Jed Lowrie, Josh Reddick

The Athletics are killing it in the run differential department


If you’re the type who likes to use run differential as a quick and dirty gauge of a team’s talent, you’re probably very impressed with the Athletics thus far. Sunday’s 13-3 victory over the Indians leaves them 3.5 games ahead of the Angels for first place in the AL West. The win also brought their run differential to a staggering +95, putting them on pace for +350 over a full season. Typically, the best teams finish in the +150-200 area.

The Athletics have nine players, minimum 80 plate appearances, with an above-average wRC+ which is a Sabermetric stat that individually weights each of the various components in which a player contributes offensively. 100 is average. Reddick is close to joining the list at 94.

Dan Straily has been the only starter who hasn’t done a good job, posting a 4.93 ERA before his recent demotion to Triple-A Sacramento. Scott Kazmir has been a godsend and Jesse Chavez has been a surprise, seeing as he was an emergency addition to the rotation when Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin succumbed to injuries. And Sonny Gray has been as good as he advertised last season. In the bullpen, off-season acquisition Jim Johnson has been the only unreliable contributor.

Many are gawking at the Tigers and they’re not wrong for doing so, but the Athletics are looking like the American League’s best team, at least at this point in the season. The Tigers are the second-best team in baseball in terms of run differential, but they’re a whopping 44 runs behind the Athletics. It’s only fitting that the Athletics and the Tigers are the class of the American League at this point, though, as they were foes in last year’s ALDS, with the Tigers narrowly escaping the five-game set.

The international draft is all about MLB making money and the union selling out non-members

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - MARCH 13:  A fan flies the Dominican Republic flag during the game against Cuba during Round 2 of the World Baseball Classic on March 13, 2006 at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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On Monday we passed along a report that Major League Baseball and the MLBPA are negotiating over an international draft. That report — from ESPN’s Buster Olney — cited competitive balance and the well-being of international free agents as the reasons why they’re pushing for the draft.

We have long doubted those stated motivations and said so again in our post on Monday. But we’re just armchair skeptics when it comes to this. Ben Badler of Baseball America is an expert. Perhaps the foremost expert on international baseball, international signings and the like. Today he writes about a would-be international draft and he tears MLB, the MLBPA and their surrogates in the media to shreds with respect to their talking points.

Of course Badler is a nice guy so “tearing to shreds” is probably putting it too harshly. Maybe it’s better to say that he systematically dismantles the stated rationale for the international draft and makes plan what’s really going on: MLB is looking to save money and the players are looking to sell out non-union members to further their own bargaining position:

Major League Baseball has long wanted an international draft. The driving force behind implementing an international draft is for owners to control their labor costs by paying less money to international amateur players, allowing owners to keep more of that money . . . the players’ association doesn’t care about international amateur players as anything more than a bargaining chip. It’s nothing discriminatory against foreign players, it’s just that the union looks out for players on 40-man rosters. So international players, draft picks in the United States and minor leaguers who make less than $10,000 in annual salary get their rights sold out by the union, which in exchange can negotiate items like a higher major league minimum salary, adjustments to the Super 2 rules or modifying draft pick compensation attached to free agent signings.

Badler then walks through the process of how players are discovered, scouted and signed in Latin America and explains, quite convincingly, how MLB’s international draft and, indeed, its fundamental approach to amateurs in Latin America is lacking.

Read this. Then, every time a U.S.-based writer with MLB sources talks about the international draft, ask whether they know something Ben Badler doesn’t or, alternatively, whether they’re carrying water for either the league or the union.

President Bill Murray speaks about the Cubs from the White House

CHICAGO - APRIL 12:  Celebrity Bill Murray clowns around with Chicago media before the opening day game between the Chicago Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 12, 2004 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Pirates defeated the Cubs 13-2.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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I don’t know why Bill Murray is in Washington today. I don’t know why he’s at the White House. But I do know that he was there in Chicago Cubs gear, standing at the lectern in the press briefing room, voicing his full confidence in the Cubs prevailing in the NLCS, despite the fact that Clayton Kershaw is going for the Dodgers tomorrow night.

“Too many sticks,” president Murray said of the Cubs lineup. And something about better trees in Illinois.

Four. More. Years.