Posnanski: baseball is trapped by its own history

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Joe Posnanski argues for Yasiel Puig in the All-Star Game. You may agree with that or you may disagree, but it’s hard to disagree with Joe’s diagnosis of a problem baseball has which leads to “arguments” like Puig or no Puig:

. . . this is the history that still traps baseball. Should the season really be 162 games long? Probably not. But it’s tradition. Should we still be judging starting pitchers by “wins” when they average – AVERAGE – fewer than six innings per start? Probably not. But it’s tradition. Heck, even the smallest and most obvious changes – like finally outlawing the ridiculous fake to third throw to first play – rattles the cages of the game.

And so the All-Star Game – which used to matter when America was a different place – clings to the traditions of another time.

Baseball’s small-c conservatism is often an asset. The game is skeptical of change and slow to adopt it.  This is good inasmuch as it keeps baseball, most of the time anyway, from lurching from one fad to the next, changing or losing that which draws so many people to it in the first place.

But there’s a difference between skepticism of change and a reflexive, reactionary abhorrence of the new. I feel like a lot of the people who don’t want to see a guy like Yasiel Puig in the All-Star Game are operating like that. Not necessarily because they don’t like Puig — indeed, I’ve not heard anyone couch their opposition to Puig as some “I don’t like him” thing. Rather, it’s a reaction to the All-Star Game truly being an exhibition and spectacle. It has long been this, yes, but people have always treated it like it mattered more and this Puig resistance is a hangover of that.

Once you let go of the idea that the game truly matters — something which would be aided by Major League Baseball getting rid of the home field advantage in the World Series aspect of it — then there is no real basis for resisting Puig. Or Bryce Harper last year. Or any other player who makes a splash in the future.

Rays lose, clinching postseason berth for Athletics

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The Rays lost 4-1 to the Yankees on Monday night, which clinched a postseason berth for the Athletics just as they began their own game against the Mariners. For the 94-62 A’s, it’s their first postseason appearance since 2014 when they lost the AL Wild Card game to the Royals.

Major League Baseball celebrated the Athletics’ achievement by tweeting this fact: The A’s are the first team since 1988 to make the postseason with baseball’s lowest Opening Day payroll ($66 million).

Yay?

John J. Fisher, who has owned the A’s since 2005, has a net worth approaching $3 billion. The Athletics franchise is valued at over $1 billion. Yet the A’s have never had an Opening Day payroll at $90 million or above and have consistently been among the teams with the lowest payrolls. The cultural shift towards embracing analytics has allowed the A’s to get away with investing as little money as possible into the team. Moneyball helped change baseball’s zeitgeist such that many began to fetishize doing things on the cheap and now the league itself is embracing it.

What the fact MLB tweeted says is actually this: John J. Fisher was able to save a few bucks this year and the A’s still somehow made it to the postseason.

The Athletics’ success is due to a whole host of players, but particularly youngsters Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea, Daniel Mengden, Lou Trivino, among others. All are pre-arbitration aside from Manaea. When it comes time to pay them something approaching what they’re actually worth, will the A’s reward them for their contributions or will they do what they’ve always done and cut bait? After reaching the postseason in 2014, the A’s traded away Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Jeff Samardzija, and John Jaso. Each was a big influence on the club’s success. Athletics fans should be happy their favorite team has reached the postseason, but if the team’s history is any precedent, they shouldn’t get attached to any of the players. Is that really something Major League Baseball should be advocating?