Craig Calcaterra

Blogger at NBC's HardballTalk. Recovering litigator. Rake. Scoundrel. Notorious Man-About-Town.
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Playoff Reset: Cubs vs. Dodgers NLCS Game 3


The Game: Chicago Cubs @ Los Angeles Dodgers NLCS Game 3
The Time: 8:00 PM EDT
The Place: Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles
The Channel: FS1
The Starters: Jake Arrieta (Cubs) vs. Rich Hill (Dodgers)

The Upshot:

Back in 1948, the NL pennant-winning Boston Braves leaned heavily on two aces: Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain. The Braves’ dependence upon them led Boston Post sports editor Gerald Hern to write this little poem:

First we’ll use Spahn
then we’ll use Sain
Then an off day
followed by rain
Back will come Spahn
followed by Sain
And followed
we hope
by two days of rain.

For the 2016 Dodgers, it’s kinda like this:

First we’ll use Kershaw
Then we’ll use Jansen
Then we’ll engage in a whole bunch of dancin’
Then we’ll start Kershaw
Followed by Jansen
And maybe Rich Hill unless blisters need lancin’

Eh, I’ll work on it.

Unlike the ALCS, this one is still a series with any number of possible outcomes. We’re tied at one after Miguel Montero‘s heroism in Game 1 and Clayton Kershaw‘s dominance in Game 2 and now we get to see what the back end of the Dodgers rotation is made of.

Rich Hill is not a back end starter, not this year anyway, but he has as many questions about him as a number 4 starter might have in such a game. Those deal primarily with his durability. The Dodgers won his last start, Game 5 of the NLDS against the Nationals, but he only pitched two and two-thirds innings and the victory required Kenley Jansen working to the extreme extent of his capacity and Clayton Kershaw coming in in relief. That’s not going to happen here. Prior to that his woes with a blister on his finger have cut into several starts and had him shelved for long stretches this season. The Dodgers want to win this game, of course, but another short start from Hill will cause Dave Roberts to use his bullpen liberally and that will have some big consequences when Julio Urias and Kenta Maeda come back around in the rotation.

The Cubs starter has far fewer questions about him. He has faced the Dodgers twice. The last time he faced them in Dodger Stadium all he did was toss a no-hitter against them in 2015. The last time he faced them at all, in Wrigley Field back on May 31, he tossed seven shutout innings. The Dodgers have their work cut out for them against the reigning Cy Young Award winner.

The ALCS seems all but over. This one feels like it’s just beginning.

Playoff Reset: Indians vs. Blue Jays ALCS Game 4


The Game: Cleveland Indians @ Toronto Blue Jays, ALCS Game 4
The Time: 4:00 PM EDT
The Place: Rogers Centre, Toronto
The Channel: TBS
The Starters: Corey Kluber (Indians) vs. Aaron Sanchez (Blue Jays)

The Upshot:

Some things are just not meant to be. I mean, you’re facing a guy with blood gushing out of his finger, leading to him being removed from the game, and you get into the other team’s bullpen in the first inning. And it’s not even the good, dominant part of the bullpen! Yet you still never lead in the game. That’s what the Blue Jays are waking up to today. The notion that they’re just doomed here. Doomed to play shorter games than their opponent in the first instance due to Andrew Miller hanging around but then, even when that’s not the biggest factor, they still can’t get anything going against Cleveland.

The math doesn’t look good for Toronto. As people said about 462 times last night and will say 825 times before 4pm today, only one team has ever come back from being down 0-3 in a seven game series in baseball history. Thirty-three other times the team up 3-0 won. Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results, but Dave Roberts is busy managing the Dodgers right now. He’s not walking through that door to help the Blue Jays steal this series back.

The Jays can’t hope for miracles here. All they can do is embrace baseball’s most venerable cliche and take things one game at a time. In this game it will take Aaron Sanchez pitching the game of his life. He had certainly better pitch the best game of his he’s ever pitched against the Indians, with whom he has struggled in three career games. One of those was a start in August in which he gave up four runs on five hits in four innings of work. He allowed six runs on three hits and four walks in his Division Series start against the Rangers.

For the Indians it’s Corey Kluber, the exact horse Terry Francona wants on the track the day after having to use Johnny Wholestaff due to Trevor Bauer‘s finger injury. Kluber has a 5.34 ERA in five career regular-season starts against Toronto, but back on Friday, in Game 1, he held them to six hits, two walks and two runs while striking out six in six and a third. He’s on short rest here, but he also knows that if he can get by the Jays that he’ll have a good amount of time to rest up before the Dodgers and Cubs are done sorting out the NLCS. He can push himself a lot more knowing that it’s pretty unlikely that this thing goes seven games.

But unlikely is not the same thing as impossible. Coming back from being down 0-3 has been done before and doing it now is the only option the Blue Jays have. If they are to advance to the World Series, they must win four straight elimination games. Do-or-die time begins in Toronto this afternoon, just after 4pm.

Report: MLB, union negotiating the implementation of an international draft

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Buster Olney of ESPN reports that Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association are in negotiations regarding the implementation on an international draft. This is part of the larger Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations currently ongoing.

This would not be the first time MLB and the union have discussed this — the matter came up in 2013 as well — but it seems to be the farthest along the sides have ever gotten on the matter. Olney reports that, as the proposal currently stands, the draft would begin in March of 2018. It would last ten rounds. The minimum age for draft-eligible players would be 18 years old by 2021. Signing bonuses would be pegged at an amount roughly corresponding to the current slots U.S., Canadian and Puerto Rican players receive when drafted today.

As of now teams can sign 16-year-old international free agents. While there are currently pools and caps reining in how much a club can spend collectively on international free agents, there is no limit per player. The draft would end that system. And would likely end the system in which clubs set up training academies in places like the Dominican Republic, as no one team would have an incentive to train any specific player if others could draft him. Those would be replaced by MLB-run academies.

We’ve argued many, many times that an international draft represents an unnecessary limitation of the market for international players. The idea that “small-market” teams can’t afford top amateur talent is simply wrong, as the dollar figures involved for these amateur players are low relative to the size of even a low-revenue team’s annual baseball operations budget. Once the international pool system came into place certain penalties and inefficiencies came into play that did, in fact, serve to give advantages to richer clubs like the Dodgers, but when it was simply a matter of clubs signing international free agents as they wished, all clubs competed ably if they chose to do so.

An international draft saves clubs the expense of operating academies on their own dime, and clubs like that. It reduces the amount of money that goes to international players in general and clubs like that too. As do, I suspect, current MLBPA members who, likely believe that money not spent on non-union players may trickle their way, are thus are totally fine with negotiating away the bargaining rights of others. There is very little to suggest that the draft will bolster competitive balance, however. Likewise, claims that it will limit the excesses and influence of the buscones who find talent and bring it to the attention of MLB clubs are well-intentioned, but are unfounded. Someone will still be bringing the teenagers to MLB’s attention, won’t they? And those someones will likely still be taking cuts from the kids. Only this time their cut will be from a smaller pie and the cutting of the pie will likely be pushed further into the dark.

We are continually told by certain types of folks that freedoms are better than limitations and that the power to sell one’s goods or services in maximal fashion and with maximal leverage is best. That apparently doesn’t apply to baseball players, however. And it will soon apply even less to baseball players from other countries than it currently does.