Craig Calcaterra

Lousiville Slugger

Wilson Sporting Goods buys Louisville Slugger


Louisville Slugger is such an iconic part of baseball that it’s easy to think of them as some behemoth of a company, but they really aren’t. It’s just a concern down in Louisville that, while it happens to have big market share and brand identity among baseball fans, is just an independent company. One division of the relatively small Hillerich & Bradsby company, named after the founders of the bat business.

At least it was until today. Here’s the press release:


Which probably won’t affect all that much for us fans.

It does create a good opportunity for competitors though. Like, say, Phoenix Bats, which is located here in Columbus. They can now market themselves to hipster ballplayers as an “indie bat company.” They can use the word “artesianal” too. Maybe “farm to table” assuming bats are grown on farms and used on tables. We’ll let the marketing people figure it out.

In other news, are there any hipster ballplayers? I mean aside from Paul Reuschel?



No, the union should not file a grievance over the Kris Bryant stuff

Kris Bryant

You all know the setup by now. Kris Bryant is raking this spring and destroyed Double-A and Triple-A pitching last year. He’s ready for big league pitching. However, if the Cubs start him off in the minors and leave him down there for a little less than two weeks before bringing him to Chicago, they’ll push his service time back enough to gain another full year of control over him before he reaches free agency.

While the Cubs have consistently claimed that if they keep Bryant down, it will be for baseball reasons and not business reasons, I don’t think most folks believe that. Yes, it is possible to keep a straight face and say that Bryant needs some defensive reps at third or left field or something or that his shoulder is questionable enough to be cautious, but those are just talking points. If it weren’t for the service time issue, I think it’s insane to say that he wouldn’t start the season with just about any club.

Into all of that wades Ken Rosenthal this morning, arguing that the MLBPA should file a grievance over Bryant’s plight:

If Kris Bryant starts the season at Triple-A, the union should file a grievance to restore his lost service time, even though it would stand little chance of winning the case.

The old union leaders — Marvin Miller, Donald Fehr, et al — never backed down, always supporting players on issues of principle, regardless of the anticipated outcome.

I love Ken Rosenthal — and I think the Cubs are keeping Bryant down to manipulate his service time — but I must respectfully disagree with him here. Both on the facts and on the strategy.

Marvin Miller didn’t build the Players’ Union to what it became by fighting losing battles. Sure, he famously lost one — the Curt Flood case — but even that case (a) had at least a chance of winning at the time it was filed; and (b) ended up showing Miller and the union that it had to win its battles on surer ground, where it had the advantage, not to try Hail Mary passes or to win in the court of public opinion as opposed to where it really mattered. The owners owned the court of public opinion and, time has shown, the government’s support when it comes to baseball matters.

Beyond the Flood case, Miller built his power and that of the union by fighting small, eminently winnable battles. A pension battle here. Meal money and travel accommodations there. Small battles which the owners either ignored or had no basis to fight which (a) instilled confidence in Miller on the part of the union rank and file; and (b) showed arbitrators that Miller and the union did not cry wolf and was not interested in simply making headlines for headlines’ sake. Eventually that gave Miller the political capital and confidence to fight the bigger battles. Go read “Lords of the Realm” to see how this worked.

Filing a grievance over the Bryant thing would be the exact opposite approach. It would (a) be aimed at P.R., not righting an actual wrong (the Cubs do have the power to do what they want with Bryant); and (b) would be a sure losing case, as no arbitrator will ever second-guess a decision by a club that is, by all evidence available apart from our skeptical inferences, a baseball decision. Marvin Miller’s approach was to show his strength by getting good results. A Bryant grievance would show the union’s weakness by attempting to get via litigation that which it could not get via a straight-up Collective Bargaining negotiation. In short, it would be throwing a public tantrum. A tantrum which would cause the union rank and file to feel like its union was less effective than they want it to be.

Which, by the way, is probably already happening in some respects. The union was overly-sensitive to p.r. concerns and the complaints of some of its more disgruntled members when it came to PEDs, routinely allowing the owners to re-negotiate the terms of the drug rules and penalties without getting anything in return. Such a stance may have gotten the union some good press in the short run, but it has created a situation in which the union has forever ceded any strength it had when it comes to drug issues. The league can suspend a first-time offender for a year now. It can, possibly, penalize a drug addict just as harshly. The MLBPA has no real voice in this anymore, it seems. If it picks losing battles in other areas, it will be similarly weakened.

If Tony Clark and the union want to fix the Bryant situation, they should address it in the next CBA. In the meantime, they should make a point of asserting the rights players already have by virtue of the CBA and work to build consensus among the players about what battles they wish to fight and how hard they wish to fight them.

Put differently: it should leave the theatrics and the P.R. to the Scott Borases of the world and get to work.

A-Rod’s cousin Yuri to plead guilty in the Biogenesis case

Clinic at Center of MLB Doping Scandal

The last we heard from Alex Rodriguez’s infamous “Cousin Yuri” Sucart, he was in a hospital bed and his wife was claiming that A-Rod re-enacted the peeing-on-the-rug scene from “The Big Lebowski” as some sort of warning or something. The Daily News was playing along, of course, painting the drug distributor who was under a seven-count indictment and who was pretty clearly shaking down his rich cousin as a victim and A-Rod as Darth Vader.

Today, however, the Daily News reports that Cousin Yuri is going to plead guilty to one count in the Biogenesis case. He’ll likely serve a small amount of time. Go for the information, stay for the de rigueur slamming of Rodriguez too.

My favorite part: calling A-Rod’s proffer and testimony against Sucart “Queen for a Day” testimony. Which is a term that, yes, is used in criminal cases to describe situations in which someone involved tells what they know about a crime in exchange for immunity or leniency. But it’s sort of an antiquated term, used colloquially in discussions among criminal lawyers and rarely seen in actual news reporting about informant testimony. The Daily News can’t help itself here, however. I mean, if it has a chance to call A-Rod a name, it’s not going to pass it up.

Anyway, with Yuri’s plea, the Biogenesis case is all over except for the jail time.

Asdrubal Cabrera named the Rays’ starting shortstop

Asdrubal Cabrera

Kinda surprised at this: Marc Topkin reports that the Rays plan to name Asdrubal Cabrera their starting shortstop.

Cabrera finished 2014 with the Nationals, primarily as a second baseman. As he wound down seven-and-a-half seasons with the Indians, the thought was that he really didn’t play as a good defensive shortstop any longer, and it was expected that the Rays would use him at second just like the Nats did, with Nick Franklin or Tim Beckham playing short. That’s apparently out now, presumably because, according to the article, neither Franklin nor Beckham has impressed at short this spring and because Cabrera has made it clear he’s more comfortable there and Rays’ brass acknowledges that.

Also possibly playing into the mix, but not mentioned in the article: Cabrera is on a one-year deal and it’d be way better for the Rays — who I don’t think will contend — to feature him as a shortstop in the first half in an effort to draw some interest in him at the deadline in what will likely be a thin market for shortstops.

Matt Harvey is back, “And he’s got great hair, too”

Matt Harvey

New York Magazine has a feature on Mets pitcher Matt Harvey. It starts with him in a salon, “his hair still glistening from a vigorous shampooing,” after his stylist mentioned that Ian Schrager, the founder of Studio 54, had asked him to inquire about Harvey’s workout habits.

Think people are hungry for a new megastar ballplayer in New York?

The story, based on interviews done before spring training started, sets up the interesting and precarious position in which Matt Harvey finds himself as a personality, separate and apart from his identity as a ballplayer. He’s outgoing and doesn’t appear to have a shred of anxiety about being in the spotlight. He loves New York — lives and breathes the city — and wants to experience everything it offers. He’s basically a budding Joe Namath figure.

However, baseball — and especially the New York baseball media — has had 20 years of the quiet, businesslike Derek Jeter as its celebrity “face,” if you will. It and the baseball public expect bland quotes, no controversies and little if any information about how the ballplayer spends his downtime. It also has, in ways it never did before Derek Jeter came around, decided that one is almost not allowed to be recognized as a superstar until one has won a championship ring or five. Throw Harvey into that mix, and you’re bound to get criticism, thinkpieces, counter-thinkpieces and all manner of noise.

The interesting part of this: Jeter himself has told Harvey to be himself. Has even given him a platform at his Players’ Tribune to do just that. Is that enough to mollify the fans, the reporters and the sports radio goons who get on Harvey’s case for, by all appearances, simply being himself? Or are we simply in an age when no one is allowed to be Joe Namath anymore and everyone has to be Derek Jeter?