The Cubs were sold to the Ricketts family a couple of years ago, but former Senator and major leaguer Jim Bunning still doesn’t like how it went down. Specifically, as it related to Mark Cuban’s failed bid. And Bunning said that if a similar thing were to happen again — a prospective buyer being shut out the way Cuban says he was shut out — it could imperil the league’s antitrust exemption:
Cuban said in an interview last summer that he was cut out of the Cubs’ process, despite a $1.3 billion bid that was more than 50 percent higher than the Rickettses’ winning bid. He also said he was denied a chance to buy the Texas Rangers a year later after another bid that beat the winner.
“That’s where you could get something,” Bunning, who was in Philadelphia for a throwback weekend, said of a challenge to the exemption. “If somebody like Mark Cuban wants to buy a team and offers something like
$2 billion, and they tell him he can’t. If they made an exception for a specific sale, it would be against the antitrust laws [and spirit of the exemption].”
Eh, maybe not.
The article cites Cuban’s bid for the Cubs and his bid for the Rangers. As for the Rangers: he backed out of the bidding. For the Cubs: it was never perfectly clear, but there was some suggestion that Cuban’s bid was debt-heavy and creative. Which, yes, the Ricketts’ was too, but the point is that there were qualitative differences in the bids as well as just numbers, and that provides any seller with the justification to go with a lower bidder without getting scrutiny like Bunning suggests is appropriate.
As I’ve argued a million times here, the only way a team sale situation is going to lead to the busting of the antitrust exemption is if the seller of the team (i.e. the team’s current owner) wants to sell to the next Mark Cuban but MLB tells him no. If the seller never comes to an agreement with the prospective buyer, there’s nothing to really work with. Sure, the reason someone may not come to an agreement with the next Mark Cuban could be that MLB pressures them not to, but (a) the ownership group is so thoroughly vetted for lap dogs these days that I’m guessing actual pressure isn’t necessary; and (b) even if that wasn’t the case, try proving it.
Spring training is tough for players under the best of circumstances. Even in an age when players work out all year, getting back into the swing of baseball-at-full-speed is tough. Many players spend the bulk of February and March knocking off the rust and getting their timing back. Because of this — and because the games have no real stakes — it is not wise to take spring training statistics super seriously. Especially if the player in question is assured of a spot on the roster and is trying to avoid injury before the regular season arrives.
Spring training for Shohei Ohtani is doubly difficult. Not only does he have to knock the rust off from the offseason, but he (a) has to get used to a new country and language; (b) has to get to know all new teammates, coaches and, really, an entirely new baseball culture; and (c) do all of that while dealing with a media crush that hasn’t been seen in baseball since Ichiro first arrived 17 years ago. In short, Ohtani is under massive pressure and has to make massive adjustments in a short time.
With that said, neither the Angels nor Ohtani can be all that pleased with how his spring training has gone. In two actual major league exhibition games he’s allowed eight runs in two and two-thirds innings. Seven of those came on Friday when he was shelled by the Rockies in an inning and a third. If you include B-games against minor leaguers, he has allowed 17 runs on 18 hits, four of which were homers, in four games. As a hitter he’s 2-for-20.
As Jeff Fletcher of the OC Register notes, Ohtani’s peripherals are not bad, as he has struck out a lot of guys and walked very few and the average on balls in play against him has been brutal, which is not super sustainable. Bad luck and some fat pitches at a time of the year when luck doesn’t really matter and the pitches, because of the rust, are likely to be fatter than normal.
As Fletcher also notes, Nolan Arenado, who faced Ohtani on Friday, said that his stuff looked good and that he’s going to be a good big league pitcher. Ohtani and Angels officials are all striking the right notes about bad luck and adjustments, saying that they’re not worried.
I imagine they’d be worrying even less if things had gone well this spring. Unless of course this is just a professional wrestling-style work aimed at getting more of us to watch his regular season debut, in which he’ll reveal that he was sandbaggin’ all along.