Craig Calcaterra

Money Bag

The average major league salary is up to $3.8 million

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The best things in life are free. But you can keep them for the birds and bees:

Major League Baseball’s average salary shot up to more than $3.8-million (U.S.) this year following the steepest rise since 2001, putting big-leaguers on track to top the $4-million barrier for the first time in 2015.

The actual number is $3,818,923, up from $3,386,212 last year. That’s a 12.78-percent hike, which is the biggest increase since the one that occurred between 2000 to 2001.

Meanwhile, some minor leaguer is staying at his mom’s house today. Partially because it’s the holidays, but mostly because he doesn’t make enough money to pay rent anyplace.

The Yankees are treating Alex Rodriguez differently than they treated Derek Jeter. So what?

Jeter and A-Rod
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Joel Sherman of the New York Post wrote yesterday about how the Yankees are treating Alex Rodriguez very differently than they treated Derek Jeter heading into last season.

He notes that both of them are showing a serious decline in skills, neither of them can really field a position and both of them are coming off a missed season. Yet, he observes, the Yankees started Jeter at shortstop 129 times and didn’t have any contingency plan for him not playing everyday, while they are doing everything they can to minimize A-Rod’s playing time. This year, the Yankees are acting like winning is the only thing that matters. Last year, if they were truly wanting to win ballgames more than anything else, they would’ve severely limited Jeter’s playing time.

Which, yeah. So what?

Look, I’m about the biggest A-Rod apologist/Derek Jeter eye-roller around, but even I see no problem whatsoever with the Yankees taking different approaches to their situations. Sherman acknowledges that they’re different players and that one has earned special treatment while the other clearly has not, but his premise is clearly that the Yankees’ mission is, unwaveringly, to win at all costs, and that the way they treated Jeter showed that they somehow failed to carry out that mission in 2014.

I’d take issue that “winning at all costs” either should be or actually is the Yankees’ mission. If they were being honest the Yankees would also acknowledge that “winning at all costs” is not their mission either. Sure, the marketing arm of the Yankees and George Steinbrenner’s outsized persona has sold that line over the past 20 years or so, probably better than any other team has. But the Yankees aren’t idiots. They’re run by savvy business people who realize that, sometimes, you don’t make a move that may be the winning move if it alienates fans.

Perhaps there are only a small number of moves that they would forego, but they exist. Moves like, say, benching a Mt. Rushmore figure in Yankees history when — if they’re being honest and, internally, I’m sure they were — they realized that the team is not extraordinarily well-positioned to win the World Series anyway. In light of that, playing Jeter everyday wasn’t the winning baseball move, but not too much was sacrificed. And the amount of goodwill that fostered with fans, all of whom can say that they saw Jeter’s final season, final game, final hit and so on — and when they can count the ticket and merch sales that resulted from all of that — more than makes up for the extra handful of wins they might’ve had if they had, I dunno, signed Jhonny Peralta. They were four back of a wild card. Maybe a better shortstop gets them to a crapshoot play-in game, but is it really worth all of the sturm und drang benching Jeter would’ve caused for that meager reward?

Sometimes sports aren’t just about winning. Even when the Yankees are involved. Anyone who has a problem with that needs to gain a bit of perspective.

Sadly, Yasiel Puig is not baseball’s worst baserunner

yasiel puig getty
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Not gonna lie: I’m a little bummed that Yasiel Puig doesn’t rank worse on David Schoenfield’s list of worst baserunners in baseball than he does.

I feel like Puig will be less fun if he gets mainstreamed and doesn’t aggravate people as much as he has for the past couple of years. Not being the worst at something people get mad at him for risks that very state of affairs coming to be.

What next? People overthrowing more cutoff men than he does? Flipping their bat with more disdain? He’s already lost the title of most reckless driver to Jayson Werth. Where does it end?

L.J. Mazzilli — Mets prospect and son of Lee Mazzilli — suspended 50 games for drugs

mets logo
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From MLB:

The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball announced today that New York Mets Minor League second baseman L.J. Mazzilli has received a 50-game suspension without pay following a second positive test for a drug of abuse in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. The suspension of Mazzilli, who is currently on the roster of the Single-A St. Lucie Mets of the Florida State League, is effective at the start of the 2015 season.

L.J. is the son of former Mets favorite Lee Mazzilli. The New York Post had a feature on him last month, following a successful stint in the Arizona Fall League.

Today’s specious anti-Mike Piazza-for-the-Hall-Fame argument

10 METS FAYTOK
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Bill Madden of the Daily News took part in a Hall of Fame roundtable with two of his fellow Daily News scribes. Here is how he dismisses Mike Piazza, the best hitting catcher of all time:

But even though he never tested positive, Piazza has not been able to escape the suspicion of steroids. Some people have suggested the presence of acne on his back − and then the absence of it after baseball started testing − as sufficient proof. I don’t know from acne. But what is evident is that, beginning in 2003 when baseball had its experimental testing, is when Piazza’s career began bottoming out and he started getting injuries.

He has a point. In his age 34 season his performance absolutely plummeted, dropping down 50 points in batting average, another 50 points in OBP and about 100 points in slugging. What’s more, he couldn’t be counted on as a regular catcher anymore, and they began what, ultimately, was a failed experiment to turn him into a corner infielder. It was just a train wreck.

Oh, wait. I’m sorry. What I just described was what happened to Johnny Bench in his age 34 season. Piazza didn’t dip nearly as badly when he turned 34 and he had at least three or four more productive seasons. Bench was busted and done and retired a year later when he was 35.

But please, Mr. Madden. Tell us more about all the Hall of Fame catchers who remained elite in their mid-to-late 30s.

Obviously what’s going on here is Madden knocking Piazza because he strongly believes he used PEDs. Except he doesn’t feel comfortable saying so, so he invents some statistical oddity that isn’t there in order to justify it. Never mind that Madden and his friends just as often look to mid-30s improvements as evidence of PED use, even after 2003. If you’re Roger Clemens and you get better in your 30s, it’s because you took drugs. If you’re Mike Piazza and you got worse in your 30s, it’s because you took drugs.

Just be honest, guys. Say you think Piazza was a ‘roider. Don’t pussyfoot around and make up garbage about their stats. Just say: “I’ve never had enough evidence to print it, but I think he juiced.” Sure, I’d still criticize you for that, but at least it would be based on our fundamental differences and not your inability to be honest about what you believe. To thine own self be true, dudes.

But mostly be true to the hundreds of players this kind of talk smears. Mike Piazza, ultimately, is not hurt by any of this. He’s rich, famous, presumably happy and will probably make the Hall of Fame one day.

But by creating bogus statistical arguments like this, a lot of players who aren’t in Piazza’s shoes end up getting smeared, simply because their career may look “odd” to someone. With “odd” being defined just as poorly as Madden’s take on Piazza’s career is defined above. Which is to say, everyone can be so smeared if one looks hard enough and thinks lazily or sinisterly enough. You want to go after a guy? I’m sure you can find SOMETHING or, more to the point, you can characterize something as PED-fueled.

I have no idea if Mike Piazza took PEDs. Indeed, simply being aware of baseball history from the 1990s and 2000s means that, by definition, one should not be shocked to learn that any player took them. Skinny guys AND muscular guys took PEDs. Home run hitters AND punch-and-judy hitters. Junkballers AND fireballers. Phenoms AND late-bloomers. Good players and bad.

If you think Mike Piazza did too, fine. Say so. But quit creating specious arguments to make the case your reporting can’t or won’t make for you.