It’s officially “so and so should be considered” season

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I had a go at this concept last year. The concept that, when it comes to postseason awards, it’s somehow a legitimate argument to say “so and so should be considered” when the person advocating such a position doesn’t actually think they should win it. That he should be “in the conversation.”

Person 1: I think Joe Shlabotnik should be given consideration for the MVP.

Person 2: OK, do you think Shlabotnik deserves to win? Is he going to be given your first place vote?

Person 1: No, but he should get consideration! He should be in the conversation.

Smack my head.

If I think Fetzelrod is the MVP, why should I “consider” Shlabotnik?  In reaching my decision isn’t it understood that I’ve considered and rejected Shlabotnik? I’m a Fetzelrod man! Don’t waste my time with this Shlabotnik tomfoolery!

Anyway, here’s Richard Justice today at MLB.com:

There can’t be a conversation about the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award without including Derek Jeter, and doesn’t that make this whole season even better?

Starting off well!  Then, after going through the stronger cases for Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera and Josh Hamilton he adds:

Regardless of how it plays out, it’s fun just having him in the discussion.

This after he says Jeter’s MVP credentials are “doing his job at the top of the lineup,” “playing nice defense,” “winning” and “leadership.”  Of course Trout has done a better job at the top of the lineup, plays better defense and plays for a team with only two fewer wins than Jeter’s (and more since Trout came up from the minors).  Leadership: OK, such as it can be known, we’ll give it to Jeter.

But the point here isn’t that I think Jeter isn’t as good as Trout. Opinions vary. The point here is that Justice makes no effort to argue it himself, which suggests that, had he an MVP vote, he would not have Jeter above Trout.  Rendering the whole “Jeter should be in the conversation” conversation pointless.

Guess what: Jeter has had a kickass season, especially for a player his age. This is late career stuff we usually only see from inner-circle Hall of Famers. It is notable and worthy of great kudos and praise. But there is nothing which says that praise may only be given to a guy in the context of a “who should win the MVP” article.  Just write the “hey,  Jeter is great” article. You can actually do that. There is nothing to stop you!

But by not doing it, you muddy the MVP waters and either actively our passively encourage sloppy reasoning when it comes to the MVP.  “In the conversation?”  Bah.  Either a guy is or is not your MVP choice.

Former Mets minor leaguer describes organization as ‘toxic’

New York Mets
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The Mets were one of many teams to recently release a slate of minor leaguers. Teams normally cut players at the end of spring training, but since baseball was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, that was pushed back a bit. Teams are also facing worse economic conditions as a result of not playing games. Along with MLB’s desire to reduce the number of minor league teams — which, thanks in part to the virus, it will get — seeing a bunch of minor leaguers released from their contracts was an inevitability.

One of the minor leaguers the Mets released was pitcher Andrew Church. The right-hander was selected by the Mets in the second round of the 2013 draft. He made it to Triple-A at the end of the 2016 season and would spend parts of the ensuring three seasons there while also battling injuries.

Now out of his contract, Church made an Instagram post in which he criticized the Mets’ organization, suggesting that they exposed him to high injury risk and continued to make him pitch through injury. He described the organization as “toxic.” The full post, including additional words he posted as a comment on his post:

Please read to understand my true feelings.
Today I got released by the NY Mets organization. The people on the other end of the phone had nothing but good things to say and I appreciated that very much. Anyone that has seen me play and compete knows that I lay it all on the line no matter what. Every practice, every game. I am a competitor, a true warrior. It’s in my DNA. From the outside looking in, my baseball career probably raises a lot of questions. Why did you retire and come back? How come your numbers aren’t very good if you were that dedicated? I have always kept my opinions to myself out of respect for the organization I signed a contract with. But now that it’s officially over with them I’d like to say some things. One of the main reasons I retired was to keep myself from expressing how I felt. I was bitter, frustrated, and angry at the Mets organization. I felt my competitive nature was being taken advantage of. They knew I would never say no to competing and would fly me around to fill in for anyone that got injured. I realized this wasn’t in my best interest when my delayed flight finally landed in the 3rd inning, and I was on the mound in a AAA baseball game for the first time, without any warm up throws. My UCL originally tore that night. Instead of seeing a doctors like I asked, they sent me back to High A to pitch in the playoffs. When I told them I couldn’t I was made out to be the bad guy. Then the next year, they made a mockery of our team by putting a celebrity on it to sell more tickets. I saw players lose their jobs because of it. We weren’t playing to win, we were playing to make everyone else money. Not the players. We never saw a cut. Well, allegedly that one player did. I think people are starting to understand that more now but they didn’t in 2018 when it was happening again. I was fed up. I spent my whole childhood honing in my passion and anger, to not let it get out of control, but it was and I was going to explode. So I took the opposite direction, I bottled it and silenced myself. I took some time away and cleared my head. Continued in comments..

Baseball has always been the only constant in my life. No matter if I’m active or not I will always play. It’s my release. I asked to be reinstated in 2019, when a new player development regime took over for the Mets. I honestly think they are making strides to be a better organization, but the culture that has been built for decades within that organization is toxic. Filled with snakes and bottom feeders trying to elevate their professional careers at the expense of the players, with no remorse. I hadn’t pitched in a competitive game in over a year, but they needed a filler because someone got hurt the night before. I took a red eye flight, to one stadium, a 7 hour bus trip, another flight, and a taxi to the stadium I would be pitching in. Again I was in a AAA baseball game with no worry about my well being. I lost my drive to perform for an organization who continuously treats us as pawns in their chess games. Especially when the ones doing it, don’t know what it takes to be a baseball player. And some must’ve just forgotten. Ignorance is a scary thing. We see it in mainstream society too often. Ignorance with power and a lack of empathy is, in my eyes, the scariest of all evils. Thank you to all the players and coaches who had the passion and drive to empower each other and push the game forward. Fuck you to everyone who wasn’t. You have no place in professional baseball.
To my future, you all know I can’t stop. And I get scary when I’m motivated. Watch out! CarveNation

The “celebrity” Church alludes to is Tim Tebow. Tebow was a college football star who had a brief and ultimately unsuccessful NFL career that ended after the 2015 season. Despite not having played baseball since his junior year of high school, the Mets signed Tebow to a minor league contract. His debut season in 2017 was as bad as people predicted, as he hit .226 with a .656 in 126 games between Single-A Columbia and High-A St. Lucie. Last year, Tebow was arguably the worst overall player in the minors as he hit .163 with a .495 OPS over 77 games. Despite this, Tebow remained with the Mets, even getting an invitation to spring training ahead of the 2020 season.

As for the injury stuff, it’s shameful that the Mets did that to Church, and he is right to speak out about it. But the Mets are certainly not the only organization that treats its minor leaguers poorly. There are many more Churches out there who have had their careers derailed or ended by organizations that saw them not as people, but as means to an end. This has been reflected in myriad ways, including the insistence on paying them below-poverty wages and skipping out on paying them during a pandemic.

It’s a shame what the Mets made Church go through as he chased his dream. Kudos to him for speaking out. Hopefully Church and the recent wave of releases inspire players to speak out about their poor treatment in the minor leagues.