Futures Game: A look at the World Team

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We’ve already checked out the U.S. Team that will take the field this evening in Anaheim.  Now let’s get better acquainted with the squad representing the rest of the world:

World Team

2B Brett Lawrie, Brewers
SS Osvaldo Martinez, Marlins
1B Yonder Alonso, Reds
3B Alex Liddi, Mariners
LF Carlos Peguero, Mariners
RF Wilkin Ramirez, Tigers
C Wilin Rosario, Rockies
CF Gorkys Hernandez, Pirates
DH Francisco Peguero
, Giants

Starting Pitcher

Simon Castro, Padres

Notes

Brett Lawrie was selected 16th overall in the 2008 MLB June Amateur Draft and has already climbed his way to Double-A Huntsville.  The Canadian-born second baseman is batting .295/.359/.473 this season with six home runs, 11 triples and 24 stolen bases.  He should be a fixture atop the Brewers’ big league lineup very soon.

The Reds have enjoyed a breakout 2010 season and will head into the All-Star break at the top of the National League Central standings.  They’re also hoping that Yonder Alonso, a first-round pick in 2008, will begin to break out soon.  The Cuban first baseman has hit just .266/.333/.404 with nine home runs in 334 at-bats this season between Double-A Carolina and Triple-A Louisville.  Hopefully the Futures Game will be a launching pad for the revival of his still-young career.

Alex Liddi is the first Italian-born player to play professional baseball in the United States.  He’s batting just .265 with a .338 on-base percentage this season at Double-A West Tennessee, but the Mariners feel has a fairly bright future.  He doesn’t turn 22 until mid-August and he launched 23 home runs in 129 games at the Single-A level last year.

The Tigers signed Wilkin Ramirez at age 17 as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic and he is one of the few players on either Futures Game roster with a taste of the big leagues.  He went 4-for-11 with a home run and three RBI in a short stay in Detroit last season.  This year he has taken a step back, currently rocking a .219/.264/.368 batting line for Triple-A Toledo, but the 24-year-old still has time on his side.

Simon Castro will take the hill first for the World Team.  A top pitching prospect in the Padres’ system, he has thrown up a 2.74 ERA, a 1.08 WHIP and a 76/27 K/BB ratio in 85.1 innings this season at Double-A San Antonio.  The 22-year-old fanned 157 batters in 140.1 innings in 2009 for Single-A Fort Wayne.  To say the least, he has a bright future.

Must-Click Link: Do the players even care about money anymore?

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Yesterday I wrote about how the union has come to find itself in the extraordinarily weak position it’s in. The upshot: their leadership and their membership, happily wealthy by virtue of gains realized in the 1970s-1990s, has chosen to focus on small, day-to-day, quality of life issues rather than big-picture financial issues. As a result, ownership has cleaned their clock in the past few Collective Bargaining Agreements. If the union is to ever get back the considerable amount of ground it has lost over the past 15 years, it’ll require a ton of hard work and perhaps drastic measures.

A few hours later, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan dropped an absolute must-read that expands on that topic. Through weeks of interviews with league officials, agents and players, he explains why the free agent market is as bad as it is for players right now and why so many of them and so many fans seem not to understand just how bad a spot the players are in, business wise.

Passan keys on the media’s credulousness regarding teams’ stated rationales for not spending in free agency. About how, with even a little bit of scrutiny, the “[Team] wants to get below the luxury tax” argument makes no sense. About how the claim that this is a weak free agent class, however true that may be, does not explain why so few players are being signed.  About how so few teams seem interested in actually competing and how fans, somehow, seem totally OK with it.

Passan makes a compelling argument, backed by multiple sources, that, even if there is a lot of money flowing around, the fundamental financial model of the game is broken. The young players are the most valuable but are paid pennies while players with 6-10 years service time are the least valuable yet are the ones, theoretically anyway, positioned to make the most money. The owners have figured it out. The union has dropped the ball as it has worried about, well, whatever the heck it is worried about. The killer passage on all of this is damning in this regard:

During the negotiations leading to the 2016 basic agreement that governs baseball, officials at MLB left bargaining stupefied almost on a daily basis. Something had changed at the MLBPA, and the league couldn’t help but beam at its good fortune: The core principle that for decades guided the union no longer seemed a priority.

“It was like they didn’t care about money anymore,” one league official said.

Personally, I don’t believe that they don’t care about money anymore. I think the union has simply dropped the ball on educating its membership about the business structure of the game and the stakes involved with any given rule in the CBA. I think that they either so not understand the financial implications of that to which they have agreed or are indifferent to them because they do not understand their scope and long term impact.

It’s a union’s job to educate its membership about the big issues that may escape any one member’s notice — like the long term effects of a decision about the luxury tax or amateur and international salary caps — and convince them that it’s worth fighting for. Does the MLBPA do that? Does it even try? If it hasn’t tried for the past couple of cycles and it suddenly starts to now, will there be a player civil war, with some not caring to jeopardize their short term well-being for the long term gain of the players who follow them?

If you care at all about the business and financial aspects of the game, Passan’s article is essential.