Craig Calcaterra

cuba hat

Why in the heck is Lazarito Armenteros gonna get $20 million?


This post is not meant to assess Lazarito Armenteros. I am not qualified to do that. Go read Ben Badler at Baseball America if you want a breakdown on the 16-year-old Cuban prospect. Ben knows his stuff when it comes to that.

No, I pose that question because I want to link an excellent article that seeks to answer it and, in turn, tells us so much about the relationship between the rules MLB sets for international signings, how international players are paid and what it all means for competitive balance in general.

It comes from the folks behind NEIFI, a baseball performance and analytics company which provides projections and all manner of other analytics for its clients. This article is a bit out of their usual bailiwick, but it’s nonetheless enlightening and speaks directly to the question posed in the headline and, more significantly, to the problems and inefficiencies of player development, both on the international stage and in the draft.

The short summary: based on talent and scouting reports alone, there is no reason for Lazarito Armenteros to get the $15-20 million he’s likely to get when he signs with a club soon. He’s getting it because there is a “Cuban Premium” out there on the market, which inspires teams to spend more for Cuban prospects than for equally-talented Dominican or Venezuelan players. The premium is a function of some rather high-priced Cuban signings in the past which, in turn, were based on some weird and arbitrary rules and deadlines MLB set with respect to Cuban free agents, not because there was some sense that they were better.

That expands to a conversation about anchoring effects (i.e. if you say, in the first instance, something is worth $X, someone will tend to believe you and not think too hard about it) and black pearls (i.e. they were considered worthless until someone said they were valuable). It more significantly expands into a discussion of how international bonus pools and luxury taxes and things impact team behavior and how, given the current setup, they lead to things like the Dodgers having an outsized advantage in international signings.

The final bit: a proposal of the best way to set up rules regarding the draft, international signings and total player development outlay in such a way to even the field.

To be clear, the authors do not think they have some perfect insight. They note, quite correctly, that any new set of rules, their own proposed rules included, have a much larger impact on the competitive landscape than the rulemakers usually anticipate and that the name of the game is managing a team’s incentives, not its payroll or budget directly. Give a team a number and they’ll unleash their army of analysts on it in order to exploit their limitation. Give them a set of incentives and disincentives, however, and you can more finely manage their behavior.

It’s heady stuff which gets down to the issues we’ve been talking a lot about lately with respect to tanking, slotting and the like. Give it a read.


Reminder: MLB.TV and Extra Innings is cheaper this year

Getty Images

This news actually happened a month ago, but I was just reminded of it by virtue of an email I received reminding me that I, like a lot of you, are members of a class in a class action lawsuit that just settled and that, as a result, we’ll get MLB.TV and the Extra Innings package at a lower price this year.

To refresh your memory, the suit alleged collusion between teams and television networks in the creation of broadcast territories. Which TOTALLY happened and was TOTALLY stupid and random, by the way. Just ask your friends who live in Iowa, Las Vegas or Hawaii about how they can’t stream games for several teams despite the teams and broadcasters making no effort to actually televise the games in those areas. As a result, the cost of these so-called “see every game” packages was wildly inflated for many, giving them up to 33% fewer games than someone who lived in a less-blacked-out area. And which might have inspired some to purchase super expensive sports tier packages from their cable company in order to get them, but I bet that was just a happy coincidence.

In any event, the case settled. Blackouts still exist. They still remain random and arbitrary and we’re not really any closer to any of us being able to cut the cable/satellite cord and just stream everything, local market included, but there are some concessions here and some baby steps. The upshot:

  • A reduction in price for the full package to $110 (from $130);
  • The creation of new single-team packages that will cost $84.99 if you want to just see one team’s games;
  • If you have cable or satellite and have MLB.TV, you can pay an extra $10 to gain access to the visiting team feed for in-market games. Meaning that if you are a Red Sox fan living in New York and you have cable, you can use to get the NESN feed of the game rather than have it blacked out and being forced to watch the YES feed.

The price drop is nice and the other stuff is a point of convenience for some, I suppose. The blackout stuff is still really galling, however. But really, given how dependent MLB and the cable and satellite companies are on sports broadcasting dollars and subscribers, it’s not shocking that we didn’t see a big paradigm shift.

Andy Pettitte gets the kid-glove treatment from the New York Daily News

Retired New York Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte speaks during a pregame ceremony officially retiring his number before a baseball game in New York, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015.  The Yankees will install a monument honoring Pettitte in Monument Park. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Associated Press

Andy Pettitte showed up at Yankees camp in Tampa yesterday to speak to Yankees minor leaguers. Or, as the New York Daily News characterized it, “to offer words of wisdom that perhaps one day will help a future generation of Yankee stars.”

The Daily News story notes that, apart from some gray hair, Pettitte looked fit and ready to play if he wanted to. The story says he talked about “the attention to detail that big leaguers have” and about how Pettitte “used himself as an example.” He additionally offered insight about “the commitment it takes to get to the big-league level and some different things, goal-setting, just some little things [he] learned over the years to help me.” The story is non-critical. It’s actually inspirational. It’s a portrait of a Great One coming back home to pass on what he knows to the Yankees’ Youngsters.

It also makes no reference whatsoever to Andy Pettite’s history of performance enhancing drug use or the legal proceedings about PEDs to which he was a party.

To be clear, this sort of story shouldn’t include such things because such things are pretty irrelevant. Pettitte is no longer a player. His drug use is in the past. Given what we know about PEDs it likely had far less impact on his performance than hysterics like to claim and made him effectively no different than scores and probably hundreds of other players of his era. It really doesn’t belong in a story about a retired player in 2016, at least in a story that is not about his past.

Except, to the Daily News, this sort of thing is almost always in these sorts of stories. Just not stories about Andy Pettitte.

In 2014, when Barry Bonds was invited back to Giants spring training, just as Pettitte was invited back to Tampa, the Daily News did a story on it. The lede: “Barry Bonds, the home run king with the drug-checkered past, is back in baseball.” Further down, the story included an entire paragraph about Bonds’ drug and legal history. The final paragraph gave shoutouts to then-Nationals manager Matt Williams’ and then-Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire’s PED history as well. Indeed, three of the six paragraphs in a story about an ex-player visiting spring training were about PEDs.

Similarly, when Bonds was under consideration to be hired by Marlins this past offseason, the Daily News’ story likewise went deep on Bonds’ drug history and, again, made mention of “admitted steroid user” Mark McGwire, who otherwise had nothing to do with the story. Once Bonds’ hiring was made official, the Daily News’ headline was “Steroids-tainted Barry Bonds hired as Marlins hitting coach.” Again, with more references to McGwire as “admitted steroid user” despite the fact that he has been coaching for several years now.

Why does Pettitte’s drug use get no mention at all when players who have been out of the game longer continue to be defined by their drug use by the Daily News? Notably, in stories which have nothing to do with the players’ pasts?

It certainly can’t be because Pettitte was honest and forthcoming about his drug use. I realize a lot of people think he was, but he wasn’t. As I detailed in 2014, Pettitte lied about his PED use on multiple occasions, including after he was named in the Mitchell Report. He also has, quite conveniently, claimed that the only two occasions he took PEDs just so happened to be the two times for which there is evidence from a third party that he did them. It was originally zero occasions and then one occasion. Pettitte has had to change his story a few times, which must be annoying. Oh, and Pettitte has also claimed that he only used PEDs to recover from injuries. Maybe that’s true, but no other player has ever been believed when he has claimed that, especially by the New York Daily News.

Again, I don’t think any less of Pettitte than I do any other player who was caught up in the PED mess of the past 20 years or so. It was a thing that happened and, in my mind, it takes nothing away from his career, his team accomplishments, his individual accomplishments or his legacy. If I’m the Yankees I WANT Andy Pettitte back in Tampa, teaching the next generation of Yankees players. If I’m doing a news story about it, I make no mention of his PED past unless it’s relevant to the story or if I’m writing detailed background about the guy.

But the New York Daily News, like a lot of other news outlets, has not taken such an approach with PED-using stars in the past. They tend to only really do that with Andy Pettitte. The paper famous for its “I-Team” tends to turn a blind eye to a favored player.