What can Major League Baseball do about ballplayer security in Venezuela?

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Major League Baseball and the Washington Nationals have issued a joint statement regarding the Wilson Ramos kidnapping:

“Our foremost concern is with Wilson Ramos and his family and our thoughts are with them at this time. Major League Baseball’s Department of Investigations is working with the appropriate authorities on this matter. Both Major League Baseball and the Washington Nationals have been instructed to make no further comment.”

I assume those instructions came from law enforcement. When someone is being held, it’s probably best to keep mum for fear of inspiring rash action by the kidnappers. This is all so horrifying.

Going beyond the specifics a bit, it’s inescapable that Major League Baseball is going to have to reevaluate its relationship with the Venezuelan baseball establishment.  As ESPN’s Jorge Arangure tweeted a while ago, MLB has a say in the playing conditions of the Venezuelan Winter League — things like turf and infield dirt and locker rooms and stuff — to ensure player safety.  What is unclear, however, is what level of involvement MLB has with respect to security, whether they should have such involvement, how much, how should it be effected and that sort of thing. Personal bodyguards?

Or, heck,  maybe we’re at a point where MLB should strongly consider or outright ban its players from playing in Venezuela altogether.  I don’t know. That’s probably a kneejerk reaction. Ramos is a Venezuelan native, after all, and while he was playing in the winter league, it’s just as likely that he could have been taken from his home even if he was merely resting all offseason. Any player in Venezuela is a potential target, whether he’s playing there or simply living in the town in which he was born.

But as Arangure notes, things are getting bad down there: players threatened, scouts mugged in the airport, etc. This was probably inevitable.  And, absent something being done, will certainly happen again.

Matt Harvey has a 13.19 ERA since coming back from the disabled list

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Matt Harvey‘s season was mostly a loss due to extended time on the disabled list. He’s been given a chance, however, to end the season strong and make a case for himself in the Mets’ future plans. Unfortunately, he has been unable to make that case. He was shelled again last night, and his late season opportunity has been a disaster.

Last night Harvey gave up seven runs on 12 hits and struck out only two batters in four innings against a Marlins team that, until facing him anyway, had been reeling. It was his fourth start since going on the shelf in mid-June and in those four starts he’s allowed 21 runs, all earned, on 32 hits in 14.2 innings, for an ERA of 13.19. In that time he’s struck out only eight batters while walking seven. His average fastball velocity, while ticking up slightly in each of his past four starts, is still below 95. Back when he was an ace he was consistently above that. His command has been terrible.

Injury is clearly the culprit. He had Tommy John surgery just as he was reaching his maximum level of dominance in 2013. While he came back strong in 2015, he was used pretty heavily for a guy with a brand new ligament. Last year he was felled by thoracic outlet syndrome and this year a stress injury to his shoulder. Any one of those ailments have ended pitchers’ careers and even among those who bounce back from them, many are diminished. To go through all three and remain dominant is practically unheard of.

Yet this is where Matt Harvey is. He’s 28. He’s still arbitration eligible, for a team that is, to put it politely, sensitive to large financial outlays. While his 4-5 start opportunity to end the year may very well have been seen as a chance to shop Harvey to another team, his trade value is at an all-time low. It would not be shocking if, on the basis of his recent ineffectiveness, the Mets considered non-tendering him this offseason, making him a free agent.

Someone would probably take a chance on him because famous names who once showed tremendous promise are often given multiple chances in the big leagues (See, Willis, Dontrelle). But at the moment, there is nothing in Harvey’s game to suggest that he is capable of taking advantage of such a chance. All one can hope is that an offseason of rest and conditioning will allow Harvey to reclaim at least a portion of his old form.

Noah Syndergaard is concerned about climate change

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Mets starter Noah Syndergaard has been on the disabled list for most of the season so it’s not like “sticking to baseball” is an option for him. The man has a lot of time on his hands. And, given that he’s from Texas, he is obviously paying attention to the flooding and destruction brought by Hurricane Harvey and its fellow storms in recent weeks.

Last night the self-described “Texan Republican” voiced concern over something a lot of Republicans don’t tend to talk about much openly: climate change and the Paris Agreement:

The existence of Karma and its alleged effects are above my pay grade, but the other part he’s talking about is the Trump Administration’s decision, announced at the beginning of June, to pull out of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement on climate change mitigation. Withdrawal from it was something Trump campaigned on in 2016 on the basis that “The Paris accord will undermine the economy,” and “put us at a permanent disadvantage.” The effective date for withdrawal is 2020, which Syndergaard presumably knows, thus the reference to Karma.

Trump and Syndergaard are certainly entitled to their views on all of that. It’s worth noting that climate experts and notable think tanks like the Brookings Institution strongly disagree with Trump’s position with respect to tradeoffs and impacts, both economic and environmental. At the same time it’s difficult to find much strong sentiment in favor of pulling out of the Paris Agreement outside of conservative political outlets, who tend to find themselves in the distinct minority when it comes to climate change policy.

I’m not sure what a poll of baseball players would reveal about their collective views on the matter, but we now have at least one datapoint.