March 4, 2021

Jackie Bradley Signs 2/24 Contract With Milwaukee Brewers

Jackie Bradley has agreed on a two-year, $24 million deal with the Milwaukee Brewers, according to a source.

Bradley's performance in the field was nothing less than spectacular, but he was often plagued with a noodle bat. JBJ batted over .250 only twice, with his best average coming during last year's shortened season. His on-base percentage topped .350 only once (again, last year).

Bradley's best season was 2016, when he belted 26 dongs and slugged .486, with a WAR of 5.8, but he was an above-league average hitter in only three of his eight seasons in Boston and finished with a .231/.321/.412 batting line.

Ian Browne notes that Bradley, who will turn 31 next month, did not fit into the team's short- or long-term plans.

The first was payroll. The Red Sox have been candid that this is a season of rebuilding the foundation rather than going "all in" for a World Series, and signing Bradley would have put them over the luxury-tax threshold of $210 million.

The second is Jarren Duran. The exciting prospect — who is ranked No. 8 in Boston's system by MLB Pipeline and who is expected to vault into the top five entering this season — sure looks like the center fielder of the future for the Red Sox. He has a nice combination of speed and power, and he is off to a strong start in Spring Training. . . .

[Duran] could be Major League-ready by mid to late season.

March 3, 2021

Most Likely World Series Winner? MLB.com Ranks Red Sox At #20

MLB's Will Leitch and Mike Petriello held a draft of the most likely World Series winners.

The Top 5

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

Leitch: There's no reason to get cute here. This is a fully operational winning machine right now, a team that has everything a club could possibly want and then a bunch of other stuff every other team would want solely in reserve, just in case. . . . I don't know if I'll ever truly trust a Dodgers bullpen -- but this is the best team in baseball by a wide margin. Can they challenge the Mariners' 2001 win record of 116? I think the rest of the NL is just competitive enough for them to fall short.

2. New York Yankees

Petriello: I'm not sure if I think the Yankees are better than the Padres. In fact, I think I might be sure they are not. . . . Anyway, I didn't even think this was possible, but I almost wonder if the 2021 Yankees are somehow under rated. . . . [W]hile it's certainly fair to question the reliability of their rotation, they also have something like eight different arms who are reasonable options to collect starts. . . . Do the Blue Jays have fewer rotation questions? They do not. . . . This is a 100-win team.

3. San Diego Padres

Leitch: . . . If they can't pass the Dodgers . . . that means they're getting one Wild Card Game, potentially against Jacob deGrom, or Jack Flaherty, or Charlie Morton, or Max Scherzer just for the right to play the Dodgers. That so much is stacked against them makes their offseason moves seem even more impressive. But I'll still take the bet. This team is stacked, and, more to the point, they sure do feel like they have the wind at their backs. . . .

4. New York Mets

Petriello: Yeah, I know. We're too high on the Mets every year. We end up disappointed every year. . . . I have a lot of faith that Atlanta will be good, but it's somewhat hard for me to see them being better than the Dodgers or Padres. I have less faith that the Mets hold it together, but if it does go right, they have a higher ceiling? Does that make sense? No? . . . I'll probably regret this by September. I always do.

5. Atlanta 

Leitch: Yeah, I'll take this bet. I agree that the Mets have a higher ceiling. But I think the odds that they reach that ceiling are a lot lower than the odds that [Atlanta], who are actually a lot steadier year to year than they seem, are better in 2021. . . . I like the Mets, too. But I still think [Atlanta is] better. I actually think they might be better by a lot.

The rest of the AL East:

11. Toronto Blue Jays

12. Tampa Bay Rays

20. Boston Red Sox

Petriello: Well, I'm not happy about it. Let's best-case scenario this one: Xander Boagerts is so good. I know Rafael Devers didn't have a great 2020; I also know he was fantastic in 2019 and will play this year at just 24 years old. J.D Martinez will bounce back at least a little, and Eduardo Rodríguez and Chris Sale ought to throw more innings than they did in 2020, which is to say "zero innings." Alex Verdugo had a good first season in Boston. I was pretty down on Andrew Benintendi anyway, and don't view his loss as a big one. Maybe my long-held love for Franchy Cordero pays off! Maybe Tanner Houck is really going to break out! Maybe Alex Cora brings back the magic! … and maybe Tom Brady comes back to New England to play center field.

But that's sort of it, isn't it? There's still a considerable amount of top-level talent here, especially if Sale looks like he used to coming off Tommy John surgery. Yet in the post-Betts world, they're not surrounded by nearly enough of a supporting cast, especially in an AL East where they are, at best, the No. 3 or No. 4 team. They didn't really address the right side of the infield well enough. The cover-your-eyes-bad bullpen from 2020 isn't meaningfully different. There's just not … enough. There's not enough there there. This team won 108 games three years ago. Wild.

29. Baltimore Orioles

Last Saturday, Shohei Ohtani hit 100 mph when throwing a live bullpen session.

On Wednesday, he crushed a 468-foot home run to dead center.

Cleveland Team Lied About Its Knowledge Of Callaway's Extensive History Of Sexual Harassment (aka "The Mickey Treatment"); Some Mets Employees Called Him "Dick Pic Mick"

One month ago, when The Athletic published the sexual harassment allegations of five women against former pitching coach/manager Mickey Callaway, a pattern of harassment that spanned multiple cities while Callaway worked for three teams, Cleveland's team president Chris Antonetti stated that reading the report "was the first time I became aware of the alleged behaviors".

The most recent reporting by Brittany Ghiroli and Katie Strang show beyond any question that Antonetti was lying.

Since the publication of The Athletic's first article, more women have come forward to say that Callaway made them uncomfortable by sending them inappropriate messages and/or photos, making unwanted advances and more while they worked for the Indians. Additionally, in 2017, an angry husband repeatedly called the team's fan services department to complain that Callaway had sent "pornographic material" to his wife. Those calls were brought to the attention of Antonetti, manager Terry Francona and general manager Mike Chernoff; the Indians spoke with Callaway about the matter. A Cleveland attorney spoke with the wife and said – in a phone call that was recorded – that Callaway had expressed remorse to him. The attorney added that "the Indians are frickin' pissed as hell" at Callaway and offered to have Francona call the husband. Additionally, an MLB security official contacted the husband and told him: "Mickey wants this all to go away," and the husband later emailed MLB directly about Callaway.

Over the past month, The Athletic has interviewed 22 people who interacted with Callaway during his years in the Indians organization, including 12 current and former employees. They say that Callaway's sexual indiscretions permeated the workplace to such an extent that it would have been difficult for top officials to not be aware of his behavior, and they push back against any assertion that Callaway's actions, when made public by The Athletic last month, caught team executives or MLB by surprise.

"I laughed out loud when I saw the quote [in The Athletic's original report] that said it was the worst-kept secret in baseball, because it was," said one Indians employee. "It was the worst-kept secret in the organization." . . .

[In Cleveland, Callaway] was viewed not only as a forward-thinking coach with interest in the expanding information and metrics becoming available, but also as someone with the distinct ability to synthesize and distill information for those who were less analytically inclined. . . .

As Callaway's track record for success in grooming and developing pitchers grew, however, so did his reputation for aggressively pursuing women.

One former pitcher under Callaway said that Callaway's conduct was widely known as early as 2010, when he was working in the minor leagues; There, he made inappropriate, sexualized comments about women and pursued them relentlessly. He'd often ask fellow players "where's the beef?" and indicate he was on the prowl for attractive women, the player said. ("Beef" is a term used within some MLB clubhouses to refer to women, particularly those who are not spouses or partners of players.)

The player said there were even times when he was warming up before a game and Callaway would be sidling up to women in the stands near the dugout and flirting with them instead of helping him.

"It gets kind of awkward when he's checking out players' girlfriends," the player added.

In 2011, when Callaway was working as a pitching coach for the Indians' affiliate in Kinston, North Carolina, he tried to rekindle a relationship with a woman who dated him during his playing days. She broke it off when she discovered he was days away from getting married. . . .

"He very much is of the mindset that women have one purpose," she said.

Callaway's promotion to the big club as a major-league pitching coach raised his profile. It also meant he was . . . in the vicinity of women who worked in the team's offices and . . . more junior-level staffers . . . He began reaching out to some via messages to their LinkedIn accounts. Others just took note of the long stares, the leering.

"It didn't matter what you looked like, what size, whether you were White or Black, Asian or Hispanic, he'd be creepy towards you," said one woman.

It wasn't long before women in the office talked about his behavior; five current or former employees say they were warned about Callaway by others, the message unambiguous: Stay away from him.

In 2015, the wives of multiple Indians' players began discussing what they perceived to be an extramarital relationship that Callaway was in with a woman who was around the team. Some wives shared those concerns with their husbands, and those concerns were conveyed to at least one department head and another staffer, though no formal complaint was filed with human resources or any other department, a source said.

"You definitely knew he had a lot of other women on the side," said the wife of an Indians player that year. "He was just someone you wanted to stay away from." . . .

In late 2016 or early 2017, he sent an unsolicited full-frontal nude picture of himself in a locker room to the friend of another woman he was involved with sexually, according to someone who saw the photo and asked about it. The friend worked in the Indians organization at the time. . . .

Perhaps the Indians were unaware that Callaway was harassing female employees, even sometimes on the field before games, and messaging them via social media apps, causing women to warn each other about his conduct and at least one former staffer to coin the phrase "the Mickey treatment." Perhaps the team was unaware he was taking lewd photos in the locker room and sharing them with women. Perhaps the complaints from players' wives never reached the executive suite.

But Antonetti's declaration that "there had never been any complaints against Mickey in his time with us, either to me or to our human resources department or other leaders," prompted multiple people who interacted with Callaway during his time in the Indians organization to contact The Athletic and accuse Antonetti of being evasive.

"(Those) comments hit me the wrong way," said one former Indians employee. "I know that's the way Chris has to do it and run things, but the amount of people in that organization who know about all that stuff, I don't know how he can then face his staff." . . .

On the morning of Aug. 8, 2018, more than halfway through Callaway's first season as [Mets] manager, a number of New York Mets interns tasked with reviewing the emails that filter in through the team's community outreach account flagged one from 9:48 p.m. from the night before.

The email, which The Athletic reviewed, was from the Arizona husband, who said he was reaching out to the Mets to notify them that Callaway had sent his wife "unsolicited pornographic material," and that he had previously attempted to notify MLB of Callaway's behavior. [This incident is detailed at length in the article.]

"I would like to think that if the Mets were aware of this situation, they would not want this type of person as their employee representing their organization," the person wrote in the email, which had also been sent to MLB's customer service on Aug. 6.

After being told of the content of the email by interns within the department, a manager within the community outreach department forwarded the email to David Cohen, the team's general counsel [who told] the manager to keep the contents of the email private. . . .

According to one former Mets employee, Callaway earned a nickname among several people within the organization: "Dick Pic Mick." . . .

In the wake of the revelations about Callaway's behavior under their watch, Indians and Mets officials have attempted to look forward. . . . MLB has announced it is updating its harassment and discrimination policies.

Some who lived through Callaway's time in Cleveland and were subjected to his aggressive advances questioned how the men who once supervised Callaway can be trusted to fix the culture that allowed him to operate so brazenly.

Nick Francona has criticized his father for being in the loop concerning Callaway's behaviour and doing nothing about it. Nick stated his father had lied to him, was "clearly in the wrong", doesn't seem to "understand what is acceptable behavior and what isn't" and is (along with other front office men in Cleveland) "more concerned with covering up wrongdoings" than dealing with them honestly. In addition, "the Commissioner's office is part of the problem, not the solution."

On Wednesday, Terry Francona claimed the team did not cover-up any harassment:

Nobody's ever deliberately covered up for anybody, I can tell you that. . . . I have never worked in a place where I have more respect for people than here. And I've been very fortunate to work for some wonderful people. I believe that in my heart. I don't think today is the day to go into details, things like that. I do hope there is a day, because I think it would be good, and I think it's necessary.

That's a bold claim, considering all that has come out so far. I cannot imagine it won't blow up in Tito's face at some point. But even dismissing the idea of a cover-up, the Cleveland front office heard numerous reports of Callaway's offensive behavior and did absolutely nothing to stop it.

In Callaway's case, both Cleveland and the Mets facilitated a harmful workplace environment where women were regularly harassed and feared retaliation if they reported illegal behaviour. The teams protected Callway, allowing him to continue harassing women for years, and did not care about the safety of their female employees. These charges could be leveled at many other organizations, I'm sure.

Regarding his son's statements, Francona said: "As you can imagine, that's a very difficult thing to see. So to deal with it publicly is hurtful."

Ray Ratto, Defector, March 2, 2021:

Cleveland's baseball team is the new worst franchise in North American professional sports, an honor that can be explained by two exhaustive and exhausting pieces by The Athletic's Katie Strang, who recently dug a pickaxe into the Arizona Coyotes, and MLB reporter Brittany Ghiroli about the many ways in which both the team and Major League Baseball ignored, dismissed, and tacitly accepted former pitching coach Mickey Callaway's prodigiously revolting proclivities with women dating back at least to 2010. . . .

He is now suspended pending an investigation by Major League Baseball that, like most such things, doubtless will be exactly as thorough as it needs to be to fit the needs of the investigators. . . .

But Cleveland clearly knew or should have known about how uneasy and unsafe their prized employee made every woman in sight. They did nothing, for years . . . and given the way the underground rumor railroad works in Major League Baseball, the Mets and Angels have some further explaining to do and amends to make as well. . . .

They had a responsibility to deal with Callaway, or at the very least not to plead ignorance when other teams inquired about him. . . . And the Clevelands will stay in this place until the news says something else is worse, or weirder, or just different. The well-trod process of waiting until things blow over helps dysfunctional organizations like this one prevent valuable and necessary change from happening, and there only so many Strangs and Ghirolis to go around.

Save some massive sudden onset of shame in America's front offices, maybe that's the surefire solution to bad behavior . . . fearless, thorough investigative journalism . . . [T]here are plenty of people who are out there doing it for less reward than is their due . . . It only sort of works, and only after the egregious behavior has already been committed and permitted, but it sure comes closer than anything else the people in charge have tried on their own, which is almost nothing.

If you're interested, Strang's report on the Coyotes is here: "Dysfunction In The Desert". Regarding the Coyotes' "pissbaby statement" in response, which will "accomplish the opposite of its desired effect":
In her article, Strang laid out many examples of how the Coyotes have gone wrong, including unpaid bills, toxic office politics, and the process behind the decision to draft a prospect who had been convicted of bullying a developmentally disabled, black classmate. The team's statement, which doesn't dispute any actual facts in the story, claims that the sources used are all "disgruntled ex-employees who have proven to be untrustworthy and lacking in candor." Again, The Athletic spoke with "more than 50 people, including current and former employees that span multiple departments as well as people who have business relationships with the club." If all of those sources are disgruntled and untrustworthy, what does that say about the Coyotes' hiring process and treatment of their workers?

The Coyotes' statement mainly defends the honor of team owner Alex Meruelo, claiming he is no deadbeat, but that he is the target of a "harassment campaign" by Strang and her publication. Somehow the team fails to mention that Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong is also featured in the article, threatening to blackball Strang while she was reporting:
In November, agitated that organizational information had been obtained by The Athletic, Armstrong contacted this reporter, offering a theory that his daily schedule and other files had been stolen from his computer. He warned that the person who he surmised was responsible would be going to jail. After delivering a lecture on journalism ethics, Armstrong asked this reporter what she thought would happen if he were to tell general managers around the league how she did her job.

March 1, 2021

Red Sox Begin Spring Schedule With 7-6 Loss To Twins

Red Sox - 010 032 0 - 6 11  2
Twins   - 050 002 0 - 7  6  0
Jeter Downs singled and homered and drove in three runs, and Bobby Dalbec and Michael Chavis also homered, but Boston dropped the spring's first Grapefruit League game to the Twins 7-6, on Sunday.

The Red Sox fell behind 5-1, but came back to grab a 6-5 lead (briefly) before losing it when Minnesota scored two unearned runs in the bottom of the sixth.

Manager Alex Cora was impressed with Downs, who has played only 12 games above Class A and will likely start the year in Portland (AA):
He's a good player. . . . We like him a lot. Slow heartbeat, it seems like. Even during the drills, he puts good swings on the ball. Going opposite field for the homer, and he sat on a breaking ball [for the hit] up the middle.
Cora put Kiké Hernández at the top of the order and he went went 1-for-2:
I'm going to challenge him. This is a guy, he can impact the baseball. He can hit extra-base hits. I do believe that there's more there. We'll see where it takes us. . . . We'll see. It's not that he's [definitely] going to be our [leadoff] guy, but I'll take a look at it.
Nathan Eovaldi faced eight batters (38 pitches) and recorded four outs, giving up two hits, one walk, and two runs. He also hit a batter.
First game, I was just excited. I felt like I was rushing through my delivery. My offspeed wasn't very good. My fastball was good. The cutter . . . was the best pitch today. I felt like I was locating it pretty well. The curveball was good. The slider/splitter not so much. I was just rushing.
Rafael Devers went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts.

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.