Bad news for the first-place Cardinals.
Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch brings word that 33-year-old utilityman Nick Punto is headed back to the disabled list and could be facing season-ending elbow surgery.
Punto has spent more time on rehabbing injuries this season than he’s spent on the active roster, and he air-mailed an awkward throw from third base in the late innings of Saturday’s win against the Reds.
The former Twin has been fairly productive when healthy, batting .267/.343/.389 with eight extra-base hits and 12 RBI in 90 at-bats. And manager Tony La Russa has used him frequently as a defensive replacement for some of the Cardinals’ flimsier infielders.
Albert Pujols launched the Rebirds back into sole possession of first place on Saturday in Cincinnati. The Cards are one game up in a weak division and boast an impressive offense. But this is a setback.
Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke with the media today. Naturally, he was asked various questions about the landscape of the sport, given that superstars Manny Machado and Bryce Harper remain unsigned as spring training begins. Per The Athletic’s Brittany Ghiroli, Manfred said that he thinks the free agent market will begin to move once spring training exhibition games begin. Manfred also said that Harper’s camp suggesting that he wants $400 million back in 2016 was “an impediment” to discussions throughout the offseason.
No word on why Machado is also as yet unsigned, as he did not have a reported $400 million ask.
Manfred’s job is to look out for ownership, so it’s not surprising to see him point the finger at Harper. Consider:
Manfred’s comment comes just months after the Red Sox won 108 regular season games and the World Series with baseball’s largest payroll. And ongoing evidence that there is indeed a positive correlation between dollars spent and team success. We often hear justification for tanking/rebuilding because the Cubs and Astros did it and won championships because of it. When the Red Sox use financial muscle to win a championship, it’s crickets.
Manfred didn’t stop there, however.
An easy way to get baseball’s “glow” back would be for two of the game’s best and most popular players to be in uniform playing games. The first spring training exhibition game will be played on February 22, so it’s not looking like that’s going to happen anytime soon.
Baseball’s “glow” would also come back if more teams were actively trying to win. Instead, one-third of the league is “rebuilding” or otherwise coasting on revenue-sharing. For fans of the Rangers, Orioles, Royals, and Marlins — to name a few — the outcomes of their favorite teams’ seasons have already been decided, so what is there to get excited about?