All of the whispers have had Frank McCourt not making payroll at the end of the month. And of course, if that happens, he probably loses the Dodgers. It’s kind of like the plot of the Blues Brothers but, you know, totally not fun.
But apparently McCourt played a big house show last night, collected the money and drove 106 miles to Chicago, because according to Bill Shaikin in the L.A. Times, McCourt has got the money and will meet payroll.
I’m giving serious consideration about putting together a betting pool as to how he came up with the $9.8 million. A bank job? Did his number come in? Did he mortgage Vin Scully? There’s not a ton to work with there.
Anyway, this is good news for McCourt, but probably only good news of the short term variety. Because, you know, he has to meet payroll again in June. And as Shaikin notes, it will be way harder because the Dodgers owe Manny Ramirez a big deferred compensation payment on top of the usual monthly bogey.
Of course it’s possible that McCourt could just give Manny a suitcase full of green Post-it-Notes with dollar signs drawn on them in black Sharpie marker. It would probably take a couple of months before Manny got suspicious, what with him being a big picture guy and everything. And only then because the soda machine won’t accept one of the Post-its in the bill feeder.
The Phillies are in a tailspin. The club lost its perch atop the NL East, losing 12 of its last 18 games dating back to May 30. They enter Thursday night’s action four games behind the now-first-place Braves. The reasons for the slide are myriad, including a rash of injuries, but the players have also simply not played well. Understandably, fans are upset.
It didn’t help when, for the second time in three weeks, shortstop Jean Segura didn’t run hard on a batted ball. On June 3, Segura didn’t run on an infield pop-up that eventually resulted in a season-ending injury to Andrew McCutchen. On Wednesday during the second game of a doubleheader, Segura weakly hit a Max Scherzer pitch to shallow left-center that wasn’t caught. Because he was watching the ball rather than running hard, he had to hold up after a wide turn around first base.
To the surprise of many, Segura wasn’t pulled from the game despite the lack of effort. To the even further surprise of many, manager Gabe Kapler included Segura in Thursday’s lineup against the Nationals, which has otherwise been thoroughly reshuffled. Per Scott Lauber of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Kapler said, “Jean is one of our eight best players. I don’t think taking one of our eight best players and our shortstop out of our lineup is what’s best for the Philadelphia Phillies.”
Kapler said he had a long talk with Segura. “I told him that we’re going to address not just him but other players in the clubhouse and we’re going to talk about the highest level of effort and talk about how we can’t win every night but we can win the game of give-a-[hoot] and be undefeated in that category. Then we can protect the Phillies by putting the best lineup together on a nightly basis and not think about making ourselves feel better by sending a message.”
Kapler hit the nail on the head with that last line. Benching Segura only makes fans and pundits feel better by punishing someone for a perceived transgression. But does it actually teach anything, and is it actually beneficial to the team? Maybe to the former, and no to the latter. Matt Winkelman of Baseball Prospectus brought up a great point on Twitter, writing, “The idea that punishment is the only way to solve a problem or change behavior is such a narrow minded idea.” People learn best in different ways. Some might respond well to punishment. Others may just need a good talking-to. It’s a case-by-case thing. Kapler is right to apply nuance to the situation.
So many of baseball’s long-held beliefs have fallen to the wayside in recent years. The idea that a player must always be punished for a lack of effort will hopefully be the next one to be taken out to the dumpster.