Previewing Sunday Night Baseball: Phillies at Dodgers

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With the Phillies and Dodgers less than an hour away from first pitch, here are a few things to consider.

On the bump:

– Antonio Bastardo (1-0, 1.50) gets the start for the Phillies. In his
major league debut against the Padres on Tuesday, Bastardo tossed six
innings of one-run ball, fanning five and walking one. The only run
scored via an Adrian Gonzalez home run. The southpaw went 3-2 with a
1.89 ERA in 11 minor league starts this season.

– Randy Wolf (3-1, 3.21) toes the rubber for the Dodgers. He’s
coming off a rough start against the Diamondbacks on Tuesday, when he
yielded a season-high five runs over six innings, but was handed a
no-decision. He hasn’t lost a decision since his season-debut on April
7 against the Padres. The ex-Phillie has allowed two runs or less in
five of his last seven starts.

Going for 40:

– The Dodgers have steamrolled their way through the first half of
the season. With a 39-19 record (.672 winning percentage) the next
closest teams to their win total are the Brewers, Red Sox, Yankees and
Rangers who are tied with 33.

In the clutch:

– Andre Ethier has ended each of the last two games in walk-off
fashion, first with a game-winning RBI double off Brad Lidge on Friday
and then a 12th inning solo home run that broke a 2-2 tie on Saturday.
Ethier was slumping for the better part of a month, but has hits in 10
of his last 11 games.

Road warriors:

– The Phillies are 20-8 on the road this season, the best record in baseball. They are currently 4-2 on their 10-game roadtrip.

Fantasy angle:

– Jonathan Broxton has fanned 30 over 17 2/3 scoreless innings at
Dodger Stadium this season. Opponents are batting just .070 (4-for-57)
off him there.

– Juan Pierre is batting .455 (20-for-44) against left-handers this season.

Are the current Collective Bargaining Agreement talks too friendly?

Scott Boras
Associated Press
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Baseball’s current collective bargaining agreement expires on December 1. There have been comments from both commissioner Rob Manfred and MLBPA director Tony Clark suggesting that progress was being made and there has been no suggestion thus far that there are sticking points which could lead to a work stoppage. Heck, even a few acrimonious rounds of negotiation before it’s all said and done seem unlikely.

That’s good news for fans, but it’s not making certain agents happy. Smooth labor sailing likely means a new CBA that is pretty close in most terms to the current CBA. Agents — especially agents who represent veterans — don’t like that because they believe that the current rules regarding free agency, draft pick compensation, luxury taxes and qualifying offers penalize the players they represent. Today Ken Rosenthal has a story about that anger, talking to both anonymous agents and super agent Scott Boras about how baseball’s middle class is disappearing and baseball’s median salary goes lower and lower.

Major League Baseball counters that while the median salary is going down, the average salary is going up. And baseball is right about that. But it’s also the case that the average is propped up by a handful of superstar contracts while the somewhat less lucrative but still nice mid-level contracts for mid-level veterans are disappearing. The financial landscape of the game is morphing into one with a small upper class with nine-figure contracts and a large lower class of pre-arbitration players and veterans on shorter, smaller deals, squeezing the old veteran middle class out of existence.

Sound familiar?

Baseball, of course, is not the American economy. There are some good reasons why those mid-level contracts have gone away. Specifically, because they tended not to be very good deals for the teams who signed them. At the same time, baseball is far better able to tweak its rules to spread the wealth than the U.S. government can, and those rules — like the qualifying offer and luxury tax — have had a harsh impact on a lot of players.

There’s not a clear answer on what the best system is for free agents, draft pick compensation, draft bonus pools and the like actually is. I tend to favor the fewest restrictions on a player’s right to negotiate freely with teams, but I’ll also acknowledge that there is a less than perfect market at play in baseball given revenue disparities between teams and the need to maximize, within reason, competitive balance. It’s not an easy trick even before you get into the B.S. team owners tend to spew about pocketbook matters.

But it’s also the case that an all-too-friendly relationship between the union and the league — one in which a given set of rules is rubberstamped from CBA to CBA — is not an ideal situation. No one wants acrimony, but the fact is that the players and the union are slicing up a pie. If the person you’re slicing up a pie with is all-too-happy to keep slicing it the same way, it probably means that they’re getting a bigger piece than you. Maybe, if it’s your job to grab a bigger piece?

The agents Rosenthal talked to, who represent a good chunk of MLBPA membership, certainly think the union should be doing some more grabbing. I wonder if their clients do too.

Four baseballs autographed by Jose Fernandez wash ashore

MIAMI, FL - AUGUST 03: Jose Fernandez #16 of the Miami Marlins looks on during a game against the New York Mets at Marlins Park on August 3, 2015 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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This is just . . . ugh.

WSVN-TV in Miami reports that a black bag containing Jose Fernandez’s checkbook and four baseballs signed by him washed ashore on Miami Beach. Probably a bag to keep stuff dry while out on the water.

The bag was given to a lifeguard. Hopefully the bag finds its way back to Fernandez’s family quickly.