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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.

Roy Halladay won’t wear Blue Jays or Phillies cap on Hall of Fame plaque

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In 2016, late pitcher Roy Halladay was asked if he would prefer to wear a Blue Jays or Phillies cap on his plaque if he were to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Per Mark Zwolinski of the Toronto Star, Halladay said, “I’d go as a Blue Jay.” He added, “I wanted to retire here, too, just because I felt like this is the bulk of my career.”

Obviously, circumstances have changed as Halladay tragically died in a plane crash in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida in November 2017. Halladay was elected to the Hall of Fame yesterday, becoming the first player to be posthumously elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility since Christy Mathewson in the Hall of Fame’s inaugural year.

Today, Arash Madani reports that Halladay’s wife Brandy said her late husband will not wear a cap with the emblem of either team on his plaque. He will instead be portrayed with a generic baseball cap. Brandy said, “He was a Major League Baseball player and that’s how we want him to be remembered.”

Halladay spent 16 years in the majors, 12 with the Blue Jays and four with the Phillies. He meant a lot to both teams. He was a six-time All-Star and won the AL Cy Young Award in 2003 with the Jays. He won the NL Cy Young in 2010 with the Phillies and was a runner-up for the award in 2011, making the All-Star team both years and helping the Phillies continue their streak of reaching the postseason, which lasted from 2007-11. Halladay authored a perfect game in the regular season against the Marlins and a no-hitter in the postseason against the Reds as a member of the Phillies in 2010 as well.

In aggregate, Halladay won 203 games with a 3.38 ERA and 2,117 strikeouts in 2,749 1/3 innings during his storied 16-year career which was unfortunately cut a bit short by injuries.