The replacement players still not making the game

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High Heat.jpgI don’t play any baseball video games anymore, but there was a time when I played them pretty obsessively. I was particularly fond of High Heat Baseball 199. The only thing I couldn’t figure out was why the closer for my Braves — Kerry Ligtenberg — wasn’t on it. It was some guy named “Terry Lyte.”  And who was this “Rob Mayday” in the A’s bullpen? Kotaku provided the background in an interesting post over the weekend:

Fifteen years ago, in the infancy of console sports simulations, 38 baseball players made a choice that would ensure they would never appear in a video game. Only five of them remain in the major leagues.

They crossed a picket line, an act of war to organized labor, by signing replacement player contracts with Major League clubs as the infamous 1994 players’ strike dragged into the spring of 1995. Just five of them logged major league service in 2009 and they’re all 38 years old or older. But the continued absence of their names in games is one of the last persistent vestiges of the baseball strike of 1994 and 1995.

The five remaining are Brendan Donnelly, Matt Herges, Ron Mahay — ah, that’s Rob Mayday! — Jamie Walker and Kevin Millar.  There used to be many more of course, and all of them went or still go by aliases on MLBPA-licensed games because they’re not members of the union, and they can never be members of the union because of their failed attempt at strike breaking.

I’m less interested in how this impacts video games than I am in what this means for union and labor issues, but the Kotaku posts covers most the bases in terms of the ethics of all of that too. The biggest question: should the union have let it go a long time ago and admitted the replacement players, or should they remain blackballed in order to set a firm precedent in the interests of union solidarity?

I don’t know that there is a right and a wrong answer here.  On the one hand I was brought up sympathetic to the union cause, so I understand the dynamics in play on the side of labor, and they apply even in a high-salaried shop like the MLBPA. On the other hand, these guys weren’t just handed jobs due to their strike-breaking, and after the dust settled they had to earn their way on to rosters just like anyone else, so it’s hard to say they haven’t done their time, as it were.

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Edwin Encarnacion: “I think [the Blue Jays] got too hasty in making their decision.”

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 19:  Edwin Encarnacion #10 of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts in the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians during game five of the American League Championship Series at Rogers Centre on October 19, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion signed a three-year, $60 million contract with the Indians early last month. The 34-year-old had spent the last seven and a half seasons with the Blue Jays, but his future elsewhere appeared to be written on the wall when the Jays signed Kendrys Morales in November to essentially occupy Encarnacion’s role.

Encarnacion spoke about testing free agency for the first time in his career and the situation that led to him leaving Toronto for Cleveland. Via Jorge L. Ortiz of USA TODAY:

“Toronto was always my first option, but I had never been a free agent, and anybody who gets to free agency wants to find out what’s out there,’’ he said. “I think they got too hasty in making their decision, but now I’m with Cleveland and I’m happy to be here.’’

Encarnacion last season hit .263/.357/.529 with 42 home runs and an AL-best 127 RBI. He’s now on the team that defeated his Blue Jays in the ALCS to advance to the World Series. Encarnacion effectively replaces Mike Napoli, who returned to the Rangers.

Sammy Sosa compares himself to Jesus Christ

Sammy Sosa
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I’m on record saying that Sammy Sosa has been rather hosed by baseball history.

The guy did amazing things. Unheard-of things. He was truly astounding at this peak and was incredibly important to both his franchise and Major League Baseball as a whole. His repayment: he’s a pariah. His club won’t claim him and his greatness, by any measure, has not just been overlooked but denied by most who even bother to consider him.

Yes, he had PED associations, but they were extraordinarily vague ones. He’s in the same boat as David Ortiz as far as documented PED evidence against him, but Ortiz will be a first ballot Hall of Famer while Sosa barely clings to the ballot. He hit homers at the same cartoonish rate as Mark McGwire, but while Big Mac has been embraced by baseball and has coached for years, Sosa can’t get into Wrigley Field unless he buys a ticket and even then the Cubs might try to hustle him out of sight. The man has been treated poorly by any measure.

Yet, it’s still possible to overstate the case. Like Sosa did in this interview with Chuck Wasserstrom:

It’s like Jesus Christ when he came to Jerusalem,” Sosa told chuckbloggerstrom.com. “Everybody thought Jesus Christ was a witch (laughing) — and he was our savior. So if they talk (bleep) about Jesus Christ, what about me? Are you kidding me?”

At least he was basically joking about it. Still, it’s a totally unfair and almost offensive comparison.

I mean, anyone who watched Sosa’s career knows that he had trouble laying off breaking stuff low and away. In contrast . . .