MLBPA and MLB agree on new free agency rules


The MLBPA and Major League Baseball have been snipping at each other for a couple of years now over free agency. A lot of guys have signed late — some even after camp has started — and some have muttered about collusion and the like.

To resolve this, the union and the league sat down and tried to hammer out new rules — or tweaks to old ones — governing the mechanics of free agency. Amazingly, they’ve done so with little if any rancor. They just released a statement about it.  Here are the highlights:

  • When players become eligible for free agency, they’re free agents. No “filing” for free agency or whatever it is they do now;
  • The period during which only a free agent’s current team can sign them — the exclusivity period — has been reduced to five days. It had been 15 days;
  • Earlier deadlines for teams to offer arbitration and players to accept it;
  • Stricter rules — unspecified in the release — preventing collusion; and
  • “Restrictions on the abilities of the Clubs, players and agents to
    conduct their free agent negotiations through use of the media.”

These last two are the most interesting to me.

I take the thing about collusion to be a tacit admission by the clubs that, as the union has claimed in recent years, they were doing something fishy.  I’m not sure what those things are, but I’ve heard plenty of rumors recently that — amazingly — the clubs all seem to come up with similar offers for mid-level and lower-level free agents.  Could it be that everyone just uses the same metrics and the same numbers are spit out? Possible, I suppose, but Occam’s Razor suggests that teams have been comparing notes.

The thing about the media is fun. That one likely stems from complaints by the clubs and the players. I mean, it’s uncanny, is it not, how when a team is trying to part ways with a fan favorite that we suddenly hear reports of some outrageous demand by the player?  It is also uncanny, is it not, that when a player is having a hard time getting what he wants, there are suddenly a bunch of reports of “mystery teams” interested in his services?

That stuff is ridiculous, of course, because you’re never going to be able to stop people from leaking things. I mean, as it is, teams would probably fire employees over the stuff they leak if they could catch them, so what possible fear could a beef with the union or the league cause?  We’ll be “hearing this . . .” and “FYIing . . .” and “Sources tell me . . .” all winter, just like we always have.

But details aside, this is pretty extraordinary. Why? Because the league and the union quietly and, apparently, quite easily came to agreement over details relating to free agency. There was no yelling back and forth. There were no threats that it would become in issue in the next CBA negotiations.  Mature people just had a couple of meetings and figured it out.

I bet NFL fans with their league and union could do that.

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar
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Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.

The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.

Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.

Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.

Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.

The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.