Johan Santana is gearing up for the season

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If there is anything that makes me doubt Kyle Farnsworth’s chances as a starter it’s the article in today’s Daily News about Johan Santana. In it John Harper catches for the Mets’ ace as he pitches a simulated half-inning against the heart of the Phillies’ lineup.  After striking out the cardboard cutout that simulates Jimmy Rollins, he walks the silhouette of Chase Utley, bringing Ryan Howard to the plate:

Santana throws a fastball on the outside corner, a changeup down,
and then, as promised, bounces a slider just off the outside corner
that caroms off my arm, 15 feet away to my left. I scramble to retrieve the ball, happy that I got a piece of it, not
realizing until I turn to throw that Santana is staring me down.

“Utley’s at second,” he says. “What’d you think, I was going to throw (Howard) a cookie there? Now I’m in a tough spot.”

I know he’s kidding. Isn’t he? No smile this time. Santana is in
work mode. He takes these simulated games seriously because he takes a
thinking man’s approach with each hitter, watching the swings they
take, trying to decide when they might be sitting on his changeup.

“You have to outsmart hitters,” he says. “You have to have a game plan.”

It’s that outsmarting/game plan stuff that I can’t help but feel Farnsworth won’t quite be able to handle.

But back to Santana. I may have a healthy case of Mets derangement syndrome — hey, did you hear that the bonds used to finance Citi Field are now classified as “junk?” Really! — but I have a serious man-crush on Johan Santana and would love nothing more than to see him come back and have a dominant season. As of now he’s throwing freely and easily at about 88 m.p.h., working his way slowly up to full velocity.

The only thing I don’t like about what I read in the article is that he didn’t bounce one in the dirt to cup-check Harper, but I’ll take what I can get at this point.

The international draft is all about MLB making money and the union selling out non-members

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - MARCH 13:  A fan flies the Dominican Republic flag during the game against Cuba during Round 2 of the World Baseball Classic on March 13, 2006 at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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On Monday we passed along a report that Major League Baseball and the MLBPA are negotiating over an international draft. That report — from ESPN’s Buster Olney — cited competitive balance and the well-being of international free agents as the reasons why they’re pushing for the draft.

We have long doubted those stated motivations and said so again in our post on Monday. But we’re just armchair skeptics when it comes to this. Ben Badler of Baseball America is an expert. Perhaps the foremost expert on international baseball, international signings and the like. Today he writes about a would-be international draft and he tears MLB, the MLBPA and their surrogates in the media to shreds with respect to their talking points.

Of course Badler is a nice guy so “tearing to shreds” is probably putting it too harshly. Maybe it’s better to say that he systematically dismantles the stated rationale for the international draft and makes plan what’s really going on: MLB is looking to save money and the players are looking to sell out non-union members to further their own bargaining position:

Major League Baseball has long wanted an international draft. The driving force behind implementing an international draft is for owners to control their labor costs by paying less money to international amateur players, allowing owners to keep more of that money . . . the players’ association doesn’t care about international amateur players as anything more than a bargaining chip. It’s nothing discriminatory against foreign players, it’s just that the union looks out for players on 40-man rosters. So international players, draft picks in the United States and minor leaguers who make less than $10,000 in annual salary get their rights sold out by the union, which in exchange can negotiate items like a higher major league minimum salary, adjustments to the Super 2 rules or modifying draft pick compensation attached to free agent signings.

Badler then walks through the process of how players are discovered, scouted and signed in Latin America and explains, quite convincingly, how MLB’s international draft and, indeed, its fundamental approach to amateurs in Latin America is lacking.

Read this. Then, every time a U.S.-based writer with MLB sources talks about the international draft, ask whether they know something Ben Badler doesn’t or, alternatively, whether they’re carrying water for either the league or the union.

President Bill Murray speaks about the Cubs from the White House

CHICAGO - APRIL 12:  Celebrity Bill Murray clowns around with Chicago media before the opening day game between the Chicago Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 12, 2004 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Pirates defeated the Cubs 13-2.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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I don’t know why Bill Murray is in Washington today. I don’t know why he’s at the White House. But I do know that he was there in Chicago Cubs gear, standing at the lectern in the press briefing room, voicing his full confidence in the Cubs prevailing in the NLCS, despite the fact that Clayton Kershaw is going for the Dodgers tomorrow night.

“Too many sticks,” president Murray said of the Cubs lineup. And something about better trees in Illinois.

Four. More. Years.