Pirates sticking with Mark Melancon at closer despite 8.53 ERA, drop in velocity


Mark Melancon is throwing slower and throwing worse, but manager Clint Hurdle says the Pirates will stick with him in the closer role.

Melancon has allowed six runs in six innings–compared to his 1.65 ERA in 142 combined innings in 2013/2014–and his average fastball has clocked in at just 89 miles per hour.

Yet here’s what Hurdle told Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette:

For me it’d be an absolute overreaction, one blown save, to make a switch now. … For us it’s pitch execution as much as it is anything. I still believe that the velocity will get back to where we’ve seen it.

Hurdle and Melancon both insist they aren’t worried about the drop in velocity and perhaps they’re right that the missing miles per hour will return soon, but in the meantime the Pirates are trotting out a pitcher who’s clearly not at 100 percent in the highest-leverage spots.

The Royals are paying everyone. Why can’t all of the other teams?

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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?