."

Earlier [in the day], Manfred conducted an interview with ESPN's Karl Ravech in which he said Houston's apology earlier in the week was "not successful." ...

[Manfred told ESPN:] "I think if you watch the players, watch their faces when they have to deal with this issue publicly, they have payed a price. To think that they're skipping down the road into spring training happy, that's just a mischaracterization of where we are."

Here are six important things to know about Manfred's press conference Sunday afternoon.

1. Manfred would've liked to punish players ... "If I was in a world where I could've found all the facts without granting immunity, I would've done that."

Because MLB granted the players immunity in exchange for information, Manfred said they are being punished through public shame, essentially. Answering questions about the sign-stealing scandal and having others (fans, opposing players, etc.) consider their accomplishments illegitimate is punishment enough. ...

2. Manfred is not certain there were no buzzers ... Manfred said his investigation found no evidence of buzzers. He stopped short of saying the Astros did not use buzzers, however.

"You're never 100 percent sure in any of these things, but these were my best judgments," he said.

Manfred said MLB was aware of the buzzer allegations ... before the garbage can investigation. According to Manfred, Astros players ... [were] consistent in their denials about the use of buzzers in 2019. He's taking their word for it. ...

Manfred said the [Red Sox] investigation is ongoing, but he expects a resolution by the end of next week. ...
Jimmy Traina, Sports Illustrated, February 17, 2020:
Commissioner Rob Manfred held his first press conference regarding Houston's sign-stealing chicanery Sunday afternoon, just a few days after the Astros held a disastrous press conference in which they shrugged off the entire affair.

However, MLB Network passed on airing Manfred's meeting with the media and stuck to its original programming at the time: Bull Durham.

Yes, baseball's own network decided not to air an important and newsworthy press conference held by its own commissioner so instead they could air a movie that has been shown on its network a million times.

MLB Network aired the Astros' controversial press conference on Thursday featuring Crane, Jose Altuve and Bregman, so it's hard to understand why it would ignore Manfred's presser on Sunday. ...

SI reached out to MLB Network about the decision ... So the presser was covered, but not covered live, which is a mind-boggling decision. There was absolutely no excuse for not showing Manfred live on Sunday.

John Henry: In A "Particularly Challenging" Offseason, Trading Mookie Betts Was "One Of The Toughest, Most Difficult Decisions We Have Had To Make"

John Henry, February 17, 2020, press conference:
This morning, before answering your questions I would like to begin by addressing Red Sox fans directly about this offseason. We are used to challenging offseasons, but this one has been particularly challenging.

So let me begin by saying that while they've been presented with extraordinary challenges this off-season, those of us sitting here today know that our baseball operations department under [Chief Baseball Officer] Chaim [Bloom] and [General Manager] Brian [O'Halloran]'s leadership has handled these challenges extremely well. We are confident and optimistic while at the same time cognizant of how all of these challenges affect you, Red Sox fans. We feel responsible to face whatever challenges arise in a way so as to protect the organization and move forward for the long-term whether it's on the field or off.

Before [Chairman] Tom [Werner], [President and CEO] Sam [Kennedy] or I ever dreamed of owning a major league baseball club, we were baseball fans, like you. I grew up a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals. My favorite player was Stan Musial. My heart would have broken if Stan the Man had ever been traded – for any reason. Your parents or your grandparents surely felt the same way about Ted Williams and Yaz.

So, on one level, when I say I understand how many of you feel about this trade with the Dodgers, I know many of you – particularly our youngest fans – are disbelieving or angry or sad about it. I know it's difficult and disappointing.

Some of you no doubt felt the same way in 2004 when we traded Nomar, who like Mookie was a hugely popular, homegrown player. All of us in the organization hoped we could avoid ever having to go through something like that again. But most clubs face similar dilemmas from time to time. I understand there is probably little I can say today that will change how you feel about this, but it is my responsibility to try. The baseball organizations we compete against have become much more strategic and thoughtful about how and where they spend their resources in their quest for titles. We cannot shy away from tough decisions required to aggressively compete for World Series. That is what led to this trade.

Free agency plays into many decisions clubs like ours have to make. Today's players spend years in the minor and major leagues earning the right to be paid in a free market, earning the right to make choices. They make significant sacrifices to get there and they deserve what they receive.

Clubs also have choices to make as well in this economic system.

It's a system that has a few imbalances as all economic systems do, but it is a system overall that has led to labor peace and an amazing market for our best players. It is not the system's fault that the Red Sox ended up in this position. We were faced with a difficult choice. You can talk about dollars. You can talk about metrics and value. But in the end, even though we are consistently among the highest spending clubs in baseball - with this year being no exception – we have to make hard judgments about competing for the future as well as the present.

Over the last two decades in winning four titles, along the way we lost not only Nomar, but Pedro and Jacoby and Jon and Manny among others. We no longer live in the Musial or Williams era. Players have rights they should have had when Stan and Ted played. Those two great players were victims of an unfair system – one that gave them no choice but to stay put. At one point, Stan thought about going to Mexico in order to be paid his value. He was offered $175,000 over five years in the Mexican League when he was making $13,500 a year. The Cardinal owner went to Mexico to stop it.

In today's game there is a cost to losing a great player to free agency – one that cannot nearly be made up by the draft pick given. We've seen examples of this recently.

We at the Red Sox will remember this as one of the toughest, one of the most difficult, decisions we have ever had to make. We too love the young man, the great, great smile, the huge heart and the seemingly boundless talent he displayed here.

We felt we could not sit on our hands and lose him next offseason without getting value in return to help us on our path forward. We carefully considered the alternative over the last year and made a decision when this opportunity presented itself to acquire substantial, young talent for the years ahead.
John Henry brings up some important points about the end of the reserve clause and the sacrifices players make and the rights they earn and deserve after accruing time in in the major leagues. All of that is very important to remember. Mentioning Musial's offer from the Mexican League was impressive.

I believe Henry when he says he loved watching Mookie play and he obviously understands the fans' attachment to Betts. But he has other things to worry about regarding the Red Sox than the things with which you and I concern ourselves. A balance has to be reached. Where Henry has placed that balance on any given day – because it fluctuates – certainly can be – and is – hotly debated.

Sean McAdam of the Boston Sports Journal was not impressed with Henry's words. The headline on his column states: "In explaining trade of Mookie Betts, Red Sox ownership trips up badly".
The Red Sox tried, without much success Monday, to ... insist[] – time and time again – that the reason Mookie Betts is now sporting Dodger Blue and not Red Sox red had little to do with money and more to do with positioning themselves for the future. ...

More than anything, they wanted it known that it wasn't about getting the payroll under the competitive balance tax (CBT) threshold of $208 million.

Technically, this might be true. ...

But they were unsure of their ability – or perhaps willingness? – to afford him past 2020. Henry, chairman Tom Werner and team president Sam Kennedy all noted that the team had made repeated attempts to get an extension done with Betts after the 2016, 2017 and 2018 seasons.

Some careful listening, however, would have alerted you to the fact that there was nothing mentioned about negotiations from this past winter, with one year of control remaining. Perhaps that was because, as has been reported, Betts had asked for a contract commensurate with the one given to Mike Trout, or, more than $400 million.

Henry noted baseball's current economic system is not without its flaws, before noting: "It's not the system's fault that the Red Sox ended up in this position."

That much is true, of course. It's their own fault. ...

[D]espite knowing that some financial reckoning was coming, the Red Sox gave then-president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski the green light to hand out $213 million worth of contracts to two pitchers – Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi – with durability issues, knowing they would soon have to address free agency for Betts. ...

[Werner said]: "We've pleased with the value we got back from the Dodgers."

Most fans, by contrast, are not. While the Sox did get a total of 17 controllable seasons for the three players – Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs and Connor Wong – what are the odds that any of them becomes close to the player Betts was while here? Already, Verdugo is dealing with a stress fracture in his back and is doubtful for his first Opening Day as a member of the organization. ...

After all the energy ownership spent Monday desperately trying to convince everyone that Betts wasn't traded because of the CBT or payroll, they failed to grasp the real issue. To wit: Red Sox fans don't care why Betts was traded; they're just furious that he was traded.

The Sox can spin this as they wish. They can explain, sympathize and hold counseling sessions for aggrieved fans and it won't change the fact Betts — the best player the franchise had developed in decades — is no longer here.
McAdam mentioned the team's three attempts to get Betts to sign an extension, all of which Betts turned down. There exists a very real possibility of not being able to sign Mookie as a free agent next winter and the very real question of, if they did sign him to a mega-deal, how much that deal would hamstring the franchise when it was paying a less-than-elite Betts $35 million per season as he aged through his mid-to-late-30s. Those issues have little to do, if anything at all, with the poorly-timed deals for both Sale and Eovaldi. Even if those deals had not been done, the question of committing between a quarter-billion and a half-billion dollars to Betts would be a daunting one. Betts told the Red Sox he wanted a 12-year contract. Even if negotiations brought down to 10 years, or even eight, it's still a very long time at a very big price.

McAdam balked at Henry using Nomar Garciaparra as a comparison to Betts.
Garciaparra was two years older than Betts and by then had become injury prone. ... [I]n 2004, he had played a mere 38 of the team's first 101 games, while conveying to management he was unsure how much he would be physically available in the second half of the season. Fairly or unfairly, Garciaparra had developed a reputation for being churlish, thin-skinned and, in terms of his skill-set, in decline. Worse, his unhappiness over a contract offer which was soon rescinded ... had turned him into a negative presence in the clubhouse ...
I agree that the only real similarity in this case is that both guys were home grown players, well-liked by the fan base, and ended up getting traded - but that's also the extent of Henry's comparison. He may be off in saying that fans were as upset about Nomar as they are about Mookie, but that's not McAdam's objection. Other writers are also criticizing Henry for this point, but I think they are pretending Henry said more than he did.

McAdam also points out that most fans do not care who the team got back from the Dodgers, "they're just furious that he was traded". ... Yeah? So?

When has it ever been a smart idea to run a baseball team (in this case, a team worth several billion dollars) according to the fickle whims of the fan base, which is ignorant of a lot of inside information and possesses about 50,000 different opinions? If some fans don't care about Boston's return for Betts, then they aren't serious fans.

It also does not matter if Alex Verdugo (or Jeter Downs or Connor Wong) never becomes Mookie 2.0. The Red Sox can attempt to replace Betts's production from more than one player. In 2020, Betts will earn 46.3 times Verdugo's salary ($27,000,000 versus $583,500) – and he is unlikely to be 46.3 times as productive.

And after saying the Red Sox have 17 years of control over those three players, it's a bit nonsensical for McAdam to harp on Verdugo being "doubtful" for Opening Day in 2021. It's an incredibly minor issue considering that the Red Sox have control over Verdugo through the 2025 season. A possible IL stint should cause us to rant and rave at the Boston front office? So if Betts, who may only be a Dodger for one season, turns an ankle next week and ends up missing LA's first two weeks, would that suddenly nullify any benefits the Dodgers might have received?

Mookie: "Boston, Thanks For An Amazing 9 Years"


Nine years. Man, you were great to me, Boston. The way you welcomed me in like family. The bonds that will last a lifetime. And a banner that will hang forever. My family and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Over the years, I've realized we're all part of something bigger than one person, or one city. Though the jersey will change, the mindset will not. From one title town to another. Los Angeles, it's showtime.
He's wearing #50 with the Dodgers, too.

Sale: "I Feel Better Than I Have In A Long Time"

Chris Sale missed the last six weeks of the 2019 regular season. He says the time off did him good. He's thrown off a mount perhaps a half-dozen times this offseason.
My body is feeling good. Started flipping some breaking balls and getting after it a little bit. I'm doing normal stuff that I was before and it felt good. We'll just keep building from that. ... I feel confident that when this thing starts, I'm going to be ready for it, and I'll be back to doing what's expected of me. ... As bad as I was last year, I learned a lot, and that's going to help me going forward. Last year was tough; you guys saw it. I was out there throwing batting practice half the time. But you learn from that. ...

I feel better than I have in a long time, actually. I've never taken that time off before. I don't know if, since I started playing baseball, if I've had that time off. ... [T]here's silver linings in everything. You try to take the positives in every crappy scenario that comes up. I think that time off helped my entire body regenerate, my shoulder, my elbow, my forearm, every muscle in my body got a long break and a time to heal. I think in the end it will help me out in the long run.
Sale welcomed the invitation to talk to MLB's investigators about the 2018 Red Sox and allegations of cheating.
I want to help make this right. Is it frustrating? Yeah. It took 30 minutes out of one of my days in the offseason. Whatever. But to get the truth and to make this a better game, I'm in. ... [G]iven the circumstances, with what happened in Houston and AC [Alex Cora] being our manager, I think they're just doing their due diligence, just to see if he brought it over here. ... Until that comes out, no one's going to believe what I say. ... [U]ntil the hammer drops, that's when the truth comes out.
Several Red Sox players, including J.D. Martinez, Rafael Devers, Andrew Benintendi, and Jackie Bradley, have stated publicly that the team did not cheat during 2018. It's worth noting that none of the 2017 Astros spoke out before MLB released its report on them. But like Sale says, we can only wait and see.

Xander Bogaerts hurt his left ankle during a workout a couple of weeks ago.
It's getting better. [I] was doing some workouts back at home and it got a little sore so I'm taking it a little slowly now. ... Spring Training, I don't think there's any reason for us to force it. I'll get going as soon as possible. ... I've got to be smart about it and hopefully have a long, healthy season.
Bogaerts admitted this year with be a little strange without Mookie Betts.
I remember when he came up and made his debut in Yankee Stadium [June 29, 2014]. It's crazy to think how time flew that quick. Obviously, I wish him nothing but the best. He's one of the best teammates I've had. ... He's someone that we're going to miss a lot and it's not easy to replace someone like that, on and off the field.
Alex Verdugo will probably not be ready for Opening day on March 26. A back injury last May was revealed to have been an L5 stress fracture. Although the Dodgers never announced that publicly, the Red Sox knew about the injury before trading for him. Boston's doctors examined him again on Friday.
Manager Ron Roenicke:
It's in a progression where they're really liking how it's coming along. It's an injury that takes time. It takes a lot of time for this to heal. It's an injury that is fairly common in baseball because of the rotation -- it's a rotation issue.
Verdugo:
We don't want to give fans or give people a false hope or just even a deadline that we miss again. ... [W]e're going to take our time on this ... So that way ... it's the whole year and it's continuous. And we don't have any setbacks or anything like that.
Matt Collins (Over The Monster) attempts to predict the Opening day roster. Noting that Verudgo will likely begin the season on the IL, he sees the lineup as:
Andrew Benintendi, LF
Xander Bogaerts, SS
Rafael Devers, 3B
J.D. Martinez, DH
Mitch Moreland, 1B
Michael Chavis, 2B
Christian Vázquez, C
Jackie Bradley, CF
Kevin Pillar, RF
Bench: Kevin Plawecki, C; José Peraza, 2B; Tzu-Wei Lin, INF; Jonathan Arauz, INF

Rotation: Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, Martín Pérez, Ryan Weber (opener)

Bullpen: Brandon Workman, Matt Barnes, Josh Taylor, Darwinzon Hernandez, Marcus Walden, Heath Hembree, Ryan Brasier, Austin Brice

April 27, 1903: "Lauder Accepted Malarky's Four Presents, Filling The Cushions."

The Library of Congress has thousands of digitized newspapers online, many from the late 1800s and early 1900s.

I found some entertaining play-by-play reporting from the Monday, April 27, 1903, edition of the evening edition of the New York World. Although the score was complete on the front page, the account of the game inside included only five innings.




February 15, 2020

Cody Bellinger Blasts "Weak" Statements From "Ring-Stealing" Astros; Carlos Correa Says Astros Won 2017 Title Fair And Square, But Also Feel Bad About Cheating

Cody Bellinger, Dodgers outfielder and 2019 National League MVP, spoke to reporters on Friday about the Astros' sign-stealing scandal and the team's public apologies.
I thought the apologies were whatever. I thought Jim Crane's was weak. I thought Manfred's punishment was weak, giving them immunity. Those guys were cheating for three years. I think what people don't realize is Altuve stole an MVP from Judge in '17. Everyone knows they stole the ring from us. ... I know personally I lost respect for those guys. I think I would say everyone in the show, in the big leagues, lost respect for those guys.
The Dodgers lost the 2017 World Series to the Astros in seven games. MLB's report stated that Houston's sign-stealing operation ended some time in 2018, but Bellinger believes the Astros were cheating in 2019:
A hundred percent. I don't know why they would stop.
He questioned Jose Altuve's actions after hitting his pennant-winning home run in the 2019 ALCS.
I don't know what human hits a walk-off home run against Aroldis Chapman to send your team to the World Series and has the thought to say, "Don't rip my jersey off", but to go in the tunnel, change your shirt, and then come out and do your interview — that makes no sense to me. Makes zero sense to me. Because I know me. Gary Sanchez said it yesterday. You can rip ... my pants off. I send my team to the World Series ... in the ninth inning, at home. I'm going crazy.
Other Dodgers spoke out, as well. Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling:
They went beyond the line. And I think it's up to us ... to keep reiterating that and saying that it did cross the line. ... I think one of the worst things that could happen would be we get through spring and it's just forgotten about ... Or they get pegged for the first two games and then it's forgotten about. It needs to be reiterated and that might be from our side saying, "Dude, this was not the norm back then." I keep seeing that on Twitter and other places. "That was just the norm. That's the way baseball was and the Astros got caught." That's not true.
Last week, when Stripling heard rumours he might be traded to the Angels, he wondered whether he would intentionally throw at any Astros. (The Angels open the 2020 season in Houston.) "I would lean towards yes. In the right time and the right place."

Fellow pitcher Alex Wood noted that if that happened, Stripling would likely be suspended for throwing at players cheated for years but escaped punishment.

Clayton Kershaw:
Some of those guys seemed remorseful, some of those guys said the right things, gave a good apology. And that's great. I'll move on with that. And then you get the owner up there saying some dumb stuff and it's like, "What's going on? How can you be that ignorant to the situation?" I don't really know what to make of it all anymore.
Third baseman Justin Turner:
It's hard to feel like they earned it and they earned the right to be called champions.
Astros shortstop Carlos Correa did not appreciate Bellinger's comments.
I don't have problems when people talk about 2017 and about what happened that year because, honestly, we were wrong. Everything that happened that year was absolutely wrong, and we obviously show remorse for that because we really feel bad about everything that happened in 2017.

The problem I have is when players ... don't know the facts, they're not informed about the situation and they just go out there and go on camera and just talk. ... [W]hen [Bellinger] talks about that we cheated for three years, he either doesn't know how to read, is really bad at reading comprehension or is just not informed at all. The commissioner's report clearly says that all those activities were conducted in 2017. 2018, nothing happened. 2019, nothing happened.
Ken Rosenthal, who conducted the interview for The Athletic, reminded Correa that MLB's report did state the Astros cheated
at least for part of the 2018 season". "[T]he Astros' replay review room continued ... to decode signs using the live center-field camera feed, and to transmit the signs to the dugout through in-person communication.
The Astros stopped this cheating only because they doubted the system's effectiveness. So who has reading comprehension problems, Carlos?
[H]e says, "José Altuve cheated Judge out of the MVP." Cody, you don't know the facts. Nobody wants to talk about this, but I'm going to talk about this. José Altuve was the one guy that didn't use the trash can. The few times that the trash can was banged was without his consent, and he would go inside the clubhouse and inside the dugout to whoever was banging the trash can and he would get pissed. He would get mad. He would say, "I don't want this. I can't hit like this. Don't you do that to me." ... The bangs that are on Twitter or whatever, that shows it. Altuve played clean the whole year. [Tony Adams, an Astros fan who created signstealingscandal.com, documented only 24 bangs for Altuve. The top six Astros, including Correa, all topped 95.] ...

I want to address [the buzzer allegation] as well. 2019, nobody wore buzzers. That's a lie. The reason José Altuve didn't want to get his shirt ripped off, I'm going to tell you. Earlier in the year, he hit a walk-off at Minute Maid Park; I ripped off his shirt with Tony Kemp. There are pictures of that. There are videos of that. You can go look at it. I ripped off his shirt, and his wife told my wife, "Why is Carlos ripping Altuve's shirt? I don't like that." So when he's running from third base to home plate, I'm the guy up front. The first one waiting for him. He's like, "Don't take my shirt off." The second reason — he doesn't want me to talk about this, but I'm going to say it, is because he's got an unfinished tattoo on his collarbone that honestly looked terrible. It was a bad tattoo, and he didn't want nobody to see it. He didn't want to show it at all. So, one, he didn't want to take his shirt off because his wife had told my wife earlier in the year for me to not do that. So he was telling me not to do it. And, number two, he had an unfinished tattoo that looked kinda bad that he didn't want people to see and people to talk about. That was the reason. But Altuve has never cheated. … He was not wearing buzzers. That's a story that a fake account on Twitter broke, and then people just got on that wagon and started talking about the buzzers. Like, no. Nobody thought about buzzers. Nobody was using buzzers.
So (1) Altuve's wife didn't like her husband's jersey getting ripped and (2) Altuve had an unsightly unfinished tattoo that he didn't want people to talk about. ... Nope, sorry. Those are both ridiculous. Try again. ... It would have been a vibrator, anyway, not a buzzer, because the opposing catcher or umpire might hear a buzzer.

When Correa is asked whether the Astros earned the 2017 World Series title, he goes through the games, noting that the Astros won two games in LA and both teams used intricate signs.
World Series games are too important to use easy signs. There are Morse codes out there. There are signs that nobody can get. There are so many variations you can use, and nobody can get that. ... When I analyze all the games, we earned that championship. We didn't steal it. Instead of talking about it, he should have done something about it. ... [T]hey left so many guys on base in Game 7, throughout the whole World Series. Cody didn't have a good World Series. [Bellinger went 4-for-28, with 17 strikeouts (no player on either team had more than nine).] ...

Don't think that we feel great because we cheated that year and we got away with it and all that. No. We've got to go to bed every single night thinking about what we did and how wrong it was. We've got to live with that. [Bellinger] said that they all lost respect for us. But that's not how life works. We all make mistakes. ... It's how you confront those mistakes that you make. You've got to admit to those mistakes. You've got to accept those mistakes. ... Cody Bellinger's job is to ... be informed before you talk about other players. If you don't know the facts, then you've got to shut the fuck up.
This is the story Correa is trying to sell us:

The Astros felt horrible about getting away with cheating and winning the World Series in 2017. It was truly a burden on their souls. And every single night, they would go to bed and be alone in the dark with their thoughts, tossing and turning as their memories resurfaced and nagged at them, forcing them to relive the mistakes they had made, the wrong they had done. But they survived. They managed to get themselves out of bed, face a new day, and dream up new ways to cheat in 2018. Again, they did this because they felt so bad about cheating in 2017.

The Astros made mistakes. But "it's how you confront" those mistakes, how you accept them, that's important. (However, these cheating schemes cannot really be described as "mistakes"; they were months-long operations that they indulged in every day, week after week, month after month. "Mistake" implies a one-time error.) In any event, I would argue that Astros have not really confronted the fact that they cheated for years.

Is it remotely possibly to dump the "we-feel-so-bad-about-the-wrong-things-we-did" shtick? Everyone knows you didn't feel bad! The cheating went on for years. You were completely fine with it. Stop insulting our intelligence.