With nothin’ but night games and not enough of the season behind us for it to have yet created its own newsy momentum, today is a bit slow. So let’s go back to yesterday and look a bit more closely at the Josh Beckett deal. Pfun Pfacts:
The team had asked Beckett to include a medical
contingency clause in his contract that would have, presumably, slashed his salary in the event that he later got hurt, thereby transferring the risk of injury to the player rather than the team. As I wrote back in February, this is the Red Sox’ new m.o. They did it with John Lackey and J.D. Drew. They tried it with Bay, but he wasn’t having it. The team would have to offer more money to the player for it, but I have this feeling that players like their guaranteed money too much to respond kindly to these offers. Gambling is illegal for ballplayers, after all.
Also, Beckett’s initial demand to the Sox had apparently been for Carlos Zambrano money: five years $91.5 million deal with vesting options. This comes from WEEI’s Rob Bradford. I hope that Bradford used Zambrano’s name first for comparison purposes and not Beckett’s agent for negotiating purposes, because you’re not going to go very far in life trying to get people to do for you what the Cubs did for Zambrano.
Finally, the Red Sox are clever: by waiting until after Opening Day to announce the deal, the Red Sox
avoided having the extension count towards this year’s luxury tax, saving the team around $4 million for those purposes in 2010. Of course, it just pushes the full $16 million of it on to next year, but presumably David Ortiz and Mike Lowell won’t be on the books next year, so the sunlight between the Sox’ payroll and the luxury tax threshold will be much greater. If Ortiz and Lowell are still hanging around at luxury tax-threatening salaries, someone call the cops, because Theo Epstein will have been abducted by the pod people. Or maybe Brian Sabean.
I’m late to the assessment party, but a good deal for the team, I think. Probably a good one for Beckett too given that he could post another 2006 or 2008 kind of season and see his market diminish considerably this offseason.
Today is the anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s Iron Man streak ending
Today is a significant baseball anniversary. On this day in 1939 Lou Gehrig asked out of the lineup as the Yankees played the Tigers in Detroit. It both ended his Iron Man Streak at 2,130, but also marked the beginning of Gehrig’s very public acknowledgement of ALS, the disease which would come to bear his name. Gehrig would never play again.
While it was clear that Gehrig’s body was betraying him and his baseball skills were abandoning him in the first few games of the 1939 season, some say the ultimate impetus for Gehrig asking out of the lineup happened earlier that day. The story goes that Gehrig collapsed on the grand staircase of the Book-Cadillac hotel where the Yankees were staying and that later, as he sat in the hotel bar, he told manager Joe McCarthy that he couldn’t play anymore.
The Book-Cadillac is still there. It deteriorated over the years and then was renovated. It’s a Westin now — the Westin Book-Cadillac. It’s a wonderful hotel and the bar area still has much of its old charm, but the grand staircase is gone, replaced with a couple of escalators. I stay there whenever I’m in Detroit. I’m friends with one of the Book-Cadillac’s bartenders and I try to see him whenever I’m there. When I sit in that bar I often wonder if Gehrig sat near where I was, telling McCarthy that he just couldn’t do it anymore. There are a lot of ghosts in Detroit. Gehrig’s is mostly in New York, but there’s a little bit of him in Detroit too.
Cal Ripken would later break Gehrig’s record. I doubt anyone breaks Cal’s. But in some cases the record holders are less interesting than those who were surpassed.
At the end of March we linked a story from Rob Arthur and Ben Lindbergh at FiveThirtyEight which sought to figure out why home run rates have spiked. Their theory was that it was either randomness or a juiced ball. They tested baseballs and found no evidence of a different ball, so that seems to have ended that.
It’s all based on exit velocity of baseballs, which Passan notes has spiked. He doesn’t come to any conclusions — just not enough data — but the very act of asking the question in a column and Passan’s acknowledgment that he sounds like a conspiracy theorist tell you that that’s his hunch. And it could be the case. I still think the ball got juiced in 1987 and again, on a more permanent basis, in 1993, but there’s no evidence to really support that. Just one of those “can’t think of anything better” sort of situations.
For now, though, it’s May 2. And I suspect that for as long as there have been May 2nds in a baseball season, people have looked at the stats and suspected something weird was afoot. Maybe something weird is afoot. We just can’t really know.
Alex Rodriguez had a big night in a losing effort last night. He homered and drove in four. In the past week or so he’s raised his average over 50 points and may be finally shaking off the offseason rust. When you’re over 40 it takes you longer to do everything.
But even if it takes his reflexes some time to get up to speed, you can never take away the knowledge and experience of a savvy veteran with a high baseball I.Q. For example, whether he’s hitting or not, the man knows that it’s important to keep your bat dry on a rainy night:
In early April the Dodgers agreed to a minor league contract with pitcher Sean Burnett after he didn’t make the Washington Nationals’ roster out of spring training. He was assigned to Triple-A Oklahoma City. As is usually the case, veterans like him have an opt-out if they don’t make the big club after a certain amount of time, and Burnett has opt-ed out, realizing that he’s likely not in the Dodgers’ plans.
But he could be in the Braves’ plans. They stink on ice. Ben Nicholson-Smith reports that he’s signing with them and will report to Triple-A Gwinnett tomorrow.
Burnett, 33, hasn’t appeared in the majors since he pitched three games for the Angels in 2014 and hasn’t pitched regularly in the bigs since 2012. Tommy John surgery will do that to a guy. He did toss eight and two-thirds scoreless innings for the Nationals during spring training and has allowed only two earned runs in seven and two-thirds innings of relief work for Oklahoma City. There may still be something there. Innings will need to be eaten in Atlanta this year. Burnett may be able to eat them.