A-Rod, Dallas Braden and baseball etiquette

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Alex Rodriguez mound incident.jpgWe talked about this one a bit already, but let’s go deeper.  Here’s Dallas Braden after l’affaire A-Rod-walky-over-the-moundy:

“The long and short of it is it’s pretty much baseball etiquette. He
should probably take a note from his captain over there, because you don’t run across
the pitcher’s mound in between an inning or during the game. I was just
dumbfounded that he would let that slip his mind.”

And here was A-Rod’s response (see full video of his comments here):

“He just told me to get off his mound. I was a little
surprised. I’ve never quite heard that, especially from a guy that has a
handful of wins in his career. I’ve never even heard of that in my
career and I still don’t know. I thought it was pretty funny, actually.”

I wrote this morning that I had never heard of that particular unwritten rule. Since then, however, I’ve done a bit of Googling and read some stuff some other people have written and I think it’s safe to say that it’s at least a minor unwritten rule. It’s not up there with “don’t steal second when you have a 10-run lead” or “don’t go one-flap-down on your home run trot unless you’re Jeffrey Leonard,” but it exists. It may be a dumb rule — as so many of the unwritten rules are — but it’s a rule and ballplayers seem to care about such things.

Which causes A-Rod’s comments to ring hollow. That guy has been around baseball his whole life, so I’m assuming he’s heard of it.  He may or may not have walked across the mound with the intention of getting under Dallas Braden’s skin — maybe it was just a brain lock — but his response was truly intended to.

The “handful of wins” line was particularly egregious. As a person who occasionally gets ripped because he doesn’t have the background and experience many others do in this business, it hits a little close to home. I hate it when guys make irrelevant appeals to authority like that. I’m guessing everyone on the Athletics team, all of whom are younger than Rodriguez, hate it too.  It’s probably going to get A-Rod a ball in the back the next time these teams face each other. Which will set off a whole other set of unwritten rule compliance and analysis, but let’s cross that bridge when we come to it.

As for Braden, I like his pluck.  The “get off my mound” is a bit too Gunnery Sgt. Hartman for me, but good for him for not backing down from what he perceived to be a challenge to his authority and dignity and all of that stuff. Get off my obstacle, Pvt. Rodriguez.

Of course if he gets lit up for seven runs in three innings the next time he faces the Yankees, he will have lost this match in the third set. Fair? I dunno, but that’s just how it works when you starting playing these macho, territorial games.

UPDATE: Speaking of territorial games, Flip Flop Fly Ballin’ has mapped out this whole issue in terms that I think all of us can understand.

The Yankees are paying $86 million for a one-inning reliever

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OXON HILL, MD — The Yankees signing of Aroldis Chapman late Wednesday night came as something of a surprise. And the money — $86 million — was something of a shock. Yes, we knew that Chapman was going to break the bank and likely set a record as the highest paid relief pitcher in history, but seeing it in black and white like that is still rather jarring.

In the coming days, many people who attempt to analyze and contextualize this signing will do so by pointing to the 2016 playoffs and the unconventional use of relievers by Terry Francona and the Indians and Joe Maddon of the Cubs. They’ll talk about how the paradigm of bullpen use has shifted and how relief pitchers have taken on a new importance in today’s game. Chapman’s astronomical salary, therefore, will be described as somehow more reasonable and somewhat less shocking than it first seems.

Don’t buy that jive for a second.

Yes, Andrew Miller and, to some extent, Chapman himself were used unconventionally in the 2016 playoffs, but not long into the 2017 season we will see that as an exception, not the rule. And not just because Chapman showed himself unable to hold up to that level of use in the playoffs. It will be the exception because the Yankees have shown no inclination whatsoever to deviate from traditional bullpen usage in the past and there is no reason to expect that they will do so with Chapman in the future.

As you no doubt remember, the Yankees had Chapman, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller for the first half of 2016. Such an imposing back end of a bullpen has rarely been seen in recent history. All of them, however, were used, more or less, as one-inning-a-piece guys and no real effort was ever made to break any bullpen usage paradigms or to shorten games the way many applauded Terry Francona for doing in the playoffs.

Miller pitched 44 games for the Yankees, totaling 45.1 innings. He pitched more than a single inning on only three occasions. Chapman pitched 31 games for the Yankees, amassing 31.1 innings. He was used for more than one inning only twice. Betances worked in 73 games, totaling 73 innings. On 11 occasions he pitched more than one inning.  It was unconventional for a team to have three relievers that good, but they were not, in any way, used unconventionally. Nor is there any reason to expect Chapman to be used unconventionally in 2017, especially given that Miller is not around and Chapman has shown no real ability to be stretched for multiple innings for a sustained period.

None of which is to say that having Chapman around is a bad thing or that he is any less of a closer than his reputation suggests. It’s merely to say that the Yankees paying Chapman unprecedented money for a closer should not be justified by the alleged new importance of relief pitchers or that changing role for them we heard so much about in the playoffs. Indeed, I suspect that that changing role applies only to pitcher use in the playoffs. And I do not suspect that this transaction alone pushes the Yankees into serious playoff contention, making that temporary unconventionality something of a moot point in New York for the foreseeable future.

It is almost certain that the Yankees are paying $86 million for the same one-inning closer Aroldis Chapman has been for his entire seven-year career. His contract may or may not prove to be a good one for New York based on how he performs, but don’t let anyone tell you now, in Decemeber 2016, that it’s better than you think because Chapman will somehow transform into a 1970s-style relief ace or something.

Report: Yankees sign Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million deal

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Update (12:02 AM EST): Rosenthal adds that Chapman’s contract includes an opt-out clause after three seasons, a full no-trade clause for the first three years of the contract, and a limited no-trade clause for the final two years.

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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Yankees have signed closer Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million contract. Mark Melancon recently set the record for a contract earned by a reliever at $62 million over four years. Chapman blew that out of the water and many are surprised he didn’t fetch more.

Chapman, 28, began the 2016 season with the Yankees but he was traded to the Cubs near the end of July in exchange for four prospects. The Cubs, of course, would go on to win the World Series in large part due to Chapman. The lefty finished the regular season with a 1.55 ERA, 36 saves, and a 90/18 K/BB ratio in 58 innings between the two teams.

Chapman was the best reliever on the free agent market and, because he was traded midseason, he didn’t have draft pick compensation attached to him.

The Yankees don’t seem to be deterred by Chapman’s domestic violence issue from last offseason, resulting in a 30-game suspension to begin the 2016 regular season.