Earlier today I wrote that it was quite a sight to see the Yankees and Derek Jeter waging such a public war over contract negotiations. This is especially true given that — a mere two months ago — the league and the union came to an agreement under which both sides vowed to “Restrict the abilities of the Clubs, players and agents to conduct their free agent negotiations through use of the media.” Obviously this rule — to the extent it is a rule, and not merely some aspirational thing — isn’t scaring anyone. The question, then, is what can be done about this sort of thing?
The answer: nothing. There is absolutely nothing that can be done to stop this kind of stuff.
The reason for this — at least in the case of Jeter and the Yankees — is simple: Major League Baseball can’t punish the Yankees without the Yankees protesting that they are merely countering what Jeter’s agent is doing. They also cannot punish Jeter or his agent without having to go though the union, and I’m sure both Jeter and his agent can tell a plausible story about how their comments to the press were necessitated by something the Yankees did first. Ultimately both sides would claim that the other was acting unfairly, and thus policing a p.r. problem would dredge up an actual contract negotiation dispute that the new rules were designed to head off in the first place. Why would baseball kick that hornet’s nest? Why would the union? Why would anyone?
But really, I suspect that the media rules weren’t designed to address these public, on-the-record spats. I think they were designed to address Scott Boras’ “mystery teams” and those whispers about how teams “have questions about Player X’s health” that pop up all winter, unfairly killing — or unfairly making — the market for a free agent. What can be done about those?
Even less, I’m afraid. Quick: when was the last time a source was revealed? When was the last time someone got fired for leaking a team’s dirty laundry? We live in an age when people leak sensitive stuff related to the government and the military with impunity because technology makes it fantastically easy to do so. If the Department of Homeland Security, with all of its employees and computer experts can’t track down their own internal leakers, how can the Pirates’ front office do it with their half-dozen clerical workers? They can’t. And they won’t, because they have a baseball team to run. As do the Yankees. And Casey Close and Bud Selig and Mike Weiner all have other things to do too.
The stuff about no longer negotiating through the media was nice back when no one was negotiating anything. But now that they are, those ideals are rendered quaint.
Former first base and infield coach Nick Leyva was promoted to senior advisor of baseball operations on Saturday, per a report by Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The Pirates also fired third base coach Rick Sofield, with no named successor as of yet.
Leyva joined the Pirates’ organization in the 2011 offseason as a third base coach under manager Clint Hurdle. He shifted to his role as the first base coach and infield coach in 2014, when first base coach Rick Sofield was reassigned to third base prior to the 2015 season. According to Biertempfel, the swap was made in order to optimize the team’s baserunning strategies, all of which appeared to fall flat during the 2015 and 2016 seasons:
The results this season were awful. The Pirates ranked 13th in the National League with a minus-7.0 BsR — a FanGraphs.com metric that measures how many runs above or below league average a team gets via its baserunning.
In 2013 and 2014, the Pirates had one of the top five BsR ratings in the NL. In 2015, they were seventh with a 2.8 BsR.
This season, the Pirates made the second-most outs at third base in the league and were last in taking extra bases on singles and doubles. Their baserunners went from first to third base on hits a league-low 63 times.
Sofield, in particular, highlighted the Pirates’ poor baserunning choices in games like this one, when he sent Sean Rodriguez home too early during the last vestige of a ninth inning rally against the Phillies.
Following the announcement, Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington issued a statement elaborating on Leyva’s role within the organization:
We have great respect and appreciation for both men. We thank them for their time and effort as part of our Major League team and the Pirates organization. It was a difficult decision, but we felt it was the right time to make this change on our Major League staff. We look forward to Nick’s continued impact in his future role with the Pirates. Nick has held nearly every coaching position at the major league level and at the minor league level, including Major League manager, in his extensive career and will be a quality mentor for our minor league managers, coaches and players.
With Game 6 of the NLCS just hours away, the Dodgers will opt for a lefty-heavy lineup against right-hander Kyle Hendricks. Batting leadoff is rookie outfielder Andrew Toles, who made one appearance at the top of the lineup during the 2016 season. The Cubs, meanwhile, will bench Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.. This will be Almora’s first start of the playoffs, and while he has yet to face Kershaw in October, his right-handed bat could play well against the lefty at the bottom of the lineup.
Game time is scheduled for 8 PM EDT; lineups are below.
1. Andrew Toles (L) LF
6. Wilson Contreras (R) C
8. Albert Almora Jr. (R) RF
9. Kyle Hendricks (R) RHP