The Monstrosity

Really now, what should the Marlins have done?

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Look, I’d be just as happy to kick Jeffrey Loria to the curb as the rest of you. I’m not going to slam him for all of the sliminess involving the Marlins ballpark deal because in those maneuverings, he’s basically just doing everything Bud Selig wants his owners to do. But, yeah, as far as MLB owners go, I think he’s the worst of the bunch.

That said, what should the Marlins be doing differently right now? They went for it, signing Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell to big contracts, and they came up way short. Should they have tried to re-sign Anibal Sanchez to a four-year, $48 million deal and gone forward with the same bunch of guys who couldn’t get it done this year? It wouldn’t have made a lot of sense.

I don’t see this as nearly as disgusting as the Marlins’ previous fire sales. They tried their damnedest with Hanley Ramirez and it just didn’t look like it was going to work out. Trading him wasn’t all about saving money — if the reports are correct, they offered to pay $20 million of what he was still owed in order to get better prospects for the A’s — it was also about trying to build a team in which the pieces fit better than they may look on paper.

And it’s not like the Marlins have done any real damage with their spending. None of the contracts they gave out last winter established a new market for players. Six years and $106 million for Reyes? Someone else would have gone that high had the Marlins not moved so quickly. Four years and $58 million for Buehrle? That’s the deal that looked the most out of line at the time, but then, he made $56 million over the previous four years. Three years and $27 million for Bell? Of course, it looks like a bust now, but he had the track record. Maybe no other team would have gone three years at that rate, but he would have received at least $18 million for two years elsewhere.

Honestly, I think the Marlins are going about things the right way now. Given his history of arm problems and his status as one of the top three free agent pitchers available this winter, Sanchez was going to be a very risky signing. And as great as Ramirez was a few years ago, I’m not convinced he ever would have turned it around in Miami.

But with those two gone, the Marlins are facing their toughest decision; whether to trade Josh Johnson. If they keep him, they’re not going to be in bad position going into 2013. A rotation that includes Johnson, Buehrle and the newly acquired Nathan Eovaldi, along with probably either Ricky Nolasco or Carlos Zambrano andwith two premium youngsters on the way in Jacob Turner and Jose Fernandez looks pretty good. One of the Marlins’ biggest issues this year is that neither Giancarlo Stanton nor Logan Morrison has ever been 100 percent. Stanton still has MVP potential, and Morrison could break through offensively and prove more useful defensively at first base. If they use their savings this week to bring in a premium outfielder and a quality third baseman, they could pose a threat in the NL East.

Or they could continue down this path and sell Johnson. As difficult as he’d be to replace in free agency, it’d make a run in 2013 far less likely. On the other hand, they’d have the chance to continue to add to a farm system that entered 2012 as one of the game’s weakest and maybe bolster their chances for 2014 and beyond. I like the idea of retaining Johnson; the NL East should be winnable next year and the Marlins need to try to keep people interested in coming to their new ballpark. Still, if the Rangers are willing to offer a Hanley replacement in Mike Olt and a quality pitching prospect, it might be hard to turn down.

White Sox ballpark to be renamed “Guaranteed Rate Field”

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 10:  General view as members of the Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins stand for the National Anthem before the White Sox home opener at U.S. Cellular Field on April 10, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Stadium naming rights have long been with us. They’re just a part of the sports landscape now. Some are pretty spiffy despite their corporate underwriting: “Great American Ballpark” could be the name of a sports facility even if it wasn’t also the name of an insurance company. “Progressive Field” could be the name of a field even an anti-corporate dude like Bernie Sanders could appreciate, at least if he’s sloppy with capitalization.

Others are clunky: “Globe Life Park in Arlington” seems to have both adjective and preposition problems, as if it were run through a foreign language translator and then back again to English. The joint in Oakland went by the name O.co Coliseum for a spell. That was for Overstock.com, but it didn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

At the risk of being snobbish, I think it’s fair to say that there are also higher and lower rent names as well. Banks, airlines and beer companies, however crassly commercial they are, seem a bit more respectable and venerable than, say, the fly-by-night dot com companies which named sports facilities for several years. “Chase” and “Coors” aren’t going anyplace. Those places are named after American institutions, even if they’re still corporate institutions. I’m pretty sure that circa 2001 half the stadiums and arenas in the country were named after businesses still being run out of tech incubators in nondescript office parks, their first biggest investment being the naming rights, their second biggest investment being the ping pong table in the break room.

The White Sox have long played in “U.S. Cellular Field.” This is pretty dicey as it is, given that that company is only a regional wireless provider. Fifth largest in the country. Certainly not A-list, and likely far more identifiable to more Americans as the name of a ballpark than the name of a going telecommunications concern, thereby sort of defeating the purpose of naming rights. Which must be why U.S. Cellular is getting out of the naming rights business, leaving the White Sox to find a different naming rights partner:

As the tenth largest mortgage company in the country, is there even any guarantee that Guaranteed Rate will be in business in 2030? If the choices are “it goes under,” “it gets purchased by a larger lender” and “it’s still there,” I am not putting money on the latter choice.

That aside, it’s just a goofy name for a ballpark. It’ll better lend itself to columnist jokes about bad guaranteed contracts for bust veterans than it will to spreading awareness of a financial services company. And don’t even get me started on the dissonance between the ballpark name and its tenant’s ticket price policies:

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Best work on that, guys.

UPDATE: LOL

 

Phillies’ Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz cleared waivers

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 10:  Ryan Howard #6 of the Philadelphia Phillies follows through on a 3 RBI double in the ninth inning off of Kenley Jansen #74 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on August 10,  2016 in Los Angeles, California. Phillies won 6-2.  (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
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ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports that Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard and catcher Carlos Ruiz have both cleared waivers, which means the club can attempt to trade either player unimpeded. Stark adds that two teams are mulling a pursuit of Ruiz, but Howard is “virtually certain” to stay with the Phillies.

Howard, 36, has unimpressive overall stats, as he’s carrying a .198/.252/.445 triple-slash line with 19 home runs and 43 RBI in 286 plate appearances. The Phillies have limited Howard to right-handed pitching by platooning him with Tommy Joseph.

Shockingly, Howard has been one of the best hitters of the second half, as Corinne Landrey explains at FanGraphs. Using wRC+, an all encompassing offensive statistic that sets 100 at average, only Joey Votto has been a more productive hitter since the All-Star break, owning a 226 wRC+ to Howard’s 191. Howard is trailed by Freddie Freeman (179), Adrian Gonzalez (149), and Paul Goldschmidt (140).

Howard is owed the remainder of his $25 million salary for the 2016 season as well as a $10 million buyout for ’17. Despite Howard’s productive second half and even if the Phillies were to cover all of the remaining money owed, there won’t be much of a market for an inconsistent 1B/DH in his mid-30’s who can’t field, can’t run, and can’t hit left-handed pitching.

Ruiz, 37, has had a solid season, batting .261/.368/.352 in 193 plate appearances. Like Howard, Ruiz has lost playing time at his primary position to a younger player — Cameron Rupp, in this case. Ruiz is owed the remainder of his $8.5 million salary and is under contract next season if his controlling club picks up his $4.5 million option. That option may make him even more attractive to interested clubs, as Ruiz is still a valuable catcher. He has accrued 1.3 Wins Above Replacement despite limited playing time and has a reputation for working well with his pitchers. A playoff-bound club could do a lot worse.