Russell Martin
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Russell Martin will manage the Blue Jays’ final game of the season

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With the Blue Jays long-since eliminated from this year’s postseason, manager John Gibbons is ready to let the team cut loose for their last game of 2018. When the team faces off against the Rays on Sunday, veteran catcher Russell Martin will take the reins as the club’s unofficial manager. Per MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm, the title transfer is an informal one: Gibbons will still assume responsibility for the outcome of the game and add the win (or loss) to his own record, though Martin will be tasked with all in-game decisions.

It’s been a slow month for Martin, who was all but erased from the lineup as the Blue Jays focused on developing their cadre of young backstops this September. While the 35-year-old was originally promised a reduced role behind Danny Jansen, Reese McGuire, and Luke Maile, he hasn’t seen a single start behind the dish since August 29 and hasn’t played at all since September 3, when he appeared at third base in lieu of Yangervis Solarte and Aledmys Diaz. He’ll finish the year with a career-worst .194/.338/.325 batting line, 10 home runs, and 0.5 fWAR through 352 plate appearances.

Whether or not Martin has given any thought to a future in managing is unclear, though he still has another year left on his contract with the team (and another $20 million to collect as well). Gibbons told reporters that the catcher would make an “ideal” manager someday, but Sunday’s game won’t serve as any kind of audition on that front. Chisholm adds that it’s just a “quirky little fun thing” the skipper has decided to do and, to that end, it promises to be a fitting end to a difficult year for Martin.

Mad Dog Licks Boots

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Earlier this week Tyler Kepner of the New York Times reported that the MLBPA and the league are heading back to the table more than two years before the expiration of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, which expires following the 2021 season.

This had been hinted at for some time, as the union has shown clear displeasure at the current state of business, particularly with the free agent market. The league, one might assume, is happy with the current state of affairs, but it also has an interest in heading off potential strife or even the hint of a labor stoppage in the future. Moreover, there are priorities which have emerged on MLB’s part since the last CBA was signed that they’d love to advance — pace of play, etc. — so they have some incentive to talk as well. So, while it’s totally newsworthy that the sides are talking, it’s also quite understandable and not particularly controversial.

It’s also quite understandable that, given that this is a negotiation between parties in an adversarial position, there will be public comments from the principles which involve advocacy or even posturing on occasion. That’s part of the deal of any negotiation that holds public interest. So, when Tony Clark, for example, says something like “the system doesn’t work,” and “either we’re going to have a conversation now, or we’re going to have a louder conversation later,” which is what he told Kepner, it’s not really a controversial thing. Indeed, it’s expected.

Chris “Mad Dog” Russo thinks it’s pretty controversial, however. The MLB Network host and talk radio legend took to the airwaves yesterday blasting Clark for not being more deferential to Rob Manfred who “was nice enough to extend him an olive branch.”  Russo likewise asked, rhetorically, what “Rob” must’ve thought when reading Clark’s quotes “over his cup of coffee, and bran muffin, on Madison Avenue, after his workout and all those things . . . his morning coffee, milk and two sugars by the way — Sweet and Low.”

He’s the Mad Dog, but he certainly licks boots here:

 

It’s amusing enough that Russo believes that Clark, Manfred’s counterpart and adversary, is supposed to be deferential and thankful for the mighty Manfred. It’s even more amusing, however, that he takes the tack of arguing that MLB has no real interest in negotiating now and is somehow merely throwing the union a bone or offering an olive branch. In saying this Russo, whether he realizes it or not, is accusing Manfred of bad faith, optics-only talks with the union. I don’t feel like Manfred thinks he’s doing that. And I don’t think Clark would be talking to him if he felt he was being patronized to either. Indeed, the dance of the last several months around all of this was, in part, to ensure that that was not the case.

I don’t know what Manfred thought about Clark’s comments on Tuesday, but I do wonder how he feels about being accused by an MLB Network employee of playing games like this. It might be enough for him to spit out his bran muffin and coffee. Cream and two sugars and all.