Commissioner Hank Aaron would have instituted interleague play, tried to impose a salary cap

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Yesterday I linked that story in which Ernie Banks talked about Hank Aaron “applying” to be the commissioner of baseball once upon a time. Last night my friend Jess Lemont sent me a news article from 1983 with some details about it.  Seems that was when he announced his desire to replace Bowie Kuhn, who had just recently announced his resignation under pressure from the owners.

Obviously Peter Ueberroth got the job. He then proceeded to break the Collective Bargaining Agreement and the law with his collusion schemes. That ended up costing the players and the owners hundreds of millions of dollars which in turn led to double expansion in the 1990s to pay for it.  Good going, Pete!

What might have happened if Aaron had gotten the job instead? My theory: the owners either would not have engaged in any greedy illegal schemes or else Aaron would have resigned in protest had they tried.  Short of that, though there there’s at least some evidence to suggest that, if he were commissioner, he might not have taken too different a course than Bud Selig took when he got the job in the early 90s. From the article, Aaron’s response when asked what changes he might institute as commissioner:

“A major one is Interleague play. We are denying fans of both leagues the opportunity to see outstanding players and teams.”

He added that he’d push for a uniform DH rule, though he doesn’t say if he’d prefer all DH or no DH. He also pushed for two-team expansion to get the leagues up to 14 teams each. Oh, and there’s this:

Aaron, currently the Braves’ director of player development, said he is not anti-player, but he supports placing a salary cap on teams’ payrolls.

He goes on to talk about how the Twins can’t compete without a salary cap because Calvin Griffiths doesn’t have the money to sign free agents. Never mind that, within eight years and a couple of months the Twins will have won two World Series. Whatever the case, this is on all fours with Selig’s talking points from 1994 through around 2002 or so, which led to the most destructive work stoppage in the sports’ history and nearly led to another.

Notably, Selig — a longtime close friend of Aaron — led the search committee that ultimately settled on Ueberroth over Aaron. He also promised Aaron the chance to talk to the committee. Given that they remain friends I’m guessing that it wasn’t him, but rather, other owners who “laughed” at Aaron’s candidacy, as Banks said.

Neat stuff. Thanks Jess!

Yankees decide to keep Luis Severino on regular rest, give Twins potential Wild Card preview

AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
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Yankees starter Luis Severino pitched last Friday, putting him on track to start Wednesday’s series finale against the Twins. The Yankees mulled the possibility of pushing him back to start on Friday against the Blue Jays after an off day on Thursday so that the Twins wouldn’t get an early look at Severino in a potential AL Wild Card matchup.

However, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reports that Severino will indeed start on Wednesday against the Twins instead of Masahiro Tanaka. Hoch adds that Severino’s preference is to pitch on regular rest.

Severino, 23, has been the Yankees’ best starter this year and would be the most reliable arm in a must-win game. The right-hander is carrying a 13-6 record with a 2.93 ERA and a 218/49 K/BB ratio in 184 1/3 innings.

Entering Tuesday’s action, the Yankees hold a five-game lead over the Twins for the first Wild Card slot. The Angels hold a 1.5-game lead over the Angels for the second slot. The Yankees are also very much in the AL East race, trailing the Red Sox by only three games with 12 games left in the regular season.

You should probably pay attention to Matt Olson

Associated Press
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The claim of “East Coast Bias” is often hurled as an accusation of smug superiority, and it’s often met with denial, but it’s a thing. It’s not the exact thing the west coast people think it is — it’s not hate, it’s just a function of time zones and TV ratings — but there are certainly factors that cause stuff that happens in California to get shorter shrift than that which happens back east, where most of the national media people are.

One thing getting short shrift this year: the performance of Oakland A’s first baseman Matt Olson, which one has to imagine would be getting all kinds of press if he played back east.

Wait, we don’t have to imagine that at all. Because Olson is doing basically the exact same thing Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez did last year, and Sanchez got tons of headlines for it while I’m guessing most baseball fans who either (a) live outside of the Bay Area; or (b) aren’t big fantasy players, attuned to all of the latest callups, haven’t heard Olson’s name much if at all . Their respective lines:

  • Sanchez 2016: 53 games, .299/.376/.657, 20 HR, 168 OPS+
  • Olson 2017: 54 games, .267/.360/.663, 22 HR 168 OPS+

Sanchez’s rate stats were better but Olson is doing it in tougher parks for hitters. Obviously Sanchez is catching and Olson playing the corner, but a dude coming out of the minors to put up these kinds of numbers in the final two months of the season is rare. That it’s happening again, in almost the same way, is quite the thing.

Part of the reason for the discrepancy in press is that Sanchez was making a strong argument for the Rookie of the Year Award despite playing less than half the season whereas Olson has no shot given what Aaron Judge has done this year. But I’m guessing more of it is simply a function of Olson’s games starting at 10:30 or so back east and most of us not seeing what he does unless we look at the box scores the next day.

Still, Olson, the A’s first round pick from 2012, is not someone to sleep on. And, given that he hit 23 homers in 79 minor league games this year — the last guy to hit 20 in both the bigs and minors in the same year was Giancarlo Stanton — he’s not a fluke. Indeed, he’s one of the few rays of sunshine for the Oakland Athletics. And someone to whom us folks back east should pay a bit more attention.