Michael Weiner: draft slotting is a salary cap and the players are against it

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The Executive Board of the Major League Baseball Players Association
just had a conference call with the media to formally announce Michael
Weiner as the new Executive Director and to field questions from the
media. I guess I’m the media now, so I called in. I even asked a
question and may have actually committed an act of journalism in doing
so.  I feel so dirty. But I’ll get to that in a minute.  The rundown:

  • Players Tony Clark, Curtis Granderson and Jeremy Guthrie were on the
    call and talked first. Only Guthrie identified which team he plays for,
    which I thought was kind of cute. Newsday’s Ken Davidoff is the only
    one who asked a player a question, to Granderson, about the trade
    rumors. Granderson’s response: “I’m still wearin’ the English D!”  If
    I’m Granderson I give no comment and write about it all on my own blog
    over at Yahoo!

  • Weiner had a lot of nice things to say about Marvin Miller and Donald
    Fehr. He used the word “humbled” about 15 times.  Based on everything I
    hear from people who know him, that’s genuine. Weiner is just a nice
    guy who everyone seems to like. The anti-Fehr in that regard.

The bit of news came when I asked him whether the union has discussed
the statements Bud Selig has made in recent months about
internationalizing the draft and about a hard slot on draft picks in
order to scale back signing bonuses.  Until now, many individual
players have said they would be fine with it, exhibiting no small
amount of annoyance that these 18 year olds are making a lot of money.

Weiner indicated that there has been an about-face,* suggested that the union has decided to fight it hard, however, correcting
my use of the term “slotting” in my question to “salary cap” and than
unleashing all of the time-worn union rhetoric about salary caps being
antithetical to individual players being able to negotiate their own
deals on the open market.  In other words, it sounds like the union
will either (a) go to the mat to fight hard slotting; or (b) come off
of their longstanding opposition to caps of any kind.

So that was interesting. Like I said, I’m a newbie at this reporting
stuff, but those of you out there who aren’t may do well to get a
microphone in front of some of those players who complained about
amateur signing bonuses in recent years and let them know that they
need to change their tune.

Beyond that, a lot of talk about some other stuff: HGH testing: the players will be on board when there’s a reliable urine test. Collusion: the union is still thinks something fishy happened in 2007-08, but nothing new to report.  John Henry’s interesting revenue sharing plan from yesterday: the players discussed it today, but no real comments. The current free agent market: Weiner is “a little bit concerned” about the slow place of signings so far, but it’s too early to draw any conclusions about the state of the market.  So beyond the bit about the slotting stuff, nothing terribly new or earth shattering.

That’s enough journalism for me today. Starting now, I go back to blogging. At least you can blast your stereo while you’re doing that.

*in hindsight I think I overstated it a bit. The union as a body has been basically non-committal in its official statements on the matter, so the term “about face” is probably not accurate. The fact that the union is now clearly saying that they are against it, however, is a new development, and one which runs counter to the statements of many individual players who have said that they’d be fine with a slotting system. 

Mets owners get some breathing room on their Bernie Madoff settlement payments

New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon stands on the field before baseball's Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Monday, Oct. 12, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Associated Press
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For years the central fact of life of the New York Mets has been that their owners, the Wilpon family and Saul Katz, lost a ton of money after investing it with friend and business partner Bernard Madoff, perpetrator of the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. It has hampered their payroll and led to huge amounts of borrowing and restructuring that, before last year’s pennant run, seemed like it’d be a millstone on the Mets competitive prospects for years to come.

In addition to losing money, it was later determined that Katz and the Wilpons unfairly gained in some other respects and thus they ended up having their phony earnings clawed back via a settlement with the trustee managing the fallout of the Madoff scandal.  The upshot: the Wilpons and Katz, in addition to their losses, were ordered to pay nearly $60 million dollars back, half payable this week, half payable next year. That’s a lot of money for anyone to fork over and this week’s payment loomed large.

Now, however, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports that the Wilpons and Katz will get some breathing room. Specifically, they have modified their agreement with the trustee and some of the owed money has been deferred. Instead of some $29 million payable this week, they will only have to pay $16 million. The remainder will be paid in four installments — from 2017 through 2020 — with an interest rate of 3.5 percent on the unpaid balance, Rubin says.

Now, there obviously was no promise that the $13 million saved this week be invested in the baseball team, but it’s probably a good thing overall for the Mets if their owners’ debt payments are reduced a bit.

Mike Napoli hit a homer for a fan with cancer

CLEVELAND, OH -  MAY 30: Mike Napoli #26 of the Cleveland Indians rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run during the sixth inning against the Texas Rangers at Progressive Field on May 30, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Last night a fan named Kathi Heintzelman showed up at Progressive Field in Cleveland with a sign asking Indians first baseman Mike Napoli to hit a home run for her and to give her a hug. But there was a reason beyond her love for Mike Napoli. She’s starting chemotherapy today and the hug and homer would be a nice thing.  Hard to disagree with that, even if everyone knows that ballplayers can’t hit homers on demand.

Well, most players can’t. Mike Napoli did the easy part before the game, giving her a hug. Then in the sixth inning, he went yard:

 

Whether you believe that such things can be fated or if you merely acknowledge that Heintzelman asked Napoli for a homer at a good time — he’s on a hot streak right now and has hit bombs in four of his last 11 games — it’s a great story.

 

The Twins recall Byron Buxton

Byron Buxton
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Byron Buxton has been recalled from Triple-A Rochester by the Twins.

Buxton will replace Danny Santana, who was placed on the disabled list following a hamstring injury. But the bigger picture here is that Buxton will get a fresh go-around to show that he is the future of the Twins like so many assume he will be. The 22-year-old hasn’t hit so far in the majors, but he batted .336/.403/.603 with six homers, four steals, and a 26/11 K/BB ratio over 129 plate appearances after his demotion to Triple-A last month.

At this point the Twins, who stink on ice, need to just put their top young player in the game and let him learn to swim at the big league level rather than try to squeak out a few extra relatively meaningless wins with guys who won’t be part of the next contending Twins team.

92-year-old World War II vet throws a nifty ceremonial first pitch

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 9.04.09 AM
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Think of how many bad ceremonial first pitches you’ve seen. From the worm burners from local business owners and pillars of the community at minor league games to ex-big leaguers who obviously haven’t picked up a ball since they retired to the famous celebrity ones that go viral the next day, there are probably a lot more bad first pitches out there than good ones.

But when the good ones come, they’re really enjoyable. And few are more enjoyable than the one which preceded yesterday’s Padres-Mariners game in Seattle. The pitcher: Burke Waldron, a 92-year-old veteran of World War II. He did it in his dress whites. He ran out onto the field beforehand. And though his catcher didn’t set up the full 60 feet, six inches away from where Waldron threw it, it was still a spiffy pitch. Way better than most: