Bob Ford of the Philadelphia Inquirer profiled Phillies GM Ruben Amaro as his team is about a month away from reporting to Clearwater, Florida for spring training. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a prognosticator willing to bet on the Phillies winning the NL East or even competing for one of the two Wild Card slots, but Amaro believes that if his team can stay healthy for the duration of the 2014 season, the Phillies will be contenders.
“If the club we believe is going to break camp is able to stay on the field, we’re a contending team,” Amaro said. “My job is for us to try to be a contending team every year. Our payroll should allow us to do that. We had a couple of crappy years because we couldn’t get guys on the field and couldn’t get the performances we’re accustomed to.”
Amaro seems to believe that the Phillies’ lack of health over the past two seasons has been bad luck, rather than the result of a poor gamble. But the Phillies last season had the second-oldest group of position players in the National League, averaging an even 30 years old. They had the oldest group in 2012 at 31.1 years old on average as well. He committed a lot of money to Ryan Howard, Roy Halladay, Jimmy Rollins, and Chase Utley despite the contracts taking them into their mid-30’s. While simply approaching 35 doesn’t guarantee an injury, athletes’ bodies tend to deteriorate more rapidly the further they get from their 20’s. If they’re not simply being less productive, they’re more likely to wind up on the disabled list. That’s the risk Amaro took in attaching so much money to an old group of players; it wasn’t bad luck.
That being said, every season those of us in the business of pumping out baseball content on the web heavily overrate at least one team and heavily underrate at least one team. No one expected the Red Sox to win the AL East, let alone win the World Series, this past season. You never know what can happen. Amaro’s optimism about the Phillies isn’t necessarily misplaced.
Last night the Trump Administration announced a new batch of travel restrictions 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, 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 family, 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.
Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge made history today, hitting his 49th and 50th home runs, tying and then breaking the rookie record previously held by Mark McGwire of the Oakland Athletics.
Judge’s first dinger came in the third inning of this afternoon’s Royals-Yankees tilt. It was the sixth pitch from Jake Junis and left via right field. His second came in the bottom of the seventh against Trevor Cahill.
McGwire set his record in 1987, needing 151 games to do it. Judge hit his 50th in his 150th game of the season. He has five more games after today to add to that mark. Through his latest at bat in this game Judge is hitting .283/.417/.620 on the year with 50 HR, 108 RBI, 124 runs scored and 119 walks. Given Judge’s strong finish to the season, the AL MVP race should come down to a contest between him and Jose Altuve. It’s hard to argue against either one.
Here’s Judge’s first bomb:
And here’s the second: