Mike Matheny is sick of “people taking cheap shots” at Cardinals coaches

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For much of last season stat-heads pointed to the Cardinals’ amazing .330 batting average with runners in scoring position–the highest mark ever since the stat has been tracked–as unsustainable because it was based as much on good fortune as good hitting.

This season the Cardinals have hit just .243 with runners in scoring position, which has played a big part in St. Louis’ offense going from leading the league in runs last season by more than 10 percent over the second-place team to ranking 13th in runs per game this season.

Because of that dropoff fans and media members have been critical of the coaching staff, which in turn has manager Mike Matheny firing back at the critics. Here’s what Matheny told Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch:

You’re putting as much work if not more now than what you did last year when things were going so well. You’ve got people taking cheap shots all the time. You’re human. You wear that. Plus you know that the [players] are not happy with where the guys are right now. If you have coaches who don’t care, then they’re just putting in their time and chalking it up to a number of issues. That’s not what we have.

When an entire team hits .331 with runners in scoring position for an entire season it’s going to make everyone involved look like genius. And when an entire team hits .243 with runners in scoring position it’s going to have the opposite effect. As usual the truth is probably somewhere in between, but if Matheny and the coaching staff were willing to accept the endless praise for last year’s remarkable RISP numbers then it seems like they should also be willing to accept some of the so-called “cheap shots” this time around.

What happens with all the players the Braves lost yesterday?

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Yesterday’s unprecedented sanctions leveled on the Atlanta Braves hit them pretty hard, but it also turned a dozen players into free agents. What happens to them now? Who can sign them? When? And for how much?

First off, they get to keep their signing bonuses the Braves gave them. It wasn’t their fault the Braves messed up so it would make no sense for them to have to pay the money back. As for their next team: anyone can, theoretically, sign them. As far as team choice, they are free agents in the most narrow sense of the term.

There are limits, however, because as young, international players, their signings are subject to those caps on each team’s international bonus money which were imposed a few years back. Each team now has a “pool” of finite dollars they can spend on such players and, once that money is spent, teams are severely limited as to what they can offer an international free agent. Each summer the bonus pools are reset and it starts anew.

Which, on the surface, would seem to create a problem for the 12 new free agents, seeing as though a lot of teams have already spent much if not all of their July 2017-18 bonus pools. The good news on that, though, is that Major League Baseball has made a couple of exceptions for these guys:

  • First, the first $200,000 of any of the 12 former Braves players will not be subject to signing pools, so that’s a bit of a break; and
  • Second, even though these players will all likely be signed during the 2017-18 bonus pool period, teams have the option of counting the bonus toward the 2018-19 period. They can’t combine the money from the two periods, but they can, essentially, put off the cost into next year for accounting purposes.

Which certainly opens things up for clubs and gives the players more options as far as places to land go. A club can decide whether or not the guys on the market now look better than the guys they’ve been scouting with an eye toward signing after July 2018 and get a jump on things. Likewise, teams don’t have to decide whether or not to take a run at, say, Shohei Ohtani, burning bonus money now, or instead going after a former Braves player. Ohtani’s money will apply now, the Braves player can be accounted for next year.

The new free agents are eligible to sign during a window that begins on December 5 and ends on Jan. 15. If a player hasn’t signed by then, he can still sign with any club but cannot get a bonus. If a player hasn’t signed anywhere by May 1, 2018, he has the option of re-signing with the Braves, though they can’t pay the guy a bonus either.

Ben Badler of Baseball America has a rundown of the top guys who are now free agents thanks to the Braves’ malfeasance. Kevin Maitan is the big name. The 17-year-old shortstop was considered the top overall international free agent last year, though his first year in the Braves minor league system was less-than-impressive. There are a lot of other promising players too. All of whom now can find new employers.