Blogger at NBC Sport.com's HardballTalk. Recovering litigator. Rake. Scoundrel. Notorious Man-About-Town.
This morning’s trade between the Indians and the Yankees represents a definitive statement for both the team acquiring the superstar and the team giving him up. For the first time in recent memory the Cleveland Indians are truly pulling out all the stops and are truly going for it. For the first time in the Brian Cashman era the Yankees are truly sellers who are entering rebuild mode.
Andrew Miller is arguably baseball’s best relief pitcher and, once you account for the fact that he’s under team control through 2018 he’s undoubtedly the most valuable relief pitcher in the game. There is not a single contender who would not have loved to have him. The fact that the Indians were the ones who pulled the trigger represents a sea change in organizational philosophy. Cleveland has, in the past, tried to make do with what it had, even when the playoffs were in reach. They have eschewed taking on any big contracts, even if they were sensible ones like Miller’s is. They have a 4.5 game lead in the AL Central and none of its divisional competition appears to have a higher gear with which to run them down, but they are taking no chances. This is how a major league team with its talent should operate. It’s a way the Indians have rarely if ever operated in recent years.
The Yankees too are doing something new: rebuilding. Not simply shuffling a few deck chairs while paying lip service to championships still being their only goal, but truly selling like they have never sold in the Brian Cashman era. The deal of Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs might’ve signaled that for most teams, but even after it, the Yankees could’ve said “hey, we still have a lights-out closer in Miller” and pretended that they were truly shooting for the playoffs. But giving up Miller any words they offer in that direction — and just this morning Joe Girardi denied that this is a “white flag” trade — are really just words. Make no mistake: this is a selloff.
But it’s a damn good selloff. J.P. Feyereisen, Clint Frazier, Ben Heller and Justus Sheffield — the players New York got for Miller — is an outstanding package that, along with the haul they got for Chapman, instantly catapults the Yankees’ farm system to the upper echelon. Frazier, who has excelled at levels where he was far younger than the competition, is probably the most projectable young position player the Yankees have had since Robinson Cano. Sheffield, a 20-year-old pitcher who is also facing older competition, is a top-100 prospect who most scouts think will be a mid-rotation starter. Heller can throw 100 miles per hour. Feyereisen has averaged 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings in three minor league seasons and projects to be a solid major league reliever.
It wasn’t long ago that baseball’s critics lamented that teams like the Yankees will always have a competitive advantage and teams like the Indians will never be able to compete. Maybe that’s still true when it comes to the financial ledger, but it’s certainly not true on the field. At the trade deadline, in 2016, the Cleveland Indians have landed one of the biggest fish in the lake. The Yankees have cut bait.
You’ll recall the little controversy last month when Ichiro Suzuki passed Pete Rose’s hit total. Specifically, when Ichiro’s Japanese and American hit total reached Rose’s American total of 4,256 and a lot of people talked about Ichiro being the new “Hit King.” You’ll also recall that Rose himself got snippy about it, wondering if people would now think of him as “the Hit Queen,” which he took to be disrespect.
There’s a profile of Ichiro over at ESPN the Magazine and reporter Marly Rivera asked Ichiro about that. Ichiro’s comments were interesting and quite insightful about how ego and public perception work in the United States:
I was actually happy to see the Hit King get defensive. I kind of felt I was accepted. I heard that about five years ago Pete Rose did an interview, and he said that he wished that I could break that record. Obviously, this time around it was a different vibe. In the 16 years that I have been here, what I’ve noticed is that in America, when people feel like a person is below them, not just in numbers but in general, they will kind of talk you up. But then when you get up to the same level or maybe even higher, they get in attack mode; they are maybe not as supportive. I kind of felt that this time.
There’s a hell of a lot of truth to that. Whatever professional environment you’re in, you’ll see this play out. If you want to know how you’re doing, look at who your enemies and critics are. If they’re senior to you or better-established in your field, you’re probably doing something right. And they’re probably pretty insecure and maybe even a little afraid of you.
The rest of the article is well worth your time. Ichiro seems like a fascinating, insightful and intelligent dude.
In 2012 Curt Schilling’s video game company, 38 Studios, delivered the fantasy role-playing game it had spent millions of dollars and countless man hours trying to deliver. And then the company folded, leaving both its employees and Rhode Island taxpayers, who underwrote much of the company’s operations via $75 million in loans, holding the bag.
The fallout to 38 Studios’ demise was more than what you see in your average business debacle. Rhode Island accused Schilling and his company of acts tantamount to fraud, claiming that it accepted tax dollars while withholding information about the true state of the company’s finances. Former employees, meanwhile, claimed — quite credibly, according to reports of the matter — that they too were lured to Rhode Island believing that their jobs were far more secure than they were. Many found themselves in extreme states of crisis when Schilling abruptly closed the company’s doors. For his part, Schilling has assailed Rhode Island politicians for using him as a scapegoat and a political punching bag in order to distract the public from their own misdeeds. There seems to be truth to everyone’s claims to some degree.
As a result of all of this, there have been several investigations and lawsuits into 38 Studios’ collapse. In 2012 the feds investigated the company and declined to bring charges. There is currently a civil lawsuit afoot and, alongside it, the State of Rhode Island has investigated for four years to see if anyone could be charged with a crime. Today there was an unexpected press conference in which it was revealed that, no, no one associated with 38 Studios will be charged with anything:
An eight-page explanation of the decision concluded by saying that “the quantity and qualify of the evidence of any criminal activity fell short of what would be necessary to prove any allegation beyond a reasonable doubt and as such the Rules of Professional Conduct precluded even offering a criminal charge for grand jury consideration.”
Schilling will likely crow about this on his various social media platforms, claiming it totally vindicates him. But, as he is a close watcher of any and all events related to Hillary Clinton, he no doubt knows that a long investigation resulting in a declination to file charges due to lack of evidence is not the same thing as a vindication. Bad judgment and poor management are still bad things, even if they’re not criminal matters.
Someone let me know if Schilling’s head explodes if and when someone points that out to him.