Tigers closer Joe Nathan came into last night’s game in the ninth inning with a four-run lead and walked the first two batters he faced, at which point many of the fans in Detroit began booing him.
Nathan, who has six blown saves and a 5.11 ERA in his first season with the Tigers, responded by making a chin-flick gesture that, loosely translated, means something similar to the middle finger.
This afternoon Nathan apologized for his actions, telling Jason Beck of MLB.com:
I think both sides were frustrated. I was frustrated. Fans obviously were frustrated. I think for myself, I apologize for that. I have two kids and I need to be a better example for them thinking how they’re still young enough that they won’t know about this. I do know, and I do need to be better for that. I know both sides are frustrated, but the thing is, we’re on the same page. The fans want to win, want us to win. We obviously want to win.
He went on to say a lot of other stuff along those same lines, making it clear that he has “no hard feelings” toward the fans and repeating apologizing.
It obviously hasn’t been pretty for Nathan this season and at age 39 he seems to be deep into the decline phase of his career after a brilliant decade-long run as one of the truly elite closers in baseball for the Twins and Rangers. He’s also under contract for $10 million next season, so if Nathan and Tigers fans don’t come to some sort of understanding 2015 could be ugly at Comerica Park.
Over the past several weeks we’ve heard a lot of news about teams furloughing front office and scouting staff, leveling pay cuts for those who remain and, most recently, ceasing stipends to minor league players and releasing them en masse. The message being sent, intentionally or otherwise, is that baseball teams are feeling the pinch.
The Kansas City Royals, however, are a different story.
Jon Heyman reported this afternoon that the Royals are paying their minor leaguers through August 31, which is when the minor league season would’ve ended, and unlike so many other teams, they are not releasing players either. Jeff Passan, meanwhile, reports that the Royals will not lay any team employees off or furlough anyone. “Nearly 150 employees will not take pay cuts,” he says, though “higher-level employees will take tiered cuts.” Passan adds that the organization intends to restore the lost pay due to those higher-level employees in the future when revenue ramps back up, making them whole.
While baseball finances are murky at best and opaque in most instances, most people agree that the Royals are one of the lower-revenue franchises in the game. They are also near the bottom as far as franchise value goes. Finally, they have the newest ownership group in all of baseball, which means that the group almost certainly has a lot of debt and very little if any equity in the franchise. Any way you slice it, cashflow is likely tighter in Kansas City than almost anywhere else.
Yet the Royals are paying minor leaguers and front office employees while a great number of other teams are not. What’s their excuse?