Craig Calcaterra

Rob Manfred AP

Rob Manfred is in favor of “One Baseball”

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Baseball America reports that Rob Manfred wants to unify American baseball. His words at a speech to the American Baseball Coaches Association:

“Major League Baseball is committed to the idea that we are going to be more actively engaged with all parts of the baseball community at all levels . . . Our tagline for this effort is One Baseball,” Manfred said. “We want one umbrella effort, with Major League Baseball at the top of it, but involving college, high school and various youth programs. Going forward, we have to attack the youth and amateur market in a single unified and coherent way.”

He didn’t mention the minor leaguers. Those guys are still on their own, I guess. And screw them if they want to make more than $7.25 an hour.

As for youth and amateur baseball, the best thing Major League Baseball could probably do is subsidize leagues so that you don’t have to be rich to play at the highest youth levels. Because as of now, youth baseball is becoming a sport for the well off. Kids and their parents have to pay big fees to play and a lot of travel is required. Given the choice, a kid who isn’t rich is likely to choose basketball or football over baseball, as those sports have much stronger school-based programs and youth programs that don’t skew as expensive and travel-intensive as baseball can.

 

The 22nd best GM of all time won a World Series in the age of free agency . . . without free agents

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Mark Armour and Dan Levitt have written a book: In Pursuit of Pennants, which examines how front offices have historically found innovative ways to build winning teams. In support of that, they are counting down the top-25 GMs of all time over at their blog. Since it’s slow season, I’m going to continue linking to the countdown as it’s great stuff we rarely read about in the normal course.

Today Mark and Dan discuss Jim Campbell, who ran the Detroit Tigers from the early 60s and into the early 90s. As they note, he was the last of the old school GMs who hated free agency and didn’t really use it as a tool to build his teams. Stopgap guys? Sure. But no big splashes. Yet he presided over teams that won tons of ballgames and two World Series.

He also, however, presided over teams that cratered when the excellent of core players he and his scouts signed and/or drafted got old. The post-Kaline Tigers of the mid-70s and the post-Gibson/Morris/Trammell/Whitaker Tigers of the early 90s were some bad old teams who likely would’ve won more games had Campbell been willing to add some star power and cut loose some dead wood earlier than he did. It’s never a good idea to go through life with one hand tied behind your back.

But even if Campbell only used one hand, he did it masterfully. Really, has there ever been one team with two distinct cores of amazing players like the 1960s and 1980s Tigers had that were put together by the same GM? I can’t think of one.

Quote of the Day: Hall of Fame voter reasoning that’ll make you tear your hair out

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When Murray Chass writes a blog post in which he, himself, is not the most unreasonable person speaking, well, you know you’re on to something special.

Today he writes about voters who voted for either Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens, but who did not vote for both. It’s a topic I’ve personally been fascinated with and have written about it a couple of times here myself.

Chass spoke to a couple of these guys, and here is the justification one gave for voting for Roger Clemens but not voting for Barry Bonds:

“I’ve always believed PEDs shouldn’t be used as a factor in voting, so I went with Clemens and Bonds in the past,” he said in an e-mail. “But, honestly, my head is spinning when I’m researching these guys. So this year I deemed there were numerous strong candidates and decided to invoke the character clause with Bonds, deeming him a jerk who perhaps doesn’t meet Hall standards.

”Look, I know he belongs on merit, but I just had trouble voting for him. I know there are other less than perfect guys but Bonds is way worse. Fact is, I have trouble being consistent year to year with my principles.”

PEDs are not a factor, but Bonds gets the character clause thrown at him for being “a jerk.” Between that and his admission that (a) this so-called expert can’t research the matter at hand without his head spinning; and (b) has no grasp on even his own principles, we are either witnessing the work of the worst Hall of Fame voter in history or else a cleverly subtle intentional public forfeiture of his voting privileges.

The Braves have no interest in trading Craig Kimbrel for some reason

Craig Kimbrel AP
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The Braves are rebuilding and, no matter what they say publicly, likely do not have winning as their top priority for the next year or two. They have a closer who has been amazing for five seasons and who just about any team would love to have. The universe of elite closers who remain elite beyond, say, seven years of dominance, is pretty damn small. Rivera, Hoffman and . . . um.

Yet, the Braves are not willing to sell high on a commodity a rebuilding team really doesn’t need:

Maybe like that 2015 optimism, the lack of a desire to trade Kimbrel is baloney too. I guess one does better if one acts like it would pain them greatly to part with a player. And, of course, maybe it’s more palatable for ticket sales — and possibly for the haul in return — to wait until the new-look Braves are slogging along in fourth place before shopping Kimbrel.

But really, if the Braves are in the business of stockpiling prospects and shooting for 2017 — as most of their moves, as opposed to their words, suggest — trading Kimbrel right now would make a lot of sense.

Great Moments in Yankees Kremlinology: Max Scherzer edition

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Following the Yankees in the offseason — and the media which covers the Yankees in the offseason — reminds me of the Cold War. No, not the threat of nuclear annihilation or any of that fun stuff, but there is definitely some fun Kremlinology to it all.

Like political reporters who covered the Soviet Union, those who cover the Yankees spend an awful lot of time attempting to understand a secretive organization’s plans and intentions by interpreting indirect clues and, often, reading a whole hell of a lot into the smallest thing.

Which, to be fair, the Yankees have justified by fairly frequently (a) lowering expectations as the offseason begins; only to (b) make some big splash later, with little or no warning. Which makes some sense because the Yankees general manager is, like the Soviet Premier, nominally in charge but answers to an ownership/party hierarchy that can trump his intentions if it so chooses.

Today the New York Daily News thinks the party hierarchy is so choosing. With the headline “Hal Steinbrenner won’t rule out Max Scherzer,” which is only missing an exclamation point because newspapers only do that when countries win World Wars. From the story:

Maybe it’s just his DNA talking, but while Hal Steinbrenner added his voice to the chorus of Yankee bigwigs sounding doubtful about adding a pricey player such as Max Scherzer, the Boss Jr. didn’t slam the door on an expensive upgrade, either.

All from Hal Steinbrenner saying “look, it’s not over till it’s over” in response to questions about the Yankees’ payroll and need to add some starting pitching. Which, sure, because this is the Yankees could mean that they give Scherzer crazy money just after lunch today. Or could mean absolutely nothing and the press is reading too much into an innocuous comment.

Which is what the Yankees’ offseasons have come to look like. Their prerogative, of course. But man, I’d hate to have to cover that team.