Craig Calcaterra

Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon respond to Donald Trump


Yesterday Donald Trump was quoted saying that the Ricketts family had done a “rotten” job running the Cubs. Or, at the very least, that he might run ads saying that they did. So either he believes that the well-run, lucrative, talented, 97-win Cubs team has been run in “rotten” fashion or else he knows better and simply doesn’t care if facts get in the way of whatever he feels like yelling about.

Hmm. Donald Trump do that? Impossible!

Anyway, you shouldn’t be surprised that some Cubs folks responded to The Donald. From the Tribune:

“I have no comment on that,” Epstein said with a grin and a sigh. “I think that speaks for itself, as does our season last year and the turnaround of the franchise.”

The article notes that Theo rolled his eyes when he said that. I’m assuming Epstein doesn’t care much for Trump, but after having to respond to such matters to the media, he may be on board with Trump’s desire to throw the press into jail or whatever it is he’s stumping for.

Joe Maddon too:

Cubs manager Joe Maddon was equal parts amused and muted, though he added that he has voted and has been very entertained this political season “to the point where I prefer watching FOX and CNN over ESPN any day of the week.”

“Wow, I don’t want to get in a battle with Mr. Trump,” Maddon said. “I have no idea what this is all about. … Maybe Mr. Trump didn’t follow the season last year. I have no idea.”

The second paragraph is sensible. The comment about preferring Fox or CNN over ESPN: maybe crazier than anything Trump has ever said.

Just a week and a half until actual baseball, everyone!

The Dodgers and Time Warner slash the price of their channel for other cable companies


It’s Dodgers Day here, I guess. Next up: their perpetually messed up TV situation.

As we’ve talked about many, many times in the past, the Dodgers own their own cable network, SportsNet LA, along with Time Warner. Obviously the channel appears on Time Warner cable in southern California. Most homes in Los Angeles do not get Time Warner Cable, however. They get DirecTV or AT&T or Verizon or Cox or someone. As a result, right out of the box, the Dodgers and Time Warner had to get carriage deals for their channel on those other cable networks in order for the Dodgers to be seen in L.A.

Except they haven’t been able to. Since 2014, the majority — at first the vast, vast majority — of Dodgers fans in L.A. could not see their team. Why? Because the other cable carriers balked at the steep asking price for the Dodgers channel. Those fees are charged per-subscriber. Verizon, for example, would have to pay the Dodgers and Time Warner, say, $5 per subscriber, to carry it. That cost is passed along to the subscribers, of course. Including those who don’t watch any sports at all or who don’t like the Dodgers. Everyone’s cable bills go up-and-up and, eventually, many people just say “forget it, I don’t want cable anymore.” So-called cord-cutters have cut into the bottom line both broadcasters and carriers in recent years.

In the past year or so there has been a touch of progress. Charter and Bright House cable have taken on the Dodgers. But most people still can’t see them on their cable systems. So now the Dodgers and Time Warner have lowered the price. From the L.A. Times:

As part of the new proposal, Time Warner Cable has offered the channel to other providers at a cost of about $3.50 per month per subscriber home, according to two people familiar with the proposal who were not authorized to discuss deal terms.

The proposal fashioned by Time Warner Cable would be a one-year deal covering the upcoming season.

So far, none of the other pay-TV providers have agreed to play ball, although talks with at least two providers are in the early stages and are expected to accelerate in the next week as the new season approaches, said two knowledgeable people who asked not to be identified.

Maybe this new, lower price gets the Dodgers on cable systems that serve more people in Los Angeles. Maybe it doesn’t. One wonders, however, if a lot of people have simply gotten used to the idea of never watching the Dodgers on TV and even at this reduced price it doesn’t work out great for the carriers.

Also: maybe that lower price — $3.50 instead of $5 or whatever — means that the Dodgers’ multi-billon cable deal will cause Time Warner to take a bath and will make giving teams such large deals seem like a less appealing idea in the future.

Major League Baseball is fueled by cable TV dollars. There are signs that this fuel is the result of an unsustainable bubble. I feel like, a few years from now, the broadcast and financial landscape of MLB and sports in general is gonna look very, very different than it does now.

Are the Dodgers wasting Clayton Kershaw’s prime?


Kind of a weird column from Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times yesterday. In it he puts forth the proposition that the Dodgers may be wasting Clayton Kershaw‘s prime by engaging in a slow, methodical rebuild which would have them contending a few years after Kershaw’s current contract with the Dodgers runs out and, my, isn’t that a bad thing.

Which I suppose sounds concerning until you realize that the Dodgers have the highest payroll in baseball, have acquired a great number of veterans in the past several years who are still producing and, most especially, that they’ve been to the playoffs three years in a row.

I get the specific concerns Hernandez voices. The Dodgers’ roster is not ideally constructed, that is obvious. They lost Zack Greinke and didn’t replace him with another ace or, really, even a solid number two guy. Their rotation plan — assemble as many decent-but-not-spectacular pitchers as possible and hope depth wins the day — is not sexy. Moreover, in the early going it’s running into some predictable bumps, health-wise. But it’s not malpractice or anything, is it?

This is a club which has won 278 games in the past three years and, if everyone plays to their potential, stands to win a lot of games again. They’re no mortal lock and they play in a tough division. Beyond Kershaw they don’t have a crop of ready-to-dominate players like, say, the Mets have or a young marquee slugger like a Bryce Harper or a Mike Trout. But to argue that they’re wasting Kershaw’s prime just doesn’t scan for me. There are few teams which have been in as good as a position to contend, year-in-year-out as the Dodgers have been in over the past several seasons.

The Dodgers are trying to do some rebuilding of their system on the fly. But they’re also putting forth a lot of effort to win at the major league level. Those concepts aren’t mutually-exclusive and thus I’m struggling to understand the tack the almost always spot-on Hernandez is taking here.