Random observations from ALCS Game 2

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Epic game.  Stuff worth discussing further:

Question to those who believe that ballplayers actually have some
inborn ability to perform (or not) in the clutch as opposed it simply
being a matter of chance:  when did A-Rod “learn” this ability?  Last
winter?  Some time over the course of the season?  Did he read the
Cliff’s Notes during the All-Star break? Inquiring minds want to know .
. .

Despite his heroics in the 11th, I’m sure some folks will still say
something snarky about his popup with the bases loaded in the 12th.  It
takes longer to give up irrational A-Rod hate than it does to learn to
be clutch.

First we heard over and over again about how fundamentally sound the
Twins were supposed to be and about how they do all of the little
things right.  Then we heard over and over again about how
fundamentally sound the Angels were supposed to be and about how they
do all of the little things right.  The Yankees may have won all five
of their postseason games so far anyway, but poor fundamentals on the
part of the Twins and Angels have made it a hell of a lot easier for them.

That said, if Chone Figgins comes up with the Izturis overthrow
cleanly, I think there’s a good chance Hairston would have been out at
home.  Not that it matters a bit.  Should have taken the out at first,
Macier.

As I sipped my beer and waited for the commercial break to end, I
wondered to myself: “is there a single person watching this game who
said ‘you know, I wasn’t going to get Direct TV, but now that the Black
Eyed Peas have weighed in on it, I’m going to take the plunge.'”

In case Angels fans are wondering, Fuentes is owed $9 million next
year, and has an option that vests for 2011 if he finishes 55 games. 
Yes, blown saves in the 9th count as “games finished.”  Enjoy next
season!

In contrast, Mariano Rivera, despite looking like he’s about 55 now, is
still basically unhittable.  Two and a third, and the Angels couldn’t
touch him.  I think even Angels fans have to agree that there’s never
been another relief pitcher like that guy, and that we’re all lucky to
have seen him in action.  Our grandkids will be talking about him.

I never thought I’d say this, but after a round and a half of Chip
Caray, Joe Buck is actually a sound for sore ears.  He’s still
basically terrible, but he’s less offensive than the other terrible announcer who only has his job because of nepotism.

I won’t dwell on it because the play ultimately didn’t have any impact
on the game’s outcome, but the safe call on Erick Aybar’s attempted
double play in the bottom of the 10th is the sort of thing that will
have people talking.  You know the deal: the old “neighborhood” play,
where they usually give the shortstop some leeway on actually touching
the bag with the ball in his hands when a runner is bearing down on
him.  I understand the reason for the leeway: we don’t want dudes
getting hurt down there if it can be avoided, but you at least have to
skip your feet across the bag a bit, right?  Aybar just straddled it.  Video here. I think it was the right call.

Like I said, epic game (at least for everyone who isn’t an Angels
fan).  I’m glad that, if they had to have a five-hour+, 13-inning
affair, that it happened on a Saturday night.  The Angels are in deep
trouble.  To win, they basically have to beat Sabathia twice now,
right? Good luck with that . . .

Nick Markakis: ‘I play a kids’ game and get paid a lot of money. How can I be disappointed with that?’

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Earlier today, the Braves inked veteran outfielder Nick Markakis to a one-year deal worth $4 million with a club option for the 2020 season worth $6 million with a $2 million buyout. Though Markakis is 35 years old, he’s coming off of a terrific season in which he played in all 162 games and hit .297/.366/.440 with 14 home runs and 93 RBI in 705 trips to the plate. Markakis had just completed a four-year, $44 million contract, so he took a substantial pay cut.

Per David O’Brien of The Athletic, Markakis asked his kids where they wanted him to play and they said Atlanta. O’Brien also asked Markakis about the pay cut. The outfielder said, “I’m not mad at all. I play a kids’ game and get paid a lot of money. How can I be disappointed with that?”

This seemingly innocuous comment by Markakis is actually damaging for his peers and for the union. Baseball as a game is indeed a “kids’ game,” but Major League Baseball is a billion-dollar business that has been setting revenue records year over year. The players have seen a smaller and smaller percentage of the money MLB makes since the beginning of the 2000’s. Furthermore, Markakis only gets paid “a lot of money” relative to, say, a first-year teacher or a clerk at a convenience store. Relative to the value of Liberty Media, which owns the Braves, and relative to the value of Major League Baseball itself, Markakis’s salary is a drop in the ocean.

That Markakis is happy to take a pay cut is totally fine, but it’s harmful for him to publicly justify that because it creates the expectation that his peers should feel the same way and creates leverage for ownership. His comments mirror those who sympathize first and foremost with billionaire team owners. They are common arguments used to justify paying players less, giving them a smaller and smaller cut of the pie. Because Markakis not only took a pay cut but defended it, front office members of the Braves as well as the 29 other teams can point to him and guilt or shame other players for asking for more money.

“Look at Nick, he’s a team player,” I envision a GM saying to younger Braves player who is seeking a contract extension, or a free agent looking to finally find a home before spring training. “Nick’s stats are as good as yours, so why should you make more money than him?”

Contrast Markakis’s approach with Yasmani Grandal‘s. Grandal reportedly turned down a four-year, $60 million contract offer from the Mets early in the offseason and settled for a one-year, $18.25 million contract with the Brewers. Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Grandal said on MLB Network, “I felt like part of my responsibility as a player was to respect the guys that went through this process before I did. Guys like Brian McCann, Russell Martin, Yadier Molina, These are guys who established markets and pay levels for upper-tier catchers like me. I felt like I was doing a disservice if I were to take some of the deals that were being thrown around. I wanted to keep the line moving especially for some of the younger guys that are coming up … to let them know, if you’re worthy, then you should get paid what you’re worth. That’s where I was coming from.”

Grandal’s comments are exactly what a member of a union should be saying, unapologetically. The MLBPA needs to get all of its members on the same page when it comes to discussing contracts or labor situations in general publicly. What Markakis said seems selfless and innocent — and I have no doubt he is being genuine without malice — but it could reduce the bargaining power players have across the table from ownership, which means less money. They are already being bamboozled, at least until the next collective bargaining agreement. They don’t need to be bamboozled any more.