You may think you’re enjoying tonight’s game-163 between the Rays and Rangers. And it may seem exciting and everyone you know may be talking about it and the playoffs. But you’re just deluding yourself, everyone. Because the New York Times tells us that, once again, baseball is dying:
… baseball seems simply to have fallen out of the national conversation (unless the conversation happens to be about steroids, that is). The last time baseball felt front and center, culturally speaking, was the 1998 home-run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. And we all know how that turned out.
What happened — is happening — to our national pastime?
As usual, TV ratings are cited. Without reference to the fact that baseball’s TV life is an inherently locally fragmented life and that, locally speaking, it does well. And that the game is financially flush and attendance remains near historic highs. It’s just another lazy “baseball doesn’t hold people’s attention like it did back in the 50s” kind of worrying, ignoring the fact that it wasn’t until the 50s or, really, the 60s, that baseball had serious competition from other sports on a national scale. Of course baseball isn’t going to dominate now like it did then. Heck, the U.S. had 60% of the world’s GDP after World War II ended. It doesn’t now. Not because the United States is dying, but because the world is a different place.
Even in the context of TV alone you never see anything treated as myopically as baseball gets treated. I watched the “Breaking Bad” finale last night. So did a lot of other people. It consumed all manner of oxygen in pop culture circles. But its ratings, historically speaking, were low compared to even the most pedestrian TV events. Seriously: the “Alf” series finale in 1990 got better ratings than “Breaking Bad.” Yet does anyone claim TV is dying? Of course not. Indeed, many claim that we are in a golden age of television. They say this acknowledging that TV is very different now than it was in 1990. It’s more fragmented, and the numbers tell us less.
Why can’t this level of intelligence be applied to baseball? Why must baseball’s current popularity always be compared to its old, completely unsustainable and unrivaled popularity in the first half of the 20th century? Why does a publication as smart as the New York Times approach this issue in such a dumb way?
Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with right-handed reliever Javy Guerra. The deal includes an invitation to major league spring training.
Guerra was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball last July after testing positive for a drug of abuse. That suspension is now over, though Guerra is probably ticketed for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate to begin the 2016 season.
The 30-year-old made just three major league appearances in 2015 for the White Sox before getting outrighted off Chicago’s 40-man roster. He does own a 2.87 ERA in 150 1/3 career innings, but it has come with bouts of inconsistency and unreliability.
Maybe he can get everything going in the right direction with Anaheim.
As first reported by Bill Shanks of Fox Sports 1670, the Braves have signed right-handed reliever Carlos Torres to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.
Torres was waived by the Mets in January, somewhat surprisingly, and elected to become a free agent. The 33-year-old ultimately chose Atlanta, where he should have a good shot at an Opening Day roster out of spring training with the rapidly-rebuilding Braves.
Torres posted an ugly 4.68 ERA in 57 2/3 innings last season for the Mets, but he registered a gorgeous 3.06 ERA and 96 strikeouts across 97 innings in 2014.
If he gets off to a good start in 2016, he could become valuable trade bait.
Roberto Osuna became the youngest pitcher to ever play for the Blue Jays last season at age 20 and he rose to the challenge with a 2.58 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 75/16 K/BB ratio in 69 2/3 frames. Osuna eventually took over as Toronto’s closer, earning 20 regular-season saves and one in the American League Division Series — a five-out effort in Game 5 to close out the visiting Rangers.
But the Jays upgraded the back end of their bullpen this winter, acquiring Drew Storen from the Nationals in early January for speedy outfielder Ben Revere. Jesse Chavez was also brought to Toronto in a trade with the A’s.
Storen has more experience at closer than Osuna, and Storen struggled when the Nationals tried to put him in a setup role. Storen, in his final year of salary arbitration, also gets paid much more. He’s probably going to enter spring training as the favorite for the Jays’ ninth-inning gig, but there will be a competition …
Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca on Wednesday that he doesn’t expect the team to choose between Osuna or Storen until midway through spring training, if not later.
There’s been talk of making Osuna a starter, so add that wrinkle.
Storen, 28, boasts 95 career major league saves.
Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.
We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.
Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.
The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.
Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.