$160 million for Matt Kemp sounds about right

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One can debate whether Matt Kemp is the game’s best outfielder, but the truth is the Dodgers pretty much had to make him the game’s highest-paid outfielder to keep him beyond 2012. The eight-year, $160 million contract he reportedly agreed to Monday is tied for the largest ever given to an outfielder.

Manny Ramirez’s late-2000 deal with the Red Sox, worth that same amount, had been the gold standard for outfielders. Technically, though, Kemp won’t be the game’s highest-paid outfielder, at least not right away. Carl Crawford got $142 million for seven years from the Red Sox last winter, giving him an annual salary of $20.29 million. Ryan Braun will make $21 million per year from 2016-20 under the terms of the extension he agreed to in April.

Kemp still has one year of arbitration left, so his deal rates a little better than Crawford’s. The guess is that he would have made around $16 million next year through arbitration, and if that’s the case, he’s selling his first seven free agent years for $144 million.

So, this would seem to rate as a pretty good deal for both sides. Had Kemp turned in another year like his 2011 next season, there’s no doubt that he would have topped this contract in free agency. However, this protects him if he does falter somewhat. And the truth is that he loves playing in L.A. and had no real interest in leaving.

For the Dodgers, any eight-year deal comes with substantial risk. Kemp, though, is just 27 and he’s been exceptionally durable to date. While he’ll probably spend the second half of the deal in an outfield corner, he’s about as safe of a long-term signing as there is in the game.

Alex Bregman shows how easy it is to manufacture “controversy” in baseball

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In most sports it takes legitimate trash talk to create off-day “controversy.” In baseball, it takes the weakest sauce. We saw how weak that sauce was yesterday.

Alex Bregman and the Houston Astros are going to face off against Nate Eovaldi and the Boston Red Sox in Game 3 of the ALCS tonight. It’s worth noting that earlier this season, they hit back-to-back-to-back home runs off of Eovaldi when he was pitching for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Yesterday, in an act which was likely somewhat inspired by self-motivation, somewhat inspired by getting in Eovaldi’s head and somewhat inspired by a simple interest in having fun, Bregman took the video of those back-to-back-to-back homers off of Eovaldi and posted it to his Instagram:

Of course, since this is baseball, where even farting off-key can be construed as “showing up” the opposition or somehow disrespecting the game, it became a thing. Or at least people tried to make it become a thing.

Indeed, it took them a bit to find someone who would help them make it a thing, because Eovaldi himself didn’t care about it a bit, nor did Astros manager A.J. Hinch or Red Sox manager Alex Cora. Eventually, however, they hit pay dirt. Here’s Sox infielder Steve Pearce talking to WEEI.com:

“Wow. I don’t know why he would do that. We do our talking on the field. If he wants to run his mouth now we’ll see who is talking at the end of the series.”

My guess is that almost no one on the planet, Steve Pearce included, would care about this in a vacuum or if they allowed themselves to think through it for more than a second. Baseball culture, though — and let’s be clear about it, baseball media culture — has conditioned most of its players and participants to think that stuff like this is supposed to be controversial, so it actually takes effort not to start dancing to this kind of tune on auto-pilot.

Kudos to Hinch, Cora and Eolvaldi for exerting that effort and not dancing to it. To the press that automatically sought out comment on this and Pearce who dutifully gave it: hey, I get it. It’s hard to resist one’s conditioning. Maybe you’ll be able to resist it next time.