CTB: Live from the Winter Meetings

Leave a comment

We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold . . .

Wait. That was a different trip. This is Indianapolis, not Vegas, and it’s the Winter Meetings, not the Mint 400. Still, there’s that same “what in the hell am I doing here” feeling that Raoul Duke and the good Doctor Gonzo had on their fateful journey into the heart of the American Dream.  Every executive and agent I’ve slammed in print in the past three years is here.  The writers too. It’s enough to make a fellow wonder about his place in the world. 

Just kidding. I’m gonna keep slamming those worthy of slamming, keep calling the smart moves smart and the dumb moves dumb and let the chips fall where they may.  There’s a definite class reunion feel to this event and I’m just going to pretend that I’m that foreign exchange student no one thought would show.  If they don’t like it, hey, maybe they shouldn’t have credentialed the blogger. 

In the meantime, let’s talk baseball.  On tap this week:

  • The Mariners may go crazy.  They’ve already got Figgins. They’re reportedly in on Bay and Lackey.  They’re talking extension with King Felix.  Are they gonna put the 2010 AL West away in December 2009?

  • Jason Bay, Matt Holliday and John Lackey still freely roam the market. My guess is that they still will by the end of the week, but recent history shows that the earlier you sign, the better off you are. Of course now the teams know that too. But maybe the players know that the teams know that. But maybe the teams know that the players know that the teams know that and . . . wait, deep breaths. Just follow Rosenthal around. He’s gonna report it first anyway.

  • More likely to see action is the second tier of free agents, populated by the likes of Marlon Byrd, Jermaine Dye, Mark DeRosa, Adrian Beltre, a metric crap-ton of relievers and whatever catchers the Mets haven’t yet signed. I think Benito Santiago is still available.

  • Roy Halladay is still the alpha-trade chit, but one has to think that the Yankees and Sox and whatever dark horses may present themselves are gonna make Toronto sweat that Halladay-imposed spring training deadline a bit.  More likely to move this week: Milton Bradley.  Baggage handlers standing by.

  • The BBWAA will be meeting, and a subset of those guys will be casting Hall of Fame ballots for managers, umpires, pioneers, and executives.  Go Marvin Miller and Whitey Herzog. Also, the Rule 5 Draft will be held on Thursday.

  • There will be a trade show during which vendors will try to convince teams that, yes, they really do need new LCD “No Pepper” signs for the backstop.

  • A job fair for those looking to break into the biz will take place.  Wanna be the assistant to the assistant ticket taker for the Mudville Tea Totallers of the Western League? Now’s your chance, Bunk.

There will be a ton more happening, some official, most non-official, some transaction-related, some not (for team-by-team previews, check out Matthew’s posts on the NL and the AL).  I’m going to do my best to sniff out the news as it happens and, failing that, I’ll certainly be grokking the scene and passing along my observations to you.  All I know for certain is that (a) I have a press pass that has not yet been revoked for cause; (b) I have a laptop with a wireless connection and a hella-long lasting battery; and (c) I know a lot of lawyers in central Indiana in the event I need someone to bail me out.

Refresh often, my friends. Refresh often.

Dee Gordon apologizes, is reinstated from PED suspension

Miami Marlins' Dee Gordon celebrates after hitting a double against the Detroit Tigers in the ninth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 5, 2016, in Miami. Derek Dietrich scored on the double. The Tigers won 8-7. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
Getty Images
2 Comments

The Miami Marlins have reinstated second baseman Dee Gordon from his suspension.

Gordon, of course, has missed the last 80 games while serving his drug suspension. He’s coming off a minor league rehab assignment and will be the everyday second baseman for the contending Marlins. He was hitting .266/.289/.340 with three doubles, two triples, five RBI, 13 runs scored, and six stolen bases in 97 plate appearances when he was popped. He was replaced by Derek Dietrich, who hit a nice .275/.366/.398 with 22 extra-base hits, 30 RBI, and 26 runs scored in 314 PA in Gordon’s absence, so don’t expect a tremendous upgrade at second down the stretch, even if they get a nice upgrade in the utility and depth department.

To make room for Gordon, the Marlins designated utilityman and sometimes hero Don Kelly for assignment. Sad jams.

UPDATE: Gordon issued a video apology on the eve of his reinstatement:

Chris Sale called “a competitor” for stuff that gets most guys called “head cases”

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 12:  Chris Sale #49 of the Chicago White Sox reacts during the 87th Annual MLB All-Star Game at PETCO Park on July 12, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
48 Comments

Chris Sale has had an eventful week.

On Saturday he was scratched from his start and subsequently suspended for five games for cutting up the 1976 throwback uniforms the team was scheduled to wear, making them unusable. That cost the team over $12,000 and cost the Sox their best pitcher hours before game time.

On Monday Sale gave an interview to Scott Merkin in which he apologized to fans and teammates and explained his rationale for the uniform shredding. Even if his act was over the top, there was a core of understandable motivation at least: Sale said he voiced his displeasure with the untucked jersey months ago and asked to not pitch on a night they’d have to wear them because he believed it would mess with his mechanics and/or mental state. The Sox didn’t heed his request and Sale took issue, as many probably would, with what he felt was the business of throwback jerseys taking precedence over on-the-field stuff.

Of course, there are still some pretty big problems here. Mostly having to do with the facts that (a) the Sox have people on staff who could’ve optimized his jersey any way he needed it to be optimized if he had asked; (b) ballplayers have been wearing throwbacks for a long time now and, even if they don’t like them, they tend to endure them; and (c) he’s a ballplayer who needs to suck things up sometimes like every single ballplayer ever has done. There are a ton of things ballplayers are expected to do which are insisted upon by the business folks. It’s part of the gig.

A little more seriously than that is the fact that Sale pretty publicly threw his manager, Robin Ventura, under the bus :

“Robin is the one who has to fight for us in that department,” Sale said. “If the players don’t feel comfortable 100 percent about what we are doing to win the game, and we have an easy fix — it was as easy as hanging up another jersey and everyone was fine. For them to put business first over winning, that’s when I lost it.”

An undercurrent to all of this is Sale being fairly obvious in voicing his desire to be traded.

Today Bob Nightengale of USA Today has a story about Sale’s week. It’s sourced largely by Sale’s friend Adam Eaton who defends Sale as a passionate competitor who just wants to win and how all of this stuff of the past week was about his desire to do so. The headline of the story buys in to all of that:

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 10.32.02 AM

We heard much the same along these lines when Sale blasted Sox brass following the Drake LaRoche stuff during spring training, going on an expletive-filled rant in a meeting behind closed doors but then bringing the same noise, albeit cleaned up, in front of reporters after it all became public.

Chris Sale is who he is, of course, and I’m not going to too harshly judge who he is. He’s an amazing pitcher and, as most athletes will tell you, the mental part of the game is almost as important or, maybe, even more important than the physical part. Asking Sale to be who he isn’t would probably be counterproductive in the long term.

But I am fascinated with the way in which someone who has behaved like Sale has behaved is described. He’s a “competitor” whose objectively disruptive and literally destructive behavior is explained away as merely a function of his desire to win. His friends on the team, like Eaton, are sought out for damage control and spin and his detractors, which there are likely some, aren’t quoted, even anonymously. He has publicly called out his manager as not wanting to win as much as he wants to please his bosses and he has likewise called out his manager’s bosses and has welcomed a trade, yet we aren’t seeing stories about how that’s a bad thing for the Sox’ clubhouse.

I don’t much care for that sort of stuff, actually, as I suspect most clubhouse controversy stories are somewhat overblown and overly dramatized. But those stories have been go-to tropes of sports writers for decades, and I am trying to imagine this sort of story about players who aren’t Chris Sale. Players who don’t have as friendly a relationship with the media as he has or who don’t have clubhouse allies who do. I feel like, most of the time, a story about a guy who who has done the odd things Sale has done both this week and last March would play a hell of a lot differently.

How does this all play of it’s Yordano Ventura? Or Yasiel Puig? Or Jose Fernandez? How does this play if it took place in the NBA and it was Kevin Durant who shredded up a bunch of short-shorts on 80s throwback night? How does it play if it’s Cam Newton?

I bet it plays differently.