I long ago abandoned the notion that MLB.com was Pravda or something, which is what I first thought it would be when it started up. The reporting there is very good, and sometimes great. Many of the MLB.com beat writers are much better than the newspaper guys who cover the same beat. Many of the columnists are aces. If they made videos instantly and freely embeddable I’d probably make the place my home page, but let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good.
But once in a while something shows up over there that makes me scratch my head. A year or two ago there was a five-part “analysis” of some of the labor issues facing baseball. After two parts were published, each of which basically left out the players’ side of the story and seemed to be pretty credulous of the owners’ claims, it abruptly ended. I’ve always wondered if the reporter who wrote that — a good reporter, by the way — was getting boned by heavy-handed editors and simply said that he couldn’t go on with it. And while it was a rare incident, I have kept it in mind when I read things over there. You just gotta keep your guard up whenever an institution is reporting on itself, as is the case with all of the league websites.
My sensors went off again today with Hal Bodley’s latest column. It reflects on Bud Selig’s legacy in light of the creation of that Commissioner’s Archive I mentioned yesterday which bears his name, and it’s a surprisingly non-critical look at Selig as well as the other Commissioners whose work will be documented there.
According to Bodley, Selig “had to endure the 1994-95 players strike,” when in fact he and like-minded owners fomented it. He talks about Selig’s early struggles to gain acceptance as Commissioner without acknowledging that, for whatever good things Selig has done since then, he basically took over in a palace coup, which makes his transition problems pretty darn understandable.
Bodley likewise positively spins the work of other Commissioners like Uberroth (he slayed the cocaine dragon!), Kuhn (he and Charlie Finley were nutty!) and Landis (he restored order after the Black Sox Scandal!) without noting that each of them — especially Landis — were just as responsible for baseball’s problems during their reign than they were for advancing the game. Commissioners are active players with their own agendas and they always have been. They’re not independent, Solomonic leaders.
Do I expect Bodley to viciously rip the Commissioners in an MLB.com piece? No. But A tongue bath is just as inappropriate in my view.
Arguably the most memorable moment of the 2015 season came in the seventh inning of Game 5 of the ALDS between the Blue Jays and Rangers. The game was tied 3-3, but the Jays were threatening with runners on the corners and two outs. Jose Bautista launched a 1-1 Sam Dyson fastball for a no-doubt tie-breaking three-run home run that would send the Jays into the ALCS to face the eventual world champion Royals.
Bautista didn’t immediately run to first base after hitting the home run. He admired it, looked at Dyson, and then flipped his bat triumphantly. As far as bat flips go, it was a 10 out of 10. Yasiel Puig was proud.
The six-time All-Star admitted “I haven’t had to” pay for a meal in Toronto since that moment in the ALDS, as Jonah Birenbaum notes for The Score. Bautista also served as the assistant coach for musician Drake at the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game. As Drew noted earlier, Bautista had a pretty nice view at the NBA Slam Dunk Contest as well.
The Jays are hopeful to sign Bautista, 35, to a multi-year extension. In six seasons since breaking out with the club in 2010, he has hit .268/.390/.555 with 227 home runs and 582 RBI in 3,604 plate appearances. No one has hit more home runs since the start of the 2010 season, as Miguel Cabrera is the closest at 199. And only Cabrera, Adrian Gonzalez, Robinson Cano, and Albert Pujols have driven in more runs in that span of time. It’s easy to see why, despite his age, the Jays want to keep Bautista around a little while longer.
Dallas Keuchel‘s agent Darek Braunecker told MLB Network Radio in early January that he had not engaged in any long-term contract negotiations with the Astros’ front office. Two weeks later, the sides reached a one-year, $7.25 million agreement, avoiding a salary arbitration hearing. So was a bigger financial commitment ever discussed?
Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle has the answer, writing in his offseason review that the “Astros and Keuchel have had substantial talks about extensions [this winter] … but to no avail.”
Keuchel carries all the leverage in the world after winning the 2015 American League Cy Young Award with a 2.48 ERA, 1.017 WHIP, and 216/51 K/BB ratio in 232 innings. He also made three appearances in the postseason to a 2.57 ERA in 14 frames.
Keuchel’s $7.25 million salary for 2016 will be a record for a player in his first year of arbitration eligibility. Locking up some of his free agent years (2019, 2020, 2021, etc.) would likely take a commitment of $120 million or more.
Houston has the 28-year-old left-hander under contractual control through 2018, and it sounds like the plan is to go season-to-season with his salaries.
He’ll remain a huge value to a good-looking Astros team.
Yadier Molina underwent surgery to repair a ligament tear in his right thumb shortly after the Cardinals were eliminated from the NLDS by the Cubs, and then he needed a followup procedure two months later.
It’s been an offseason of rest and rehab for the seven-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glover, though he’s about ready to ramp up the intensity of workouts with the beginning of spring training approaching …
Brayan Pena was signed to a two-year, $5 million free agent contract this winter to provide more reliable depth behind the plate. He’ll be the Cardinals’ starter at catcher come Opening Day if Yadi isn’t quite ready.
Molina started a whopping 131 games behind the plate in 2015.
You’ve heard the stories by now. Jose Fernandez does not get along with Marlins management and is doubtful to sign a long-term contract with the team.
There’s still time for those relationships to be repaired — Fernandez can’t become a free agent until after the 2018 season — but we also have a monetary issue at play.
Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes Sunday that the Marlins are “under the impression” Fernandez and his representatives want $30 million per year on a long-term deal, a figure the Marlins “have no plans to meet.”
If the Marlins won’t pay, Fernandez and his reps will seek that number when the ace right-hander reaches free agency. That could be the same offseason Bryce Harper tries for $500 million.
A friend of Fernandez told Jackson that the 23-year-old native of Cuba was upset about some of the trades the Marlins made last summer and the removal of pitching coach Chuck Hernandez. You probably heard talk of Miami shopping Fernandez this winter, but the asking price was predictably sky-high.
Fernandez has been limited to 19 starts over the last two years because of Tommy John surgery and a biceps injury, but he boasts a stellar 2.40 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 10.5 K/9 in 289 career major league frames. He will make $2.8 million in 2016 and carries two more years of arbitration eligibility.
If he can put together a run of 30-start, 200-inning seasons, Fernandez will get that $30 million per year and probably much more.