Why do you root for those guys? You’ve never lived there!

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Even though he called me and my ilk “underwear guys” the other day, I still read George Vecsey in the Times. What can I say? He’s good. And he’s just about done, so no sense in boycotting him a day or two before his retirement.

Today he tackles a subject close to my heart: rooting for a team from a geographic area with which you have no connection.  It vexes him and he’s curious about it. He starts by talking about Cardinals fans who are not from Cardinal country, then moves on to other sports:

In New York I run into Packers fans who have never lived in Wisconsin, Canadiens fans who have never lived in La Belle Province, Celtics fans who admire Russell and Bird and Pierce but have no trace of a Boston accent. The cable brings sport into our homes and bars, causing fans to pick a team from outside their natural habitat … If you root for a team not from your region – or know somebody who does – can you give some details? How does that work out for everybody?

As I’ve said countless times around here, I’ve never been to a game in Atlanta. My Braves thing is because they were the only baseball I could watch after I moved to West Virginia in 1985 and they just grew on me. I suppose for a lot of people there’s a front-runner thing too (I’d guess there were fewer Packers, Cowboys and Bulls fans around the country in the 1980s than there are now).  But there are countless other reasons too.

Neat topic. Almost so neat that I am willing to forgive Vecsey for saying that bloggers have ruined the fine art of reporting just as he publishes a column in which he’s basically crowd-sourcing like a lot of bloggers do.

Jeffrey Springs, Rays agree to $31 million, 4-year contract

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Left-hander Jeffrey Springs became the first of the 33 players who exchanged proposed arbitration salaries with their teams to reach a deal, agreeing Wednesday to a $31 million, four-year contract with the Tampa Bay Rays that could be worth $65.75 million over five seasons.

The 30-year old was among seven Rays who swapped arbitration figures with the team on Jan. 13. He began last season in the bullpen, transitioned to the starting rotation in May and finished 9-5 with a 2.46 ERA in 33 appearances, including 25 starts. He is 14-6 with a 2.70 ERA in 76 outings – 51 of them in relief – since he was acquired from Boston in February 2021.

Springs gets $4 million this year, $5.25 million in 2024 and $10.5 million in each of the following two seasons. Tampa Bay has a $15 million option for 2027 with a $750,000 buyout.

The 2025 and 2026 salaries can escalate by up to $3.75 million each based on innings in 2023-24 combined: $1.5 million for 300, $1 million for 325, $750,000 for 350 and $500,000 for 375. The `25 and ’26 salaries also can escalate based on finish in Cy Young Award voting in `23 and ’24: $2 million for winning, $1.5 million for finishing second through fifth in the voting and $250,000 for finishing sixth through 10th.

Tampa Bay’s option price could escalate based on Cy Young voting in 2025 and 2026: by $2.5 million for winning, $2 million for finishing second through fifth and $500,000 for sixth through 10th.

Springs would get $45.25 million if the option is exercised, $52.75 million with the option and meeting all innings targets and the maximum if he meetings the innings targets and wins two Cy Youngs.

Springs’ ERA last season was the second lowest in franchise history for a pitcher working a minimum of 100 innings. Former Rays ace Blake Snell compiled 1.89 ERA on the way to winning the 2018 AL Cy Young.

In addition to finishing sixth in the AL in ERA, Springs allowed three runs or fewer in 22 of 25 starts and two runs or fewer 17 times. He joined Tampa Bay’s rotation on May 9, gradually increasing his workload over his next six appearances. Springs was 6-3 with a 2.40 ERA in 14 starts after the All-Star break.

Arbitration hearings start next week and the Rays remain with the most players scheduled to appear before three-person panels.

Springs had asked for a raise from $947,500 to $3.55 million and had been offered $2.7 million. Tampa remains scheduled for hearings with right-handers Jason Adam, Pete Fairbanks and Ryan Thompson, left-hander Colin Poche, third baseman Yandy Diaz and outfielder Harold Ramirez.

Tampa Bay also agreed minor league contacts with catcher Gavin Collins and right-hander Jaime Schultz, who will report to major league spring training.

Infielder Austin Shenton and pitchers Anthony Molina and Joe LaSorsa also were invited to big league spring training.