Kris Bryant, Maikel Franco file grievances over service time manipulation

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NASHVILLE — Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that Kris Bryant of the Cubs and Maikel Franco of the Phillies have filed grievances alleging service-time manipulation. Passan notes that Bryant finished his rookie season with 171 days of service time and Franco finished with 170. A full season of service time is 172, which means that the free agency clocks for each player has been pushed back a year.

The upshot of the grievances are that the Cubs and Phillies acted in bad faith in making decisions when to call up Bryant and Franco, respectively. In Bryant’s case it’s pretty clear that’s what the Cubs were doing. Indeed, it was much-discussed last spring following his destruction of spring training pitching and his clear superiority over Mike Olt, who began the season as the Cubs’ third baseman. Franco’s case received less attention, but it was telling that the Phillies waited several days after sending Cody Asche to the minors to call Franco up. The delay certainly wasn’t because they didn’t need Franco’s services.

It does not seem like Bryant and Franco have much of a shot at winning, however. Service time rules are pretty cut and dry: days and years are all that matter. There is no intent factor specified and baseball arbitrations are such that arbitrators tend to be quite loathe to wade into complicated decisions regarding a club’s baseball judgment. If a clear rule is violated, sure. But when it comes to the matter of player readiness there are a million different factors in play, most of which depend on baseball expertise for which a arbitrator is not likely to substitute his judgment. Even if it’s clear what was really going on.

As I wrote last spring, filing a grievance in this case seems more aimed at P.R., not righting an actual wrong, both because of that legal calculation and because, per the Collective Bargaining Agreement, clubs do have the power to do what they want with their players. These cases may raise issues in advance of the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, but they’re not likely to be winners.

Which, sure, sometimes you want to make a public point and if that’s what the union wants, great. If you know baseball labor history, however, you know that Marvin Miller and Don Fehr didn’t give much thought to making public points. They concentrated on picking their battles carefully and winning them. If it was a battle they could not win in the present, they laid the groundwork to win it in the future via negotiation and consensus building within the union.

That’s not a tack the current union seems all that interested in taking. As was the case with PEDs, they seem more concerned with public perception than they used to be. In this case, however, winning is going to take the union looking within and convincing membership to do more to protect the rights of pre-arbitration and pre-free agency players than they do now, not fighting losing battles.

Swanson, Olson go deep vs Scherzer, Braves take NL East lead

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ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered off Max Scherzer, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a crucial 4-2 victory Saturday night over the New York Mets and a one-game lead in the NL East.

The defending World Series champions beat aces Jacob deGrom and Scherzer on consecutive nights to take their biggest lead of the season in the division. New York, which held a 10 1/2-game cushion on June 1, faces its biggest deficit of the year with four games remaining.

Atlanta will try for a three-game sweep Sunday night, with the winner earning the season-series tiebreaker between the teams. Even though both teams are headed to the postseason, that’s important because the NL East champion gets a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Swanson’s 24th homer, a go-ahead, two-run shot in the fifth inning, touched off a frenzy among the sold-out crowd at Truist Park, the ball sailing a few rows up into the seats in left-center to make it 3-2. Olson hit his 32nd homer in the sixth, a solo shot into Chop House seats in right to put Atlanta up 4-2.

Austin Riley led off the fourth with a double and scored on Olson’s single to make it 1-all.

Kyle Wright (21-5) gave up two runs and seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts in five innings as he won his eighth straight decision. The Braves have won 16 of his last 17 starts.

New York went up 2-1 in the fifth when Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil hit consecutive two-out singles.

The Mets led 1-0 in the first when Brandon Nimmo singled, advanced on a walk and a single and scored on Eduardo Escobar‘s groundout. Wright, who threw 30 pitches in the first, stranded two runners in scoring position to prevent further damage.

Scherzer (11-5) allowed a first-inning single to Riley and a third-inning infield single to Ronald Acuna Jr., who advanced to third on a fielding error by Lindor at shortstop but was stranded when Michael Harris II lined out to center. Scherzer patted his glove and pumped his fist as he walked off the mound.

Scherzer was charged with nine hits and four runs with no walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings as the Mets were knocked out of first place for only the third day all season.

The Braves have won five of the last six against New York to tie the season series 9-all, outscoring the Mets 37-16 over that stretch.

Atlanta’s bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA in September, got a perfect inning from Dylan Lee in the sixth. Jesse Chavez faced four batters in the seventh, Raisel Iglesias faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 39th save in 46 chances.

Since the Braves were a season low-tying four games under .500 at 23-27 after play on May 31, they have gone 76-32, tying the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the majors over that span. They were a season-worst 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets on June 1.

Wright, the only 20-game winner in baseball this season, hasn’t officially become the first Braves pitcher to lead the league in wins outright since Russ Ortiz had 21 in 2003, but the Dodgers’ Julio Urias has 17 and can’t reach 20 before the regular season ends.

Wright will become the first Braves pitcher since Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in 2000 to lead the majors in wins. Houston ace Justin Verlander also has 17.

Wright began the game 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in six career starts and one relief appearance against the Mets.

The Braves, who got homers from Riley, Olson and Swanson off deGrom on Friday, lead the NL with 240 homers.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. Manager Buck Showalter said Marte is experiencing less pain but not enough to take the next step in his recovery. Marte has been sidelined since Sept. 7.

Braves: RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique. Manager Brian Snitker said there is no timetable for the rookie’s return. Strider has been sidelined since Sept. 21.

NICE GLOVE

Harris ran back and jumped to catch Nimmo’s fly against the wall in center field for the first out of the third.

UP NEXT

Mets RHP Chris Bassitt (15-8, 3.27 ERA) will face RHP Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.29) as the teams conclude a three-game series.