Wait: is Albert Pujols a big jerk or something? Since when?

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I’ve had an interesting conversation with some Brewers fans on Twitter in the past few minutes.  It started when a guy named @brewfangrb called me and a couple others out for being critical of Nyjer Morgan in the wake of last night’s dustup with the Cardinals. The point wasn’t to defend Morgan — the guy and many others who later took up his argument were clear that Morgan wasn’t being a model citizen last night — but to ask why no one ever criticizes Albert Pujols.

So I asked: what’s on Pujols’ rap sheet? Because I can’t say I’ve ever heard anyone talk about him in the way people talk about Nyjer Morgan. And it’s that equivalency that is important because it was the unequal treatment that set my critics off.

In response to my question I got (a) a link to an incident in 2006 when he said that Tom Glavine “wasn’t very good” even though he beat the Cardinals; and (b) I got many references to the fact that Pujols hot dogs his home runs (which he certainly does).  But beyond that ….?  Really, how is Albert Pujols a jerk worthy of equal condemnation to Nyjer Morgan, who has been a serial jackass throughout his major league career? And has less than a scintilla of a percentage of Pujols’ baseball accomplishments under his belt?  And yes that matters. If you can back your stuff up you should be afforded a little more latitude. That’s how cockiness and its attendant behavior works.

So sure, Pujols probably didn’t need to run across the field last night, as it did likely escalate things. But let’s keep in mind the entirety of the situation. Nyjer Morgan has a track record of charging the mound. He was clearly trying to provoke something last night.  If there is a situation where the biggest guy on the field can feel justified about getting between his pitcher and trouble that’s it.

But Pujols-as-jackass? Sorry, folks. Unless you can cite some examples apart from “he beats the crap out of my team all the time and I hate him for it,” I’m not buying.

UPDATE: I was just tweeted this link by its author. It’s a couple of years old, but it adds to the conversation I suppose. Pujols smirks on occasion, in a manner that allows a Brewers fan to fill the smirk with meaning. OK.

UPDATE: Another data point: Pujols once complained that he was snubbed for the MVP and that the MVP should come from a playoff team. The fact that the MVP went to Ryan Howard that year is enough — if I say any more about it — to set off the biggest comment sh**storm this blog has ever seen, so I’ll leave it alone.

Agent: Nick Senzel’s reassigment “egregious case of service time manipulation”

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Reds prospect Nick Senzel is ready for the majors. Although he battled injuries, the 23-year-old performed well with Triple-A Louisville last season, batting .310/.378/.509 with 20 extra-base hits, 25 RBI, 23 runs scored, and eight stolen bases in 193 plate appearances. Senzel has also performed well this spring, batting .308 across 39 at-bats.

The Reds, however, announced on Friday that Senzel was among a handful of players reassigned to minor league camp. Senzel was drafted as a third baseman, began playing second base last year, and had been playing in center field during spring training. The common thought is that the Reds, who have built a competitive roster, will keep Senzel at Triple-A to begin the season and call him up right after the club secures an extra year of contractual control.

Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, Senzel’s agent Joel Wolfe calls Senzel’s reassignment an “egregious case of service time manipulation.” The full quote:

I don’t believe I’ve ever made public statements on this issue in my career, but I feel compelled to do so in this case where it feels like a simply egregious case of service time manipulation.

We are well aware of the mandate from ownership for the Reds to win this year — and this seems to fly in the face of it. The NL Central was decided by one game last year. Every game matters. This is a shortsighted move that may be frugal now but could cost them dearly later.

Nick Senzel is not a young prospect. He’s a major league-ready impact-type player. He has done everything they’ve asked this spring, including working hard to become a major league center fielder.

Nick takes pride in wearing the Reds uniform. He appreciates how much support he’s received from Reds fans. He’s going to go to Triple-A and prove every day he belongs in MLB.

We have covered the service time manipulation issue pretty extensively here, so Wolfe’s statement doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Prior to an injury, the Blue Jays were going to undeservingly stuff Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. — baseball’s No. 1 prospect — at Triple-A for the first two weeks or so of the season. The White Sox were going to do the same with Eloy Jiménez before using their leverage to nudge him into inking an extension. The Braves toyed with Ronald Acuña Jr.’s playing time last year. Kris Bryant and Maikel Franco filed respective grievances against the Cubs and Phillies for service time manipulation several years ago.

Team executives don’t outright admit to gaming a prospect’s service time to gain that extra year of control because that’s how one loses a grievance. They dance around the topic by making a nebulous claim, typically about the player’s defense needing to be worked on at Triple-A. That’s what the Cubs said about Bryant, and it’s what the Jays said about Guerrero. It’s a subjective enough evaluation that it can’t be falsified. It’s why the grievances that have been filed over this have fizzled out and it’s why more and more teams have brazenly joined the service time manipulation bandwagon.

Senzel’s case is, admittedly, a bit more murky. Though he performed well this spring, Scott Schebler has outperformed him, batting .379 with five extra-base hits and 11 walks in roughly 40 trips to the plate. The starting spot in right field is taken by Yasiel Puig and left field is taken by Jesse Winker. Schebler has ostensibly earned the starting job in center. I can’t imagine Wolfe having a compelling case if he were to file a grievance on Senzel’s behalf.

That being said, it is important that agents (and the MLBPA) speak out about this when they can. Senzel’s case may not be open-and-shut, but bringing service time manipulation into the public consciousness will have a lasting impact ahead of the December 2021 expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement. Holding team executives publicly accountable may make them less willing to manipulate their players’ service time going forward, as it may sour what could otherwise be a terrific relationship between team and player. Service time manipulation is an important piece of the labor puzzle and those on the players’ side have to seize whatever they can to potentially gain leverage. Awareness leads to solidarity.