Nine of 30 teams in violation of MLB’s debt rules

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On the one hand, this sounds alarming: Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times reports that nine of baseball’s 30 teams are in violation baseball’s debt service rules. The teams: Dodgers and Mets — duh — as well as the Orioles, Cubs, Tigers, Marlins, Phillies, Rangers and Nationals.

On the other hand, it’s hard to say what this truly means. Sure, former commissioner Fay Vincent calls this “troublesome,” but he thinks everything that has happened since he left office is troublesome.  What we don’t know, however, is how any of these teams outside the Dodgers, really, arrived at their currently-reported out-of compliance status and if it’s really a serious thing.

Is it short term debt or long term debt? A temporary blip of being-out-of-compliance, or something chronic?  Generally, the rules limit a team’s debt to 10 times its annual earnings.  How badly out of whack are, say, the Tigers, compared to where the Dodgers are? Doesn’t it matter that the Tigers owner has more money than Croesus, while the Dodgers’ owner does not?

Finally, Frank McCourt claims that he was given exemptions on his debt limit at times. If that’s the case (i.e. the game’s most train wreck of a financial case can be in technical compliance) doesn’t that render the concept of compliance a rather fluid one?

I don’t like that so many ownership groups are leveraged and baseball needs to be sure that the Frank McCourt/Tom Hicks examples are exceptions and not the rule.  But I’m not sure that this report, in and of itself, tells us much.

Cardinals encourage players not to hide injuries

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In Major League Baseball, players are routinely pressured to play through injury and pain. Sometimes it’s just a minor ache, and sometimes it’s a very serious injury. The pressure comes from everywhere: the players themselves, their peers, coaches, front offices, media, and fans. Players who develop a reputation for landing on the disabled list are described as “soft” and “fragile.” Players who battle through the pain get talked about as “gritty” and “dedicated.”

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals are trying to encourage their players to be more honest about their health. The culture surrounding this is tough to change, but manager Mike Matheny wants his players to come to him if “anything that is off.” As Goold notes, Alex Reyes and Matt Bowman revealed they were, in Bowman’s words, not “entirely forthcoming.” Carlos Martinez said he pitched tentatively because he was “scared” of re-injuring himself. Matheny also called pitcher Michael Wacha “a great liar” when talking about his arm health.

Matt Carpenter has also played through injury and takes pride in it. He’s an example of the old mentality the club is trying to pierce through. Caarpenter said, “I’m a believer in if you’re getting paid to do a job and you’re capable of doing the job — even if it’s 85 percent of your best — I feel you have the obligation to be out there. That is the mentality I’ve always used. I could have very easily, at times last year, sat on the [disabled list], but I felt like I could still go out and do my job.”

Goold points out that players approach dealing with health issues differently depending on where they’re at in their careers. A young player who just got called up has pressure to stay in the big leagues and appear in games, so he may not want to address a health issue. A player who has already secured a multi-year contract may have less pressure on him and thus may be more willing to come to the trainer’s room.

I’ve long believed that player health will be the next arena in which front offices will separate themselves from the pack. Analytics had been that battleground for a while, but with every club now having an analytics department in some capacity, front offices will have to find value in new ways. Limiting the amount of time that players miss due to injury would be a significant boost for a team and it will start with players being forthcoming about what’s bothering them rather than trying to fight through pain.