konerko waves goodbye

By giving White Sox the chance to match any offer is Paul Konerko limiting free agent interest?


Doug Padilla of ESPNChicago.com reported yesterday that Paul Konerko’s “tight bond” with team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf “figures to afford the White Sox one last chance at matching any deal Konerko might have on the table from another team.”

While that’s a unique situation in baseball it’s somewhat similar to “restricted” free agency in the NBA and NFL where teams can match any “offer sheet” signed by a player. Padilla notes that it could upset the White Sox’s fan base if they’re given the opportunity to match any offer and still decide to let Konerko leave, but a bigger question is whether the situation could limit Konerko’s market as a free agent.

Will teams be as enthusiastic about pursuing and courting Konerko if they know any offer they make will simply be taken back to the White Sox? And if Chicago’s offer-matching ability does depress Konerko’s market in any way, then wouldn’t it make sense that the White Sox were behind the information getting to Padilla in the first place?

In other words, is it in the White Sox’s best interests to let the other 29 teams know that they have the final say on any offer to Konerko? Not quite a stay-off-my-turf pronouncement, certainly, but assuming the White Sox are truly interested in re-signing Konerko–and they’ve given every indication that’s true–then it’s clearly better for them the fewer teams are seriously pursuing the 35-year-old first baseman.

Konerko giving the White Sox the chance to match all offers is a very nice gesture from a player who has spent a dozen years in Chicago, but when it comes time to actually negotiate those offers I just wonder if he should be happy the good will towards Reinsdorf and company is now public knowledge.

Which teams improved and declined the most in 2015?

Joe Maddon
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I was curious about which MLB teams changed their fortunes the most this season compared to last year, so I crunched the numbers.

First, here are the biggest win total improvements from 2014 to 2015:

+24 Cubs
+21 Rangers
+16 Astros
+15 Diamondbacks
+13 Twins
+11 Mets
+10 Blue Jays
+10 Cardinals
+10 Pirates

The top five teams on the biggest-improvement list all had managers in their first season on the job, led by Joe Maddon joining the Cubs after tons of success with the Rays. Also worth noting: Of the nine teams with the biggest win total improvement, eight made the playoffs. Only the Twins improved to double-digit games and still failed to make the playoffs.

Now, here are the biggest win total declines from 2014 to 2015:

-20 Athletics
-16 Tigers
-15 Orioles
-14 Brewers
-13 Nationals
-13 Angels
-12 Braves
-12 Reds
-11 Mariners

Not surprisingly, a whole lot of those teams have changed managers, general managers, or both. And a couple more may still do so before the offseason gets underway. Oakland retained manager Bob Melvin despite an MLB-high 20-win dropoff and just promoted Billy Beane from general manager to vice president of baseball operations.

MLB games were six minutes shorter this year

Pitch Clock
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According to STATS, INC., the average game in 2015 was 2 hours, 56 minutes. That’s six minutes faster than games in 2014.

The gains came in the first half, when games averaged 2:53. Second half games averaged three hours even. One can probably thank the expanded rosters in September for that, as games then see many more pitching changes. Of course, it’s likely that second half games were faster in 2015 than 2014 as well given the rules changes.

Those changes: agreement to enforce the rule requiring a hitter to keep at least one foot in the batter’s box and the installation of clocks timing pitching changes and between-inning breaks in ever ballpark.

It remains to be seen if MLB stays satisfied with that modest improvement or if chooses to go the way Triple-A and Double-A leagues did. They installed 20-second pitch clocks and started penalizing violators with balls and strikes. Triple-A’s two leagues, the International and Pacific Leagues, saw game-time decreases by 13 and 16 minutes, respectively.