Astros, Dodgers try to advance; Yankees, Red Sox play on

10 Comments

*Extremely Willy Wonka voice*

Shall we roll on?

Well, well well. Three naughty, nasty little baseball teams gone . . . seven good, sweet little baseball teams left. Hurry, please. Long way to go yet. Here’s today’s lickable wallpaper:

Astros vs. Indians
Ballpark: Progressive Field
Time: 1:30 PM Eastern
TV: TBS
Pitchers: Dallas Keuchel vs. Mike Clevinger
Breakdown:

Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole were dominant for Houston in Games 1 and 2. Really, the Indians scored three runs in all and two came via a wild pitch and a groundout. Dallas Keuchel is a different kind of pitcher than those fireballers — sinkers over heat — but the Indians have looked like a team that couldn’t hit batting practice. if that suits the Indians better and they get to him, A.J. Hinch as several well-rested relievers at his disposal. Therein lies one of the many benefits of being up 2-0 in a best-of-five series. Both he and the Indians starter, Mike Clevinger, have a decent amount of postseason experience. This is Clevinger’s first time starting in the postseason, however. Maybe that’ll suit him better, as he has an ERA of 6.43 with nine walks in six relief appearances.

But hey, home cooking fixes everything right? While you consider that, know that the Astros were 11 games better on the road than they were at home this year.

 

Dodgers vs. Braves
Ballpark: SunTrust Park
Time: 4:30 PM Eastern
TV: Fox Sports 1
Pitchers: Rich Hill vs. Mike Foltynewicz
Breakdown:

Before I look at today’s game, in case you missed it, here’s one more look at last night’s game and that Ronald Acuña grand slam . . . that probably should not have happened. Now on to today.

Some credit to the Braves for not rolling over, but their order is still a tall one. Win today, win on Wednesday or else stay/go home. Taking the hill for the Braves is Mike Foltynewicz, who lost the series opener in Los Angeles on Thursday. His outing so short — 50 pitches — that he can go on three day’s rest. Joc Pederson and Max Muncy took him deep in that game. They’ll be happy to see him today, I suspect. For the Dodgers hill is on the Hill. He hasn’t pitched in a game since tossing seven scoreless innings against the Giants eight days ago, so he should be plenty rested.

The Dodgers are not likely to have a meltdown inning today the way they did last night, so the Braves need to find some way to keep the Dodger bats in the park today or else their season is over.

Red Sox vs. Yankees
Ballpark: Yankee Stadium
Time: 7:40 PM Eastern
TV: TBS
Pitchers: Nathan Eovaldi vs. Luis Severino
Breakdown:

The Red Sox looked like the Red Sox in Game 1, the Yankees looked like the Yankees in Game 2 and now it’s a best two-out-of-three between these two powerhouses. Eovaldi, moved up a day so Rick Porcello could be moved to Game 4 following his relief appearance in Game 1, will be making his first postseason start. Alex Cora would like him to go deep given how much the Sox have used the pen so far, but Eovaldi really does not do deep these days. He is, however, set up nicely to be a modern postseason pitcher as, when he’s on, he can usually give you five innings of dominant stuff. Which, when you think about it, is deep in the modern postseason. Severino comes back after his strong five-plus innings in the Yankees Wild Card game win.

This is the only series marred by notable injuries so far. Yankees center fielder Aaron Hicks missed Game 2 with right hamstring tightness. He is expected to play today, but it’ll be worth keeping an eye on him. Sox first baseman Mitch Moreland exited Game 2 with a hamstring injury of his own. He’s day-to-day.

The Padres owners try to explain why they aren’t spending money

Getty Images
3 Comments

There was an interesting article in the San Diego Union-Tribune over the weekend about the Padres, their owners and their finances.

The article purports to be a rare look into the finances of a big league club. And yes, the owners opened their books, to a degree, to the writer of the story, talked about the team’s financial position, its debt and its approach to team payroll, past, present and future. The upshot: the team has had lots of debt, has had to do a lot of work to get out of that situation and now, with some restructuring out of the way, the club looks forward to spending more on players. Eventually. Like, maybe in 2020 or 2021.

On the one hand, yes, it’s actually got some good information in there! Some details about team finances you don’t often see. Which is totally cool as far as that goes. The problem is that the article doesn’t go nearly as far as it may seem and, in the end, is just a far more elaborate than usual excuse from a team about its failure to spend money.

The tell here comes from what is not mentioned as opposed to what is. For example, while it talks about how much is being spent on various things — baseball salaries, operating, marketing, etc. — nowhere does it talk about the owners’ own take. Rather, it leaves you with the impression that the owners haven’t seen a dime from the team in the several years that they’ve owned it. Color me extraordinarily skeptical about that. As we’ve seen with other clubs — most notably the Marlins, but most do it — broad categories such as “baseball operations” or “non baseball operations” often include substantial payments to owners in less-than-obvious line items. Payments to LLCs and partnerships for “consulting” or “management fees” or what have you. Do the Padres have similar expenditures? We can’t tell from this article, but it’s telling to me that they have spent about as much on front office/miscellaneous baseball ops stuff as player salaries over the past several years. A lot of that has been at building a strong minor league development system, but I’m guessing not all.

Similarly, there is an awfully large portion of the article aimed at telling the tale of the clubs’ massive debt and its restructuring. Yes, debt service can be a killer for liquidity, but it doesn’t really talk too much about the debt for its own sake. Such as the fact that (a) the current owners knew full-well of the debt they were inheriting from the previous owner, John Moores, when they bought the team; and (b) that by assuming the debt, their purchase price for the team was lowered, as it always will be in transactions that involve a lot of debt-assumption. The current owners have had the team since 2012. I don’t recall them telling the public then that there would be a near decade’s worth of swimming against the current of debt before they started paying for players. That’s never been in the season ticket brochure.

It’s also worth noting that, for as much as the debt restructuring is talked up in the story, it is saving the Padres only $8 million a year. They’ve been at least $60 million below the luxury tax threshold for several years now. It’s more than the club’s debt keeping them from spending money. It’s largely been a choice.

Again, none of which is to say that the article is not interesting in its own right. It certainly is. There is certainly more information here than one typically sees in an article about a team’s finances. But it is just partial information. Moreover, it seems to be aimed at justifying another year or two of non-contention to fans without satisfactorily explaining all of the many years of non-contention which preceded it. The Padres famously went all-in and spent some money on players in 2015. Why did that make sense then if this debt problem has been there all along? Why did they give Eric Hosmer over $100 million last year? The article wants to portray ownership as sober and responsible and prudent and use that to explain why the Padres have stunk on ice for a good long time, but it is not very convincing in communicating some consistent, rational thread from ownership.

That all of this comes at a time when clubs are being criticized for not spending money is no accident, I suspect. As such, I am choosing to read the piece for some interesting information it conveys while understanding that it has a pretty significant P.R. component to it as well.