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Scenes from Spring Training: Where’s the press box again?

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I went down to the field to check out the Cubs’ BP.  As the pic suggests, it’s a damn fine day here in Mesa.  A little cold this morning, but it doesn’t take much sun to warm it up, and there is much sun today. Frank Lloyd Wright was right: wintering in Chicago is for suckers. I think he actually said it in those exact terms.

I got to the cage and Aramis Ramirez was dug in and taking his hacks. He utterly abused the scoreboard out beyond the left field wall.  A lot of guys were smacking it around.  The ball carries really well here of course.  I read that the Cubs’ new spring training home is going to have the exact dimensions of Wrigley Field. Not sure that’s wise, actually. A bunch of guys are gonna break north and wonder where all their power went.

The fella to the left is Tyler Colvin taking grounders at first base.  He’s an outfielder, but ever since Derrek Lee was shipped out last year there has been talk of Colvin being the long term solution at first (Carlos Pena is on a one-year deal).  For what it’s worth, Colvin looked pretty competent picking it at first. No idea what anyone who actually knows something about evaluating defense would think.

Got the lineup card. Cubs play the Brewers today. Sadly, no Prince Fielder. At first: Mark Kotsay. I am excited about third base, however, as Milwaukee has someone named Zelous Wheeler playing there. I’ve never seen a 19th century prospector and/or patriarch of a family involved in a blood feud play third.

Down on the field I met Chuck Wasserstrom, the Manager of Baseball Information for the Cubs. He gave me his business card and on it is his work address: 1060 West Addison. I had an immediate visceral reaction when I saw that, convinced that Wasserstrom was putting me on.  Then I remembered that this isn’t “The Blues Brothers” and, yes, people actually do work at that address.  File that under problems people who are around 37-years-old and watched too many movies growing up have.

I tend to get lost wandering around these ballparks. It’s not always easy for a newbie to find the clubhouse and it’s not always easy to find the press box.  The clubhouse was a bit tricky this morning, but they certainly erred on the side of clearly marking the press box here:

Game starts in about an hour.  Ho-ho-ho. Kam. And a happy new year. Or something.

The Yankees are paying $86 million for a one-inning reliever

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OXON HILL, MD — The Yankees signing of Aroldis Chapman late Wednesday night came as something of a surprise. And the money — $86 million — was something of a shock. Yes, we knew that Chapman was going to break the bank and likely set a record as the highest paid relief pitcher in history, but seeing it in black and white like that is still rather jarring.

In the coming days, many people who attempt to analyze and contextualize this signing will do so by pointing to the 2016 playoffs and the unconventional use of relievers by Terry Francona and the Indians and Joe Maddon of the Cubs. They’ll talk about how the paradigm of bullpen use has shifted and how relief pitchers have taken on a new importance in today’s game. Chapman’s astronomical salary, therefore, will be described as somehow more reasonable and somewhat less shocking than it first seems.

Don’t buy that jive for a second.

Yes, Andrew Miller and, to some extent, Chapman himself were used unconventionally in the 2016 playoffs, but not long into the 2017 season we will see that as an exception, not the rule. And not just because Chapman showed himself unable to hold up to that level of use in the playoffs. It will be the exception because the Yankees have shown no inclination whatsoever to deviate from traditional bullpen usage in the past and there is no reason to expect that they will do so with Chapman in the future.

As you no doubt remember, the Yankees had Chapman, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller for the first half of 2016. Such an imposing back end of a bullpen has rarely been seen in recent history. All of them, however, were used, more or less, as one-inning-a-piece guys and no real effort was ever made to break any bullpen usage paradigms or to shorten games the way many applauded Terry Francona for doing in the playoffs.

Miller pitched 44 games for the Yankees, totaling 45.1 innings. He pitched more than a single inning on only three occasions. Chapman pitched 31 games for the Yankees, amassing 31.1 innings. He was used for more than one inning only twice. Betances worked in 73 games, totaling 73 innings. On 11 occasions he pitched more than one inning.  It was unconventional for a team to have three relievers that good, but they were not, in any way, used unconventionally. Nor is there any reason to expect Chapman to be used unconventionally in 2017, especially given that Miller is not around and Chapman has shown no real ability to be stretched for multiple innings for a sustained period.

None of which is to say that having Chapman around is a bad thing or that he is any less of a closer than his reputation suggests. It’s merely to say that the Yankees paying Chapman unprecedented money for a closer should not be justified by the alleged new importance of relief pitchers or that changing role for them we heard so much about in the playoffs. Indeed, I suspect that that changing role applies only to pitcher use in the playoffs. And I do not suspect that this transaction alone pushes the Yankees into serious playoff contention, making that temporary unconventionality something of a moot point in New York for the foreseeable future.

It is almost certain that the Yankees are paying $86 million for the same one-inning closer Aroldis Chapman has been for his entire seven-year career. His contract may or may not prove to be a good one for New York based on how he performs, but don’t let anyone tell you now, in Decemeber 2016, that it’s better than you think because Chapman will somehow transform into a 1970s-style relief ace or something.

Report: Yankees sign Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million deal

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Update (12:02 AM EST): Rosenthal adds that Chapman’s contract includes an opt-out clause after three seasons, a full no-trade clause for the first three years of the contract, and a limited no-trade clause for the final two years.

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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Yankees have signed closer Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million contract. Mark Melancon recently set the record for a contract earned by a reliever at $62 million over four years. Chapman blew that out of the water and many are surprised he didn’t fetch more.

Chapman, 28, began the 2016 season with the Yankees but he was traded to the Cubs near the end of July in exchange for four prospects. The Cubs, of course, would go on to win the World Series in large part due to Chapman. The lefty finished the regular season with a 1.55 ERA, 36 saves, and a 90/18 K/BB ratio in 58 innings between the two teams.

Chapman was the best reliever on the free agent market and, because he was traded midseason, he didn’t have draft pick compensation attached to him.

The Yankees don’t seem to be deterred by Chapman’s domestic violence issue from last offseason, resulting in a 30-game suspension to begin the 2016 regular season.