Jake Fox — gasp! — broke an unwritten rule

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I had missed this, but several readers have alerted me to the fact that Jake Fox of the Baltimore Orioles was excoriated by both the opposing manager — Jim Leyland — and his own manager following what they perceived to be a clear violation of one of baseball’s many, many unwritten rules the other day:

The Orioles had runners on second and third and no outs in the eighth inning today when Fox came to the plate against Tigers minor leaguer Chance Ruffin. The most important aspect of this story is the score was 13-3 at the time, and both teams had subbed out most of their regulars. Ruffin started the at-bat with three straight balls, but Fox decided to take a rip at a 3-0 pitch in a clear take situation.

Taking that 3-0 rip in a blowout got both Leyland and Buck Showalter barking at Fox for not playing the game the right way and all of that rebop.

For what it’s worth, I think ‘Duk at Big League Stew nailed it in his post yesterday when he noted how — no matter what you think of Fox’s act on its own terms — it’s rather silly to get worked up about this sort of thing in a spring training game where the last thing anyone usually thinks about is competitive integrity.  And even if you should care about competitive integrity in such a game, it’s worth noting that the the Tigers staged a bit of a comeback in this one, with the score ending up 14-9.

But really: if pitchers are allowed to “work on stuff” in spring training games, why can’t hitters? There will be a time this year when Fox gets a green-light 3-0.  Is he not entitled to practice up on his from-the-heels swings?

Noah Syndergaard: ‘I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency’

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Yankees starter Luis Severino and Phillies starter Aaron Nola both signed contract extensions within the last week. Severino agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract with a 2023 club option. Nola inked a four-year, $45 million deal with a 2023 club option.

While the deals both represented significant raises and longer-term financial security for the right-handed duo, some feel like the players are selling themselves short. It has become a more common practice for players to agree to these types of deals in part due to how stagnant free agency has become. Get the money while you can.

Mets starter Noah Syndergaard is in a similar situation as Severino and Nola were. He and the Mets avoided arbitration last month, agreeing on a $6 million salary for the 2019 season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility left. A contract extension with the Mets would presumably cover both of those years plus two or three years of what would be free agent years. As Tim Britton of The Athletic reports, however, Syndergaard plans to test free agency when the time comes.

Syndergaard said, “I trust my ability and the talent that I have. So I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency and not do what they did. But if it’s fair for both sides and they approach me on it, then maybe we can talk.” He clarified that he would be open to a conversation about an extension, but the Mets thus far haven’t approached him about it. In his words, “There’s been no traction.”

Syndergaard, 26, has been one of baseball’s better starters since debuting in 2015. He owns a career 2.93 ERA with 573 strikeouts and 116 walks in 518 1/3 innings. Among pitchers to have logged at least 400 innings since 2015 and post a lower ERA are Clayton Kershaw (2.22), Jacob deGrom (2.66) and Max Scherzer (2.71). Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 yet still ranks seventh among pitchers in total strikeouts since 2015.

If Sydergaard doesn’t end up signing an extension, he will be entering free agency after the 2021 season. The collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021 and a new one will likely be agreed upon around that time. Syndergaard will hopefully have better prospects entering free agency then than players do now.