John Tomase of the Boston Herald has a story this morning about the Red Sox and free-agent-to-be Josh Beckett which deals mostly with how much dough Beckett can expect and whether the team and the pitcher will negotiate during the season. I find this part more interesting, however:
But there could be complications. The Red Sox recently have made a point of including injury protection in their big free agent contracts. Right fielder J.D. Drew and Lackey agreed to clauses that allow the team to opt out (Drew) or add another season at the minimum (Lackey) if pre-existing conditions sidelined either.
[Jason] Bay balked at a similar provision last year, which is what derailed those negotiations in July and caused the Sox to pull their four-year, $60 million offer off the table. It never returned.
As far as I know, the Red Sox are the only ones doing this with free agents, obviously with the intention of limiting the biggest risk a team faces when signing a big name player. Such an approach itself has risks, however, the biggest of which is that players and agents will respond with hostility.
Jason Bay may have been an example of this as it appears that the team’s far more grim view of his health than he and his doctors had resulted in a lower offer and, it would seem, a chilling of relations. The team could counter this sort of thing, of course, by building in bigger upside incentives for players that stay healthy. Either way, the approach injects another variable into free agent negotiations which, while offering a potential advantage in terms of overall player health and financial efficiency, could make life a bit harder for the Red Sox if other teams don’t start to do similar things.
However it ends up cutting, however, it’s an innovation worth watching in the coming years.
According to STATS, INC., the average game in 2015 was 2 hours, 56 minutes. That’s six minutes faster than games in 2014.
The gains came in the first half, when games averaged 2:53. Second half games averaged three hours even. One can probably thank the expanded rosters in September for that, as games then see many more pitching changes. Of course, it’s likely that second half games were faster in 2015 than 2014 as well given the rules changes.
Those changes: agreement to enforce the rule requiring a hitter to keep at least one foot in the batter’s box and the installation of clocks timing pitching changes and between-inning breaks in ever ballpark.
It remains to be seen if MLB stays satisfied with that modest improvement or if chooses to go the way Triple-A and Double-A leagues did. They installed 20-second pitch clocks and started penalizing violators with balls and strikes. Triple-A’s two leagues, the International and Pacific Leagues, saw game-time decreases by 13 and 16 minutes, respectively.
I’m so old I remember when general managers used to run baseball operations departments. Now they’re basically assistants.
The latest example: the Oakland Athletics have promoted Billy Beane to vice president of baseball operations and have named David Forst general manager. Forst has been with the A’s for 16 years and has been Beane’s assistant for 12 years, so it’s not exactly a situation in which Forst will be making the final calls. The official move came today, though the move has been in the works for some time, it seems.
Someone with a lot of good front office access is going to write a good story this winter about the title inflation going on in Major League Baseball over the past year. And it’s gonna be great when one of his or her sources breaks the pattern of saying “well, baseball transactions are so much more complex these days . . . ” and admits “hey, if Theo gets a fancy title and La Russa gets a fancy title I WANT A FANCY TITLE TOO.”
Not that it’s much of a secret as it is.