MLBPA issues statement about the Arizona immigration law and All-Star Game boycotts

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We touched on Sheriff Joe a few minutes ago. In other All-Star Game/illegal immigration news, there was a lot of talk last year about potential player boycotts and the like as a result of Arizona’s tough immigration law, S.B. 1070. That has largely subsided, partially because parts of the bill are currently in legal limbo, but also because, let’s face it, most modern baseball players aren’t really willing to create a giant poopstorm over a political issue.

Personally I would respect the living hell out of a ballplayer who took a principled stand like that, but I can’t say that I blame them for not doing it. We as a society don’t reward celebrities and athletes when they stray from their areas of core competency, and if Adrian Gonzalez or someone did loudly boycott the All-Star Game, they’d quickly find themselves in a dreadful fight that no healthy and sane person would want to be the focus of.

Acknowledging that, Mike Weiner of the player’s union released a statement today which will in all likelihood be the last word on the matter. As is usually the case with Weiner, it’s reasonable and temperate:

“On April 30, 2010, the MLBPA expressed publicly its opposition to SB 1070, and that position remains unchanged.  We stated then that, if SB 1070 as written went into effect, we would consider additional measures to protect the interests of our members.  SB 1070 is not in effect and key portions of the law have been judged unlawful by the federal courts.  Under all the circumstances, we have not asked players to refrain from participating in any All-Star activities.

“The All-Star Game is an opportunity to celebrate the best that Major League Baseball has to offer.  Without question, the best players are here.  Each All-Star squad, as with each of the 30 Major League teams, is populated by the best players from baseball-playing countries around the globe.

“But the All Star Game is a chance to celebrate even more than that.  It is a chance to celebrate Major League Baseball’s unprejudiced commitment to excellence – a commitment, undiminished for decades, to judge solely on the basis of individual ability and achievement.  It is a chance to celebrate how much the game has been enriched by the contributions of players of different races, ethnicities and nationalities.  It’s a chance to celebrate — to marvel, actually — at the example set every time a Major League team takes the field: that of a true team, composed of players of widely different backgrounds, working together towards a common goal.

“Our nation continues to wrestle with serious issues regarding immigration, prejudice and the protection of individual liberties.  Those matters will not be resolved at Chase Field, nor on any baseball diamond; instead they will be addressed in Congress and in statehouses and in courts by those charged to find the right balance among the competing and sincerely held positions brought to the debate.  Meanwhile, at the All Star Game, Major League Baseball makes good on its promise to field the best in the world in the only way it can — by allowing the world to play.  That truly is an occasion to celebrate and, perhaps, from which we all can learn.”

James Paxton will “nerd out big-time” to stay healthy next year

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To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.

So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”

When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.

Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.