Daily Dose: Second opinion for Beltran

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Placed on the disabled list last week with a bone bruise in his right
knee, Carlos Beltran is currently in Colorado being examined by the
same doctor who did Alex Rodriguez’s hip surgery. Assistant general
manager John Ricco denied Monday that surgery has been discussed as an
option for Beltran, but also described the injury as “a bruise that
gets bigger” and “could develop into a microfracture.”

Coincidentally, microfracture surgery happens to be Dr. Richard
Steadman’s big specialty, which has the media in New York speculating
that surgery is indeed an option for Beltran. For now at least the trip
to Colorado is merely Beltran seeking a second opinion and the Mets
don’t think that the injury has progressed that far, but there’s plenty
of reason to be concerned and he’s not close to returning.

While the Mets lose their fourth game in a row to fall below .500, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* Gordon Beckham began his big-league career by going 0-for-13, at which point one of the Chicago-area newspapers amusingly quoted an anonymous scout
as saying that “he’s got to change his swing.” In other words, never
mind the terrific college career and rapid rise through the minors, he
failed to get a hit in his first four games!

Beckham has predictably gotten on track since then, singling in each
of his three at-bats Monday to make him 15-for-43 (.349) with a homer
and three doubles in his last 14 games. It remains to be seen if
Beckham will develop significant pop, but everything in his track
record suggests that he’ll hit for a nice batting average and control
the strike zone while posting a strong on-base percentage.

* Ricky Nolasco was demoted to Triple-A last month after going 2-5
with a 9.07 ERA through nine starts, but his 37/13 K/BB ratio in 44
innings suggested that he wasn’t pitching as badly as the bloated ERA
showed. Sure enough he’s had six solid starts in a row since rejoining
the Marlins, including eight innings of two-run ball Monday. He’s now
3-1 with a 1.91 ERA and 33/5 K/BB ratio since returning.

* Gavin Floyd was one of my “bust” picks coming into the season and
seemed to be headed down that path as he went 2-4 with a 7.71 ERA
through eight outings. However, he’s turned things around in a big way
since then and after tossing 7.2 shutout innings Monday now has a 1.28
ERA and 30/11 K/BB ratio in 42 innings this month. Looking beyond ERA,
he’s actually pitching better than last season.

AL Quick Hits: Josh Outman will miss the remainder of this
season and possibly much of 2010 following elbow surgery Tuesday …
Alexei Ramirez left Monday’s game after being hit on the helmet by a
Chris Perez pitch, but said afterward that he should be fine … Roy
Halladay came off the disabled list with six solid innings Monday, but
lost his matchup to Jeff Niemann … Carl Crawford went 2-for-3 with a
homer and swiped his 40th base Monday … Josh Hamilton (abdomen) began a
rehab assignment Monday at Double-A, going 1-for-4 with a steal … Gil
Meche (arm) threw a bullpen session Monday and declared himself fit to
make his start Wednesday … Jon Lester shut out the Orioles for seven
innings Monday, striking out eight and walking zero … Luke Hochevar
tossed seven shut innings Monday and has sliced his ERA from 10.80 to
4.96 this month … Jed Lowrie’s bruised knee continues to stall his
recovery from wrist surgery.

NL Quick Hits: Tim Lincecum allowed two hits and walked zero in
his third career complete-game shutout Monday … Aramis Ramirez
(shoulder) is slated to begin rehabbing Thursday in the hopes of
rejoining the Cubs after 20-25 at-bats … J.J. Hardy went 4-for-4 with a
homer and two doubles Monday … Colby Rasmus was scratched from Monday’s
game with a stomach ailment … Roy Oswalt used just 110 pitches for a
complete-game win Monday … Manny Ramirez will complete his minor-league
stint Tuesday before returning from suspension Friday … Antonio
Bastardo (shoulder) landed on the disabled list Monday, but there’s no
timetable yet for his return … Rich Harden scattered nine hits while
giving up one run over seven innings Monday, striking out nine …. Scott
Olsen returned to the rotation Monday with seven innings of two-run
ball … Fernando Nieve took his first loss Monday while giving up 11
hits in 3.1 innings … Raul Ibanez (groin) is unlikely to come off the
DL when eligible Friday.

MLB Network airs segment listing “good” and “bad” $100 million-plus contracts

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On Wednesday evening, Charlie Marlow of KTVI FOX 2 News St. Louis posted a couple of screencaps from a segment MLB Network aired about $100 million-plus contracts that have been signed. The list of “bad” contracts, unsurprisingly, is lengthier than the list of “good” contracts.

As Mike Gianella of Baseball Prospectus pointed out, it is problematic for a network owned by Major League Baseball to air a segment criticizing its employees for making too much seemingly unearned money. There’s a very clear conflict of interest, so one is certainly not getting a fair view of the situation. MLB, of course, can do what it wants with its network, but it can also be criticized. MLB Network would never air a similar segment in which it listed baseball’s “good” and “bad” owners and how much money they’ve undeservedly taken. Nor would MLB Network ever run a segment naming the hundreds of players who are not yet eligible for arbitration whose salaries are decided for them by their teams, often making the major league minimum ($545,000) or just above it. Similarly, MLB Network would also never think of airing a segment in which the pay of minor league players, many of whom make under $10,000 annually, is highlighted.

We’re now past the halfway point in January and many free agents still remain unsigned. It’s unprecedented. A few weeks ago, I looked just at the last handful of years and found that, typically, six or seven of the top 10 free agents signed by the new year. We’re still at two of 10 — same as a few weeks ago — and that’s only if you consider Carlos Santana a top-10 free agent, which is debatable. It’s a complex issue, but part of it certainly is the ubiquity of analytics in front offices, creating homogeneity in thinking. A consequence of that is everyone now being aware that big free agent contracts haven’t panned out well; it’s a topic of conversation that everyone can have and understand now. Back in 2010, I upset a lot of people by suggesting that Ryan Howard’s five-year, $125 million contract with the Phillies wouldn’t pan out well. Those people mostly cited home runs and RBI and got mad when I cited WAR and wOBA and defensive metrics. Now, many of those same people are wary of signing free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer and they now cite WAR, wOBA, and the various defensive metrics.

The public’s hyper-sensitivity to the viability of long-term free agent contracts — thanks in part to segments like the aforementioned — is a really bad trend if you’re a player, agent, or just care about labor in general. The tables have become very much tilted in favor of ownership over labor over the last decade and a half. Nathaniel Grow of FanGraphs pointed out in March 2015 that the players’ share of total league revenues peaked in 2002 at 56 percent, but declined all the way to 38 percent in 2014. The current trend of teams signing their talented players to long-term contract extensions before or during their years of arbitration eligibility — before they have real leverage — as well as teams abstaining from signing free agents will only serve to send that percentage further down.

Craig has written at great length about the rather serious problem the MLBPA has on its hands. Solving this problem won’t be easy and may require the threat of a strike, or actually striking. As Craig mentioned, that would mean getting the players all on the same page on this issue, which would require some work. MLB hasn’t dealt with a strike since 1994 and it’s believed that it caused a serious decline in interest among fans, so it’s certainly something that would get the owners’ attention. The MLBPA may also need to consider replacing union head Tony Clark with someone with a serious labor background. Among the issues the union could focus on during negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement: abolishing the draft and getting rid of the arbitration system. One thing is for sure: the players are not in a good spot now, especially when the league has its own network on which it propagandizes against them.