Brian McCann’s free agency is everything wonderful/terrible about free agency

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Free agents can sign anywhere as of midnight last night, and one of the biggest free agents on the market is Brian McCann. And for good reason: he’s a good catcher who can hit a ton. What’s not to like? Many teams, including the Yankees, Red Sox and Rangers will be after him. He’s going to make bank.

Of course his free agency is also going to bring two free agency memes that I have grown to love in some twisted way. The first one is on display in this Daily News story:

McCann’s agent, B.B. Abbott, said Monday that the Bronx is “certainly a place that is on Brian’s radar. How could it not be? You’ve got an historic franchise and a great park, knowledgeable fans and a chance to win, which is what every guy plays the game for. From Brian’s standpoint, it would be an attractive place to listen to.”

That’s actually pretty strong as far as these sorts of endorsements go, likely because Abbott knows that the Yankees will be bidders. But it’s also a species of public comment about free agents we often see this time of year, and which often leads to fan and talk radio craziness.

In essence, it’s a player or his agent saying true, non-controversial things about a city because, really, what else does one say? Yet whenever someone says something fairly benign like this, it’s taken as some strong signal that the player is seriously, seriously interested. Indeed, anything short of “[city] is a cesspool” launches free agent chatter about this player being “linked” to that city. It’s right up there with “[Player X] will sign with [Team Y] because he grew up nearby.” Which rarely happens with top free agents.

By the way: Scott Boras can be annoying, but he’s also pretty brilliant. He was aware of this meme years ago, which is why he can usually be found saying things about his clients and certain cities. Remember when Johnny Damon liked calamari? That was to get Detroit people chattering and, hopefully, to make Detroit’s front office feel fan pressure.  If Abbott is wise, he’ll come out tomorrow talking about how much McCann likes chowder. The good kind, that is. Not that tomato-y crap.

The other thing I bet we’ll see at the end of McCann’s free agency is The Great Fan Turn. You know what I’m talking about: when a player who is loathed for some reason is suddenly seen in an entirely new light the moment he appears in his new team’s uniform. We’ll see it with McCann, I can bet you a million bucks. The same fans who made fun of McCann’s antics and yelling during the Carlos Gomez and Jose Fernandez home runs — the people who mocked him and forwarded Photoshops of McCann yelling during great moments in history — will suddenly come around to McCann’s “passion.” They’ll have some newfound perspective about it all, and will come to appreciate his fire.

And, of course, Braves fans who got all bent out of shape when people criticized McCann will begin to proclaim that they always really kinda hated that guy.

Which is fine. It’s sports and that’s how sports and sports fans roll. We’re irrational and we root for laundry and we can be talked into almost anything and anyone if they’re on our team. We may pretend we’re more objective about it — the folks who see McCann in a new light after he signs his contract will mostly claim that they’ve thought about it more rather than felt something visceral once he put on their teams cap at a press conference —  but after writing about sports and interacting with sports fans for seven years, the thing I am the most confident of is that the single most predictive piece of data for one’s position on any given issue in sports is what team one roots for.

So bring on the free agent rumors and signings. And bring on the fan reactions. All of it ads to the fun and chaos of the hot stove season.

Follow @craigcalcaterra

Must-Click Link: Where’s Timmy?

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Tim Lincecum last pitched last season for the Angels and he did not pitch well. Over the winter and into the spring there were reports that he was working out at a facility somewhere in Arizona with an aim toward trying to latch on to another team. He didn’t. And, given how his velocity and effectiveness had nosedived over the previous few seasons, it was probably unrealistic to think he’d make it back to the bigs.

But now, as Daniel Brown of the Mercury News reports, he seems to simply be gone.

He’s not missing in any legal sense — his friends and family know where he is — but he’s out of the public eye in a way that most players at the end of their careers or the beginning of their retirements usually aren’t. He’s not been hanging around his old club, even though the Giants say they’d love to honor him and give him a job if and when he announces his retirement. He’s not hanging around his high school or college alma maters even though he makes his home in Seattle, where they are. He’s gone from being one of the most identifiable and conspicuous presences in baseball to having disappeared from the public eye.

Brown’s story is an excellent one, touching on Lincecum’s professional rise and professional fall, as well as the personality traits that may suggest why he’s not eager to be making headlines or posing for pictures. A good read.

 

Major League Baseball claims it will “redouble its efforts” on expanded netting

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Yesterday, during the Minnesota Twins-New York Yankees game at Yankee Stadium, a young girl was injured after a foul ball flew off the bat of Todd Frazier and into the stands along the third base line where she was sitting. In some parks that ball would be stopped because of netting down the line.

There was no netting that far down the line in Yankee Stadium, because (a) Major League Baseball does not require it; and (b) the Yankees have still not committed to expanding it like other teams have.

A few minutes ago, Commissioner Rob Manfred released a statement about the injury:

I’m not sure how baseball can “redouble” its efforts given that its efforts thus far have been to completely delegate the responsibility of expanded netting to the 30 clubs.

This delegation came in December of 2015 when Major League Baseball released its recommendation — not its mandate — that teams provide expanded netting. Teams were “encouraged” to shield the seats between the near ends of both dugouts (i.e., the ends of the dugouts located closest to home plate) and within 70 feet of home plate with protective netting or other safety materials of the clubs’ choice. At the same time, they launched “fan education” guidelines about where to sit and whether or not they’ll be protected.

While these recommendations were better than nothing, they also seemed far more geared toward diminishing the liability of the league and its clubs than actively protecting fans from screaming projectiles.

The stuff about fan education was obviously a creature of an assumption-of-the-risk calculus. It was, essentially, a disclaimer of the “don’t say we didn’t warn you” variety and, as such, was aimed more at shielding baseball from liability over batted ball or bat-shard injuries than at directly shielding fans from such injuries. Even the netting recommendation could be construed as MLB insulating itself from being joined in a lawsuit at a later date if a club were to get sued over a fan injury. A way of saying “hey, we told the Yankees [or whoever] that they should do more, please don’t sue us too.”

It’s one thing to do all of that and walk away, as the league seemed content to do in 2015. It’s another thing to walk back today, as Manfred is, claiming that the league will “redouble” such transparently ineffective efforts. It’s frankly insulting. Yet this is baseball’s approach to the matter. The league is, for whatever reason, afraid to tell its clubs that it has to do something that is so clearly prudent. It, apparently, is waiting for a someone to be killed by a foul ball before mandating netting rather than meekly suggesting it.

Oh, I’m sorry. Waiting for someone else to be killed. Because it has happened before. Absent prudent protections it will, inevitably, happen again.

While Major League Baseball may have been safe from being held responsible for such things due to its ticket disclaimers and assumption of the risk arguments in the past, it won’t be in the future. One would hope it will not take death or debilitating injury of a fan for the league to accept it.