Josh Johnson is feeling good heading into spring training

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Padres starter Josh Johnson has been a Major League regular for eight seasons, but has been able to cross the 100-inning threshold just four times. The right-hander has famously had trouble staying healthy and it was the case last year after coming to the Blue Jays in a mega-trade with the Marlins. He made only 16 starts and posted a 6.20 ERA, suffering from inflammation in his right triceps, a blister on his throwing hand, tendinitis in his left knee, and a forearm strain.

Johnson underwent surgery in October to remove bone spurs in his right elbow. Lately, he has been working out near his home in Nevada and has received good reviews from UNLV head coach Tim Chambers which gave him a boost of confidence as he prepares to head into spring training with the Padres. Via MLB.com’s Corey Brock:

“He walked up to me and said, ‘I can see a difference in just you playing catch’ at the 75 feet or what it was at the time,” Johnson said. “That was huge. I’ve felt good but then to have someone else say I can see a difference, can see the extension … that was nice.”

Johnson also talked about how the elbow injury snuck up on him:

“Spring Training [in 2013], [the elbow] felt good, but there was something in there that wasn’t bothering me yet,” Johnson said. “We got to April and it started creeping in. You could tell that something wasn’t quite there. I couldn’t get to that extension.”

The Padres signed Johnson to a one-year, $8 million deal, hoping to get out of him what the Blue Jays could not — a full healthy and productive season. His fastball averaged 95 MPH as recently as 2010, but it fell below 93 MPH over the past two seasons. Additionally, he’s induced fewer ground balls and become more homer-prone, but a move to the spacious confines of Petco Park should help in that regard.

Cubs owner Tom Ricketts continues to cry poor

Tom Ricketts
Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
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MLB owners and the MLB Players Association continue to hash out details, some in public, about a 2020 baseball season. The owners have been suggesting a shorter season, claiming that they lose money on every game played without fans in attendance. The union wants a longer season, since players are — as per the March agreement — being paid a prorated salary. Players thus make more money over the 114 games the MLBPA suggested than the 50 or so the owners want.

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts has been among the more vocal owners in recent weeks, claiming that the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing shutdown of MLB has greatly hurt MLB owners’ business. Speaking to ESPN’s Jesse Rogers, Ricketts claimed, “The scale of losses across the league is biblical.”

Ricketts said, “Here’s something I hope baseball fans understand. Most baseball owners don’t take money out of their team. They raise all the revenue they can from tickets and media rights, and they take out their expenses, and they give all the money left to their GM to spend.” Ricketts continued, “The league itself does not make a lot of cash. I think there is a perception that we hoard cash and we take money out and it’s all sitting in a pile we’ve collected over the years. Well, it isn’t. Because no one anticipated a pandemic. No one expects to have to draw down on the reserves from the past. Every team has to figure out a way to plug the hole.”

Pertaining to Ricketts’ claim that “the league itself does not make a lot of cash,” Forbes reported in December that, for the 17th consecutive season, MLB set a new revenue record, this time at $10.7 billion. In accounting, revenues are calculated before factoring in expenses, but unless the league has $10 billion in expenses, I cannot think of a way in which Ricketts’ statement can be true.

MLB owners notably don’t open their accounting books to the public. Because the owners were crying poor during negotiations, the MLBPA asked them to provide proof of financial distress. The owners haven’t provided those documents. Thus, unless Ricketts opens his books, his claim can be proven neither true nor false, and should be taken with the largest of salt grains. If owners really are hurting as badly as they say they are, they should be more than willing to prove it. That they don’t readily provide that proof suggests they are being misleading.

It’s worth noting that the Ricketts family has a history of not being forthcoming about their money. Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts got into hot water last year after it was found he had used inaccurate information when paying property taxes. In 2007, he bought two properties and demolished both, building a new, state-of-the-art house. For years, Ricketts used information pertaining to the older, demolished property rather than the current property, which drastically lowered his property taxes. Based on the adjustment, Ricketts’ property taxes increased from $828,000 to $1.96 million for 2019, according to The Chicago Tribune. Ricketts also had to pay back taxes for the previous three years.

At any rate, the owners want to pass off the financial risk of doing business onto their labor force. As we have noted here countless times, there is inherent risk in doing business. Owning a Major League Baseball team has, for decades, been nearly risk-free, which has benefited both the owners and, to a lesser extent, its workforce. The pandemic has thrown a wrench into everybody’s plans, but the financial losses these last three months are part of the risk. Furthermore, when teams have done much better business than expected, the owners haven’t benevolently spread that wealth out to their players, so why should the players forfeit even more of their pay than they already are when times are tough?