Detroit Tigers Introduce Prince Fielder.

Is the Prince Fielder signing evidence of a “financial disconnect?”

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Over at ESPN, columnist LZ Granderson — a Tigers fan — wonders what Prince Fielder signing for $214 million means for a cash-strapped burg like Detroit:

There is absolutely nothing wrong with Fielder’s contract. And again I am excited he is on the team and feel fortunate we have an owner who doesn’t just say he’s dedicated to winning but actually opens his wallet for the Tigers and his other franchise, the Detroit Red Wings, to prove it. The problem is the environment in which a $214 million contract in today’s wider economic landscape is even possible. Why are we so crazy about our favorite teams that the demand for better schools or roads takes a backseat by fiscal comparison?

I know how many of the responses are going to go: many of you will defend the Tigers’ right as a private business to spend whatever they spend, note that supply and demand is what it is and conclude by noting that this state of affairs mandates that entertainers and athletes get big dollars while school teachers do not and thus people like Granderson should STFU and deal.

Guess what?  I agree!  At least when we’re limiting the conversation to the ethics of sports salaries and the acts of sports franchises. Fielder should get whatever he can get. He’s the value there. He’s the labor and he should be compensated for it fairly, especially given the kind of revenue the bosses make off of him. And the bosses don’t just have the right to pay him that much. Given how things are set up, they almost have the responsibility to do so to reward the fans, support the other players and carry out the mission of the franchise.

But I’m not reading Granderson’s column as some simple “jocks make too much when teachers make so little” rant.  He clearly understands the economic dynamics that lead to that. Says so right in the column. He understands why they’re valued the way they are, but he’s asking why we value them like that in the first place.  Granderson is thinking bigger here than just sports.

I think that way fairly often myself. About 97% of the time I accept the world in which sports operates and relates to society for what it is because, hell, it’s not like we can change anything about it.  But that 3% can gnaw at a person. Granderson asks “what’s wrong with us?”  I think that a lot too.

One other thing Granderson and I have in common here: he recognizes his own disconnect. He makes a living writing about sports and thus it’s great for him that people value it or else ESPN wouldn’t find it worth its while to give him a paycheck.  Same goes for me.  If baseball players made what teachers make — and vice-versa — and media corporations made no money on it at all, I’d be slinging legal briefs (and if society valued good things more than it does, I probably would be doing way less of that).

It’s not that way. Never will be. I’m happy Prince Fielder got paid.  I don’t think we should storm buildings or occupy anything in protest of this.

But sometimes it is useful and even necessary to remember the value system that has led to the current state of humankind and ask if we’re doing the best we can do as a species. I’m Not sure we’d like the answer to that most of the time, but if we stop asking it, what’s the friggin’ point?

Dusty Baker calls the Nationals “a baby making team.” Whatever that means.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 31: Manager Dusty Baker #12 of the Washington Nationals looks on before the start of a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on August 31, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
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When the Nationals fired Matt Williams a year ago, it might’ve been a safe assumption that they were going to go with that new breed of young, handsome recently-retired player-turned-manager who, despite a lack of experience, allegedly knows how to deal with modern players better and knows how to handle a clubhouse. Those assumptions have proved largely off with these guys — Williams was a disaster, Matheny wins despite himself and Ausmus looks like he’s perpetually on the verge of a breakdown — but that’s the all the rage these days anyway.

Instead, the Nats hired Dusty Baker. Though Baker had tremendous success as a manager everywhere he went, he was maligned by some for some pitcher handling stuff in Chicago (which said pitchers have long denied was an issue, but let’s let that lie). He was also, more generally, thought of as a “retread.” Which is what people who prefer younger folks for jobs tend to call older people, even if the older people know what they’re doing.

And yes, I will cop to thinking about managers that way a lot over the years, so I’m not absolving myself at all here, even if I was pretty OK with the Dusty Baker hiring. I’ve evolved on this point. In no small part because of how Dusty Baker has done in Washington. Flash forward a year, the Nats are division champions and Baker may be a top candidate for Manager of the Year. That, in and of itself, should show you how wrong the haters were.

But if it doesn’t, this sure should:

I have no earthly idea what that means and Castillo gives no further context. All I know is that it sounds cool as hell and of any current manager, only Dusty Baker could say that and pull it off.

Because he’s Dusty Baker and has nothing to prove to you. And if you don’t like it, shoot, he’ll just go back home to his winery or whatever and live out the rest of his days being cooler than you.

Who should win the manager of the year awards? Who Will?

PHOENIX, AZ - JULY 15:  Manager Dave Roberts #30 of the Los Angeles Dodgers looks on from the dougout during the seventh inning of a MLB game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on July 15, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
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With the regular season ending on Sunday and most of the playoff spots locked up, there’s really only one big thing left to argue about: postseason awards. So let’s spend some time looking at who should win each of the four major awards and who will win them. Which are often totally different things. Next up: The Manager of the Year Awards

The Manager of the Year Award is pretty dumb. Numbers aren’t everything in any award, but there are literally zero numbers that gauge a manager’s effectiveness or performance apart from wins and losses and wins and losses are mostly a function of talent on the roster, for which the manager is not responsible. This is not to say managers aren’t important. Of course they are! They make important decisions every day and keep the clubhouse running smoothly and that’s important. It just so happens to be unquantifiable and subject to anecdote and projection.

For instance, Matt Williams won the Manager of the Year Award with he Nationals in 2014. He was run out of town on a rail in 2015. Did he suddenly forget how to manage? Or did he never really know but was blessed with good fortune and better players the year before?

Joe Maddon won the award last year, in large part because the Cubs outperformed expectations. This year the Cubs are the best team around. But everyone expected them to be because of all that talent! Does that mean that Maddon’s 2015 award was fraudulent? The product of poor expectations assessment on behalf of the media? At the same time, there’s a pretty strong vibe that he won’t win it this year, so are we to say that winning between 101 and 104 games is . . . a worse job than last year? Don’t even get me started on arguments that Bruce Bochy somehow became a lesser manager this year, because I suspect — and bear with me on this — something else is going on with the Giants.

Manager of the Year has always been about narratives and expectations of people on the outside looking in who nonetheless purport to know how the manager performed his job in the most inside baseball kinds of ways. It’s poppycock. It may as well be the Golden Globes.

So, rather than just break it down the way we did the other awards, let’s just thrown this out like the big mess that it is:

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Bill and Ashley say that Terry Francona should be the American League Manager of the Year. Bill’s reasoning: “The Indians went essentially the whole year without Michael Brantley and their pitching staff imploded in September. Francona deserves a lot of credit for holding the team together.”

Hey, works for me too! Let’s give it to Tito. Even if we can tell a compelling story about John Farrell and the Red Sox and even if Jeff Banister, the reigning AL Manager of the Year, improved by anywhere from 6-9 games in the standings this year over last in a division most people thought the Astros would win.

 

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Bill says Dusty Baker, arguing that “The Nationals had all kinds of bullpen issues and Stephen Strasburg wasn’t able to pitch the final two months of the season. They could’ve easily folded but they didn’t, and I think that’s a reflection on Baker.”

Ashley says Dave Roberts. She didn’t give me her reasoning, but I bet she’d agree with me if I said “The Nationals Dodgers had all kinds of bullpen rotation issues and Stephen Strasburg Clayton Kershaw wasn’t able to pitch for two months of the season. They could’ve easily folded but they didn’t, and I think that’s a reflection on Baker Roberts.” You could throw in some stuff about how Yasiel Puig was managed by Roberts (i.e. better, though his come-to-Jesus demotion may have been the front office’s doing). I think I’ll go with Roberts, simply because I feel like it’d be bad precedent to give it to a Nationals manager every even numbered year simply because that dang franchise is inconsistent.

What about the Cubs? Here’s Bill again:

I considered Joe Maddon of the Cubs, but the team was so good I think the Cubs could’ve had a kitten manage the team to a playoff berth.

I say we give it to a kitten. Kittens are the best.