In a column posted earlier, Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly wrote about Phillies GM Ruben Amaro using his team’s ten-game homestand leading into the All-Star break as the defining factor in the team’s “buyer” or “seller” status. After tonight’s opener, a victory against the Braves, they stand at 42-45, 7.5 games behind the first place Braves.
“This homestand is very important,” general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said before Friday night’s game. “We’ve got to play well to stay in contention, clearly. I think we’ll know a lot more about this team after this homestand.”
Could the makeup of the team change if the Phillies don’t have a good homestand?
“It could,” Amaro admitted. “It could. I hope we’re adding to this club rather than subtracting. That’s the goal, but as I always say and I’ve been saying, the players will dictate it.
“These next 10 days are big.”
The team’s biggest trade chips are second baseman Chase Utley (a free agent after the season) and starter Cliff Lee. Both have limited no-trade clauses and would have to waive them before moving to certain teams. Catcher Carlos Ruiz, third baseman Michael Young, outfielder Delmon Young, and starter Roy Halladay will become free agents after the season, making at least the first three attractive to contending teams in search of a second-half upgrade.
The Phillies’ Minor League system has enjoyed big seasons from pitcher Jesse Biddle and third baseman Maikel Franco. Along with recent first round draft pick J.P. Crawford, their system is in better shape now than it was to start the season. Still, the Phillies could use some more young, projectable talent as it enters a transition phase, an issue easily resolved over the next three and a half weeks.
Rays pitcher Chris Archer doesn’t see himself joining Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell‘s protest any time soon, Gabe Lacques of USA TODAY Sports reports. Archer said, “From the feedback that I’ve gotten from my teammates, I don’t think it would be the best thing to do for me, at this time. I agree with the message. I believe in equality.”
Archer continued, “I don’t want to offend anybody. No matter how you explain it or justify it, some people just can’t get past the military element of it and it’s not something I want to do, is ruffle my teammates’ feathers on my personal views that have nothing to do with baseball.”
Archer did express admiration for the way Maxwell handled his situation. The right-hander said, “The way he went about it was totally, I think, as respectful as possible, just letting everybody know that this doesn’t have anything to do with the military, first and foremost, noting that he has family members that are in the military. It’s a little bit tougher for baseball players to make that leap, but I think he was the right person to do it.”
Maxwell recently became the first baseball player to kneel as the national anthem was sung, a method of protest popularized by quarterback Colin Kaepernick. As Craig explained yesterday, baseball’s hierarchical culture has proven to be a strong deterrent for players to express their unpopular opinions. We can certainly see that in Archer’s justification. Archer was one of 62 African Americans on the Opening Day roster across 30 major league clubs (750 total players, 8.3%).
Last night the Trump Administration announced a new batch of restrictions on people traveling from foreign countries, following up on its previous travel ban on persons from six predominately Muslim countries. The latest restriction could potentially touch on Major League Baseball, however, as it includes Venezuela.
The restriction for Venezuela is far narrower than the others, only blocking visas for government officials on business or tourist travel from Venezuela. There has been considerable uncertainty about the scope and enforcement mechanisms for the previous travel ban, however, and the entire matter is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. With that uncertainty, many around Major League Baseball have asked how and if the league or the union might respond to an order that, while seemingly not facially impacting baseball personnel or their families, could impact them in practice.
To that end, Major League Baseball issued a statement this afternoon, saying “MLB is aware of the travel ban that involves Venezuela and we have contacted the appropriate government officials to confirm that it will not have an effect on our players traveling to the U.S.” It is not clear whether it has, in fact, received such confirmation or if its an ongoing dialog or what.
Again: the ban shouldn’t impact baseball players or their families based on its terms. But based on what we saw with the enforcement of the previous one — and based the unexpected consequences many major leaguers faced when international travel restrictions were tightened following the 9/11 attacks — it’s only prudent for Major League Baseball to make such inquiries and get whatever assurances it can well in advance of next February when players from Venezuela will be coming back to the United States for spring training.