Nolan Ryan: the bankruptcy is gutting the Rangers

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Day two of that fun Texas Rangers hearing down in Forth Worth and the highlight so far — thanks to some live tweeting by SBJ’s Daniel Kaplan — is Nolan Ryan on the witness stand.  Among the tidbits he dropped during his testimony, which concluded a few minutes ago:

  • The team is being forced to deplete its minor league
    system because of the bankruptcy;

  • The bankruptcy is preventing the Rangers from signing international players. Ryan says that because of this “there is a void in our system”;

  • The bankruptcy could prevent the team from buying a new
    video board, priced between $5 million and $12 million;

  • Because of the bankruptcy, other teams are starting to poach Rangers’ scouts;

  • A prolonged bankruptcy could cause the team to lose Josh Hamilton;

  • Bankruptcy aside, the team is running $5 million ahead of budget projections in revenue this year, presumably because they’ve been winning.

  • The team expects to sell playoff tickets this year, which will bring in between $11 million and $14 million.

That’s all interesting, but it’s worth noting that Nolan Ryan has every incentive — not just as the Rangers’ President, but also as
its prospective new owner — 
to get the team out of bankruptcy as soon as possible. That  means that a doomsday scenario for the Rangers-in-bankruptcy is in his own best interests in this particular hearing, because if it’s truly doomsday, Greenberg and Hicks’ position — auction the team yesterday before other bidders can improve their chances at landing the team — should win. That doesn’t mean that he’s not telling the truth, but I’m betting there were a lot of “coulds” and “mights” in Ryan’s testimony today.

The judge seemingly took Ryan’s testimony with a grain of salt. According to Kaplan, after Ryan was done, the judge observed that it was not the bankruptcy that was causing many of these problems for the Rangers, but the fact that they’ve been on a line of credit from Major League Baseball to cover expenses. Including, one assumes, scout salaries and signing bonuses for international players.  Which is not to say that the bankruptcy is a good thing — it’s not — but blaming it for all the team’s financial problems seems pretty questionable to me.

The vast majority of the Rangers’ business issues right now are Tom Hicks’ fault, not the fault of the process by which the court is attempting to ensure that the creditors Hicks stiffed for so long get something approaching fair value in return.  The suggestion that it’s the bankruptcy itself that is the real evil here seems wrong to me.

Crowd honors Jose Bautista in his last Blue Jays home game

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Jose Bautista ran onto the field on Sunday afternoon, alone, in what was likely his last hurrah as a Blue Jays player. The 36-year-old outfielder signed a one-year, $18 million contract with the club prior to the 2017 season and is not expected to get his $17 million option picked up for 2018. During Sunday’s series finale, he got a fond farewell befitting a decade-long career as one of Toronto’s most prolific hitters, drawing standing ovations every time he stepped up to the plate.

The Blue Jays came out swinging against the Yankees, building an eight-run lead on Teoscar Hernandez’s first-inning home run and a smattering of hits and productive outs from Darwin Barney, Russell Martin, Josh Donaldson and Kendrys Morales. Bautista supplemented the drive with his own RBI single in the fourth inning, plating Hernandez on an 0-2 fastball from reliever Bryan Mitchell.

Later in the inning, he nearly scored a second run on a Kendrys Morales two-RBI single, but was caught at the plate on the relay by Starlin Castro.

It’s an encouraging end to what has overwhelmingly been a disappointing season for the Toronto slugger. Entering Sunday’s finale, he slashed .201/.309/.365 with a franchise single-season record 161 strikeouts in 658 plate appearances, numbers that somewhat obscure the six straight All-Star nominations, four MVP bids and 54-homer campaign he once enjoyed with the team. Even a bounce-back performance in 2018 likely wouldn’t command a $17 million salary, but there’s no denying his impact on the Blue Jays’ last 10 years, from his signature bat flip to his tie-breaking home run in the 2015 ALDS.

The Blue Jays currently lead the Yankees 9-2 in the top of the sixth inning. Expect a few more standing O’s before the end of the game.

Why more baseball players don’t kneel

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Bruce Maxwell was the first baseball player to kneel for the National Anthem. There may be others who do so, but I don’t suspect many will. Indeed, I’m pretty confident that the protests we’re seeing in the NFL today, and will see more of once basketball season begins, will not become a major thing in baseball.

Some will say it’s because baseball or baseball players are more patriotic or something, but I don’t think that’s it. Yes, baseball is a lot whiter and has a lot of conservative players who would never think to protest during the National Anthem or, for that matter, protest anything at all, but I suspect there are many who saw what Colin Kaepernick and other football players have done — or who have listened to what Steph Curry and LeBron James have said — and agreed with it. Yet I do not think many, if any of them will themselves protest.

Why? I think it mostly comes down to baseball’s culture of conformity.

Almost everyone in baseball comes through a hierarchy. Even the big names. Even if you are the consensus number one pick, you do your time in the minors. Once there, conformity and humility is drilled into you. This happens both affirmatively, in the form of coaches telling you to act in a certain way and passively, by virtue of all players being in similar, humbling circumstances. Bus rides, cheap hotels, etc. In that world, even if you are ten times better and ten times richer than your teammates, you fall in with the crowd because doing otherwise would be socially disruptive.

The very socialization of a baseball player is dependent upon them learning to talk, walk and carry themselves like all those who came before. No one is given special treatment. In the rare cases they are, it’s head-turning. Bryce Harper was a more or less normal minor leaguer, but since he got their earlier by bypassing his final years of high school, he was thrown at and challenged in ways no other minor league stars are. It does not take much for a guy to be singled out for punishment or mockery and even the superstars like Harper are not on solid professional ground as long as they’re still in the minors. Indeed, between a player’s education, as it were, in the minors and their pre-free agency residency in the majors, it can be a decade or more before a unique personality or a true showman is able to shine through, and by then few are willing. They’ve been conditioned by that point.

Even budding superstars can be roundly criticized for the tiniest of perceived transgressions or the most modest displays of individuality. Think about all of the “controversies” we have about the proper way to celebrate a home run or run the bases. If that’s a cause for singling out and, potentially, benching or being traded or being given a shorter leash, imagine the guts a baseball player has to have in order to do something like take a knee during the National Anthem. A guy with multiple MVP Awards would likely be in an uncomfortable spotlight over such a thing, so imagine how brave someone like Bruce Maxwell, who has barely 100 games under his belt, has to be to have done it.

CC Sabathia, a 17-year veteran, spoke out yesterday, but I suspect he won’t kneel for the National Anthem when he lines up with his teammates before the Wild Card game next week. Other ballplayers will likely wade into the fray in the coming days. But I suspect baseball’s very nature — it’s very culture — will keep ballplayers from following in the footsteps of the many NFL players who took a knee today.