Your morning dose of "playing in New York is different" porn

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Joel Sherman discusses the Yankees’ deadline pickups, with specific reference to the Lance Berkman deal. After (correctly) noting that the quality of play in the AL East is much, much better than that in the NL Central, he goes on to note that it’s not just better opponents Berkman will have to get used to:

What players who come to the Yankees – unless they come from Boston or
maybe one or two other places – notice quickly is the intensity of the
games. Every pitch matters when you are a Yankee. It is a lingering
effect of having a team owned by George Steinbrenner, playing in the
largest media market in the world, having the most fans, having the most
enemies, having the largest payroll, by far, and having the most
expectations, by far.

It is a unique cauldron. And players either love and embrace the
intensity or find this is a difficult place to play. It certainly takes
getting used to and Berkman, Kerry Wood and Austin Kearns have to
recalibrate two-thirds of the way through the year. But as bad as the
Indians are, Wood and Kearns were at least playing in the AL. Berkman
was not only playing in the inferior league, but within the softest
division.

Sherman goes on to say — based on two games in pinstripes — that Berkman looked “slow and inadequate” and wonders if moving to the AL East has anything to do with that.

I get Sherman’s general point about there being more pressure and scrutiny in New York, but I think we’ve long since reached the point where those sentiments have become so cartoonishly overstated to be damn near worthless. I know players pay obeisance to the “everything is different in New York” thing when talking to New York reporters, but I can’t help but think that they roll their eyes at it behind the scenes.

They’re professionals. They put their uniform pants on one leg at a time just like everyone else. Yes, it’s harder to face the Rays and Red Sox than the Pirates and Cubs, but unless the player really has confidence issues — which should be the tiniest minority of players given how much confidence it takes to get to the big leagues in the first place — the difference in outside scrutiny cannot be nearly as big as New York reporters and many New Yorkers themselves like to tell themselves it is. It’s a difference of degree, not a totally different world.

And might I add that three days in from this trade I cannot believe just how much Lance Berkman — an MVP-level talent in his prime and a guy who has played in the World Series — is being discounted by Yankees fans and watchers?  He’s 34 and he’s in decline, but he’s still a useful player. If you came from another planet and read nothing but the New York tabloids these past few days you’d assume that the Yankees just traded for some reality show contestant. 

Zach Britton settles with the Orioles for $6.75 million

Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Zach Britton delivers a pitch against the Boston Red Sox in the ninth inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park, Tuesday, June 23, 2015, in Boston. The Orioles won 6-4. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
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The Orioles and closer Zach Britton avoided an arbitration hearing, agreeing to a $6.75 million salary for the 2016 season, Jon Heyman reports. The club has now handled all of its remaining arbitration cases and won’t have to go to a hearing with any players.

Britton, in his second of four years of arbitration eligibility, filed for $7.9 million while the Orioles countered at $5.6 million. $6.75 million is exactly the midpoint between the two submitted figures.

The 28-year-old lefty saved 36 games in 40 chances last season for the O’s while putting up a 1.92 ERA with a 79/14 K/BB ratio over 65 2/3 innings.

The Blue Jays will also try to sign Josh Donaldson to a multi-year deal

Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson gets up after being unable to handle an infield single by Boston Red Sox's Mookie Betts during the fourth inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston Monday, Sept. 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
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Tacking onto Friday’s report that the Blue Jays will attempt to sign Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion to multi-year deals, Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports that the club will try to do the same with third baseman and defending American League Most Valuable Player Josh Donaldson. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports notes that Donaldson’s arbitration hearing is scheduled for February 15, so the two sides will have 10 days to hammer out a contract.

Donaldson, 30, is entering his second of four years of arbitration eligibility. After earning $4.3 million last season, Donaldson filed for $11.8 million and the Blue Jays countered at $11.35 million. The $450,000 difference isn’t much compared to some of the other disparities among arbitration-eligible players and their respective clubs. Jake Arrieta and the Cubs, for example, had a gap of $6.5 million.

This past season, Donaldson let the league in runs scored and RBI with 122 and 123, respectively, while batting .297.371/.568 with 41 home runs and 41 doubles. He earned 23 of 30 first place votes in AL MVP balloting, with runner-up Mike Trout of the Angels grabbing the other seven votes.

Reds prospect Juan Duran suspended 80 games

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Juan Duran, a minor-league outfielder in the Reds’ farm system, has been suspended 80 games following positive tests for the performance-enhancing drugs Drostanolone, Stanozolol, and Nandrolone.

Duran is 6-foot-7 with big-time power, averaging 23 homers per 150 games since 2011, but he also strikes out a ton and struggles to control the strike zone. He spent last season at Double-A, missing a lot of time with injuries and hitting .256 with six homers and a .728 OPS in 59 games as a 23-year-old.

Duran is on the 40-man roster and is considered a quasi-prospect, but he’ll be ineligible to play until July and figures to head back to Double-A once reinstated.

The Blue Jays will talk long term deals with Jose Bautistia and Edwin Encarnacion

Jose Bautista Blue Jays
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Ever since Alex Anthopoulos resigned as Blue Jays’ GM and Mark Shapiro took over as team president, a distinct air of frugality has set in over Rogers Centre. The go-for-broke attitude that fueled Toronto’s fantastic second half last year was repudiated and long-term, sustainable building has seemed to be the order of the day.

But the Jays aren’t going to go crazy with that: ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports that the Blue Jays plan to have long-term extension talks with the agents of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion during spring training. This, combined with the still-remaining possibility that they can avoid arbitration with MVP Josh Donaldson and hammer out a long-term deal could mean some serious spending by the Jays before Opening Day.

Or this could just be talk from the front office designed to buoy the spirits of fans. Locking up all three of them to long-term deals may be hella expensive and may not be possible. It’s also the case that, given their ages — Bautista is 35 and Encarnacion is 33 — it may not be advisable to lock the both up. As always, it depends on the terms and how generous Rogers Communications plans on being with the Jays’ budget.

But the chatter is now out there and expectations are poised to be set.