Going crazy about Javy Vazquez

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Earlier today I made a comment about how talk radio would go crazy on Javier Vazquez. I haven’t listened to any New York talk radio today to see if they have, but regardless, I owe the radio people an apology for suggesting that they have a monopoly on overreaction. Web writers are just as capable of ridiculous hyperbole. Here’s Greg Cohen from Sliding into Home:

I think it’s time we accept that Javier Vazquez might just be gutless bitch who can’t handle New York or
the American League.

Vazquez has been bad, no question. His velocity is down and because of it hitters are able to wait for slop and are teeing off on it.  If it keeps up Joe Girardi is going to have to think about giving his starts to someone else. And yes, people can boo him if they want I suppose.  I’m abandoning that crusade out of sheer futility.

But to suggest that the guy’s on-the-field failures are the result of some inherent character flaw or moral failing — in other words, to call someone a “gutless bitch” — seems way over the top to me. Save me the “you’re not from New York and you don’t know how it goes” business. This is just the most facile kind of analysis possible and it adds nothing to the party.

Mark Lerner says Nationals can’t afford both Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg

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The defending champion Washington Nationals may have to replace two star players in third baseman Anthony Rendon and starter Stephen Strasburg as both are free agents. Both are represented by agent Scott Boras and both are expected to command lucrative contracts. As a result, Nationals managing principal owner Mark Lerner said the club can’t afford to bring back both players, Todd Dybas of NBC Sports Washington reports.

Lerner told Donald Dell in an interview, “We really can only afford to have one of those two guys. They’re huge numbers. We already have a really large payroll to begin with.”

As Dybas notes, there are myriad reasons why Lerner would say this publicly. If Lerner had instead said, “Yeah, we’re filthy stinking rich, especially coming off of a World Series win. We could afford to get every free agent if we wanted to,” then the Nationals would have no leverage in negotiations. Creating artificial scarcity increases the Nationals’ leverage when negotiating with Boras and his clients. And as Dybas also points out, Lerner’s statement also prepares fans for an unsatisfactory outcome not unlike when the club took itself out of the running to bring back outfielder Bryce Harper earlier this year. This not to say Lerner’s statement is justified; it’s just how things work in the current system.

Lerner also defended the Nationals’ approach to free agency. He said, “They think you’re really back there printing money and it’s whoever goes to the highest bidder. It’s not that way at all. You give these fellas — there’s a negotiation that goes on, but…We’ve been pretty successful in free agency over time. You’re not going to get everybody. Certain players may want to go home, closer to where their home is. You never know the reason why people move on. But, we’ve been very successful. Probably one of the most successful teams in free agency the last 10 years. We’re very proud of our record. But, again, I think people have to realize, it’s not all up to us.”

It is true that the Nationals have been one of the most active teams in free agency in recent years. In a league that has otherwise done the opposite, they deserve some credit for that. But the Nationals are also keenly aware of the competitive balance tax threshold, which teams use as a de facto salary cap. They don’t have to, but they choose to because it’s a convenient structure that allows them to limit expenditures.

At the end of the day, it’s baseball’s financial structure that is rotten. It forces constant misinformation out of everyone’s mouths so as to protect their financial interests and leverage, and incentivizes teams to value profits above all. In a perfect world, MLB team owners wouldn’t need to cry poor every offseason, but we don’t live in such a world.