I’ve said enough about the blahness of interleague play. Let’s be done with that. Because, as Tiffany noted at the end of the video, there are some redeeming matchups that generate some actual organic fan interest, and the top of that list this season is the Red Sox vs. the Cubs.
These two storied franchises square off for three in Fenway Park this weekend and, as Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com notes in an excellent column today, it’s a very different world now than it was in 1918, which was the last time they met. Oh, and Castrovince gets bonus points for being the first baseball writer I can recall ever dropping a reference to the Zimmerman Telegram. Totally underrated episode in world history and, if it hasn’t been used for this end a hundred times already, would be the great launching point for a good alternate history yarn.
But of course 1918 was a long time ago. The Cubs were not too far removed from an actual world championship, both them and the Red Sox were playing in shiny new ballparks that I’m sure the old timers called “gimmicky,” and Tim Wakefield was but a child. Today the stakes of a Red Sox-Cubs matchup are far lower than they were the last time they met.
On the line for Boston: a six-game winning streak that has allowed them to pull a game and a half of the Rays. The Cubs are only 19-23, but they just took two from a good Marlins team and a nice weekend — and a couple of breaks in the Reds and Cardinals respective series — can put them back in the thick of things in the NL Central.
So we have history. And we have novelty. And we have meaningful baseball. I’ll gladly set aside my interleague ennui on account of that.
The dust hasn’t quite settled after right-hander Dellin Betances‘ arbitration hearing with the Yankees on Saturday. The case was decided in the team’s favor, awarding Betances with a $3 million salary for the 2017 season instead of the $5 million he initially requested. Yankees’ president Randy Levine held a press conference to voice his outrage over the figure presented by Betances and his agency, saying it had “no bearings in reality” since Betances does not have the elite closer status required for a salary bump of that magnitude.
Needless to say, the comments caused some consternation within Betances’ camp. The reliever publicly addressed the outburst, telling the press that he was prepared to put his differences with the team aside until he heard what Levine had to say. Via MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch:
Players union executive Rick Shapiro and Betances’ agent, Jim Murray, also spoke out in the right-hander’s favor. Shapiro presented Betances’ case during the hearing on Saturday and called Levine’s comments “an absolute disgrace to the arbitration process and to all of Major League Baseball.” In a report from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, Shapiro added: “The only thing that has been unprecedented in the last 36 hours is that a club official, after winning a case, called a news conference to effectively gloat about his victory – that’s unprecedented.”
Murray spoke exclusively to Rosenthal, accusing the president of effectively bullying the 28-year-old during the arbitration process and claiming that Levine had both mispronounced Betances’ name throughout the hearing and blamed the reliever for “declining ticket sales and their lack of playoff history.” Like Betances, Murray said that the agency was ready to accept the arbiter’s decision and move on before Levine’s decision to air his grievances to the media. “The only person overreaching in this entire situation is Randy,” Murray told Rosenthal. “He might as well be an astronaut because nobody on earth would agree with what he is saying. Even the others in the room would disagree with him.”
Royals’ manager Ned Yost is shaking things up in 2017, starting with left fielder Alex Gordon. Yost told MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan that “every scenario is open,” and expects to utilize Gordon in right and center field this spring while he figures out where to position Jorge Soler and Brandon Moss.
Gordon, 33, hasn’t manned right field since a three-game experiment with the Royals back in 2010 and has yet to play center field during any regular season to date. The focus, however, isn’t on Gordon’s capabilities. Among the three outfielders, he carries the best defensive profile and appears to be the most versatile of the bunch.
According to Flanagan, Soler and Moss are average on defense and will continue working closely with Royals’ coach Rusty Kuntz as the season approaches. One arrangement could see Gordon in center field, flanked by Soler in right field and Moss in left, though Yost foresees Soler taking some reps at DH if his defensive chops aren’t up to snuff.
While Moss is prepared to see starts at either outfield corner, Yost appears to be set on keeping Soler in right field, at least for the time being. The club is hoping for a bounce-back season from the 24-year-old outfielder, who was acquired from the Cubs in December after batting a lackluster .238/.333/.436 and sustaining a slew of minor injuries throughout the 2016 season.