Selig tips the owners' hand for 2011

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Setting the whole steroids thing aside, the owners haven’t attempted to impose anything really major on the players in labor negotiations since 2002.  Bud Selig indicated yesterday, however, that big changes are gonna come in 2011, and that the owners are going to be “very aggressive” in seeking (a) a hard slotting system for the amateur draft; and (b) an international draft.

Usually it’s the owners who fight amongst themselves, with the small revenue clubs warring with the big revenue clubs over how revenue is handled and shared and all of that. I’d have to assume, however, that they’ll be united here, at least with respect to the hard slotting system.

In contrast, we may see the union fighting, at least a little bit, with its members when it comes to the slot. The union has historically been opposed to any sort of capping of money going to the players, amateur or otherwise, on a philosophical basis.  The players, however, seem to not much care for the big bonuses going to the Stephen Strasburgs of the world and may very well throw them under the bus if the owners seek a hard slotting system.  The only ones who would lose out under such a scenario — the amateurs themselves — aren’t at the bargaining table. I think the players are fooling themselves if they think that money not spent on draftees will go to them — it’s not a huge amount of money anyway — but it will probably make them feel better all the same.

I’m opposed to the international draft for the simple reason that, right now, there is a huge incentive on the part of teams to seek out and develop raw talent in places like the Dominican Republic because they can expect to recoup their investment in these guys by being able to sign them on the open market.  If there was a draft, why would any team operate an academy in the D.R.? Why would the Angels, for example, provide facilities to train a kid for several years if cheap, free-riding teams would be able to draft these guys ahead of them?

The net result of an international draft would be a big reduction in the number of players from other countries because, unlike U.S. players who can play in any number of organized leagues, there simply isn’t a sophisticated infrastructure to develop a significant amount of young talent.  We saw this in Puerto Rico, where the imposition of a draft a few years ago greatly reduced the number of players coming into the majors. I’d even argue that the imposition of the domestic draft in the 60s is one of the things that led to the reduced number of U.S.-born blacks in the game.  Why send scouts to an impoverished inner city neighborhood to find the lesser-known talent if all your presence there does is to alert the teams drafting ahead of you of your find?  And even if that’s not a huge concern, it’s certainly something which prevents the formation of domestic urban baseball academies (which would be very, very cool).

Obviously there will be a ton of time to debate all of this between now and the next round of CBA negotiations, and there are certainly pros and cons to both of these proposals. But if this is the most the owners are shooting for, I’d say there is little chance of a work-stoppage.

Astros avoid arbitration with Mike Fiers

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 17: Starting pitcher Mike Fiers #54 of the Houston Astros walks to the dugout after pitching an inning during a game against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 17, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. The Astros won the game 2-1. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
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The Astros avoided arbitration with pitcher Mike Fiers, agreeing on a $3.45 million salary for the 2017 season, per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle. The right-hander was in his first of three years of arbitration eligibility.

Fiers, 31, made 30 starts and one relief appearance for the Astros in 2016. He finished the year with a 4.48 ERA and a 134/42 K/BB ratio in 168 2/3 innings.

Fiers had a much better showing in 2015 as well as in limited action in 2014, so the Astros are hoping he rediscovers that effectiveness going forward. He’ll slot into the back of the starting rotation.

Raines to wear an Expos cap, Pudge to wear a Rangers cap on their Hall of Fame plaques

1990:  Outfielder Tim Raines of the Montreal Expos in action. Mandatory Credit: Otto Greule  /Allsport
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There is little if any controversy to be had about the caps this year’s inductees will wear on their Hall of Fame plaques, but in case there was any doubt at all, it was put to rest this afternoon at the Hall of Fame press conference: Tim Raines will wear a Montreal Expos cap and Ivan Rodriguez will wear a Rangers cap. Jeff Bagwell, of course, never played for a team other than the Houston Astros at the big league level.

Though Raines had some good seasons with the Chicago White Sox and though he helped provide a nice kick start to the Yankees dynasty in the mid-1990s, his best seasons, by far, took place while he was an Expo. It’s also the case that the bulk of his Hall of Fame push came from Expos fans. He was particularly boosted by Jonah Keri, who recently wrote a book detailing the history of the Expos. So, yeah, that’s easy.

Rodriguez played 13 of his 21 years with the Texas Rangers, including his MVP 1999 season. He did have some notable years elsewhere, particularly in Detroit where he remains a fan favorite, but it was always going to be the Rangers for him, one would think. Maybe a slight, slight chance that he’d do the blank cap thing, Greg Maddux-style, but smart money was on the Rangers.

With Bagwell, the only question is which Astros cap he’ll wear. There are a couple of applicable ones: the brick red star, which he wore to the World Series in 2005. There’s also the shooting star cap he wore during his best seasons and which Craig Biggio’s plaque displays. He was around for the classic “H” over the star look, but he was just a kid then, so I doubt he’d wear it.

Anyway, sorry to the Marlins fans who wished that Raines and Pudge would wear the fishy-F.