Craig Calcaterra

Alex Rodriguez

A look at the upcoming A-Rod-Yankees fight over the 660 home run milestone

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As we’ve noted around here several times, the Yankees and Alex Rodriguez appear destined to do battle after he hits career home run 660, tying Willie Mays. The upshot: there is a marketing deal in place in which the Yankees agreed to pay $6 million for this milestone (and more for later home run milestones). The Yankees, however, intend to withhold the payments on the theory that A-Rod’s PED infamy renders his reaching the milestone non-marketable.

I noted in the past that this marketing agreement is not a part of A-Rod’s player contract. It can’t be because player contracts are not allowed to contain statistical incentives outside of games played or finished. This is a separate agreement and, as such, it may not have the same sorts of guarantees that normal contracts have. Put differently, depending on the language and mechanics of the marketing agreement, the Yankees could have some defensible basis for withholding the money.

Today the New York Post reports some inside stuff on how that battle would look. The key takeaway: the Yankees have the right under the deal to designate whether any milestone is “marketbale” at around the time it is reached. Specifically, they have 30 days to make the designation and then pay out to A-Rod. If they don’t, A-Rod files a grievance and it’s heard by baseball’s arbitrator.

The key inquiry, then, will be whether or not the Yankees acted in good faith when they decided that the feat was NOT marketable.

Recently we learned that the Yankees themselves aren’t listing A-Rod’s upcoming passing of Mays in their little fact sheets they hand out to the media. This despite the fact that they note all kinds of other, nearly insignificant upcoming “milestones,” such as, as the Post notes, Brett Gardner needing one stolen base to pass Wid Conroy for sixth place on the Yankees’ all-time stolen base list. I’m sure A-Rod and the union will make some hay out of that in an arbitration.

“So, Mr. Levine, is it the Yankees’ position that passing Wid Conroy is more notable than passing Willie Mays? Really? How many commemorative shot glasses of Gardner and Conroy did you sell for the event?” And so on.The Post gives a less extreme example of this same argument, noting that the Giants and Major League Baseball still sell merchandise related to Barry Bonds’ passing of Hank Aaron and, if that’s marketable, certainly A-Rod passing Willie Mays is too, right?

But hell, I’d take it one step further. If I’m Alex Rodriguez’s lawyers, I print up a bunch of “A-Rod passes Mays” merchandise right now and start selling it on street corners in New York. When it sells — and you know people will buy it because people will buy anything — you drop the receipts on the Yankees’ table right there in the arbitration room and ask them why the Yankees didn’t want to get in on that gravy train if not for spite?

Whatever they do, however, it should be an interesting little battle. Maybe one that doesn’t happen until after the season, as the Post notes that there is no reason compelling an immediate hearing on this since it only involves money, but interesting whenever it happens.

Let’s stop this thing about the Royals being “the bad boys of baseball” before it starts

royals logo
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So there is an HBT commenter, some of you may have come across him, named “kcrobert10.” He’s notable for a couple of reasons. First off, he’s literally the first commenter I can remember in the six-year history of HardballTalk who self-identifies as a Royals fan. It’s just the sort of thing you remember.

But he’s far more notable for his habit of showing up in the morning recap thread calling the Royals “the bad boys of baseball.” Without any apparent irony. It’s about the cutest thing I’ve ever seen, bless his heart.

Cute, but no, we can’t let that stick. As long as I’m drawing breath, I will not let “bad boys of baseball” happen with the Royals. Or anyone else for that matter. There was one sports team with a claim to “Bad Boys” and that was the Rick Mahorn Detroit Pistons. They owned it and retired it. And even if they hadn’t, calling a team the “Bad Boys” is the most 80s-90s thing ever, so we sure as hell shouldn’t be doing it in 2015. And that’s even if the Royals sign Mahorn to play first base. Which they should, but that’s another post.

But man, I really don’t want to come down too hard on kcrobert10 in all of this. Like I said, he’s positively adorable. So even if I fully intend to kill the thing he holds dear and to do it with a smile on my face, I will throw him a bone. A bone in the form of this article that our long-time commenter Moses passed along to me. Passed along to me because Uncle Moses here thinks kcrobert10 is adorable too. It comes with the abomination of a headline leds “Straight Outta Kauffman,” which could get a headline writer hurt if he crows about writing it. But anyway:

While the Royals fan base certainly has the team’s back, opposing fans think otherwise. After being the darlings of baseball last year with their Cinderella run, some are calling the Royals the “bad boys” of the league this season.

But is it justified? We’ll leave that up to you.

Soak it all in, kcrobert10. Revel in it.

At least until me and all the other right-minded people come and beat that little meme to bloody death with a bag of doorknobs while you watch.

The ban on smokeless tobacco in San Francisco — which would include AT&T Park — is getting closer

Lincecum tobacco
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We first talked about this in February when proposed City of San Francisco and State of California laws were drafted that would outlaw the use of smokeless tobacco in public parks where baseball is played, including professional facilities like AT&T Park. The Los Angeles Times reports that the San Francisco law, which would be able to be enforced against major league ballplayers, is getting close to passing:

The ban still needs to pass a second Board of Supervisors vote and be signed by Mayor Ed Lee before AT&T Park becomes the first major league stadium to ban the use of smokeless tobacco. “San Francisco will send a simple and strong message,” said Supervisor Mark Farrell, who introduced the ordinance. “Tobacco use in sports will no longer harm our youth, our health.”

The article doesn’t handicap the bill’s chances of passing or give the timetable for the vote or, if it is passed, its implementation.

As I said back in February — and as is noted in the LAT article — Major League Baseball would welcome laws like this. That’s not terribly surprising given that such a law would relieve the league of having to engage with the union over smokeless tobacco rules. Rather, it can just say “hey, it’s the law.” The union, which gave ground on conspicuous smokeless tobacco use by players in the past, is not as big a fan given that it regulates otherwise legal behavior of consenting adults and, of course, impacts union members.

As I argued in the past, it’s often hard to justify any law that restricts adults’ use of legal products, even if there are health arguments in favor of doing it (New York’s large soda ban being an example). But tobacco is different and far more dangerous than sugar and past time-and-place restrictions on cigarette smoking has proven to reduce the number of smokers overall. Indeed, it’s no accident that fewer people smoke now that you can’t do it in bars and restaurants in most cities and states. If you make it so that ballplayers can’t chew tobacco at the park, you’re likely to see fewer ballplayers using the stuff overall. And that would be a very good thing.

If you doubt this, ask Curt Schilling about it. Or ask Tony Gwynn’s family.

Video: Juan Lagares made a fantastic catch last night

Juan Lagares
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As a Braves fan I hate the result of this play because, you know, Braves guy put a charge into one and ended up being out. But, as a Braves fan, I watched Andruw Jones do this kind of stuff for years and can’t get enough of plays like this, even if it means bad things for my team.

Mets fan, enjoy and appreciate Juan Lagares. Heck, everyone enjoy and appreciate Juan Lagares. Even if he’s getting your guys out. You have lots of outs to give. Plays like this don’t happen every day:

Contact and controversy in the ninth inning of last night’s Dodgers-Giants game

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 8.36.48 AM
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As we mentioned in the recaps this morning, there was contact and controversy in the ninth inning of last night’s Dodgers-Giants game. To set the scene: tie game, Gregor Blanco on second base. Brandon Belt at the plate. Take it away, Vin Scully:

A couple of things are going on here. One is the contact between third base coach Roberto Kelly, the other is the umpire’s attention, or arguable lack thereof, to the play. But let’s start with the rule that governs all of this:

7.09
It is interference by a batter or a runner when — . . .

(g) In the judgment of the umpire, the base coach at third base, or first base, by touching or holding the runner, physically assists him in returning to or leaving third base or first base.

I think we can all agree there was contact here. Blanco was not held by Kelly, but he was touched. The real question here was whether that contact “physically assisted” Blanco in returning to third base. I’ve watched this play a whole bunch of times and, despite my gut instinct in the recaps this morning, I tend to believe that the rules was not violated.

Blanco was slowing down when Kelly and he came into contact. He was not going so fast and was not so out of control that Kelly’s contact with him “physically assisted” him in getting back to the bag. If Kelly was three feet further back, Blanco still would’ve stopped and started back to the bag in the same place and would’ve been safe.

Maybe this is different if Kelly’s contact with Blanco truly helped Blanco apply the brakes. Maybe it’s different if, even with this contact as it was, the ball was close to third base and it might’ve been a close call as to whether Blanco would’ve been tagged out on his minor overrun. But neither of those things applied. Given that this is not a bright line, automatic “no contact” rule but, rather, a judgment call, I think Blanco was properly safe.

Not that this was perfect, of course. Because a judgment call requires the exercise of some informed judgment on the part of the umpire. And I’m not sure how third base umpire Fieldin Culbreth was exercising judgment in this case. Yes, the source of this screencap has an understandable bias, but it doesn’t change where Culbreth was looking:

To be fair, a fraction of a second before this pic, Culbreth was watching the bag (it’s clear on the video). But he was merely looking down at it to see if Blanco touched it before heading home, not watching the entire play unfold. Why he looked away and out to left field is a mystery. By the time he did that it was already clearly a single, so he did not need to signal for an out. He really had no cause other than mere curiosity and spectatorship to be looking out to left. His attention should’ve been at the bag where he may have needed to make an out call, up the line where he may have been needed to assist on a play at the plate or, in this case, at the bag to exercise some judgment with respect to interference.

So, the non-call of interference was right. But it was right despite the umpire’s view and judgment, not because of it. This, I am sure, makes no one really happy. Well, except for Giants fans because their team won the game.