Chase Headley denies report of 2011 scuffle over ballpark dimensions

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Earlier this week, ESPN’s Tim Koewn opened a story about ballpark dimensions by relaying an anecdote about a scuffle in the Padres’ clubhouse early last year.

Mike Adams, who now pitches for the Rangers, allegedly lashed out in a postgame rant, telling the team’s hitters to stop complaining about the dimensions at the pitcher-friendly PETCO Park. Ryan Ludwick and Chase Headley were among the targets of his comments, which resulted in some sort of ruckus.

Interesting story and I recommend reading Koewn’s piece, but Headley told Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune yesterday that the scuffle never took place.

“Ninety-eight percent of that article as it pertained to myself and the Padres was 100 percent wrong,” said Headley, who then gave his recollection of the meeting.

“We were playing bad. We had a closed-door meeting. At the end of his comments, Bud asked if anyone had anything to add. Mike (Adams) mentioned we needed to focus on winning and stop worrying about the ballpark.”

“My name and Ludwick’s name were never said by Mike. I never even spoke to Mike about what he said. It’s 100 percent false. It was a big surprise to me to read that. I was shocked and really disappointed. It (the story) made me look like a jerk.

Padres manager Bud Black also denied that a scuffle took place and Adams told Richard Durrett of ESPN.com that he didn’t direct his message at any one person. ESPN continues to stand by the report, which was recounted by multiple sources.

Regardless of whether the incident took place, it wouldn’t be surprising if Ludwick and Headley were frustrated at the time. Ludwick mentioned in February that “playing in San Diego screwed me up” while Headley owns a lowly .658 career OPS at PETCO Park compared to an .814 OPS on the road. We learned last month that the Padres are in the process of conducting a study whether to alter the dimensions of the stadium.

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.