A pretty decent election night for the HardballTalk platform

80 Comments

Look, I realize this is tenuous at best, but every baseball newsmaker in the country was watching election stuff last night too rather than making baseball news so the pickings are slim this morning. Anyway:

  • An issue on the ballot in Wilmington, North Carolina that would have spent $37 million in public funds to build a baseball stadium resoundingly failed. The Atlanta Braves backed it and would have moved a single-A team there if it had succeeded. Worth noting that $37 million is less than the annual pay of the CEO of Liberty Media, which owns the Braves, so if they really wanted a ballpark there so bad they could have built it themselves;
  • Connie Mack IV, the great grandson of Hall of Fame owner-manager Connie Mack, was beat in the Florida senate race. This comes 20 years after he got into a bar fight with former big leaguer Ron Gant, by the way;
  • Ben Chandler, the grandson of former baseball commissioner Happy Chandler, lost his U.S. House seat in Kentucky.
  • A former baseball writer/sabermetrician correctly predicted the outcome of the presidential race in all 50 states despite (a) being derided as a pansy-looking stat geek who lives in his mother’s basement;  and (b) being marginalized as someone who is somehow unqualified to have insights on the subject about which he writes because he isn’t part of the journalist/pundit establishment which thinks data-free narratives and amorphous concepts like “momentum” and “gut feel” matter.

To sum up: a loss for a publicly funded ballpark, a loss for a guy who once punched a player I like in the crotch and a loss for the proudly innumerate.  Not a bad night. Not a bad night at all.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

Getty Images
2 Comments

Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.