Daily Dose: Sore elbow shuts down Santana

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Johan Santana has been scratched from his scheduled Tuesday start with soreness in his left elbow. For now at least the Mets have indicated that they hope the injury is a short-term problem, but several teammates suggested Monday night that Santana may be headed for surgery. He’ll be examined further by doctors Tuesday, at which point the Mets should know whether Santana has a chance to pitch again this year.
Santana has hardly been horrible of late with a 3.94 ERA this month and a 3.22 ERA since the All-Star break, but a closer look at his numbers reveals that something has clearly been off for quite a while. After averaging a career-low 7.9 strikeouts per nine innings last season he produced 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings through the end of May this year, but that dipped to 4.5 in June, 6.5 in July, and now 5.5 in August.
To his credit Santana has been able to maintain an ERA in the low 3.00s the whole time, but a three-month stretch where one of the decade’s greatest strikeout pitchers manages just 60 in 100.2 innings is a definite red flag. As rotation-mate Mike Pelfrey put it: “I don’t think anyone expects good news.” If he does land on the disabled list, Santana would become the 20th Mets player to spend time on the shelf this year.
While the Mets hope for one piece of decent news this season, here are some other notes from around baseball …


* Jake Peavy made his third rehab start Monday at Triple-A, throwing five scoreless innings with three strikeouts and two walks. As recently as a few days ago the White Sox suggested that he’d need several more rehab outings before joining the rotation, but those plans have apparently changed. Jose Contreras has been booted from the rotation following another bad outing Monday and Peavy could be his replacement.
* Scott Baker was 0-4 with a 9.15 ERA and eight homers allowed through four starts, but after turning in another gem Monday night with seven innings of one-run ball he’s now 12-3 with a 3.74 ERA and 109/25 K/BB ratio in 133 innings since. That includes 5-0 with a 2.61 ERA and 43/9 K/BB ratio in eight starts since the All-Star break and he’s been the only Twins starter who hasn’t fallen apart over the past couple months.
AL Quick Hits: Scott Downs came off the disabled list Monday, but Cito Gaston said that he’ll be eased back into closing … Edwin Encarnacion (hamstring) took Downs’ spot on the DL after hitting .186 since being traded to Toronto … Chris Davis will be back in the majors Tuesday after batting .327 in 44 games following his demotion to Triple-A … Brad Penny has been dropped from Boston’s rotation in favor of Junichi Tazawa, at least until Tim Wakefield (calf) returns from the DL … Carl Crawford left Monday’s game with lower back tightness … Daisuke Matsuzaka (shoulder) tossed three scoreless innings in a rehab start Monday at rookie-ball … Justin Morneau was back in the lineup Monday after missing six games with an inner-ear infection … Roy Halladay got knocked around Monday for a second straight start, coughing up eight runs on 12 hits … Joe Saunders’ (shoulder) return from the DL has been moved up to Wednesday after a successful simulated game … Ichiro Suzuki missed Monday’s game with a strained calf, but hopes to be back in the lineup Wednesday.
NL Quick Hits: Tony La Russa said Monday that John Smoltz was tipping his pitches while struggling in Boston, but facing the Padres, Nationals, and Pirates in his first three NL starts will help too … Cliff Lee gave up just a pair of unearned runs in seven innings Monday, improving to 5-0 with a 0.68 ERA and zero homers allowed in five Phillies starts … Aaron Cook (shoulder) may be able to return before the end of the regular season after an MRI exam Monday revealed no structural damage … Pablo Sandoval left Monday’s game with a strained calf … Ryan Howard homered twice off Bobby Parnell and knocked in five runs Monday, passing the 100-RBI mark … Ryan Hanigan landed on the disabled list Monday with post-concussion symptoms from a foul tip off and Chris Dickerson (ankle) joined him on the shelf … Jason Giambi will likely join the Rockies in September after inking a minor-league deal Monday … Jeff Francoeur is day-to-day with a torn thumb ligament suffering trying to make a catch.

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.