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In case you had any doubts: no, contraction isn’t happening

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Beyond some half-crazed ravings from Hank Steinbrenner and a speculative column by Ken Rosenthal, no one has seriously been discussing contracting any teams.  To the extent anyone is taking the ravings or the speculation at all seriously, however, MLBPA leader Michael Weiner put it to rest in an interview with the St. Pete Times yesterday:

“Do I think it’s likely that the owners are going to try to contract? I don’t,” Weiner said after meeting with Rays players during his annual spring camp tour. “Do I think there’s — to borrow your word — a ‘legitimate’ reason to contract? I don’t think there is. All I would say is if that changes, if contraction becomes a goal of the owners in this negotiation, the tenor of the talks would change quickly and dramatically.”

Weiner is a man who tends to be very careful with his words and he errs on the side of understatement.  So when he says stuff like “the talks would change quickly and dramatically,” it’s like most of us saying “if Bud Selig brought up contraction I would literally pour gasoline on the conference table and light it on fire.”  It’s not happening and Weiner doesn’t think it even has a chance of happening. To the extent anyone brings it up as a serious possibility, they’re living in a non-reality based world.

If there is only one argument that will convince you of this, let it be this one: to contract a team, the owner of that team will have to be paid (a) the market value of his franchise, because baseball would literally be taking away a piece of property in which he has invested hundreds of millions of dollars; (b) some premium above that which would compensate him for the loss of year-to-year revenue that asset stood to generate for him; (c) another large chunk of money that would pay off whatever local obligations the team had in terms of a stadium lease and contractual and charitable commitments the team had made in the community; and (d) some other sum of money to deal with the political implications of it all, be it in the form of legal fees to fight the politicians who would work overtime to keep their local team from being contracted or some other sort of payout — a job creation fund? Massive lobbying? — that would head off that political opposition before it became truly problematic.

It’s not hard for me to imagine that to contract a team it would cost close to a billion dollars by the time it is all said and done. Really, I’m not exaggerating.  Then figure that you’d have to contract two teams to make the schedule workable.  As such, the total it would cost to contract two teams would be multiples over the total amount of money has been paid to all low revenue teams in the eight years since the current revenue sharing program has started. Revenue sharing payments, you’ll remember, that were the very reason why people started talking about contraction in the first place.

As a result of all of this, talking about contracting teams to do away with revenue sharing is like talking about euthanasia to do away with a case of allergies. The “solution” is laughably worse than the very problem it’s fancied to solve.  And as such, it’s ridiculous to even propose it.

If contraction ever comes it will be because the game as a whole is losing money like crazy. Not because some people within the game don’t quite like the way the copious amounts of money the game is making is being shifted around.

Video: Nelson Cruz hits second-longest home run of 2016

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Nelson Cruz #23 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates his solo homerun with Daniel Vogelbach #20 of the Seattle Mariners to take a 2-1 lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the seventh inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 14, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.

It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.

Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.

Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.

Report: John Farrell won’t rule out a postseason return for Pablo Sandoval

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 11:  Pablo Sandoval #48 of the Boston Red Sox looks on from the dugout before the Red Sox home opener against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on April 11, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Orioles defeat the Red Sox 9-7.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.

On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.

At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.

If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.

Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.

Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.