Author: Craig Calcaterra

Chase Headley

The Yankees won’t get into a bidding war for Chase Headley


With Pablo Sandoval off the market, Chase Headley is a pretty hot property. But maybe not as hot as he could be: Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reports that it’s unlikely the Yankees will engage in a bidding war for the third baseman.

The Giants and Padres are both reportedly interested in Headley. If they scootch the bidding up towards $50 million or more, the Yankees could drop out. (note: that is the first ever use of the word “scootch” in the five+ year history of HardballTalk).

So, if the Yankees don’t get Headley, who plays third base for them? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller, Bueller . . .

source: Getty Images


No, the Red Sox signing Pablo and Hanley is not proof that baseball needs a salary cap

Hanley Ramirez

It’s like friggin’ clockwork. A team signs a big free agent or two and someone argues that baseball is doomed without a salary cap. It’s always baloney — baseball has had greater competitive balance without a salary cap than any of the other three sports which have them — but people have repeated it enough over the years that everyone believes it.

The latest to repeat it is Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. What set him off? The Red Sox signing Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, claiming that “the wealth of the Boston ownership and the loyalty of Red Sox Nation has allowed it to work the system,” and that it’s a game “where only the uber-rich can compete.” Then he trots out perhaps the most famous and tired pro-salary cap cliche there is, claiming that teams like the Indians “have no realistic chance” at winning the World Series due to payroll discrepancies.


  • Did Hoynes watch the World Series? The one that ended less than a month ago? The Royals were in it. Really, they were. And the Indians, just a year ago, were in the same position the Royals were in: wild card winners from the AL Central.
  • Does Hoynes know that the Red Sox lost 91 games last year? That’s one fewer loss than the Astros and the Twins had. Yes, Boston is rich and yes, they won the 2013 World Series, but I’m not quite sure how “team that came closer to losing 100 games than it came to finishing at .500 spending money to get better” is some sort of threat to the system that should inspire such pessimistic fatalism. The old argument used to be that rich teams always stayed good and poor teams always sucked and there was no hope for them to get better. Nice that we’re moving the goalposts here.
  • Speaking of goalposts, does Hoynes realize that the Cleveland Browns play in a league with the salary cap? Quick question: how many Indians fans would’ve traded the last decade of their team’s experience for the last decade of the Browns? You don’t have to answer now. I’ll wait.
  • Does Hoynes think the Indians had no chance to sign Ramirez or Sandoval? Well, maybe they didn’t. But does Hoynes know that the Sox signed Ramirez to stumble around left field and that the Indians happen to have Michael Brantley playing left field and that he got a ton of MVP votes this past season? The Indians would’ve lost the bidding for those guys if they entered it, but they didn’t enter it because THEY DON’T WANT OR NEED THOSE GUYS. Meanwhile, the Tribe may have one of the best rotations in baseball next season. One the Red Sox would kill to have.

This isn’t the silliest salary cap rant I’ve ever seen. No, the all time champion there was John Feinstein, who in 2010, without any apparent irony, gave a full-throated “we need a salary cap!” rant because the Yankees traded for Austin Kearns. AUSTIN KEARNS was the bridge too far. Alrighty then.

But it is silly. It ignores the fact that the Red Sox, no matter their promise for 2015 — and their winning is by no means guaranteed next season — lost a lot of baseball games last season. And two years before that. And that the Indians won a lot of games in 2013 and were quite competitive in 2014.

It also ignores the fact that 27 different teams have played in the 48 Super Bowls with 18 of them winning it while 27 different teams have played in the last 48 World Series with 20 different teams winning it. And that this trend holds for more recent years as well. And I won’t even get started on the NBA which has a salary cap and, suffice it to say, is not a bastion of competitive balance.

I will not go so far as to say that baseball’s system is perfect. It’s not perfect. But to the extent it needs fixing and to the extent we’re assigning blame for its imperfections, the imposition of a salary cap will neither address the former nor will its absence stand as a reasonable culprit for the latter.

The Senate will hold a hearing about domestic violence in professional sports


The issue of sports leagues’ handling of domestic violence incidents specifically and off-the-field malfeasance of players in general has hit the news in a big way in recent months.  Don’t think Congress hasn’t noticed:

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV, Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, today announced a full committee hearing on Tuesday, December 2, 2014 at 2:30 p.m. titled, “Addressing Domestic Violence in Professional Sports.”

The hearing will examine the current policies of the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the National Hockey League (NHL) with regard to domestic violence. Specifically, the hearing will examine how those policies deter violent acts, promote awareness, provide due process, and punish those who commit acts of domestic violence. The hearing will also examine future policies that are being considered for implementation.

Congress, of course, quite famously involved itself in performance enhancing drugs beginning about a decade ago. Domestic violence is certainly more serious a transgression than performance enhancing drug use. But the way in which private businesses deal with it is no more part of Congress’ bailiwick than PEDs are. Which is to say, none, really, and it’s probably worth noting that a large part of anything Congress seeks to do involving professional sports and the entertainment industry has an element of grandstanding to it.

And even if that isn’t the motivation here, it’s probably worth noting that Congress’ work on PEDs and baseball pushed the league into launching the Mitchell Report and implementing a drug testing regime as a means of escaping further Congressional scrutiny. Those efforts — particularly the Mitchell Report — were reactive and poorly thought out, at least initially, quite possibly because they were undertaken under pressure. To this day we’re still dealing with absurdities and inefficiencies in the process that were, at least in part, borne of Congress’ meddling and Baseball’s fear of ignoring additional meddling.

One hopes that isn’t the same case here. Especially considering that Major League Baseball appears to be working on the matter of domestic violence without said pressure at the moment (it’s motivation is not noble, of course; it’s likely geared toward the avoidance of the NFL’s P.R. disasters, but it is working). And because these hearings are likely to treat domestic violence in this context as some special thing caught up in professional sports when, in reality, one of the biggest problems is that athletes and leagues seem to be held to considerably lower standards than the public at large when it comes to this sort of crime.

We at HBT have advocated for Major League Baseball to establish a policy regarding how to deal with off-the-field misbehavior and illegality. We hope the league does so. It’s hard to see, however, how Congress wading into all of this will be helpful in that regard.

The Cubs have offered Jon Lester “north of $135 million”

jon lester getty

David Kaplan of reports that the Cubs have offered Jon Lester a six-year deal worth “north of” $135 million.

Compare this to the $120 million or so reportedly offered by the Red Sox. The Braves, Giants, and Cardinals are also said to have interest, but we’ve yet to hear concrete numbers applied to their interest.

The Cubs interest should not be such a surprise when you realize that last year they were reportedly big on Masahiro Tanaka and, during the season, put in a waiver claim on Cole Hamels, which would’ve cost them a pretty penny.

How Twitter has changed baseball coverage. Which is part of the story, anyway.


Chad Finn of the Boston Globe has a good story up about how baseball coverage has changed in the age of Twitter. He talks to Bob Nightengale, Peter Gammons, Adam Kilgore, Buster Olney, Ken Rosenthal and Tyler Kepner all of whom accurately and often quite illuminatingly describe how the job of the baseball writer has been transformed in the past decade and a half or so.

And, as far as that goes, it’s excellent. All of those guys, I’d argue, have done an excellent job of adapting to how journalism and technology have changed and have adapted their habits for the new age. I mean, most of those guys made their bones when it was basically just print, but we’re all still reading them today for news. The same can’t be said for some of their contemporaries.

But I do feel like this kind of story, even when well done like this, always misses part of the equation, and that’s about fan and reader expectations.

Technology has not just changed the way reporters deliver the news. It has allowed fans to have an actual voice in the way they want the news delivered and, for that matter, what news is delivered. These sorts of assessments of media trends rarely talk about that part of things. They talk about the politics of scoops and how the reporter structures his day, but they don’t talk about the primary driver to all of this, which is that the technology now gives the reader a far more direct say in what the news should look like.

Not mentioned: how, back before the Internet, the only real way to interact with the sports editor of the local paper was to write a letter. Maybe it would be read, maybe not. You could cancel your subscription, I suppose. But fans and readers were more or less passive audiences, limited to one paper in many cities, a couple of papers in others. TV coverage of baseball was always cursory and spotty. Either way, we took what we could get and there weren’t many alternatives.

With the advent of the Internet, its explosion and maturation, that has changed. Fans now can and do demand more coverage. More narrow coverage of some things, wider views of other things. Coverage at midnight, maybe, or 6am. Coverage over their lunch hours. Stats. Transaction news. You name it. It’s a demand that didn’t just spring into existence in 1994, it’s a demand that has ALWAYS been there, latent or otherwise, and either wasn’t being served by old media or was not able to be served by old media given the technological limitations. Now those demands are served by online media, be it the digital version of a long-established newspaper or a blog like this one or just the mainlining of information via a specialized, baseball-centric Twitter feed.

Technology didn’t change the game itself, however. Rather, the technology is just the tool that effectuated a change in the consumption of baseball reporting. Just as people likely wanted to be able to shop for music at 3am or watch porn in the privacy of their own home at any damn hour back in the day and finally were able to once the 90s rolled around, baseball fans wanted to consume their favorite thing in different ways and at different times than the old models used to allow and now they do.

And if we forget that it is the reader and the fans who drive that as opposed to the technology — and if we don’t pay attention to what they want and, instead, think of things only in terms of how they affect the producer and not the consumer — the next time technology changes the game, we’ll be spending another decade and a half grappling with all of this again.