Bartolo Colon aiming to put himself in select company

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Before a public health disaster at O.co Coliseum sent players scrambling, Athletics starter Bartolo Colon pitched well against the Mariners, holding the opposition to two runs over seven innings on eight hits and zero walks. Colon lowered his ERA to 2.89 on the season and improved to 9-2.

If, somehow, Colon manages to keep his ERA below 3.00 by the end of the season (Sabermetric statistics indicate he won’t), he would join a select group of pitchers to toss enough innings to qualify for the ERA title and post a sub-3.00 ERA at the age of 40 or older. The last to do it was Roger Clemens in 2005, who put up a 1.87 ERA in 211.1 innings with the Astros. Both Clemens and Randy Johnson accomplished the feat in 2004. Prior to those two, Nolan Ryan did it with the Rangers in 1991.

The full list:

Player Year ERA Age Tm Lg IP
Bartolo Colon 2013 2.92 40 OAK AL 83.1
Roger Clemens 2005 1.87 42 HOU NL 211.1
Randy Johnson 2004 2.60 40 ARI NL 245.2
Roger Clemens 2004 2.98 41 HOU NL 214.1
Nolan Ryan 1991 2.91 44 TEX AL 173.0
Rick Reuschel 1989 2.94 40 SFG NL 208.1
Nolan Ryan 1987 2.76 40 HOU NL 211.2
Warren Spahn 1963 2.60 42 MLN NL 259.2
Connie Marrero 1952 2.88 41 WSH AL 184.1
Johnny Niggeling 1944 2.32 40 WSH AL 206.0
Ted Lyons 1942 2.10 41 CHW AL 180.1
Jack Quinn 1928 2.90 44 PHA AL 211.1
Pete Alexander 1927 2.52 40 STL NL 268.0
Eddie Plank 1916 2.33 40 SLB AL 235.2
Cy Young 1910 2.53 43 CLE AL 163.1
Cy Young 1909 2.26 42 CLE AL 294.1
Cy Young 1908 1.26 41 BOS AL 299.0
Cy Young 1907 1.99 40 BOS AL 343.1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/16/2013.

MLB Network airs segment listing “good” and “bad” $100 million-plus contracts

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On Wednesday evening, Charlie Marlow of KTVI FOX 2 News St. Louis posted a couple of screencaps from a segment MLB Network aired about $100 million-plus contracts that have been signed. The list of “bad” contracts, unsurprisingly, is lengthier than the list of “good” contracts.

As Mike Gianella of Baseball Prospectus pointed out, it is problematic for a network owned by Major League Baseball to air a segment criticizing its employees for making too much seemingly unearned money. There’s a very clear conflict of interest, so one is certainly not getting a fair view of the situation. MLB, of course, can do what it wants with its network, but it can also be criticized. MLB Network would never air a similar segment in which it listed baseball’s “good” and “bad” owners and how much money they’ve undeservedly taken. Nor would MLB Network ever run a segment naming the hundreds of players who are not yet eligible for arbitration whose salaries are decided for them by their teams, often making the major league minimum ($545,000) or just above it. Similarly, MLB Network would also never think of airing a segment in which the pay of minor league players, many of whom make under $10,000 annually, is highlighted.

We’re now past the halfway point in January and many free agents still remain unsigned. It’s unprecedented. A few weeks ago, I looked just at the last handful of years and found that, typically, six or seven of the top 10 free agents signed by the new year. We’re still at two of 10 — same as a few weeks ago — and that’s only if you consider Carlos Santana a top-10 free agent, which is debatable. It’s a complex issue, but part of it certainly is the ubiquity of analytics in front offices, creating homogeneity in thinking. A consequence of that is everyone now being aware that big free agent contracts haven’t panned out well; it’s a topic of conversation that everyone can have and understand now. Back in 2010, I upset a lot of people by suggesting that Ryan Howard’s five-year, $125 million contract with the Phillies wouldn’t pan out well. Those people mostly cited home runs and RBI and got mad when I cited WAR and wOBA and defensive metrics. Now, many of those same people are wary of signing free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer and they now cite WAR, wOBA, and the various defensive metrics.

The public’s hyper-sensitivity to the viability of long-term free agent contracts — thanks in part to segments like the aforementioned — is a really bad trend if you’re a player, agent, or just care about labor in general. The tables have become very much tilted in favor of ownership over labor over the last decade and a half. Nathaniel Grow of FanGraphs pointed out in March 2015 that the players’ share of total league revenues peaked in 2002 at 56 percent, but declined all the way to 38 percent in 2014. The current trend of teams signing their talented players to long-term contract extensions before or during their years of arbitration eligibility — before they have real leverage — as well as teams abstaining from signing free agents will only serve to send that percentage further down.

Craig has written at great length about the rather serious problem the MLBPA has on its hands. Solving this problem won’t be easy and may require the threat of a strike, or actually striking. As Craig mentioned, that would mean getting the players all on the same page on this issue, which would require some work. MLB hasn’t dealt with a strike since 1994 and it’s believed that it caused a serious decline in interest among fans, so it’s certainly something that would get the owners’ attention. The MLBPA may also need to consider replacing union head Tony Clark with someone with a serious labor background. Among the issues the union could focus on during negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement: abolishing the draft and getting rid of the arbitration system. One thing is for sure: the players are not in a good spot now, especially when the league has its own network on which it propagandizes against them.