Scenes from Spring Training: A day with the Twins, Part 3

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Twins Win.jpgThe game itself was your standard spring training affair (I decided to go with a more inspiring pic).  Shaky pitching, shaky defense and a lot of guys you’ve never heard of in the late innings. Unlike the Mets-Nats game on Sunday, there weren’t a ton of exciting prospects on either team to look forward to, so I just sort of let the game wash over me.  Random observations:

  • Because veterans like Albert Pujols don’t hump it across Florida for spring training road games — especially when they have a bad back — Joe Mather got the start at first base. I had a really, really strong urge to go up to him in the clubhouse afterwards, pull a Borat and ask him (in a foreign accent) if he thought he had a good shot at winning the starting job to break camp;
  • Colby Rasmus started the game with three strikeouts and a homer and came to bat late with a chance to make a full house. Sadly, he grounded out 6-3, robbing us of a truly fantastic batting line;
  • The National Anthem singer was out sick with laryngitis (seriously) so they played a tape of an instrumental version of the song and had the crowd sing it.  At first I was impressed. You don’t hear that everyday and, really, when you get 8,000+ people singing in unison it kind of works out.  By the time we got to the “Oh say does that Star Spangled” windup I was starting to get creeped out by the “Triumph of Will” vibe to it;
  • Heading into the top of the third, Orlando Hudson and
    Justin Morneau run out to the field together. Hudson avoided the chalk line, hopping over it. Morneau stepped right on it.  I can only assume that Morneau will be crushed by a falling anvil at some point this season for taunting the Baseball Gods;

  • Tony La Russa (a) held a really long mound meeting; and (b) made a pitching change in the middle of the inning. I know the guy can’t help himself, but maybe someone should tell him that he chairs a committee designed to do away with such game-lengthening conduct;

  • They announced that yesterday’s crowd — 8,228 souls — was the largest in Twins spring training history.  Worth noting, however, that there were tons of Cards’ fans at the game. So much so that when the crowd sang “Take me out to the ballgame,” the words “root, root, root for the Cardinals were unmistakable.  Twins fans: you got pwned in your own park;

  • Great moments in pinch running history: Delmon Young hit
    a triple and was replaced at third by Nimitz-class first baseman Brock
    Peterson. I’m guessing Peterson — the kind of guy who I’m guessing has been described as “hulking”
    at some point in his life — doesn’t get much pinch running duty;

  • The next inning someone — I think it was Matt Tolbert; I probably need to start keeping better score — pinch ran for Nick Punto, and scored a run while executing a wholly unnecessary slide into home plate (the ball was somewhere north of Orlando at the time). It was like he was screaming “look
    how great a pinch runner I am!”

  • In the sixth inning the PA played “YMCA.” In the seventh — in addition to “Take me out to the ballgame,” they played “Sweet Caroline.”  Between that and the Jimmy Buffet and James Blunt songs they played before the game I was thinking of taking a hostage;

  • At some point late in the game La Russa lost his
    DH when he moved him to second base. Query: was it a mistake, was it simply one of those things you don’t care about in spring training or — and this is my guess — was Tony “the genius” La Russa trying out a bold new strategy for interleague games? Stupid? Stupid, you say?  This is Tony. La. Russa. 
    He
    saw you at the paddock before the second race outside the men’s room
    before he placed his bet. He saw you before you got up this morning.

  • The game ended on a pickoff at first base. 7-6 Minnesota, though it’s hard to care about the results of a spring training game.

If you read Monday’s installments you know what came next. That’s right, babies: gangbang.

Are the current Collective Bargaining Agreement talks too friendly?

Scott Boras
Associated Press
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Baseball’s current collective bargaining agreement expires on December 1. There have been comments from both commissioner Rob Manfred and MLBPA director Tony Clark suggesting that progress was being made and there has been no suggestion thus far that there are sticking points which could lead to a work stoppage. Heck, even a few acrimonious rounds of negotiation before it’s all said and done seem unlikely.

That’s good news for fans, but it’s not making certain agents happy. Smooth labor sailing likely means a new CBA that is pretty close in most terms to the current CBA. Agents — especially agents who represent veterans — don’t like that because they believe that the current rules regarding free agency, draft pick compensation, luxury taxes and qualifying offers penalize the players they represent. Today Ken Rosenthal has a story about that anger, talking to both anonymous agents and super agent Scott Boras about how baseball’s middle class is disappearing and baseball’s median salary goes lower and lower.

Major League Baseball counters that while the median salary is going down, the average salary is going up. And baseball is right about that. But it’s also the case that the average is propped up by a handful of superstar contracts while the somewhat less lucrative but still nice mid-level contracts for mid-level veterans are disappearing. The financial landscape of the game is morphing into one with a small upper class with nine-figure contracts and a large lower class of pre-arbitration players and veterans on shorter, smaller deals, squeezing the old veteran middle class out of existence.

Sound familiar?

Baseball, of course, is not the American economy. There are some good reasons why those mid-level contracts have gone away. Specifically, because they tended not to be very good deals for the teams who signed them. At the same time, baseball is far better able to tweak its rules to spread the wealth than the U.S. government can, and those rules — like the qualifying offer and luxury tax — have had a harsh impact on a lot of players.

There’s not a clear answer on what the best system is for free agents, draft pick compensation, draft bonus pools and the like actually is. I tend to favor the fewest restrictions on a player’s right to negotiate freely with teams, but I’ll also acknowledge that there is a less than perfect market at play in baseball given revenue disparities between teams and the need to maximize, within reason, competitive balance. It’s not an easy trick even before you get into the B.S. team owners tend to spew about pocketbook matters.

But it’s also the case that an all-too-friendly relationship between the union and the league — one in which a given set of rules is rubberstamped from CBA to CBA — is not an ideal situation. No one wants acrimony, but the fact is that the players and the union are slicing up a pie. If the person you’re slicing up a pie with is all-too-happy to keep slicing it the same way, it probably means that they’re getting a bigger piece than you. Maybe, if it’s your job to grab a bigger piece?

The agents Rosenthal talked to, who represent a good chunk of MLBPA membership, certainly think the union should be doing some more grabbing. I wonder if their clients do too.

Four baseballs autographed by Jose Fernandez wash ashore

MIAMI, FL - AUGUST 03: Jose Fernandez #16 of the Miami Marlins looks on during a game against the New York Mets at Marlins Park on August 3, 2015 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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This is just . . . ugh.

WSVN-TV in Miami reports that a black bag containing Jose Fernandez’s checkbook and four baseballs signed by him washed ashore on Miami Beach. Probably a bag to keep stuff dry while out on the water.

The bag was given to a lifeguard. Hopefully the bag finds its way back to Fernandez’s family quickly.