Author: Craig Calcaterra

Cuba

The United States will seek to normalize relations with Cuba

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This is obviously way bigger for real people and the real world than it is for baseball, but it will likely have some baseball implications at some point:

American officials say the U.S. and Cuba will start talks to normalize full diplomatic relations as part of the most significant shift in U.S. policy toward the communist island in decades.

Officials say the U.S. is also looking to open an embassy in Havana in the coming months. The moves are part of an agreement between the U.S. and Cuba that also includes the release of American Alan Gross and three Cubans jailed in Florida for spying.

This is way overdue of course, but I’ll spare you all my political thoughts on it. I’m sure you’ll do a great job of it in the comments though.

As for baseball: if this (a) allows more Cubans to participate in organized baseball in places other than Cuba; and (b) prevents Cubans who would seek to do so from having to put themselves in the hands of smugglers and criminals, well, it’s hard to see a downside.

UPDATE: Major League Baseball has issued a statement:

“Major League Baseball is closely monitoring the White House’s announcement regarding Cuban-American relations.  While there are not sufficient details to make a realistic evaluation, we will continue to track this significant issue, and we will keep our Clubs informed if this different direction may impact the manner in which they conduct business on issues related to Cuba.”

Matt Harvey probably won’t be the Mets Opening Day starter

Matt Harvey AP
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Terry Collins told the New York Post that Matt Harvey might not pitch until the team’s first home game. That’s April 13. The Mets Opening Day game is on the road in Washington on April 6. Following a series in Atlanta, the home opener is the team’s seventh game overall.

Makes great sense given the Mets’ desire to limit Harvey’s innings with a flex-schedule of sorts next year. Saving him for the home folks and giving him what has come to be thought of as a position of honor — the home opener — achieves both the innings savings of a skipped start during one cycle through the rotation and the ego/media-maintenance that all things related to Matt Harvey seem to entail.

No, it’s not crazy to pay a free agent for what you think he’ll do in the future. That’s the bleedin’ point.

dodgers logo
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Often times free agent contracts end up working out poorly because the team evaluates the player as if they will continue to perform in the future the same way or even better than he performed in the past. Like, say, every free agent contract the Angels have handed out in recent years.

Of course predicting the future is hard and, given that it is hard and given that the market is what the market is, even teams that do their best to evaluate a player end up paying some premium based on his track record. This is especially true — and forgivable — in the case of teams seeking to retain their own free agents, as they got way more production than that for which they paid when the guy was in his pre-free agency years. Just the cost of doing business.

But really, if teams could do things ideally with free agents — if they had a crystal ball — they’d pay them for the production they actually end up getting out of them, not for past production. Indeed, that’s what the entire business of applied advanced baseball metrics is all about: trying to figure out what baseball players may do in the future and basing one’s roster decisions on those projections.

Which is why this argument from Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times against the contract the Dodgers have Brandon McCarthy is sort of loony:

Dodgers General Manager Farhan Zaidi and McCarthy argue a new conditioning program made him stronger, elevating his velocity a couple mph to 93 and enabling him to finally last the duration of a full season. Plus, it’s not like Chase Field is a pitcher’s ballpark. Clearly the Dodgers believe the way he pitched in New York is further indication his past health issues are behind him . . .They’re paying less for what he’s done that what they hope he can do. Which makes no sense. And he got four years and $48 million.

He never does explain why it “makes no sense” for a team to pay a guy based on what they think he’ll do in the future. Especially when one realizes that a player’s market is a function of what 30 teams, all using some form of advanced metrics or another, think a guy will do in the future.

Actually, I think Dilbeck does miss that little fact. That the Dodgers are not out on some crazy island in which they are the only ones thinking of players in terms of advanced metrics. He clearly believes they are, however, as he plays up more of that “Geek Squad” stuff he started a while back, painting Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi as crazy people performing mathematical voodoo. Dilbeck fails to consider that, maybe, a LOT of other teams might evaluate a player in the way the Dodgers evaluated McCarthy.

The NFL in Dodger Stadium?

dodger stadium getty
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This is a few days old, but just bubbled up in front of me this morning. The “League,” here refers to the NFL, of course, and the topic is the NFL’s desire to move a team to Los Angeles:

Which I would object to on religious grounds. A better objection, however, may come from one of the people who commented on the tweet:

I have no idea if this scale is perfectly correct — and it’s possible it could work if you angled the gridiron from the first base dugout out to left field like a lot of multi-purpose parks do — but it still looks like a lousy place for football, even if you don’t care about the desecration of a baseball cathedral.

My guess is that it’s just something people are yakking about to be yakking. Or that it’s some idea aimed at seeing if people will actually go to Chavez Ravine to watch football, eventually paving the way for the construction of a football stadium on the site as has been suggested at various times in recent years.

Meanwhile, on Dan Shaughnessy’s Hall of Fame ballot

Tim Raines
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Dan Shaugnessy’s Hall of Fame ballot is out. He demonstrates his usual rigorous care for the process by, apparently, spending about 30 seconds on the thing.

He puts Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Randy Johnson on his ballot. He also adds Tim Raines and Alan Trammell. I love all of those choices, of course.

But let us recall that in 2012 Shaughnessy put Raines and Trammell on his ballot and in 2013 he left Raines and Trammell off. And in none of these years has he come close to filling the ten slots allotted. So I guess those two have gotten worse and better at various times. Or maybe he just doesn’t give a crap about his ballot. Can’t wait to see which long-retired player improves in 2015!

Of course there’s this too, during his discussion about PEDs:

No votes for guys caught using. And worse — no votes for guys who just don’t look right. Bagwell and Piazza are the two players most penalized for this arbitrary crime . . . Happily, none of the bad stuff ever touched Pedro.

And he knows this. For reasons, apparently.

In other news, Dan Shaughnessy was a finalist for the Spink Award, which the baseball writers talk about as if it were induction into the Hall of Fame. He lost. Maybe it’s because he just didn’t look right.