Why players don’t speak out on social issues

Associated Press
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Adam Jones wading into the Colin Kaepernick stuff the other day was notable because baseball players don’t often wade into controversial topics, be they political, social or what have you. They don’t for a lot of reasons. Many are likely apolitical, as are a lot of people. Some simply don’t want the scrutiny talking about such matters inevitably inspires.

Over at ESPN former MLBer Doug Glanville spoke with several current and former players, asking them about the calculus involved in speaking out publicly on social and political issues and the perils doing so can often bring. A notable takeaway is that, beyond merely not being political or not enjoying criticism, players are concerned with their message being misconstrued by misleading or context-free headlines and/or the difficulty of communicating complex thoughts on social media. I’d ad that communicating a complex thought is hard on TV and the radio as well, given that they work primarily on the eight second soundbite model.

We saw this even with Adam Jones’ thing the other day. The reporter, Bob Nightengale of USA Today, did a great job in giving Jones room to breathe in his article. He set forth multiple long quotes, allowing Jones to explain his views, without a lot of interjection or summing up. It was exactly how such a thing should be handled.

What happened, however? One small sentence that was not representative of the entirety of his comments was slapped on top and has led the conversation:

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Yes, Jones said that and yes he stands behind it. But there was a LOT of context to those words that, based on my conversations and arguments with people over the past few days, has been totally lost on them. People read headlines and summaries of stories more often than they read entire stories. Their takeaway here was that Jones said an inflammatory and, to some anyway, racist thing. The rest of his comments were dismissed or ignored completely and a very polarizing debate ensued despite the fact that the entirety of Jones’ comments were nuanced, thoughtful and the complete opposite of inflammatory.

Some players want to simply stick to baseball. Some don’t. But I bet a whole lot more wouldn’t if they had any confidence that their message would be accurately conveyed and fairly received. It very rarely is.

Jeffrey Springs, Rays agree to $31 million, 4-year contract

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Left-hander Jeffrey Springs became the first of the 33 players who exchanged proposed arbitration salaries with their teams to reach a deal, agreeing Wednesday to a $31 million, four-year contract with the Tampa Bay Rays that could be worth $65.75 million over five seasons.

The 30-year old was among seven Rays who swapped arbitration figures with the team on Jan. 13. He began last season in the bullpen, transitioned to the starting rotation in May and finished 9-5 with a 2.46 ERA in 33 appearances, including 25 starts. He is 14-6 with a 2.70 ERA in 76 outings – 51 of them in relief – since he was acquired from Boston in February 2021.

Springs gets $4 million this year, $5.25 million in 2024 and $10.5 million in each of the following two seasons. Tampa Bay has a $15 million option for 2027 with a $750,000 buyout.

The 2025 and 2026 salaries can escalate by up to $3.75 million each based on innings in 2023-24 combined: $1.5 million for 300, $1 million for 325, $750,000 for 350 and $500,000 for 375. The `25 and ’26 salaries also can escalate based on finish in Cy Young Award voting in `23 and ’24: $2 million for winning, $1.5 million for finishing second through fifth in the voting and $250,000 for finishing sixth through 10th.

Tampa Bay’s option price could escalate based on Cy Young voting in 2025 and 2026: by $2.5 million for winning, $2 million for finishing second through fifth and $500,000 for sixth through 10th.

Springs would get $45.25 million if the option is exercised, $52.75 million with the option and meeting all innings targets and the maximum if he meetings the innings targets and wins two Cy Youngs.

Springs’ ERA last season was the second lowest in franchise history for a pitcher working a minimum of 100 innings. Former Rays ace Blake Snell compiled 1.89 ERA on the way to winning the 2018 AL Cy Young.

In addition to finishing sixth in the AL in ERA, Springs allowed three runs or fewer in 22 of 25 starts and two runs or fewer 17 times. He joined Tampa Bay’s rotation on May 9, gradually increasing his workload over his next six appearances. Springs was 6-3 with a 2.40 ERA in 14 starts after the All-Star break.

Arbitration hearings start next week and the Rays remain with the most players scheduled to appear before three-person panels.

Springs had asked for a raise from $947,500 to $3.55 million and had been offered $2.7 million. Tampa remains scheduled for hearings with right-handers Jason Adam, Pete Fairbanks and Ryan Thompson, left-hander Colin Poche, third baseman Yandy Diaz and outfielder Harold Ramirez.

Tampa Bay also agreed minor league contacts with catcher Gavin Collins and right-hander Jaime Schultz, who will report to major league spring training.

Infielder Austin Shenton and pitchers Anthony Molina and Joe LaSorsa also were invited to big league spring training.