Pat Burrell rejoins Giants lineup, but not as cleanup hitter

2 Comments

Here are the lineups for Game 5 of the World Series:

   GIANTS                         RANGERS
1. Andres Torres, RF           1. Elvis Andrus, SS
2. Freddy Sanchez, 2B          2. Michael Young, 3B
3. Buster Posey, C             3. Josh Hamilton, CF
4. Cody Ross, LF               4. Vladimir Guerrero, DH
5. Juan Uribe, 3B              5. Nelson Cruz, RF
6. Aubrey Huff, 1B             6. Ian Kinsler, 2B
7. Pat Burrell, DH             7. David Murphy, LF
8. Edgar Renteria, SS          8. Bengie Molina, C
9. Aaron Rowand, CF            9. Mitch Moreland, 1B

While the Rangers are going with their now-standard playoff lineup versus right-handed pitching, the Giants have made several changes.

Pat Burrell rejoins the lineup after sitting out Game 4, but does so while in the No. 7 spot after previously hitting fourth or fifth throughout the postseason. Burrell is just 6-for-38 (.158) with 19 strikeouts in the playoffs, but manager Bruce Bochy still wants his right-handed bat in there versus left-hander Cliff Lee.

Burrell serving as the designated hitter opens up an outfield spot for another right-handed hitter, Aaron Rowand, to make his first start since Game 4 of the NLCS. That moves Andres Torres to right field and gives the Giants a very strong defensive outfield to support Tim Lincecum. Oh, and Cody Ross is now the cleanup hitter for a team one victory from winning the World Series, which is easily the craziest sentence I’ve typed all season.

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

Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images
1 Comment

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.