Don Mattingly will fine James Loney for fly outs to left field

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James Loney is off to a terrible start and was benched against a left-handed pitcher yesterday, so in an effort to snap the first baseman out of his slump manager Don Mattingly has decided to fine him $1 each time he flies out to left field.

According to the Dodgers manager Loney will “take a dollar back every time he hits a line drive to left.”

Loney is making $4.9 million this season, so obviously a $1 fine is purely symbolic, but the fact that a first baseman is being urged not to hit fly balls to the outfield shows why the Dodgers should probably be looking for another first baseman.

Even at his best Loney’s lack of power made him a mediocre hitter and because of that he starts dragging the lineup down when he’s not hitting at least .280. Last season Loney hit .267 with just 10 homers and a .723 OPS, which ranked 22nd among the 24 first basemen with at least 500 plate appearances. So far this year he’s hitting .202 with a .471 OPS.

Line drives are a good thing and encouraging Loney to avoid fly balls is a reasonable stance given his lack of power, but the Dodgers would be better off finding a first baseman whose fly balls actually travel over the fence more than 10-15 times a season and with slugging prospect Jerry Sands waiting in the wings that switch may be in the near future.

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.