Joba and Hughes to be "programmed to start" and other Gammons notes

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Peter Gammons who, lest we forget, was working the news and rumors beat when Rosenthal and Heyman were watching “Superfriends” in their mammas’ rumpus rooms, has a number of nuggets this early afternoon:

— The Yankees are content to enter spring training with Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes ready to work as starting pitchers, slotting in David Robertson and Damaso Marte as Mariano Rivera’s primary setup men.  Whether this is (a) the actual strategy; or (b) leverage for a future John Lackey negotiation (“starters? why would we need starters?”) is unclear, but it’s the right choice in my mind.  Give those two every conceivable chance to start and don’t pull the plug unless and until they unequivocally fail in the role.

— Contrary to all of the Granderson-Jackson-Cabrera speculation, Tigers’ owner Mike Ilitch simply won’t allow a fire sale.  This matches up with my handicapping of the situation last week.  It’s easy to react emotionally in the early part of the offseason, but a clear-eyed assessment of the Tigers’ place in the universe right now suggests that they can and will strongly contend for the next few years, and that’s something they should focus on.

— People are questioning Aroldis Chapman’s integrity and character for leaving the agents who “got him out of Cuba.” Um, maybe. But it’s worth remembering that Chapman’s defection was not exactly some harrowing journey at sea. He walked to the lobby of his European hotel and got in a car.  There’s always two sides to every story. Do we know what Chapman’s agents promised him on the market? Do we know whether they’ve been honest with him? Do we know if there is some personal animus between the parties? Players leave agents all the time. Sometimes for good reasons, sometimes for bad.  If I was interested in Chapman, I’d simply ask the guy what the deal was and go from there.

— Billy Beane is a Killers fan.  I’m too old to know if that makes Beane old or not, or cool or not.  The last album I bought was a Stax/Volt soul compilation, so I’m a little bit out of the loop with these things.

MLB executive: Bruce Maxwell’s kneeling may keep him from finding work, not his arrest

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In September 2017, former Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first major league player to kneel during the national anthem, joining the handfuls of NFL players who had been doing the same to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Maxwell’s effort was laudable, but he got into trouble a month later when he was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct. Maxwell allegedly pointed a gun at a food delivery person.

Maxwell, 27, played sparingly for the Athletics in 2018 and then was designated for assignment at the beginning of September. He officially became a free agent on November 2 and has had trouble finding work in the month-plus since.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Maxwell fired his agent, Matt Sosnick on Thursday because he’s still jobless. According to an unnamed MLB executive Slusser spoke to, “It’s the kneeling thing that might keep him from getting another job, not the arrest. Owners aren’t going to want to deal with that whole anthem issue.”

That makes a lot of since since abusive players haven’t had too much trouble finding new work otherwise. Addison Russell, Jeurys Familia, and José Reyes, among others have either stayed with their teams or quickly found new work. Given the relatively weak catching market, had Maxwell only had the assault charge, there is no doubt he would have been signed to be a backup catcher somewhere.

In the NFL, Colin Kaepernick — who popularized kneeling during the anthem — has remained unsigned even though teams have opted to sign and start clearly inferior quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez, Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler, Matt Barkley, and Sam Bradford, among many others. Team owners tend to run conservative in terms of politics, so they may not like the protest to begin with, then there is the public blowback to signing such a player as those who dislike such protesting make up a slight majority in the U.S., according to various polls including one done by the Washington Post.

It’s worth noting that Maxwell has a career .240/.314/.347 triple-slash line in 412 plate appearances. We’re not talking about J.T. Realmuto or Buster Posey here. That being said, there have been 15 other catchers to have put up a lower aggregate OPS since 2016 (min. 400 PA). One of those players, Derek Norris (.600 OPS since 2016), signed a minor league contract with the Tigers just three months after being suspended by Major League Baseball for violating its domestic violence policy. Makes you think.