Of course, me putting the way I did in the headline is totally loaded. I did that on purpose, because that’s how fans and writers almost always talk about players changing teams in free agency. As if they “left” or as if they were greedy and did something to their old team and its fan base. As if they did something wrong, even. It’s kind of nuts.
But today Max Scherzer talked about his decision to go to the Nationals. After noting that Tigers players could see that changes were going to be coming eventually — as long as two years ago — he put what motivated him into very clear terms:
“It’s the business part of the game. The business part of the game is ugly. I mean, look at it from the other side. I’ve seen so many of my friends get cut and released and all taken advantage of because at the end of the day, we say it’s the business part of the game. I just took advantage of the business side of the game to benefit me.”
And players do that a fraction of the amount that owners do. At least in major ways like Scherzer did here. There are a handful of big free agent signings each year and scores of small moves by teams — DFAs, automatic renewals for pre-arbitration players, service time manipulation, etc. — that are a function of a team exercising its power over players. No one says boo to that. But players, “well, how dare they leave us?” “How dare they seek the highest dollar?” Bonus points if the speaker uses the word “almighty” before “dollar.” Then you know you’re dealing with a sharp one.
Good for Max for knowing what time it was.
Dodgers new GM Farhan Zaidi is currently doing a Twitter chat with fans. I decided to ask as question:
I got an answer:
This is the promise of the Internet, people. Welcome to the future.
Rob Manfred was up in Bristol, Connecticut to speak with ESPN baseball writers and reporters, so expect to see a lot coming out about those meetings in the next few days. The first thing, from Jayson Stark, is fun.
Stark reports that Manfred would advise Hall of Fame voters not to “surmise” that certain players used performance-enhancing drugs unless there is “credible evidence.” He notes that, yes, with someone like Barry Bonds, there’s a lot of evidence, so that’s not big deal. But he goes on:
“The guys I’m concerned about are, there are players out there who are talked about where there is literally nothing. They have nothing, other than, you know, ‘He looked like X.’ Trust me, from somebody who spent a lot of time doing it, you can’t decide whether or not somebody was using steroids, based on what they look like. That is not enough evidence to make that determination.”
That describes Piazza and Bagwell, the two current Hall of Fame candidates who have been the subject of most of that kind of speculation by Hall of Fame voters.
Odds any Hall of Fame voter’s mind is changed on this: about zero, I’d say. The people who vote this way long ago decided that they are Defenders of the Sacred Hall, not reasonable actors, and good sense like that which Manfred is offering here will not deter them from their quest.
This is neat. Most teams have “academies” in Latin America. The Diamondbacks have one that not only teaches baseball players the game, but also teaches them academically. And hands out diplomas. From Nick Piecoro at the Arizona Republic:
Five young men will don caps and gowns atop Diamondbacks uniforms on Friday morning in the Dominican Republic, where club officials will present them with high school diplomas.
They represent the first graduating class in a program that’s believed to be the first of its kind. For years, every major-league club has operated a Dominican academy where players as young as 16 begin their professional careers. The Diamondbacks’ academy in Boca Chica is the first to also offer players a classroom education.
It’s good to see that the Diamondbacks are treating the young men in their academy as something more than mere baseball playing resources that are either fully-exploited or discarded by the time they turn 17.
A-Rod: doing good deeds, having his praises sung by a notable Yankees figure and soon to meet with an eager Yankees brass!
Hmm. That certainly doesn’t jibe with the narrative. Nor does this, from John Sterling, the Yankees announcer:
“We talked right after the fire. Alex felt terrible about it,” Sterling told me over the telephone. “He offered me his place in Manhattan to stay in when this happened. I guess he was in Florida.”
Sterling, while realistic about the chances for A-Rod to contribute as a player has nothing but good things to say about him. But, this being a story in the Daily News, it is important that the author immediately note that A-Rod is, indeed, hated:
“I’m rooting for Alex,” Sterling said emphatically. “He’s a friend.”
Having absolutely no knowledge of how each member of the Yankees organization feels about Rodriguez, it’s a safe bet they are not on the same page as Sterling. A-Rod does not have many allies.
The very next paragraph explains how the team’s manager, Joe Girardi, is an A-Rod ally. And then the stuff above from Cashman. And earlier in the week Yankees reliever Dellin Betances talked about liking A-Rod and looking forward to seeing him in camp. And there have been a lot of stories about his good relationship with Latin players in pinstripes over the years.
None of which makes A-Rod a great guy. The fact about him are the facts. But it’s almost as if the extent to which he is a monster no one likes has been overblown by the press. Shocking, I know.