For the 1000th time, baseball does not need fixing

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You know what you rarely see from a legitimate baseball publication? An article about how to “fix” baseball. This is mostly because baseball folks tend not to think that there’s a ton wrong with the game, and they realize that that which is wrong is complicated enough to justify a dedicated article as opposed to some omnibus baseball-sucks rant. General interest magazines seem to have some baseball dilettante run one every other month, however, and they’re almost uniformly awful, evidencing an almost total misunderstanding of the game’s business and competitive dynamics.

But Matt Taibbi’s offering to that effect in Men’s Journal isn’t so bad!  Oh, it’s ignorant — badly misrepresenting baseball’s TV ratings and citing basketball and football as having their business and competitive houses in order when they most certainly do not — but it’s got two awesome things going for it:

1. A hilarious, albeit likely disingenuous mea culpa for writing last year that the Yankees were a “mercenary” team that couldn’t hope to buy itself a world title; and

2. A totally righteous defense of the old school version of Bernie Brewer, and attendant evisceration of new school Bernie Brewer, which may as well have come straight from my brain. It’s Milwaukee: if you’re gonna have a dude wearing lederhosen go down a slide after a home run, he damn well better land in a mug of beer.

Beyond that, Taibbi covers the following:

  • Instant replay: Taibbi wants it formalized, I prefer a fifth umpire in a booth who can simply overrule any dunderheaded calls by his colleagues;
  • Time controls: Taibbi wants to make pitchers pitch faster and hitters stay in the box. Amen, brother;
  • Salary cap: He wants one, I think that making rules to protect poor billionaires from those ruthless millionaires is all rather silly. If team owners are smart enough to make enough money to afford a baseball team they can figure out how to make one profitable on their own or else they shouldn’t have gotten into the business in the first place. If it’s a competitive balance thing there are better ways to do it;
  • Salary floor: I’m averse because it could prevent teams from tearing down and rebuilding when they need to. No one liked it when the Marlins cut back to a $14 million payroll, but it probably helped them get better faster than if they had pursued the course the Astros and the Royals have done.
  • Expanded rosters: Taibbi wants them. I say no way, because rather than use the extra slots to expand platooning like he wants, most teams would simply add a bunch of scrapheap relief pitchers. He thinks the games are long now, wait until La Russa can make nine pitching changes a game with impunity;
  • Finally, Taibbi asks: “can we please bring back really gross fat guys with bad facial hair?”

I’m all for that one, actually. Anyone know if Matt Stairs made the Padres roster?

What happens with all the players the Braves lost yesterday?

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Yesterday’s unprecedented sanctions leveled on the Atlanta Braves hit them pretty hard, but it also turned a dozen players into free agents. What happens to them now? Who can sign them? When? And for how much?

First off, they get to keep their signing bonuses the Braves gave them. It wasn’t their fault the Braves messed up so it would make no sense for them to have to pay the money back. As for their next team: anyone can, theoretically, sign them. As far as team choice, they are free agents in the most narrow sense of the term.

There are limits, however, because as young, international players, their signings are subject to those caps on each team’s international bonus money which were imposed a few years back. Each team now has a “pool” of finite dollars they can spend on such players and, once that money is spent, teams are severely limited as to what they can offer an international free agent. Each summer the bonus pools are reset and it starts anew.

Which, on the surface, would seem to create a problem for the 12 new free agents, seeing as though a lot of teams have already spent much if not all of their July 2017-18 bonus pools. The good news on that, though, is that Major League Baseball has made a couple of exceptions for these guys:

  • First, the first $200,000 of any of the 12 former Braves players will not be subject to signing pools, so that’s a bit of a break; and
  • Second, even though these players will all likely be signed during the 2017-18 bonus pool period, teams have the option of counting the bonus toward the 2018-19 period. They can’t combine the money from the two periods, but they can, essentially, put off the cost into next year for accounting purposes.

Which certainly opens things up for clubs and gives the players more options as far as places to land go. A club can decide whether or not the guys on the market now look better than the guys they’ve been scouting with an eye toward signing after July 2018 and get a jump on things. Likewise, teams don’t have to decide whether or not to take a run at, say, Shohei Ohtani, burning bonus money now, or instead going after a former Braves player. Ohtani’s money will apply now, the Braves player can be accounted for next year.

The new free agents are eligible to sign during a window that begins on December 5 and ends on Jan. 15. If a player hasn’t signed by then, he can still sign with any club but cannot get a bonus. If a player hasn’t signed anywhere by May 1, 2018, he has the option of re-signing with the Braves, though they can’t pay the guy a bonus either.

Ben Badler of Baseball America has a rundown of the top guys who are now free agents thanks to the Braves’ malfeasance. Kevin Maitan is the big name. The 17-year-old shortstop was considered the top overall international free agent last year, though his first year in the Braves minor league system was less-than-impressive. There are a lot of other promising players too. All of whom now can find new employers.