Hey MLB: I got a million dollar idea for you

MLB schedule release
Getty Images

I have a friend who is a scientist for the United States Department of Agriculture. I do not know exactly what he does there. The last time I asked him was about 25 years ago and he talked about, like, genetically engineering square watermelon or squash or something to make it easier and more efficient to stack on trucks. Or maybe I dreamed that. Either way, what he does is way, way above my pay and intellectual grade. Just know that you’re eating better because of him.

Anyway, this friend of mine shared a tweet from the USDA today that I feel like I should share with you. It’s about our baseballs and their bovine provenance:

Given that we are firmly in the Camping World and Doosan Era of Major League Baseball in which the league markets everything that can’t be nailed down and, for the things that can be nailed down, markets the nails, that little set of facts got me thinking. Thinking about business and synergy and corporate partnerships and stuff. Rob Manfred, I know you and I don’t see eye-to-eye on most things, but I give you this idea free of charge.

Baseball Steaks™: steaks made from the same cows from which baseballs are derived. They can put the little MLB logo on the shrink wrap and everything. You dang well baseball degenerates would pay $2-3 more a pound, at least, for The Official Steak of Major League Baseball.™

Even better: if they can figure this out — and given how forward-thinking the league is on biometric tagging of players, cows should be a breeze — they can match up the steaks from each cow to the group of 120 balls that came from the same cow. That’ll allow ’em to do some team-specific branding. They can sell Yankees fans ribeyes and porterhouses which came from the same cow from which the ball that Aaron Judge cranked 465 feet against the Red Sox a couple of weeks back was created. There’d be a certificate of authenticity and all that crap. Maybe an autographed photo of Judge holding the box of steaks you ordered just before it hit shipping. It’d be glorious.

Some of you may question my sincerity here. You may wonder why an MLB-criticizing pinko commie like me is willing to pitch a sure-thing moneymaker to a guy I routinely slam for thinking only about money. To that I’d simply say that it’s a peace offering. Some people break bread to bury the hatchet, I say we break beef. To Rob Manfred I say let’s bury the hatchet by breaking out the captive bolt pistol.

And if you’re curious, no, I am not a vegetarian or a card-carrying member of PETA. Indeed, I’m pretty sure the people at PETA don’t much care for me given our past. This is a legit offer.

Anyway, how about it, Rob Manfred? We doin’ this or are we just gonna sit and let money go down the slaughterhouse drain?


Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today

ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.