The Yankees’ non-Youkilis options for third base were … interesting

14 Comments

I like the Kevin Youkilis signing by the Yankees. I’m not sure he has a return to form in him — it’s not the years, it’s the mileage, as the man once said — but if he does bounce back he’s gonna be nice to have around even if A-Rod does recover.

And let’s face it: the Yankees didn’t have unlimited options at third base. Indeed, as Sweeny Murti noted over the weekend, the pickings were pretty darn slim:

It is interesting to note that once word leaked out early this month about A-Rod’s status, the Yankees received plenty of inquiries from players and agents who felt they could help fill the hole. One was from Cody Ransom, the man who started the 2009 season as the Opening Day 3rd baseman when A-Rod has his first hip surgery.

I’m assuming some have chosen to have amnesia over this, but there were Yankees writers [cough] Ian O’Connor [cough] who made the straight-faced argument in early 2009 that the Yankees were better off with Ransom than A-Rod. It was all tied up in A-Rod’s PED revelation from that spring. But rather than simply note that it was a bummer of a story, some dudes decided to throw reason aside and actually say that A-Rod shouldn’t have gotten his job back when he came off the DL following his hip surgery.  Of course A-Rod went on to hit .286/.402/.532 with 30 homers, 100 RBI and led the Yankees to a World Series championship. Ransom was DFA’d that August.

Another one Murti mentions: Troy Glaus, who called the Yankees saying he was ready for a comeback. The same Troy Glaus who took all of 2011 off and then a year ago said he considered himself retired. In his last season, with the Braves, Glaus was limited to first base because he couldn’t make the throw from third.

So, yes, Kevin Youkilis is a pretty good option.

Nick Markakis: ‘I play a kids’ game and get paid a lot of money. How can I be disappointed with that?’

Daniel Shirey/Getty Images
13 Comments

Earlier today, the Braves inked veteran outfielder Nick Markakis to a one-year deal worth $4 million with a club option for the 2020 season worth $6 million with a $2 million buyout. Though Markakis is 35 years old, he’s coming off of a terrific season in which he played in all 162 games and hit .297/.366/.440 with 14 home runs and 93 RBI in 705 trips to the plate. Markakis had just completed a four-year, $44 million contract, so he took a substantial pay cut.

Per David O’Brien of The Athletic, Markakis asked his kids where they wanted him to play and they said Atlanta. O’Brien also asked Markakis about the pay cut. The outfielder said, “I’m not mad at all. I play a kids’ game and get paid a lot of money. How can I be disappointed with that?”

This seemingly innocuous comment by Markakis is actually damaging for his peers and for the union. Baseball as a game is indeed a “kids’ game,” but Major League Baseball is a billion-dollar business that has been setting revenue records year over year. The players have seen a smaller and smaller percentage of the money MLB makes since the beginning of the 2000’s. Furthermore, Markakis only gets paid “a lot of money” relative to, say, a first-year teacher or a clerk at a convenience store. Relative to the value of Liberty Media, which owns the Braves, and relative to the value of Major League Baseball itself, Markakis’s salary is a drop in the ocean.

That Markakis is happy to take a pay cut is totally fine, but it’s harmful for him to publicly justify that because it creates the expectation that his peers should feel the same way and creates leverage for ownership. His comments mirror those who sympathize first and foremost with billionaire team owners. They are common arguments used to justify paying players less, giving them a smaller and smaller cut of the pie. Because Markakis not only took a pay cut but defended it, front office members of the Braves as well as the 29 other teams can point to him and guilt or shame other players for asking for more money.

“Look at Nick, he’s a team player,” I envision a GM saying to younger Braves player who is seeking a contract extension, or a free agent looking to finally find a home before spring training. “Nick’s stats are as good as yours, so why should you make more money than him?”

Contrast Markakis’s approach with Yasmani Grandal‘s. Grandal reportedly turned down a four-year, $60 million contract offer from the Mets early in the offseason and settled for a one-year, $18.25 million contract with the Brewers. Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Grandal said on MLB Network, “I felt like part of my responsibility as a player was to respect the guys that went through this process before I did. Guys like Brian McCann, Russell Martin, Yadier Molina, These are guys who established markets and pay levels for upper-tier catchers like me. I felt like I was doing a disservice if I were to take some of the deals that were being thrown around. I wanted to keep the line moving especially for some of the younger guys that are coming up … to let them know, if you’re worthy, then you should get paid what you’re worth. That’s where I was coming from.”

Grandal’s comments are exactly what a member of a union should be saying, unapologetically. The MLBPA needs to get all of its members on the same page when it comes to discussing contracts or labor situations in general publicly. What Markakis said seems selfless and innocent — and I have no doubt he is being genuine without malice — but it could reduce the bargaining power players have across the table from ownership, which means less money. They are already being bamboozled, at least until the next collective bargaining agreement. They don’t need to be bamboozled any more.