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Are White Sox offering anyone a ten-year deal or not?

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Yesterday morning Jeff Passan, who is now at ESPN, wrote this:

The Phillies and White Sox are the other two teams known to be willing to guarantee Harper the decade-plus-long deal he and Machado, each 26 years old, are seeking.

Yesterday evening Bruce Levine, of 670 The Score in Chicago, reported this:

Someone’s got some bad information. No, I have no idea who. There are reasons why someone may embellish a team’s willingness to do or not do something and there are reasons for them to deny things that are, in fact true. The entire public-facing part of the hot stove season is an exercise in spin, p.r. and leverage-creation. Never let anyone tell you different.

While we’re on this general subject, let’s also remember something about reports of what a team is or is not doing and why.

We often hear that so-and-so team “can’t afford” so-and-so player. That may be true and it may not be true, but we have no idea if it is or not because baseball is the only place where people talk putatively intelligently about what teams’ budgets and financial limitations are with no real knowledge and zero disclosure of what teams’ actual budgets and financial limitations are.

Every story you see about a team being unable to afford a player is either rank speculation or is sourced to a team saying that, likely for self-serving reasons. We never see teams’ actual financials and, the luxury tax notwithstanding, we never know how high they can/will go financially. We have just as much insight into the actual bottom line and budget of most teams as we do into the bottom line and budget of a strip mall carpet store.

Sure, we can guess fairly intelligently, based on past history, what a team is willing to do — the Nationals, generally, will offer a Scott Boras client a big contract, the Rays will not — but we have no idea what they are actually able to do. We simply do not know and are never told what the denominator is in their calculations.

I think that distinction matters. The “willing” vs. “able” thing. It’s not just semantics. So much of what is written about the business of baseball, large markets and small markets and so on assumes it’s all about “able” and not about “willing.” Teams want you to assume that so that, if and when they do not spend a lot of money on players, they cannot be blamed for making a choice. They’d prefer you to believe they did everything within their power.

Sure, there are limits to what teams can spend. But we don’t know those limits because they won’t tell us. Unless and until they do, they shouldn’t get the benefit of the doubt.

Baseball returns: Mariners beat the Athletics in the first official game of the season

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I wake up super early almost every morning. Today was no exception. Unlike most days, however, I had more to look at than my cats and more to do than wait for the sunrise: there was baseball — baseball that counted — on my TV. The Mariners took on the A’s in the Tokyo Dome at 5:30AM — which was 6:30PM, Japan time — in the first official regular season game of the year.

As far as games go it was light on the pitching and, a few dingers aside, was light on excitement, with the Mariners beating the A’s 9-7. But hey, less-than-exciting baseball is better than most things, right?

Oakland jumped out to an early lead thanks to a two-out first inning homer by Stephen Piscotty off of M’s starter Marco Gonzalez. The A’s added a second run in the second thanks to a Chad Pinder single, a throwing error which advanced him to third and a Marcus Semien RBI single.

The top of the third provided some chills: Ichiro, batting ninth for Seattle, came to bat with no one out and a runner on first, facing A’s starter Mike Fiers. Flashbulbs popped and the Tokyo Dome crowd chanted his name. He popped out to the second baseman who caught it in shallow right, sadly, but still got an ovation as he walked to the dugout. One of the more exciting and emotional F4s you’ll see.

At that point the pitching took a powder. Dee Gordon would single in Tim Beckham later that inning to make the game 2-1, the M’s would load the bases and Domingo Santana would hit one out to the opposite field for a grand slam to make it 5-2. In the bottom of the third Khris Davis came up and hit a two-run blast to make it 5-4. They say the pitchers are ahead of the hitters early in the year but, uh, nah. By the way, it was the third straight Opening Day on which Davis has homered. The record is four. Mark your calendars for next year.

Ichiro came up again in the top of the fourth, again with a runner on first, this time facing Liam Hendriks instead of Fiers. He worked a 3-1 count, fouled one off to bring the count full, fouled one off his ankle, which looked like it hurt, fouled one that bounced off his back or arm or something which also looked like it hurt, and then took one in the dirt to draw the walk. Again, a bigger cheer than you get for most walks. Later in the inning Mitch Haniger hit a sac fly to make it 6-4.

The Mariners took the field for the bottom of the fourth. Before the inning began, M’s manager Scott Servais signaled to Ichiro in right, who came running back to the dugout. He was being taken out of the game, replaced by Jay Bruce, who moved out from first base, in such a way as to allow his teammates to give him hugs and to allow the Tokyo crowd to give Ichiro a standing ovation. A nice move from Servais. An 0-for-1, 1BB night on what may very well be the future Hall of Famer’s penultimate game.

Things sort of got out of hand after that. The M’s added three runs in the fifth, two of which came on a Beckham homer. It gave us our first bat flip of the season:

At that point my kids left for school and my wife left for work and the game sort of blended into the background of the morning. Matt Chapman hit a three-run bomb for the A’s in the 7th to make it 9-7, which is a score more appropriate for the glorified spring training game this truly was than a regular season tilt, but such is life. And that, after a couple of scoreless innings, was the ballgame.

It was a game that, in the grand scheme of things, means nothing beyond the stats it created and the smallest of small impacts it will have on season standings that will almost certainly not turn on this game. Which is to say it didn’t matter all that much. It was not a big event. It did not change our day nor impact it beyond the moments of enjoyment and amusement it gave us as it unfolded. It did not insist upon itself like so many games in other sports, TV shows and news events which unfold seem so hellbent on doing.

It just happened. As baseball, when it’s at its best, simply does. Welcome back.