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Zack Greinke understands that ‘opener’ isn’t just about in-game strategy

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Over the weekend, Craig was among those cited as having criticized the Rays by Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Craig wrote about it in Sunday’s And That Happened. Many of the responses from Rays fans to him on Twitter, at least most of what I saw, conflated distaste for ownership’s penny-pinching for a belief that the team is bad. Indeed, the Rays enter Tuesday’s action 64-61 and their position above .500 has something to do with “the opener” strategy, which is when they have a reliever like Sergio Romo start the game before handing the ball off to an actual starter after an inning or two. Other teams, like the Twins, have taken notice of “the opener” and have begun experimenting with it.

On Monday, Bleacher Report’s Scott Miller published a lengthy column discussing how recent changes to the game of baseball have made it a worse product. He quotes a lot of old-timers, which I discussed yesterday. Miller also quoted Diamondbacks starter Zack Greinke on the subject of “the opener.” While quotes from the likes of Goose Gossage and Pete Rose were a bit more eye-popping, Greinke’s thoughts shouldn’t go unnoticed.

Greinke said:

It’s really smart, but it’s also really bad for baseball. It’s just a sideshow. There’s always ways to get a little advantage, but the main problem I have with it is you do it that way, then you’ll end up never paying any player what he’s worth because you’re not going to have guys starting, you’re not going to have guys throwing innings.

You just keep shuffling guys in and out constantly so nobody will ever get paid. Someone’s going to make the money, either the owners or the players. You keep doing it that way, the players won’t make any money.

Back in May, I wrote about how the overarching concept of “bullpenning” creates a serious labor issue in baseball. Greinke touched on exactly those points. An elite starter makes significantly more money than an elite reliever. Compare contracts signed by David Price (seven years, $217 million) and Max Scherzer (seven years, $210 million) to the contract signed by Aroldis Chapman (five years, $86 million), which is currently the most lucrative contract signed by a reliever. It wouldn’t crack the top-85 contracts in baseball.

A starter’s number of starts and his innings pitched total are both cited in arbitration filings and contract negotiations. A pitcher who made 33 starts in a season will have more leverage than a pitcher who made only 15 starts. Meanwhile, Romo and Ryne Stanek‘s innings totals aren’t much different than a normal year of relief. Thus, if you’re Rays president of baseball operations Matt Silverman and GM Erik Neander, spreading the number of starts (and innings) between the “rotation” and bullpen will reduce the cost of pre-arbitration and arbitration-eligible starters. The owners save this money and pocket it instead of reinvesting it into the team. Then they’ll turn around, cry poor, and ask residents of Tampa to foot the billion-dollar bill for a new stadium in Ybor City, roughly 25 minutes from their current digs.

Greinke is right and we should pay attention to what he’s saying. While “the opener” has some strategic merit, particularly for teams with less-than-complete starting rotations, it also conveniently helps save money for stingy and exploitative front offices. We’ve already accepted that a third of the league gave up on the season before it began. Let’s not accept that teams can give up on their pitching staffs as well.

There was a fight in the Wrigley Field bleachers last night

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The Pirates beat the Cubs pretty easily last night. There was far more fight in the folks from Chicago out in the bleachers.

A brawl erupted among a group of fans. It was fairly messy as far as fights go. Lots of shoving and yelling and some punches thrown but no one really distinguished themselves or covered themselves with honor or glory. Well, two people did, for wildly different reasons. The fight was recorded by Danny Rockett, who hosts a podcast for the BleedCubbieBlue website. There are two videos below showing most of the relevant action.

I will give some honor and glory points to the middle aged guy in the blue jacket in the first video who kept repeating, over and over again, “there’s no fighting in the bleachers!” He was dead wrong about that, obviously, as there was actually a considerable amount of fighting, but I respect his aspirational mantra:

There was also a guy who distinguished himself but for extremely dubious reasons. I’m talking about the guy here in this second video who hurled racist epithets at one of his adversaries. That was special, but nowhere near as special at his reaction when he realized that someone was filming him.

Listen for him saying “DON’T RECORD ME!” and, just after that, “if my unit sees that I’m dead!” Which I presume means a military unit, but I’m not sure:

It’s amazing what people will say when they don’t think anyone is documenting it. And how freaked out they get once they realize that, yeah, someone was. I’m sure if this guy hits the news once he’s identified he’ll talk about how “that’s not who he is” or something like that. Don’t listen to him if he says that. Because, as is quite clear here, that’s exactly who he is. That’s exactly who most people are who get caught saying stuff like this.