I’m not at all comfortable with the glee some in the baseball world have had at the NFL’s labor issues. I mean, no, I really don’t care about the NFL all that much in and of itself and won’t miss it if it’s gone, but the situation is ugly there and I tend to think that when bad things happen in other sports that it’s bad for baseball in some way too.
Part of this is because I think the division between sports fans and non-sports fans is more significant than the division between baseball fans and, say, football fans. Because of this, I worry that if football’s ills turn people off, it risks turning them off sports, not just off football. Likewise, to the extent there is litigation between the NFL players and the league, it will likely have implications for labor relations in other sports too, so baseball fans do have a stake in all of this.
So no, my interest in the NFL’s labor situation has not been one borne of schadenfreude. It’s been more of cautious curiosity and at least a mild bit of trepidation.
Against that backdrop comes a thought-provoking article from Larry at IIATMS, in which he talks about how the existence of the salary cap is so central to the current NFL battle and how, if baseball had one like so many people want, it would likely make its labor problems worse, not better. It’s worth a read, especially if you’ve found yourself engaged in the salary cap wars over the past 15 years or so.
The larger lesson to take from this is that there really aren’t any panaceas in this world. Things that solve problem X always — always — lead to unintended consequence Y. Those consequences may be minor or they may be major, but the point is that anyone who says that any given course of action would cure all of a complicated system’s ills is pretty much full of it.
So much for Clayton Kershaw posing a threat tonight. The Cubs got their knocks in early and often against the Dodgers’ ace during Game 6 of the NLCS, racking up three runs in the first three innings before rookie catcher Willson Contreras unleashed his first postseason home run in the bottom of the fourth inning.
According to MLB.com’s Phil Rogers, Contreras became the 10th Cub to homer in the 2016 playoffs, following big hits by Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler, Miguel Montero, David Ross, Jake Arrieta, Kris Bryant, Travis Wood, and Javier Baez. Of the ten home run hitters, Contreras joins catchers David Ross and Miguel Montero as yet another backstop capable of driving the long ball (and, less importantly, as another player capable of a sweet, sweet bat flip).
Rizzo, whose last homer was a deep drive to right field off of Los Angeles right-hander Pedro Baez in Game 4 of the NLCS, piled on Kershaw’s five-run outing with another home run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Kershaw called it a night after five frames, and the Cubs currently lead the Dodgers 5-0 in the sixth inning.
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.