The drama between the Athletics and Royals continued on Sunday. It all began when A’s third baseman Brett Lawrie slid hard into second base on Friday, causing Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar to suffer a mild left knee strain. There was some miscommunication over whether or not Lawrie apologized via text message to Escobar. Ultimately, it didn’t matter as Royals starter Yordano Ventura hit Lawrie with a 99 MPH fastball on Saturday night, resulting in an ejection, after the A’s put up a five-spot.
The two teams took the field Sunday afternoon for the series finale but they weren’t done. Athletics starter Scott Kazmir hit Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain in the leg with a pitch, but neither side was issued a warning. Royals manager Ned Yost and pitching coach Dave Eiland were both ejected by home plate umpire Greg Gibson.
In the top of the eighth inning, Royals reliever Kelvim Herrera quickly got the first two outs of the inning to bring up Lawrie. Herrera threw a 100 MPH fastball behind Lawrie, resulting in an immediate ejection. Herrera pointed to his head Royals bench coach Don Wakamatsu and Escobar, who did not start, were also ejected.
In the bottom half of the eighth, the Royals energized Kaufmann stadium when Cain hit a game-tying RBI double. Cain then stole third base ahead of an Eric Hosmer walk to bring up Kendrys Morales. Morales clubbed a ball to center field that he thought was a home run, but it bounced off the top of the wall, scoring both runners to put the Royals up 4-2. Wade Davis set the A’s down in order in the top of the ninth inning for the save.
Herrera, after the game:
The two sides don’t match up again until June 26-28 in Oakland, so there will be plenty of time for cooler heads to finally prevail.
Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Cubs, Red Sox, and Yankees exceeded the competitive balance tax (more colloquially known as the luxury tax) threshold for the 2019 season, set at $206 million. It will rise to $208 million for the 2020 season and $210 million in 2021.
Teams that exceed the CBT threshold pay a penalty on the overage, which is compounded depending on how consistently they have exceeded the threshold. The base penalty is 20 percent. If a team has exceeded it in a second consecutive year, the penalty rises to 30 percent. Three or more consecutive seasons yields a 50 percent tax on the overage. Furthermore, teams that exceed the CBT threshold by $20-40 million see an additional 12 percent tax. Above $40 million brings a 42.5 percent penalty which rises to 45 percent if the team exceeds the CBT by more than $40 million in a consecutive year.
The luxury tax has acted as a de facto salary cap. Front offices typically have gone out of their way not to exceed it, especially in recent years. The Cubs, Red Sox, and Yankees are each widely believed to be looking to stay below $208 million in 2020.
In pursuit of payroll efficiency, the Cubs are believed to be willing to listen to offers for catcher Willson Contreras, third baseman Kris Bryant, outfielders Kyle Scharber, Albert Almora, and Ian Happ, as well as pitcher José Quintana. The Red Sox are believed to be pursuing trades of outfielder Mookie Betts and/or J.D. Martinez. Outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is also believed to be available. The Yankees, meanwhile, haven’t been linked to any of the top free agents. Accounting for projected arbitration salaries, their current 25-man roster is above $190 million already.
As we have been discussing the ongoing labor tension in baseball lately, one wonders if the CBT threshold might also be changed within the next collective bargaining agreement. It has served ownership well, giving them something to point at as a reason not to invest as much into putting together a competitive and entertaining product for fans.