Francisco Liriano, not Gerrit Cole, gets Opening Day start for Pirates

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For the third straight season the Pirates will go with left-hander Francisco Liriano as their Opening Day starter, which is noteworthy because it means right-hander Gerrit Cole will not get the Opening Day nod following a season in which he finished fourth in the Cy Young balloting.

However, with Cole recovering from an offseason rib cage injury the Pirates don’t want to rush his timetable and manager Clint Hurdle told Stephen Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette that “it wouldn’t be fair to him to try and push that deadline date on him.”

Cole has yet to make his spring training debut, but the Pirates are hoping he’ll be stretched out to around the 100-pitch mark shortly after Opening Day. And of course Liriano is certainly deserving too. He has a 3.26 ERA with 543 strikeouts in 510 innings since signing with the Pirates in 2013, including a 3.38 ERA and 205 strikeouts in 187 innings last season.

Rays lose, clinching postseason berth for Athletics

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The Rays lost 4-1 to the Yankees on Monday night, which clinched a postseason berth for the Athletics just as they began their own game against the Mariners. For the 94-62 A’s, it’s their first postseason appearance since 2014 when they lost the AL Wild Card game to the Royals.

Major League Baseball celebrated the Athletics’ achievement by tweeting this fact: The A’s are the first team since 1988 to make the postseason with baseball’s lowest Opening Day payroll ($66 million).

Yay?

John J. Fisher, who has owned the A’s since 2005, has a net worth approaching $3 billion. The Athletics franchise is valued at over $1 billion. Yet the A’s have never had an Opening Day payroll at $90 million or above and have consistently been among the teams with the lowest payrolls. The cultural shift towards embracing analytics has allowed the A’s to get away with investing as little money as possible into the team. Moneyball helped change baseball’s zeitgeist such that many began to fetishize doing things on the cheap and now the league itself is embracing it.

What the fact MLB tweeted says is actually this: John J. Fisher was able to save a few bucks this year and the A’s still somehow made it to the postseason.

The Athletics’ success is due to a whole host of players, but particularly youngsters Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea, Daniel Mengden, Lou Trivino, among others. All are pre-arbitration aside from Manaea. When it comes time to pay them something approaching what they’re actually worth, will the A’s reward them for their contributions or will they do what they’ve always done and cut bait? After reaching the postseason in 2014, the A’s traded away Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Jeff Samardzija, and John Jaso. Each was a big influence on the club’s success. Athletics fans should be happy their favorite team has reached the postseason, but if the team’s history is any precedent, they shouldn’t get attached to any of the players. Is that really something Major League Baseball should be advocating?