Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann really, really like to fish

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If there is anyone wondering why TMZ sports never took off, look no further than this article in the St. Pete Time about the Rays’ Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann.  I submit that there are way, way more ballplayers with their particular obsession than there are ballplayers who like to go to clubs and movie premiers and stuff:

His routine hasn’t changed much since his days at Lake Wales High School. Everywhere he has played (New York, Carolina, Florida) he has gone head-to-head with the best in the game — brown trout, brook trout, smallmouth bass. You name it, he has caught it.

“I’ve fished anywhere and everywhere,” he says. “If I am driving down the highway and see a pond, I’ll make a note of it, come back after work and see if it has any fish.”

Baseball players are rarely the big men on campus in high school or college, assuming they even go to college. An overwhelming number of them come from places like Florida, Georgia and Texas. If they didn’t marry their hometown sweetheart they married some model who — rather than catapult the player into the jet set —  herself transformed back into a small town girl.

It’s kind of sweet actually.  Most of these guys remind me of my brother in law back in West Virginia.  Who — and I am not making this up — holds multiple state fishing and hunting records and serves as an officer in multiple clubs that determine whether various hunting and fishing techniques conform to various throwback standards that they all care about (retro is huge in certain sportsman’s circles, apparently).  When I visit he asks me what jig (or whatever) he should use to catch thusandsuch fish and asks my opinion about the workmanship of the latest bow he constructed. It’s gotten to the point that he doesn’t even wait for my blank stare to start chuckling at me.

But I don’t fight back because when the apocalypse comes he’s the only guy I know who’s going to be able to feed his family, and we’re totally squatting at his compound.

MLB Network airs segment listing “good” and “bad” $100 million-plus contracts

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On Wednesday evening, Charlie Marlow of KTVI FOX 2 News St. Louis posted a couple of screencaps from a segment MLB Network aired about $100 million-plus contracts that have been signed. The list of “bad” contracts, unsurprisingly, is lengthier than the list of “good” contracts.

As Mike Gianella of Baseball Prospectus pointed out, it is problematic for a network owned by Major League Baseball to air a segment criticizing its employees for making too much seemingly unearned money. There’s a very clear conflict of interest, so one is certainly not getting a fair view of the situation. MLB, of course, can do what it wants with its network, but it can also be criticized. MLB Network would never air a similar segment in which it listed baseball’s “good” and “bad” owners and how much money they’ve undeservedly taken. Nor would MLB Network ever run a segment naming the hundreds of players who are not yet eligible for arbitration whose salaries are decided for them by their teams, often making the major league minimum ($545,000) or just above it. Similarly, MLB Network would also never think of airing a segment in which the pay of minor league players, many of whom make under $10,000 annually, is highlighted.

We’re now past the halfway point in January and many free agents still remain unsigned. It’s unprecedented. A few weeks ago, I looked just at the last handful of years and found that, typically, six or seven of the top 10 free agents signed by the new year. We’re still at two of 10 — same as a few weeks ago — and that’s only if you consider Carlos Santana a top-10 free agent, which is debatable. It’s a complex issue, but part of it certainly is the ubiquity of analytics in front offices, creating homogeneity in thinking. A consequence of that is everyone now being aware that big free agent contracts haven’t panned out well; it’s a topic of conversation that everyone can have and understand now. Back in 2010, I upset a lot of people by suggesting that Ryan Howard’s five-year, $125 million contract with the Phillies wouldn’t pan out well. Those people mostly cited home runs and RBI and got mad when I cited WAR and wOBA and defensive metrics. Now, many of those same people are wary of signing free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer and they now cite WAR, wOBA, and the various defensive metrics.

The public’s hyper-sensitivity to the viability of long-term free agent contracts — thanks in part to segments like the aforementioned — is a really bad trend if you’re a player, agent, or just care about labor in general. The tables have become very much tilted in favor of ownership over labor over the last decade and a half. Nathaniel Grow of FanGraphs pointed out in March 2015 that the players’ share of total league revenues peaked in 2002 at 56 percent, but declined all the way to 38 percent in 2014. The current trend of teams signing their talented players to long-term contract extensions before or during their years of arbitration eligibility — before they have real leverage — as well as teams abstaining from signing free agents will only serve to send that percentage further down.

Craig has written at great length about the rather serious problem the MLBPA has on its hands. Solving this problem won’t be easy and may require the threat of a strike, or actually striking. As Craig mentioned, that would mean getting the players all on the same page on this issue, which would require some work. MLB hasn’t dealt with a strike since 1994 and it’s believed that it caused a serious decline in interest among fans, so it’s certainly something that would get the owners’ attention. The MLBPA may also need to consider replacing union head Tony Clark with someone with a serious labor background. Among the issues the union could focus on during negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement: abolishing the draft and getting rid of the arbitration system. One thing is for sure: the players are not in a good spot now, especially when the league has its own network on which it propagandizes against them.