Hideki Matsui in Anaheim: "Man, I feel comfortable here"

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Hideki Matsui Angels.jpgGood story in today’s New York Times about Hideki Matsui’s transition to life with the Angels.  There’s one rather shocking fact — About 50 Japanese reporters are following the Angels this spring,
compared with three daily beat writers from American news organizations — and a whole lot of interesting happy-to-be-here stuff:

“He’s got a really good sense of humor,” Hunter said. “It’s
unbelievable. I’ve been bringing him up in our meetings at 9:30 every
morning. It’s like a comedy show. He gets us warmed up, laughing,
cracking up, sweating, and we go out on the field happy. He fits right
in. He told me, ‘Man, I feel comfortable here.’ “

Also note the strikingly relaxed and realistic attitude he had when it came to leaving New York:

Matsui took less [than Johnny Damon] but signed earlier, accepting his standing in the market. “At
least for me, personally, it doesn’t really bother me,” Matsui said.
“You have to take into consideration what the current market is and
also your worth as a player, how teams assess you. My market price four
or five years ago was different because my age was different.”

Matsui’s agent is Arn Tellem.  Tellem may not get the same volume of press (at least in baseball) as Scott Boras gets, but he’s negotiated an insane number of very player-friendly contracts in recent years.  Despite this, he does not create the sort of acrimony Boras does and does not have a reputation for blowing smoke like Boras does about what his players are worth. According to people I know who know him, Tellem is a hell of a guy, actually, who is realistic about things and has a sensible temperament, which is not the sort of thing you hear said about sports agents all that often.

I’m sure Matsui’s stable offseason and easy transition to his new team has a lot to do with his own personality, but I don’t think I can ever recall a Boras clients talking in realistic terms about their age, their market and how teams might assess them as players.

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.