Why did the Tigers make such a big deal out of the breakdown of the Scherzer negotiations?

32 Comments

Players and teams negotiate for long term contracts all the time. They reach the beginning of the season without deals being reached frequently. Also, frequently, players state that they will not negotiate during the season. There is nothing particularly unusual about any of that. So why are the Tigers making a point to throw Max Scherzer under the bus?

That’s really the only way to construe yesterday’s statement from the team about the end of its negotiations with Scherzer. It was worded more or less politely, but the clear and unambiguous message was “Max Scherzer and his agent are greedy and if he’s not a Tiger after 2014, it’s his fault, so don’t blame us, Tigers fans!”

Such a position used to be common in the bad old days when players would hold out so they could make, say, $40,000 a year instead of $35,000. Or even up through the first decade or two of free agency, when owners still routinely played off fans’ view that players are inherently greedy and are asking for unreasonable money to play a kid’s game. But even if a lot of fans still harbor those sentiments, it’s been some times since owners and general managers wised up to the business of baseball and abstained from playing that disingenuously populist card. Sure, there are always isolated examples, but it has been at least since the last contentious Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiation in 2002 that teams stopped doing that as a rule. At least as explicitly as the Tigers are doing here with Scherzer.

The Tigers are under no obligation to pay Scherzer what he wants, of course, but why the statement? Why change up things and draw such a public line in the sand with the reigning Cy Young Award winner? What do the Tigers hope to gain here? What are they accomplishing with this that remaining publicly neutral or even silent about the status of negotiations wouldn’t accomplish?

Often times I have some speculative answer to that kind of question. In this case I am totally baffled.

Joey Votto thinks he can win the Home Run Derby, but hasn’t been invited yet

Brian Blanco/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Despite having hit at least 20 home runs in eight of his 11 seasons in the majors, Reds first baseman Joey Votto has never participated in a Home Run Derby. Currently, he’s tied for the National League lead in home runs with 20, and he hasn’t been invited to this year’s festivities at Marlins Park.

In the event he is invited, Votto said he thinks he can win it, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto likened himself to Ichiro Suzuki, a player known more for his contact abilities and mastery of the strike zone than power. “Just think of me as the Canadian Ichiro — Japan has theirs and Canada has theirs,” Votto said. “I could pull homers into the seats at will.”

Along with the 20 homers, Votto is currently hitting .306/.419/.601 with 53 RBI, and 52 runs scored in 313 plate appearances.

Teammate Scott Schebler also has 20 home runs at the moment and Adam Duvall, who made it to the semifinals of the Derby last year, has 16. Neither of them have been approached about participating in the Derby, either. Per Rosecrans, in the event each was invited, Duvall said he would consider participating if he wasn’t an All-Star and Schebler would participate regardless. Votto said he would only participate if he made the All-Star team.

There was apparently some miscommunication between Pete Mackanin and Pat Neshek

Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
3 Comments

The Phillies won their first game since last Thursday, beating the Cardinals 5-1 on Thursday afternoon. Starter Aaron Nola pitched into the eighth inning, but left with one out. Pat Neshek took the mound with a runner on first base and induced an inning-ending double play on a 3-1 count to Tommy Pham.

Given that Neshek only threw five pitches and the Phillies were staked to a four-run lead, it wouldn’t have seemed unreasonable if the sidewinding right-hander came back out to finish the ninth inning as well. But Luis Garcia had that honor, tossing a scoreless final frame to nail down the win in a non-save situation.

After the game, manager Pete Mackanin said he asked Neshek to go back out for the ninth, but Neshek didn’t want to, per Stephen Gross of the Morning Call. Neshek told the media that Mackanin never asked him. There was also a miscommunication on Wednesday. The combination of Joaquin Benoit, Hector Neris, and Edubray Ramos combined to allow four runs in 2 1/3 innings, helping the Phillies lose 7-6. Neshek never appeared. According to Mackanin, Neshek told him that he wasn’t available to pitch. Neshek said he was told he’d have the day off.

The disconnect between Mackanin and Neshek could speak to a larger divide between the manager and his failing team. The Phillies have underwhelmed across the board due to players like Odubel Herrera (whose head was down and did not see Juan Samuel’s stop sign last night in what became a base running blunder), Maikel Franco, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Aaron Nola (today’s start notwithstanding), and Hector Neris not living up to expectations. The Phillies signed Mackanin to a contract extension last month, but the team has completely fallen apart since then and the latest communications issues certainly don’t reflect well on him. Neither does last night’s travesty of a game.

As for Neshek, he said that going to the Phillies was “the best thing that happened to me in a few years” but also realized, given the state of the team, that it remains very likely he winds up in a new uniform by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. After Thursday’s performance, Neshek is carrying a 0.63 ERA with a 25/4 K/BB ratio in 28 2/3 innings. He very well could be the Phillies’ lone representative at the All-Star Game in Miami next month. That is, if he’s still wearing their uniform. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Nationals have shown interest in Neshek.