Baseball’s next commissioner: Davey Johnson?

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In a column for the Orlando Sentinel, Shannon Owens goes over some of the available options to replace Bud Selig as commissioner of baseball. Former President George W. Bush and NBC’s Dick Ebersol are cited, but Owens cites Nationals manager Davey Johnson as another candidate who could fit the billing.

Johnson is 70 years old and will retire at the end of the season, but will continue to serve the Nationals as a consultant. Owens suggests Johnson loves baseball too much to walk away so soon.

Owens writes:

Johnson is a proven leader, and I’m not referring to his career wins and losses or three World Series championships.

[…]

I’m talking about a man who was savvy enough to create a computer program that allowed him to generate more successful lineup options based on percentage baseball theories as a player for the Baltimore Orioles almost 30 years before Orlando-born Billy Beane and the movie, Moneyball, became Hollywood hits.

I’m talking about a man willing to fight with and for players like he did in shutting down National pitcher Stephen Strasburg early to preserve his and the team’s long-term success.

[…]

I believe Johnson can do that. Sports commissioners don’t have to rule for 20-plus years. If eight years is enough time for person to run a country, perhaps that term limit is more than enough to run the MLB.

It is certainly interesting to think about, and we’ll hear more names brought up as the time draws closer, but you can certainly do worse than Davey Johnson.

Noah Syndergaard on Mets extending Jacob deGrom: ‘Pay the man already.’

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March has marked contract extension season across Major League Baseball. Just in the last week, we have seen Justin Verlander, Chris Sale, Brandon Lowe, Alex Bregman, Ryan Pressly, Mike Trout, Eloy Jiménez, Blake Snell, and Paul Goldschmidt sign extensions. Nolan Arenado, Luis Severino, and Aaron Nola also notably signed extensions during the offseason.

One name strikingly absent from that list: Mets ace Jacob deGrom. The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner is coming off of a season in which he posted a 1.70 ERA with 269 strikeouts and 46 walks across 217 innings. It’s the lowest ERA by a qualified starter since Zack Greinke‘s 1.66 in 2015. Prior to Greinke, no pitcher had posted an ERA of 1.70 or lower since Greg Maddux in 1994-95 (1.56, 1.63).

deGrom is earning $17 million this season and will enter his fourth and final year of arbitration eligibility going into the 2020 season. He will turn 31 years old in June, but is an obvious extension candidate for the Mets, who have built arguably their most competitive team since 2015, when the club lost the World Series in five games to the Royals. Thus far, though, the Mets and deGrom haven’t been able to get anywhere in extension talks.

deGrom’s rotation mate Noah Syndergaard is watching. Per MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, Syndergaard said, “I think Jake’s the best pitcher in baseball right now. I think he deserves whatever amount he’s worth. I want them to keep him happy so when it does come time for him to reach free agency, he stays on our side pitching for the Mets. I just think they should quit all the fuss and pay the man already.”

Syndergaard added that the recent extension trend around baseball — and deGrom’s lack of an extension to date — sends a message. He said, “I think so, yes, because of what you see in what’s going on in baseball right now. If there wasn’t a trend of other guys getting contract extensions, then I don’t know what the circumstance would be. But you see Chris Sale, Verlander getting extensions. I think it’s time Jacob gets one too.”

Part of the equation behind the recent rash of extensions is the stagnation of free agency. Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel — two of baseball’s better pitchers — have gone through almost an entire spring training without being signed. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado didn’t find new homes until late February. Free agents in their 30’s are largely being underpaid or otherwise forgotten about. Extensions represent financial security for young and old players alike. Syndergaard himself can become a free agent after the 2021 season, so if deGrom’s prospects improve, then so too will his, at least without knowing the details of the next collective bargaining agreement which will be put into place ahead of the 2022 season.