Surprise: Tony La Russa won’t back down on the Pujols-union stuff

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Yesterday Tony La Russa said that, though he has no evidence that he MLBPA is pressuring Albert Pujols to hold out for top dollar, he suspected it was the case. More than suspected, actually, he called it a “guaranteed assumption.” Then Mike Weiner of the MLBA said it wasn’t true. And Scott Boras — who knows from guys who are looking for top dollar — said that it never happens that way.

Most people involved in such a he-said, she-said would normally either back down or clam up about it at that point, realizing that there’s nothing to be gained absent some kind of evidence in their favor.  Not Tony La Russa, who told reporters today that “it strains credibility a little bit to say there hasn’t been any contact” between Pujols and the union. Which is a fancy way of saying that Weiner and Boras are lying.

I commend Tony La Russa for so bravely sticking to his guns on this. I mean, it’s not going to be easy to make someone other than the Cardinals the villains if and when Albert Pujols leaves via free agency because they’re not the highest bidder. It’s exactly this kind of tenacious behavior by La Russa, however, that gives them a fighting chance and casting the union — a party that is not at the bargaining table — in the bad guy role.

Japanese Baseball to begin June 19

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Japanese League commissioner Atsushi Saito announced that Japan’s professional baseball season will open on June 19. Teams can being practice games on June 2. There will be no fans. Indeed, the league has not yet even begun to seriously discuss a plan for fans to begin attending games, though that may happen eventually.

The season will begin three months after its originally scheduled opening day of March 20. It will be 120 games long. Teams in each six-team league — the Central League and Pacific League — will play 24 games against each league opponent. There will be no interleague play and no all-star game.

The announcement came in the wake of a national state of emergency being lifted for both Tokyo and the island of Hokkaido. The rest of the country emerged from the state of emergency earlier this month. This will allow the Japanese leagues to follow leagues in South Korea and Taiwan which have been playing for several weeks.

In the United States, Major League Baseball is hoping to resume spring training in mid June before launching a shortened regular season in early July. That plan is contingent on the league and the players’ union coming to an agreement on both financial arrangements and safety protocols for a 2020 season. Negotiations on both are ongoing. Major League Baseball will, reportedly, make a formal proposal about player compensation tomorrow.