Mat Latos

Reds still hold the advantage in winner-take-all Game 5

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Momentum, if such a thing exists in baseball, favors the Giants. Thursday’s matchup, Matt Cain vs. Mat Latos, would likewise seem to favor the Giants. And yet the Reds are still the better bet to win Thursday’s series-ending Game 5.

– The Reds have home-field advantage. It didn’t count for much the last two days, but the Reds were tied for the NL’s best record at home (50-31) this season.

– Recent history suggests the Reds have Cain’s number. Including Saturday’s Game 1, in which the Giants ace allowed three runs in five innings, Cain is 0-3 with a 5.50 ERA and six homers surrendered in 18 innings against the Reds this year. Two of those three starts were in San Francisco, too. Overall, Cain was far better at home this year (2.03 ERA, seven homers allowed in 111 IP) than on the road (3.56 ERA, 14 homers allowed in 109 IP).

– Latos is pitching even better than Cain at the moment. He had a 2.41 ERA over the final two months of the regular season. Plus, he’s dominated the Giants. He was 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA in two starts during the season. Pitching in relief of the injured Johnny Cueto, he allowed one run over four innings in relief in the Game 1 victory.

– Even though the Reds’ No. 1 starter (Cuet0) faced two batters in Game 1 and their hottest starter going into the series (Latos) hasn’t started at all, the Reds have outscored the Giants 18-12 in the NLDS. They’ve been the better team.

– Since Wednesday’s game wasn’t close, the key relievers on both teams will be rested for Game 5. That favors the Reds, given that Aroldis Chapman and Sean Marshall are a bit stronger than the Giants’ late-game committee.

– The Reds also have Bronson Arroyo lurking if something truly unexpected happens. It’s doubtful Dusty Baker will be looking to go to him, but he was awesome in Game 2 and he’s actually been quite successful on three days’ rest in his career, going 3-1 with a 3.19 ERA in eight starts.

Of course, just about anything can happen in an all-hands-on-deck game, and things will get very interesting if Latos happens to struggle early. I like the Reds in this one, but given that I preferred the Giants a week ago, what do I know?

Are the current Collective Bargaining Agreement talks too friendly?

Scott Boras
Associated Press
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Baseball’s current collective bargaining agreement expires on December 1. There have been comments from both commissioner Rob Manfred and MLBPA director Tony Clark suggesting that progress was being made and there has been no suggestion thus far that there are sticking points which could lead to a work stoppage. Heck, even a few acrimonious rounds of negotiation before it’s all said and done seem unlikely.

That’s good news for fans, but it’s not making certain agents happy. Smooth labor sailing likely means a new CBA that is pretty close in most terms to the current CBA. Agents — especially agents who represent veterans — don’t like that because they believe that the current rules regarding free agency, draft pick compensation, luxury taxes and qualifying offers penalize the players they represent. Today Ken Rosenthal has a story about that anger, talking to both anonymous agents and super agent Scott Boras about how baseball’s middle class is disappearing and baseball’s median salary goes lower and lower.

Major League Baseball counters that while the median salary is going down, the average salary is going up. And baseball is right about that. But it’s also the case that the average is propped up by a handful of superstar contracts while the somewhat less lucrative but still nice mid-level contracts for mid-level veterans are disappearing. The financial landscape of the game is morphing into one with a small upper class with nine-figure contracts and a large lower class of pre-arbitration players and veterans on shorter, smaller deals, squeezing the old veteran middle class out of existence.

Sound familiar?

Baseball, of course, is not the American economy. There are some good reasons why those mid-level contracts have gone away. Specifically, because they tended not to be very good deals for the teams who signed them. At the same time, baseball is far better able to tweak its rules to spread the wealth than the U.S. government can, and those rules — like the qualifying offer and luxury tax — have had a harsh impact on a lot of players.

There’s not a clear answer on what the best system is for free agents, draft pick compensation, draft bonus pools and the like actually is. I tend to favor the fewest restrictions on a player’s right to negotiate freely with teams, but I’ll also acknowledge that there is a less than perfect market at play in baseball given revenue disparities between teams and the need to maximize, within reason, competitive balance. It’s not an easy trick even before you get into the B.S. team owners tend to spew about pocketbook matters.

But it’s also the case that an all-too-friendly relationship between the union and the league — one in which a given set of rules is rubberstamped from CBA to CBA — is not an ideal situation. No one wants acrimony, but the fact is that the players and the union are slicing up a pie. If the person you’re slicing up a pie with is all-too-happy to keep slicing it the same way, it probably means that they’re getting a bigger piece than you. Maybe, if it’s your job to grab a bigger piece?

The agents Rosenthal talked to, who represent a good chunk of MLBPA membership, certainly think the union should be doing some more grabbing. I wonder if their clients do too.

Four baseballs autographed by Jose Fernandez wash ashore

MIAMI, FL - AUGUST 03: Jose Fernandez #16 of the Miami Marlins looks on during a game against the New York Mets at Marlins Park on August 3, 2015 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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This is just . . . ugh.

WSVN-TV in Miami reports that a black bag containing Jose Fernandez’s checkbook and four baseballs signed by him washed ashore on Miami Beach. Probably a bag to keep stuff dry while out on the water.

The bag was given to a lifeguard. Hopefully the bag finds its way back to Fernandez’s family quickly.