Johan Santana's knee does not hurt

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Former Mets’ pitching coach was on the radio yesterday, speculating
that Johan Santana’s struggles could be a result of knee pain. This was news to Johan Santana:

“How does he know that my knee hurts?” Santana rhetorically asked.
“That’s the question that I have. You guys tell me how the heck did he
find that out….Not even the trainer knows. Not even me. I didn’t know
my knee hurts. Just put it that way.

“We got along pretty good,” Santana continued about his relationship
with Peterson, “but the reality is he’s not here. I’m the one who feels
my body better than anybody, and my knee doesn’t hurt. I don’t know
where he got that one from. I’m being honest and realistic: My knee is
the last issue here. We took care of that last year (with Oct.1 surgery
to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee), and it has nothing to do
with what’s going on right now.”

Santana has always been a straight shooter, so there’s no reason not to
believe him. Sometimes guys get shelled, even the best of them. No one
thought CC Sabathia was hurt when his ERA was over a million last
spring, so why is everyone so unwilling to believe that Santana can
just pitch poorly from time to time? It happens.

But I am taken by Santana’s comment that “I’m the one who feels my
body better than anybody.” In addition to being a straight shooter, he
has also always been a class act, so I’m surprised to see him
disparaging Mrs. Santana like this.

New tax law could affect MLB trades

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Jim Tankersley of the New York Times notes that a tax law passed by Republicans could affect trades in Major League Baseball. The law added the word “real” to a certain line of tax code that now only allows real estate trades to qualify for tax immunity. Previously, certain assets like trucks and machinery could have been traded tax-free.

A perhaps unintended consequence of that change could mean baseball teams could have to pay capital gains taxes when they trade away and acquire players. MLB’s chief legal officer Dan Halem said, “There is no fair market value of a baseball player. There isn’t. I don’t really know what our clubs are going to do to address the issue. We haven’t fully figured it out yet. This is a change we hope was inadvertent, and we’re going to lobby hard to get it corrected.”

Tankersley wonders how players would be valued for the purposes of this tax law:

Mr. Verlander, for example, was clearly a more immediately valuable asset to the Astros than the three prospects they traded to get him. He gave up only four runs in his five regular-season starts for the team, then won four straight starts to begin the playoffs. In very simple terms, he brought value to the Astros in a trade, and had the new law been in place last year, the team would have owed taxes on that added value.

But what, exactly, was that value? Was it the size of his contract? Mr. Verlander earned $28 million last year, while the players traded for him drew minor-league salaries. Was it the additional wins he brought to the team? Statisticians estimate Mr. Verlander gave the Astros nearly two more wins last season, a value that, depending on the statistician, could reach $20 million. Or was it some calculation of the total future value Mr. Verlander will bring to the team, minus the total future value it gave up in the prospects it traded away — and possibly adjusted for the amount the team will have to pay Mr. Verlander?

Complicating matters further is that teams value players differently, and one player might help a certain team far more than another team. A struggling club with a surplus of starting pitchers might trade one to a playoff contender in desperate need of one, in exchange for position players who could improve a struggling lineup. In that case, both teams could, reasonably, be considered to have gained value in the trade, and thus would owe taxes on it.

Republicans said they weren’t trying to hamstring sports teams, but that’s exactly what they might have done here. It seems likely that the law will eventually be amended to exempt sports teams, given that leagues like the MLB and NBA are enormous and worth so much money. Whether that will be done in a reasonable amount of time is another question entirely.