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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Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

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Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.