<span class="vcard">Craig Calcaterra</span>

David Ross

Report: David Ross to sign with the Cubs

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We heard a Jon Heyman report this morning that the Padres were going to get David Ross. Nope:

This makes sense, as Ross and Jon Lester had great chemistry in Boston. Now, presumably, he will be Lester’s personal catcher. Which, yes, takes Miguel Montero’s bat out of the lineup when the Cubs have their ace on the hill, but if it makes Lester happier — and more effective — it’ll be OK.

More from the underbelly of the A-Rod Conspiracy Industrial Complex

Alex Rodriguez Getty
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Today Wallace Matthews analyzes the Yankees trade of Martin Prado to the Marlins for, among others, Garrett Jones. He notes that the presence of Jones may reduce the number of at-bats for A-Rod from the DH and/or backup first base slot. Which I think is fair to say is absolutely going to happen.

Of course, it can’t just be a baseball move. It has to be something . . . more sinister:

There is a school of thought that this is all part of a Yankee plan to humiliate Rodriguez to the point that he will quit and leave his money behind, but there’s about as much chance of that as there is of Joe Girardi becoming the front man for a hip-hop group. Still, with no legal recourse to void A-Rod’s contract and apparently little stomach for paying off his contract and releasing him, humiliation may be the only weapon the Yankees have left.

Call me crazy, but maybe rather than scheme and plot to “humiliate” A-Rod, perhaps the Yankees are simply trying to put together the best possible roster they can? One that provides Joe Girardi with the best possible options given the strengths and weaknesses of the team and the uncertainty presented by A-Rod’s age, health and time off? And, if they make enough moves — or if A-Rod shows he can’t help the Yankees win games — they’ll simply DFA him. Indeed, I’d give it even odds at happening before Opening Day at this point.

Or is that naive of me?

In other news, when a writer says “there is a school of thought that . . . ” or “some say that . . .” you can rest assured that it is the writer’s own opinion. And, in this case, the writer definitely comes from a school of thought that is very, very interested in reading too much in to what are pretty simple and sensible baseball moves.

Baseball will lobby to have Congress exempt minor leaguers from the Fair Labor Standards Act

Minor League baseball
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We’ve talked about the class action lawsuit by minor leaguers alleging that Major League Baseball has violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by paying minor leaguers less than the minimum wage (and to take advantage of minor leaguers in other ways). Now Minor League Baseball’s chief lobbyist — certainly to Major League Baseball’s delight — plans to do an end-run around those laws by asking Congress to classify ballplayers like babysitters and seasonal workers.

Baseball America’s story from the Winter Meetings last week reports on the comments of Stan Brand, Vice President of Minor League Baseball, who announced that next year he will lobby Congress to add minor league baseball players to the list of 35 occupations not required to receive minimum wage or overtime pay under the Federal Labor Standards Act. Here’s Brand:

“In the coming year, we will be seeking legislation to clarify that professional baseball players are not covered by these federal wage and hour laws . . . Just as we did in the 1990s to save the antitrust exemption, we will need your help to explain to our legislators the importance of this issue to the future of minor league baseball and their communities’ investments in stadia and infrastructure.  I do not want to overstate the threat this suit presents, but I think my honest assessment is that it is equally perilous for our future as the antitrust repeal was in the 1990’s.”

Which is total crap given that the minor league operators to whom Brand was speaking do not pay the salaries of minor league baseball players. MLB teams do that. Minor league teams operate the ballparks and concessions and pay for charter flights and things, but they do not pay player salaries.

Of course, as the article notes, Brand and his friends worry that if Major League Baseball clubs have to pay minor leaguers a living wage, they’ll pass on their higher costs to minor league baseball somehow. Which is in no way the problem of or the fault of minor league players who are making $5K a year for what is, in reality, a full-time job. If minor league teams made crap deals with Major League Baseball, change the deals, don’t lobby to keep the workers who get the people to buy tickets to your games in poverty.

But then again, given Brand’s loving words for the antitrust exemption, the basic mechanics of business are foreign to him. How DARE baseball executives have to compete in the marketplace and abide by the same rules every business from multinational tech companies on down to corner muffler shops have to abide by? How DARE they have to pay human beings a salary that actual complies with the law and basic human decency? The NERVE.

At the Winter Meetings I stayed at the same hotel all the minor league executives stayed at. It was a bit down the road from where the major leaguers stayed. The bar was still hopping, though. These guys were buying themselves and their buddies overpriced drinks to beat the bad. I would not be shocked if many of their tabs for the week exceeded the annual salary their parent clubs pay some of their players. But yes, let’s have Congress step in and protect these guys from the insane demands of the 20-year-old kids who live on baloney sandwiches all year and spend the winter sleeping on air mattresses in their grandmothers’ sewing rooms because they can’t afford an apartment.

 

If you ever wanted to make “Darryl Strawberry money” now you can. Quite literally.

New York Mets
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Like, the actual money owed to Darryl Strawberry pursuant to the contract he signed with the Mets in 1985. From the good folks at the IRS, an auction notice for January. Up for bid:

The right to receive on-going monthly payments under the Darryl Strawberry Deferred Compensation Agreement, Addendum III to Uniform Player’s Contract dated March 12, 1985, executed on March 12, 1985 by Darryl Strawberry and Doubleday Sports, Inc. (predecessor in interest to Sterling Mets, L.P.), as reflected in the schedule of payments attached as Appendix 2 to the Order of Sale entered on the court’s docket, and specifically those payments remaining to be made after the court’s confirmation of the sale.

Minimum bid is $550,000.

The background is rather convoluted. It’s tied up in a domestic relations order which gave the compensation to Strawberry’s ex-wife, and her subsequent bankruptcy. So really it’s her money — forfeited to the IRS — not Darryl’s anymore. Here is some info on that from a couple of years ago. At the time the annual payout was around $100,000. Not sure how inflation, etc. deals with that, if at all.

Who said you can’t get any money out of the Mets?

(Thanks to Wes for the heads up)

The Padres have given their fans something to talk about. Which is badly needed in San Diego.

A.J. Preller
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It’s possible that a team has made more moves in a shorter period of time than the Padres have in the past few days, but I sure as heck can’t remember it. Indeed, since the Winter Meetings ended a little over a week ago, the Padres have embarked on a roster overhaul the likes of which — particularly, the quickness of which — we haven’t seen in some time. I’ve seen it described as a “reverse fire sale,” and I think that comes closer to it than anything else. Instead of an urgent, frantic selling-off of talent, it as been an urgent, frantic shopping spree.

To summarize, in the past few days the Padres have:

That’s a lot of work done.

Of course, the Padres needed a lot of work. They’ve finished below .500 for four straight years. Their old general manager, Josh Byrnes, was fired during the season after failing to see eye-to-eye with ownership and A.J. Preller was hired away from the Rangers to take his place. His main task: to fix a perpetually awful offense and, of course, get the Padres to win more ballgames.

But just as important a task was to make the Padres relevant again. And that he has.

To be sure, such considerations are often subjective and, in a lot of cases, “relevance” is defined by how many games a team wins, rendering it the same job as improving the team from a baseball perspective. But I feel like perception is more important for the Padres than it is for a lot of teams. Because the Padres have a fan base that is about as bored and uninspired as it gets.

I experienced this first hand when I was at the Winter Meetings last week. One evening I joined several Padres bloggers for drinks. It’s worth noting that team bloggers, generally speaking, tend to be the most motivated and inspired fans in any team’s fan base. The die-hardest of the die-hards. When the rest of the fans have checked out, team bloggers are still obsessing and thinking about the team all the time. Which made what I encountered with some of the Padres team bloggers rather surprising: resignation. A feeling that nothing exciting was ever going to happen with the Padres. That, despite the rumors of the team being interested in this or that player, nothing interesting would ever happen. “I’ll believe it when I see it” was said more than once.

This reflects a general apathy that has begun to set in among Padres fans. My brother lives in San Diego. While he wasn’t born a Padres fan, he has more or less adopted them over the past 20 years he has lived there, and his enthusiasm is pretty low. I visit him a couple of times a year and hang out with his friends. When the talk comes around to baseball, the less said about the recent-vintage Padres the better. They want to talk about Ken Caminiti and Tony Gwynn and, if they’re old enough, Rich Gossage. They acknowledge that the Padres have been fielding teams in the past few years, and they realize that there are many teams who have performed worse than the Padres have, but they are anything but enthused.

To be fair, how can they be when, in a given year, their team’s most exhilarating pickups are Seth Smith or Joaquin Benoit? Fine players, but yawn city. At least if the Padres were truly bad they’d be interesting. They’d at least inspire mockery instead of the somnambulism that seems to characterize the current discourse about the Padres. And there would be a sense that something new and bold had to happen with the franchise as opposed to the half-measures and general meandering the team’s bosses tend to tolerate.

That certainly changes now. In the space of days, A.J. Preller has gotten the biggest star from the Dodgers (a team that, based on my own first-hand experience, electrifies Petco Park more than the Padres do). They’ve picked up one of the best outfield bats available in Justin Upton. In Wil Myers they get a prospect who, while coming off a bad year, has promise. They’ve picked up multiple role players who both fit the Padres needs and who will push out some of the dead wood that has lead to that aforementioned somnambulism. Good travels, Carlos Quentin, we wish you well. Padres fans have a lot to talk about now, and have some reason to be excited for the rest of the winter.

Of course, excitement is one thing, and actual winning is another. Will the Padres win with this overhauled roster?

They should certainly win more. The Giants aren’t doing anything this winter and could easily be worse in 2015. The Dodgers are retrenching to some degree and have not gotten significantly better themselves, if at all. The Dbacks are rebuilding. The less said about the Rockies the better. It only took 88 wins to make the playoffs in the National League last season. The boring and bad Padres won 77 with some good pitching and no offense to speak of. Now they have some offense. Some right-handed offense, which plays better in Petco Park than anything. None of the recent moves guarantee the Padres anything, but there is reason to think that the Padres can compete now, and that’s more than a lot of people figured they’d do in 2015 based on the past offseasons they’ve had.

But even if true competition doesn’t truly come to pass, the Padres have inserted themselves into the conversation in a major way in the past few days. They have at least raised the question of their being truly competitive and have given their fans something to talk about. And while talk may, generally speaking, be cheap, it has been a scarce resource in San Diego indeed, and scarcity translates into value.

Way to give ’em something to talk about, A.J. Preller.