Stephen Strasburg: "I haven't heard from the Nationals"

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That sound you hear is either the Nats screwing up the most important
thing in the history of their franchise or Scott Boras screwing up
Stephen Strasburg’s career. Hard to tell which it is, really. Tom Boswell, who caught up with Strasburg in St. Louis yesterday, has the scoop:

Strasburg said that “I haven’t heard from the Nationals” since he
was drafted, other than receiving a minor league contract — a
technicality that prevents him from becoming a free agent . . .
Strasburg seemed a bit perplexed by the lack of communication since the
signing deadline is Aug. 17 and many other Nats draft picks are already
under contract.

Accordng to Nats’ president Stan Kasten, however, acting GM Mike Rizzo
has been in “frequent contact” with Scott Boras. Which suggests either
(a) that contact has been highly superficial, to the point where Boras
isn’t even telling Stasburg about it; or (b) there have been
substantive talks and that Boras, in violation of just about any
ethical rule you can think of, isn’t keeping his client in the loop.
When it comes to that guy your guess is as good as mine.

As Boswell notes, any team dealing with Boras and a high pick can
expect him to make a big public show of it being insulted by the first
offer, thus the caution. If I’m running the Nats, however, I try to
short circuit all of that. I pick a number which I will truly not go
beyond in signing Strasburg — no lowballing, no gamesmanship — just a
number that I can tolerate as an owner but which I will not pay a penny
beyond. Then I offer it. Politely, of course, with respect and all of
that, while making clear — in writing — just how generous it is in
light of every other deal every other draftee has ever signed. If he
takes it, great. I have improved my team and signed the guy I wanted to
sign at a price I know I can tolerate.

And if he doesn’t take it? Well, in that case you can be assured that Boras will be talking through one of his favorite sock puppets
all about it, publicly slamming the Nats. In response I would release
the writing, note that we thought it was a fair offer, and wish
Strasburg the best of luck and health in the Independent Leagues. If he
doesn’t blow out his elbow, I draft him again next year with my
compensation pick.

Maybe such an approach will cause the Nats to overpay by a couple of
million. But if they do it right they will not be paying more than they
feel good judgment requires, they will circumvent a stupid and
pointless Boras negotiation, they will show the fans that they aren’t
being pennywise and pound foolish and, best of all, they stand a pretty
good chance of getting Stephen Strasburg signed and pitching before the
end of the summer.

Take Boras’ power away from him, Rizzo. Make him an offer he can, but shouldn’t, refuse.

The 2017 Yankees are, somehow, plucky underdogs

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There’s a lot that has happened in the past year that I never, ever would’ve thought would or even could happen in America. Many of them are serious, some are not, some make me kinda happy and some make me terribly sad. I’m sure a lot of people have felt that way in this oddest of years.

There’s one thing in baseball, however, that still has me searching my feelings in a desperate effort to know what to feel: The New York Yankees are the postseason’s plucky underdogs.

This is not about them being lovable or likable — we touched on that last week — it’s more about the role they play in the grand postseason drama. A postseason they weren’t even supposed to be in.

None of the three writers of this website thought the Yankees would win the AL East or a Wild Card. ESPN had 35 “experts” make predictions back in March, and only one of them — Steve Wulf — thought the Yankees would make the postseason (he thought they’d win the division). I’m sure if you go over the plethora of professional prognosticator’s predictions a few would have the Yankees squeaking in to the postseason on the Wild Card, but that was nothing approaching a consensus view. Their 2017 regular season was a surprise to almost everyone, with the expectation of a solid, if unspectacular rebuilding year being greatly exceeded. To use a sports cliche, nobody believed in them.

Then came the playoffs. Most people figured the Yankees would beat the Twins in the Wild Card game and they did, but most figured they’d be cannon fodder for the Indians. And yep, they fell down early, losing the first two games of the series and shooting themselves in the foot in spectacular fashion in the process. Yet they came back, beating arguably the best team in baseball and certainly the best team in the American League in three straight games despite the fact that . . . nobody believed in them.

Now we’re in the ALCS. The Astros — the other choice for best team in the American League if you didn’t think the Indians were — jumped out to a 2-0 lead, quieting the Yankees’ powerful bats. While a lot of teams have come back from 0-2 holes in seven game series, the feel of this thing as late as Monday morning was that, even if the Yankees take a game at home, Houston was going to cruise into the World Series. Once again . . . nobody believed in them.

Yet, here we are on this late Wednesday morning, with the Yankees having tied things up 2-2. As I wrote this morning, you still have to like the Astros’ chances given that their aces, Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander, are set to go in Games 5 and 6. I’m sure a lot of people feel still like the Astros’ chances for that reason. So that leads us to this . . .

It’s one thing for no one to have, objectively, believed in the Yankees chances. It’s another thing, though, for the New York Yankees — the 27-time World Champions, the 40-time American League pennant winners, the richest team in the game, the house-at-the-casino, U.S. Steel and the Evil Empire all wrapped into one — to officially play the “nobody believed in us” card on their own account. That’s the stuff of underdogs. Of Davids facing Goliaths. Of The Little Guy, demanding respect that no one ever considered affording them. If you’re not one of those underdogs and you’re playing that card, you’re almost always doing it out of some weird self-motivational technique and no one else will ever take you seriously. And now you’re telling me the NEW YORK FRIGGIN’ YANKEES are playing that card?

Thing is: they’re right. They’ve totally earned the right to play it because, really, no one believed in them. Even tied 2-2, I presume most people still don’t, actually.

I don’t know how to process this. Nothing in my 40 years of baseball fandom has prepared me for the Yankees to be the David to someone else’s Goliath and to claim righteous entitlement to the whole “nobody believed in us” thing.

Which, as I said at the beginning, is nothing new in the year 2017. I just never thought it’d happen in baseball.