Progress being made in labor negotiations; deal could be done this week

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Jayson Stark and others are hearing this afternoon that some serious progress has been made in labor negotiations over the new collective bargaining agreement. There’s a decent chance that a deal could be done this week, in fact, though Stark has other sources telling him that’s a 50/50 proposition.

Of course, my counterparts at ProBasketballTalk would probably kill for 50/50 all season, let alone this week, so let us not be pessimistic.

The holdup — which is no surprise if you’ve read our stuff on the CBA for the past couple of years — is the owners’ insistence on hard slotting for draft picks.  The progress seems to be coming in the from of some mechanism other than a hard draftee bonus cap that nonetheless depresses signing bonuses.

All of which seems strange to me as a sticking point. I mean, I know why the union is holding firm: it’s a principle thing on never allowing salary caps of any kind anywhere.  The owners, though? Draftee bonuses get tons of headlines but they represent such a small fraction of overall payroll. Like a really, really small amount. The top pick gets what a slightly above average veteran second baseman gets over a couple of years. Seems like a strange place to make a stand.

But it doesn’t sound like the hardest stand, and it seems like labor peace is close at hand.

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

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A not-insignificant amount of the Dodgers’ success in recent years has to do with the emergence of Justin Turner. In his first five seasons with the Orioles and Mets, he was a forgettable infielder who had versatility, but no power. The Mets non-tendered him after the 2013 season, a move they now really regret.

In four regular seasons since, as a Dodger, Turner has hit an aggregate .303/.378/.502. His 162-game averages over those four seasons: 23 home runs, 36 doubles, 83 RBI, 80 runs scored. And he’s also a pretty good third baseman, it turns out. The Dodgers have averaged 95 wins per season over the past four years.

Turner, 32, has gotten better and better with each passing year. This year, he drew more walks (59) than strikeouts (56), a club only five other players (min. 300 PA) belonged to, and he trailed only Joey Votto (1.61) in BB/K ratio (1.05). He zoomed past his previous career-high in OPS, finishing at .945. His .415 on-base percentage was fourth-best in baseball. His batting average was fifth-best and only nine points behind NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Turner has been even better in the postseason. He exemplified that with his walk-off home run to win Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Overall, entering Wednesday night’s action, he was batting .363/.474/.613 in 97 postseason plate appearances. In Game 4, he went 2-for-2 with two walks, a single, and a solo home run. That increases his postseason slash line to .378/.495/.659, now across 101 plate appearances. That’s a 1.154 OPS. The career-high regular season OPS for future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was 1.114 in 2008, when he won his third career MVP Award. Statistically, in the postseason, Turner hits slightly better than Pujols did in the prime of his career. Of course, we should adjust for leagues and parks and all that, but to even be in that neighborhood is incredible.

In the age of stats, the concept of “clutch” has rightfully eroded. We don’t really allow players to ascend to godlike levels anymore like the way we did Derek Jeter, for instance. (Jeter’s career OPS in the playoffs, by the way, was a comparatively pitiful .838.) Turner isn’t clutch; he’s just a damn good hitter whose careful approach at the plate has allowed him to shine in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t imagine life without him.