ESPN’s Calvin Watkins doubles down on his Yu Darvish nonsense. Also fails to understand how the DL works.

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Last week ESPNDallas.com’s Calvin Watkins — who is primarily a football writer — slammed Yu Darvish for not pitching through elbow pain. As if that’s a thing any sensible baseball analyst would ever recommend in this day and age given the prevalence of Tommy John surgeries, given the value of a top-flight pitcher on a team-friendly contract and given the fact that the Rangers’ season has effectively been over since before Memorial Day.

Yesterday it was reported that the Rangers were probably going to shut Darvish down for the season. A move suggesting that maybe — just maybe — Darvish isn’t being soft or whatever he’s accused of being. A move which suggests that Watkins’ analysis of the situation from last week was off-base.

Watkins doesn’t seem to care. Indeed, he’s doubling down on his dissing of Darvish, once again citing the bumps and bruises of other players and saying that it appeared as though Darvish was “quitting on his team.” But that’s not the best part.

Check this stuff out. It would appear that the man the biggest sports news and information organization on the planet has covering the Major League Baseball team in one of the largest cities in America doesn’t know how the disabled list works:

Darvish could have handled things differently regarding his stint on the disabled list.

Instead of electing to go on the DL, he probably should have asked for some rest — because the Rangers would have given it to him. General manager Jon Daniels made the correct call in sitting Darvish, but perhaps the ace should have delayed the DL process a little bit.

Darvish most likely would miss two to three starts before being asked to do anything. If he was still having issues, then he would have been placed on the DL.

Darvish going on the shelf without waiting to see how he felt after a little time off raises some questions and some perception issues . . . I just wish Darvish had waited a little while before going on the DL, because you don’t want to come across as quitting on your team.

Based on that, here are the things Watkins apparently believes or misunderstands:

  • He is unaware that Darvish has been on the disabled list for some time already.
  • He believes that yesterday’s comments from Jon Daniels did something official regarding Darvish’s status as opposed to merely stating that the team does not believe Darvish will be able to pitch this year.
  • It appears that Watkins thinks that players just choose when to go on the DL as opposed to having their team put them on it.
  • It appears as if he thinks that the disabled list — like the NFL’s injured reserve list — is a season-long thing, from which no one can return once one is placed on it as opposed to a temporary thing. A temporary thing which allows for players having their time on it calculated retroactively to their last appearance. In Darvish’s case, back to August 9, when he last pitched.

Maybe some of you agree with Watkins’ “suck it up, dude!” attitude about Darvish and his injuries. I think you’re wrong if you think that way, but you are entitled to your opinion. But I’m not sure how anyone can take a thing this guy says about baseball seriously when he quite literally does not know what on Earth he is talking about when it comes to baseball.

We miss you, Richard Durrett. We miss you very badly.

Meanwhile, on the cold, cold Hot Stove . . .

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It’s Hot Stove Season baby! You know what that means! Yep: time to watch some teams sign a few relievers to minor league deals and then wait everyone out until February while talking about the need to maintain financial flexibility! FEEL THE BURN.

In more specific news:

We’ve talked a lot about Betts this winter already, and that seems like madness. Bryant’s career with the Cubs began with business-side acrimony, it’s still simmering, and there is no sense that either side is amenable to a long-term deal before he hits free agency. The Indians have been signaling for some time that they have no interest in keeping Lindor long term.

It’s quite the thing when three teams who are supposed to be contending are, instead, looking to deal recent MVP award winners and candidates who are 27 and 26 years old, but these are the times in which we are living.

  • Joe Sheehan wrote an excellent column for Baseball America last week analyzing the attendance drop MLB experienced in 2019. Which is just the latest in a series of attendance drops. As Joe notes there is a very, very strong connection between teams (a) signaling to fans during the offseason that they are not interested in signing or retaining players or otherwise being competitive; and (b) teams suffering attendance losses.

As I wrote last offseason, there is an increasing disconnect between attendance and other proxies of broad fan interest and revenue. Which is to say that, as long as teams continue to get fat on long-term TV deals, side businesses like real estate development, and soaking a smaller and wealthier segment of the fan base with higher and higher prices, they really have no reason to care if several thousand common or casual fans become alienated by their teams’ lack of desire to compete.

Sullivan doesn’t offer ideas about how that can happen, but over the past couple of seasons we’ve seen a number of proposals, some broad, some specific, about how MLB can turn its free agency/trading period into frantic, 1-3 day scrambles-to-sign like we see in both the NBA and NFL. I’m sympathetic to that desire — it’s exciting! — but any attempt to do that in Major League Baseball, at least as things are currently set up, would be a disaster for the players.

In the NBA and NFL you have salary caps and floors and, in the NBA, you have max contracts. As a result, teams both have a set amount of money to spend and an incentive to spend that money. We can quibble with whether those incentives are the best ones or if they benefit the players as much as other systems might, but there’s at least something inherent in their systems which inspires teams to sign free agents.

In Major League Baseball, there is no such incentive. May teams want to keep payrolls as low as possible under the guise of rebuilding or tanking and there is no effective mechanism to keep them from doing so. Even nominal contenders — see the Cubs, Indians and Red sox in item 1 above — spend more time thinking about how to cut payroll rather than add talent. This is bolstered by the stuff in item 2 above in which attendance and even winning has less of an impact on the bottom line than it ever has.

So, why scramble to sign players by a set deadline? Under most of the scenarios I see floated — like the laughably horrible one MLB reportedly suggested to the MLBPA — teams would just wait out free agents until deadline day, give them crappy take-it-or-leave-it offers and then leave them all scrambling to sign one-year deals or to sit the season out.

For such a thing to happen — or for teams to want to keep their bright young stars or for the league to want to maintain fan interest and keep attendance from continuing to slide — there must be incentives put in place to make them want to sign and retain players. To make them want to win. To make them want to excite the fan base.

At present, such incentives are not there. And, as such, we are faced with yet another winter with a cold, cold stove.