During his prime with the Phillies — before all those nasty knee injuries — Chase Utley was one of the best defensive second basemen. He didn’t have the best range or the strongest arm, but the Phillies positioned him well and he had good instincts. While age has further deteriorated Utley’s range and arm, the instincts are still as good as they have ever been and he illustrated that during Thursday night’s game against the Rockies.
With a runner on first base and two outs in the top of the fourth inning, opposing pitcher Tyler Chatwood hit a weak ground ball to Utley that skipped up his glove and bounced off of his chest. Utley had to turn his back to pick up the ball and, in doing so, flipped the ball behind his back to Adrian Gonzalez to get the out. The play was so impressive that broadcaster Vin Scully exclaimed, “Wow!” Scully has seen a thing or two, so getting him to exclaim is saying something.
We’ve heard the back and forth between players and owners on money, on safety, on the size and the shape of the season. But not until now have we heard just how little baseball Major League Baseball and its owners actually want: 48 games.
That’s all they want, at least if they have to, as agreed, pay players their prorated salaries on a per-game basis. That’s the report from ESPN’s Jeff Passan, who writes this morning on the state of the current negotiations.
Passan’s article has a lot more than that. It contains a number of financial calculations about how much teams say they stand to lose per game played under any given scenario. That said, given the near total opacity when it comes to owner finances, we have no real way to evaluate the claims. The players have a bit more access to league financials, but even they are reported to be unsatisfied with what the owners have shared in that regard. So, while interesting, nothing Passan presents there is really convincing. It stakes out the positions of the parties but doesn’t really tell us much about the merits.
Which is to say that a 48-game schedule sounds like either (a) a bluff aimed at getting the players to offer financial concessions; or (b) a declaration from the owners that they’d prefer almost no baseball if it means that they have to lose any money. The whole “we’ll happily take the benefits of a good market but won’t bother if there’s a chance we might lose money” approach I’ve lambasted in this space before.
We’ll see soon which it is.