Overheard conventional wisdom from baseball fans: “Ryan Braun can’t hit without the juice and his thumb is all messed up.” “Prince Fielder is breaking down and his best days are behind him.”
Both sentiments could be filed under “non-crazy,” and perhaps ultimately they will be borne out. But for now Braun and Fielder are partying like it’s 2009, with the former hitting 272/.349/.543 with 12 homers and 36 driven in and the latter hitting .365/.417/.575 with nine homers and 35 driven in.
Braun certainly isn’t helping the Brewers compete for a title and, unless he keeps up this kind of production through his mid-30s, his contract gets fairly ugly starting next year. Fielder’s Rangers could be more interesting as the season wears on given how poorly Oakland and Seattle have been playing in the early going. Of course his contract is even more pricey between 2016 and 2020 than Braun’s is. There are no promises that these rebounds will mean much if anything for Braun and Fielder’s clubs or their contracts.
But it sure is neat to see guys some had written off turning it back on again.
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?