Buck Showalter on John Lackey: “he might want to be careful”

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On Saturday night, after getting rocked by the Orioles in general and Nelson Cruz in particular, Red Sox starter John Lackey threw some shade Cruz’s way, suggesting that people shouldn’t let Cruz off the hook given that he was suspended for PED use last season.

Yesterday morning Orioles manager Buck Showalter responded, saying “everybody needs to make sure that their own backyard is clean” before slamming anyone else about PEDs. He added:

“There’s so many insinuations, quite frankly, about people in every club. You usually don’t hear those comments after a shutout or something . . . Considering the timing of things, it’s one of those things that you keep quiet about it and it reflects poorly upon the person who said it . . . He might want to be careful.”

So many ways to go with that. Let’s go a few ways:

  • One could take that broadly and interpret it as Showalter saying “hey, you never know who is using and maybe someone on the Red Sox is, so don’t throw that stuff around.”
  • One could take that specifically and have it as Showalter reminding Lackey that, once upon a time, David Ortiz was accused of PED use.
  • One could also look specifically at Nelson Cruz and be reminded that, last winter, the Red Sox were considering signing him and Ortiz himself personally reached out to Cruz in an effort to try to get him to come to Boston. Query: Does Lackey have an ethical problem if Cruz is hitting 27 homers and driving in 70 before the break if he’s wearing a Red Sox uniform? Kinda doubt it!
  • One could also remember that, three years ago, Lackey was involved in a brawl/plunking war with the Orioles and, at the time, Showalter called for Lackey to be suspended which suggests that Showalter doesn’t have much patience for that guy to begin with.

A friend of mine — actually, a friend of mine’s father — likes to say that “everything in life has a long tail.” I tend to agree with that. And if you’re the sort of person who likes to make moral and ethical judgments about folks, it’s helpful to remember the context in which you do it and examine whether or not you’re being a wee bit inconsistent in your application of such judgments.

Must-Click Link: Do the players even care about money anymore?

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Yesterday I wrote about how the union has come to find itself in the extraordinarily weak position it’s in. The upshot: their leadership and their membership, happily wealthy by virtue of gains realized in the 1970s-1990s, has chosen to focus on small, day-to-day, quality of life issues rather than big-picture financial issues. As a result, ownership has cleaned their clock in the past few Collective Bargaining Agreements. If the union is to ever get back the considerable amount of ground it has lost over the past 15 years, it’ll require a ton of hard work and perhaps drastic measures.

A few hours later, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan dropped an absolute must-read that expands on that topic. Through weeks of interviews with league officials, agents and players, he explains why the free agent market is as bad as it is for players right now and why so many of them and so many fans seem not to understand just how bad a spot the players are in, business wise.

Passan keys on the media’s credulousness regarding teams’ stated rationales for not spending in free agency. About how, with even a little bit of scrutiny, the “[Team] wants to get below the luxury tax” argument makes no sense. About how the claim that this is a weak free agent class, however true that may be, does not explain why so few players are being signed.  About how so few teams seem interested in actually competing and how fans, somehow, seem totally OK with it.

Passan makes a compelling argument, backed by multiple sources, that, even if there is a lot of money flowing around, the fundamental financial model of the game is broken. The young players are the most valuable but are paid pennies while players with 6-10 years service time are the least valuable yet are the ones, theoretically anyway, positioned to make the most money. The owners have figured it out. The union has dropped the ball as it has worried about, well, whatever the heck it is worried about. The killer passage on all of this is damning in this regard:

During the negotiations leading to the 2016 basic agreement that governs baseball, officials at MLB left bargaining stupefied almost on a daily basis. Something had changed at the MLBPA, and the league couldn’t help but beam at its good fortune: The core principle that for decades guided the union no longer seemed a priority.

“It was like they didn’t care about money anymore,” one league official said.

Personally, I don’t believe that they don’t care about money anymore. I think the union has simply dropped the ball on educating its membership about the business structure of the game and the stakes involved with any given rule in the CBA. I think that they either so not understand the financial implications of that to which they have agreed or are indifferent to them because they do not understand their scope and long term impact.

It’s a union’s job to educate its membership about the big issues that may escape any one member’s notice — like the long term effects of a decision about the luxury tax or amateur and international salary caps — and convince them that it’s worth fighting for. Does the MLBPA do that? Does it even try? If it hasn’t tried for the past couple of cycles and it suddenly starts to now, will there be a player civil war, with some not caring to jeopardize their short term well-being for the long term gain of the players who follow them?

If you care at all about the business and financial aspects of the game, Passan’s article is essential.