Some fans are complaining, but the players love the extended netting

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One of the larger rules/context changes of the offseason was Major League Baseball’s, well, encouragement, of teams to extend protective netting farther down the lines than it had been in the past. Most clubs have done this.

I’ve heard a lot of fans complaining to me about this. Which was fun because all of the complaining came before any games were played this year, but that’s how complaining goes sometimes. They’re worried about sightlines and the intimacy of the ballpark and all of that jazz and they really enjoy tut-tutting people who don’t pay full attention to every game and, I guess, stand ready to snag a line drive foul ball traveling at 100 miles per hour like they are. A lot of tough, tough hombres who flash slick leather like to complain about netting, I’ve found.

But there’s one group of people who love the extended netting. The players. Bob Nightengale speaks to them today and several of them go on record talking about how disturbing it is to hit a foul into the stands that harms someone and how happy they are that the chances of that happening have been reduced to some degree. They know how fast the ball travels and they know that, even if you’re not on your cell phone or messing with your kids or talking to your seatmate that it’s not always possible to stop a screaming foul ball headed toward your face. No matter what the people who hate nets say.

I’m still critical of the specifics of Major League Baseball’s “policy” on netting, as I feel that it is more of a buck-passing, liability avoidance measure than it is a clear and concerted attempt to improve fan safety. Why not just mandate a certain standard? But that aside, more netting is good. You get used to it in five minutes if you’re at the game. And it makes a lot of people safer.

RHP Fairbanks, Rays agree to 3-year, $12 million contract

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Dave Nelson/USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Reliever Pete Fairbanks and the Tampa Bay Rays avoided arbitration when they agreed Friday to a three-year, $12 million contract that could be worth up to $24.6 million over four seasons.

The deal includes salaries of $3,666,666 this year and $3,666,667 in each of the next two seasons. The Rays have a $7 million option for 2026 with a $1 million buyout.

His 2024 and 2025 salaries could increase by $300,000 each based on games finished in the previous season: $150,000 each for 35 and 40.

Tampa Bay’s option price could increase by up to $6 million, including $4 million for appearances: $1 million each for 60 and 70 in 2025; $500,000 for 125 from 2023-25 and $1 million each for 135, 150 and 165 from 2023-25. The option price could increase by $2 million for games finished in 2025: $500,000 each for 25, 30, 35 and 40.

Fairbanks also has a $500,000 award bonus for winning the Hoffman/Rivera reliever of the year award and $200,000 for finishing second or third.

The 29-year-old right-hander is 11-10 with a 2.98 ERA and 15 saves in 111 appearances, with all but two of the outings coming out of the bullpen since being acquired by the Rays from the Texas Rangers in July 2019.

Fairbanks was 0-0 with a 1.13 ERA in 24 appearances last year after beginning the season on the 60-day injured list with a right lat strain.

Fairbanks made his 2022 debut on July 17 and tied for the team lead with eight saves despite being sidelined more than three months. In addition, he is 0-0 with a 3.60 ERA in 12 career postseason appearances, all with Tampa Bay.

He had asked for a raise from $714,400 to $1.9 million when proposed arbitration salaries were exchanged Jan. 13, and the Rays had offered for $1.5 million.

Fairbanks’ agreement was announced two days after left-hander Jeffrey Springs agreed to a $31 million, four-year contract with Tampa Bay that could be worth $65.75 million over five seasons.

Tampa Bay remains scheduled for hearings with right-handers Jason Adam and Ryan Thompson, left-hander Colin Poche, third baseman Yandy Diaz and outfielder Harold Ramirez.