People want their “fear the beard” posters at AT&T Park

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CNBC’s Darren Rovell has a great story about newspaper vendors for the San Jose Mercury News selling cheer cards with stuff like “fear the beard” printed on them outside of AT&T Park. Which, unfortunately for the Mercury News, wasn’t the plan. The plan was for the cheer cards to be stuffed inside of newspapers, and have fans buy the papers.  There’s some good detail in Rovell’s story about how the vendors were hustling, but this is the most interesting paragraph in the thing:

But it also has to be an indictment on the state of the newspaper business. Papers aren’t worth what they once were, so smart papers do things like The Mercury News did — do something creative that will get some attention. But even that couldn’t sell papers.

The newspapers are trying to sell customers a bundle of goods. The people only want one, narrow thing (in this case a “fear the beard” card).  The market, such as it is, figured out what the people wanted and rewarded those who were specializing.  It’s as if there’s a lesson to be learned here.

Well, a lesson that would apply more broadly without what was almost certainly fraud by the vendors, but there you are.

Report: Orioles interested in Alex Cobb

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MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports that the Orioles have interest in free agent right-hander Alex Cobb, who rejected his one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Rays earlier this week. Cobb was most recently linked to the Cubs, who reportedly reached out to his agent during the GM Meetings and garnered mutual interest from the righty, but nothing appears to be set in stone yet.

Cobb, 30, completed his sixth season with the Rays in 2017. He went 12-10 in 29 starts and turned in a respectable 3.66 ERA, 6.4 SO/9 and career-best 2.2 BB/9 in 179 1/3 innings. Despite losing a couple of weeks to turf toe, he remained healthy for most of the year and showed no signs of the elbow issues that robbed him of the majority of his 2015-2016 campaigns.

It’s still fairly early for any deals to come to fruition, but Morosi notes that the Orioles seem to be focused on bulking up their rotation during the first few months of the offseason. It’ll take more than a healthy Alex Cobb to right that ship, however: Orioles’ starters earned a collective 5.70 ERA and 5.5 fWAR in 2017, good for worst and fourth-worst marks in the league, respectively. Behind Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy (and perhaps Gabriel Ynoa/Miguel Castro), they still need three viable starters to compete in 2018. Whether or not they can afford to spring for a single starter with Cobb’s price tag (four years, $48 million, per MLB Trade Rumors) remains to be seen.