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Best Baseball movie of all time?

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I have not done a Baseball Movie themed post in years. I’ve thought about it … since we’ve had a couple of random baseball movies released since the origins of this blog 10+ years ago and i’ve seen some baseball-movie themed blog posts here and there, but never pulled the trigger.

But today, lo and behold, in my inbox from MLB was a link to vote in a crowd-sourced baseball movie bracket, and I just had to post it, and turn it into a blog post since i’m on a deathly conference call that I only have to pay attention to for a few minutes…

https://www.mlb.com/brackets/mlb-bleacher-features

I’m going to play through the entire bracket, talk about movie snubs, and arrive at the best baseball movie.

First off, here’s the baseball movies of note that I’m aware of from the pantheon that did not make the top 16 below. I’ve listed them in rough order of their own quality … and in the rough order that you may argue to replace ones from below.

  • Pride of the Yankees, with Gary Cooper playing Lou Gehrig. Probably more famous for its depiction of his retirement than of his playing ability, since reportedly Cooper was so unathletic they couldn’t even show him playing the sport.
  • Bang the Drum Slowly: Great movie, not exactly rewatchable as a story about a catcher slowly dying, but full of significant, Oscar-pedigree actors.
  • Damn Yankees: well, if you wanted to see a musical about Baseball, with balding middle aged actors singing in the locker room instead of playing the sport, this is your movie.
  • 61*: Billy Crystal‘s tribute to the 1961 season and Roger Maris‘ pursuit of Babe Ruth‘s record. Barry Pepper and Thomas Jane as Maris and Mickey Mantle are great, and the movie is well done.
  • Sugar, an inspirational story about a Dominican kid who washes out of the minors and struggles to find himself in America. Well regarded.
  • The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings: little known Baseball comedies that do not rate and that i’ve never seen.
  • Soul of the Game: Despite its topic, i’ve never seen it. But it does not fare well with the critics, which is too bad b/c a great movie about the Negro Leagues would be awesome to re-watch.
  • Million Dollar Arm; Jon Hamm travels to India to recruit cricket players to play baseball. The only problem with this plot? Top Cricket players in India are paid millions of dollars a year.
  • Cobb: Tommy Lee Jones plays a great turn-of-the-century racist bastard of a player in a movie that wasn’t really that re-watchable.
  • Mr. Baseball: a movie that wouldn’t be made today, Tom Selleck faces culture shock playing in Japan. has not aged well, nor did Selleck’s baseball playing ability.
  • Mr. 3000: Bernie Mac as a showman attempting a comeback with an unbelievable plot of a showy retired slugger having exactly one career hit over turned, leaving him with just 2,999 for his career.
  • The Babe: Do you remember John Goodman‘s depiction of Babe Ruth fondly? I don’t.
  • The Scout: Brendan Frasier was not terribly believable as a baseball player in a forgettable movie.
  • Hustle: did you even know they made a movie about Pete Rose? I’ve never seen it.
  • Fever Pitch, Summer Catch: just no.
  • Little Big League, Air Bud: 7th Inning Fetch: formulaic Disney kids movies, barely behind the other formulaic Disney kids movies that did make the cut below.
  • Major League II, Major League III, Bad News Bears sequels?: sequels never work, but Major League III was an abomination.
  • The Benchwarmers, Hardball: awful, awful and more awful.

I’m sure i’m missing some; feel free to comment and tell me what baseball movies i’ve missed.

Of the above, I’d have probably replaced several of the below with the top movies from above … but nobody alive today is really rewatching Pride of the Yankees or any of the others listed, so maybe the snubs aren’t really snubs.

Ok lets get to it.

Methodology: I have none. What makes for a “great baseball movie?” Is it great baseball action? Is it the movie itself, whether or not the baseball scenes work? Is it a believable plotline? Is it the Acting? Is it rewatchability? For me, its some nebulous combination of all of the above, which is why I knock out the movie with the most Oscar nominations in the first round. Everything below is IMHO, your opinions may vary.

Here’s the MLB Movie knockout round of 16 with my comments.

  • #1 Field of Dreams vs #16 Angels in the Outfield: #1 v #16 seed is never going to be an upset, though Angels in the Outfield (despite some of Danny Glover‘s best work outside of the Lethal Weapon franchise) was never going to press it. Field of Dreams is solid, but has its flaws; we’ll be getting to them soon, but it moves on here. Winner: Field of Dreams.
  • #9 The Natural vs #8 For the Love of the Game: See, right away we get a heavy weight matchup, and what more would you expect form the #8 vs #9 seed. For me, despite Kevin Costner‘s really amazing athletic performance as an aging MLB pitcher in For the Love of the Game, the movie is absolutely crippled by the crap “love story” that keeps interrupting the baseball story. Every scene with Kelly Preston is fast-forward material. Oh, and John C. Reilly as the catcher is so completely unbelievable that it distracts even from Costner’s performance. Meanwhile, there’s nothing more iconic than Roy Hobbs, and the Natural was never going to lose here. Winner: The Natural.
  • #5 The Sandlot vs #12 The Perfect Game: legendary baseball film versus a feel-good story starring the same guy who was made famous for smoking Ganga on film; how do you choose here? The Sandlot transcends culture, with its famous lines like “You’re killing me Smalls” and its legendary scenes. Perhaps a movie starting Cheech will age better, but the Sandlot has to move on. Winner: The Sandlot.
  • #4 The Bad News Bears vs #13 Rookie of the Year: I see what they’re doing here: all the little leaguers are in one quadrant, to ensure that a movie about kids is in the semis. Ok, fair enough. So, despite the Bad News Bears (which I HAVE to believe refers to the Walter Matthau version and not the 1995 remake with Billy Bob Thornton) not really aging that well (some of it is absolutely cringe worthy today), Rookie of the Year is awful. I mean … ok, suspend disbelief about the plot involving a kid who can suddenly throw 110mph for a bit; the ending is ridiculous. Bears move on. Winner: Bad News Bears
  • #3 League of their Own vs #14 The Rookie: tough matchup here; Lets just say from the get-go that League is going to be tough to beat. I’ll give props to Dennis Quaid for his believable performance as Jim Morris (here’s his baseball-reference page, btw, MLB debut at 35), but the movie itself was typical Disney fluff (it was rated G). We’ll cover League in a moment; it clearly moves on here. Winner: League of their Own.
  • #6 Eight Men Out vs #11 42: tough one here; I can see some people arguing with me. Eight Men Out was not only a fantastic baseball movie with well done baseball action scenes, it was a fabulous period piece about the 1919 Black Sox and the culture that led to their scandal. Technically “42” was also a period piece … a throwback to a transitional time in baseball’s history, and the actors involved reportedly struggled greatly to curse at Chadwick Boseman (who was amazing as a young Jackie Robinson before he became the superstar actor he eventually became). I’ll never forget the one scene in Cincinnati, where Pee Wee Reese comes up to Robinson and puts his arm around him… but Harrison Ford‘s awful acting performance and the lack of real rewatch ability (it is really difficult to watch a movie where they so freely use the n-word over and over) crushes “42” for me in the end. Winner: Eight Men Out
  • #7 Major League vs #10 Trouble with the Curve: this is a blowout for me: Trouble with the Curve was an awful movie full of bad cliches and unbelievable scenes related to the way scouting and drafting occurs. It depended on hit-you-over-the-head racist tropes related to the discounting of the Latino hurler at the end. Amy Adams‘ performance was annoying throughout. Winner: Major League.
  • #2 Moneyball vs #15 Bull Durham: I’m sorry, but this seeding is whack. This is a semi-final caliber matchup between two movies that are attempting to accomplish two drastically different things. You just cannot compare a legendary comedy versus a well-executed drama. That being said … despite Moneyball getting six Oscar nominations … it’s story (as written by author Michael Lewis) was a flawed retelling of the famous 2002 Oakland Athletics (baseball reference link here: https://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/OAK/2002.shtml), spending almost zero time on the fact that the Athletics had three ace starters that year in Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito (who won the Cy Young), nor that the team’s lineup was anchored by Eric Chavez and Miguel Tejada (who won the MVP). Not to mention, the entire Jonah Hill character was made up, thanks to Paul DePodesta not wanting to appear in the film. Oh, and making Art Howe look like a stiff (both in the book and in the movie) was ridiculous. Moneyball may be the better “movie,” but baseball fans know it focuses on the wrong things that made the 2002 Oakland team winners. Winner: Bull Durham.

Quarter finals

  • #1 Field of Dreams vs #9 The Natural. I’m already going for the upset here. Field of Dreams was a solid movie, which makes me cry at the end every time when Kevin Costner gets a catch with his dad. But the movie has huge plot issues, not the least of which is the fact that the amount of corn he plows over to make the field absolutely will not send his farm under. A baseball field takes somewhere between 3-5 acres to make, and one acre of corn fields produces less than 200 bushels of corn a year, and corn sells for about $5 a bushel. Do the math. Corn farmers in Iowa have thousands of acres, have million-dollar harvesters … and losing a couple of acres of land directly next to the house isn’t making that big of a difference. The story is fine, the period piece baseball is great, but the whole hidden voice as the plot driver makes no sense based on where the Costner character goes and ends up. Oh, and by the way, the James Earl Jones character is absolutely reacting if he’s sitting in Fenway Park and hears a damn voice. Winner: The Natural
  • #5 The Sandlot vs #4 The Bad News Bears. Even though Bears has not aged well, I recently re-watched The Sandlot, and, well, it just isn’t that good. Its a fun piece about a bunch of neighborhood friends that’s less about baseball and more about just growing up and getting into hijinks. They barely play any actual baseball, and the step-dad’s actions are completely unbelievable (if you’re a baseball fan, and your non-athletic kid asks to play catch … that’s every dad’s DREAM; you drop what you’re doing and help, you don’t hem-and-haw about how you have a bunch of work). Oh, and some random neighbor just happens to have a baseball signed by the entire 1927 Yankees team sitting around and is willing to give it up to some punk kid who broke into his property?? Even in 1962, that would have been a priceless piece of memorabilia, let alone what its value would be now. Yeah right. Winner: Bad news Bears
  • #3 League of their Own vs #6 Eight Men Out: two period pieces, one of which is pretty unique in sports history, that being the AAGPBL. Bill Simmons just did a rewatchable deep dive into this movie on his podcast called, fittingly, The Rewatchables, and its hard to find too much fault here. Eight Men Out, despite its excellent baseball scenes and reenactment of the 1919 scandal, does not match up and drags at times. Its an important movie of course, and D.B. Sweeney‘s baseball prowess is pretty impressive (he learned how to hit left-handed and look believable in order to play Shoeless Joe Jackson). Winner: League of their Own
  • #7 Major League vs #15 Bull Durham: You see, again, this is a semi-finals matchup of quality. And, I see again what they’re doing here; putting all the major baseball comedies into one quadrant so that the final four basically has just one comedy. Fair enough. As much as I love both of these movies, there’s parts of Bull Durham that detract from the re-watchability. Its hard to watch some of the dramatic scenes that they put in between the baseball scenes. Tim Robbins is pretty darn good, as is Costner of course. But, Major League all-in-all is funnier. It’s a raunchier watch, more laugh out loud moments, and the first 30 minutes are just absolute gold, one liner after one liner. Winner: Major League

Semis:

  • #9 The Natural versus #4 The Bad News Bears: This is no contest; the acting, the storyline, and the baseball performances in the Natural, especially out of Robert Redford as an aging slugger, are second to none. There’s some weird plot holes, and I struggle with the ending just a little bit (they couldn’t find a kid to play his son who couldn’t throw the ball like an actual baseball player??), but the run of aging-poorly scenes and themes from the 1976 Bad News Bears causes its demise. Coach freely cursing in front of his team? Sharing his beer with a minor? Kids Smoking cigarettes? A father slapping his son across the face in broad daylight? Yeah; just one of a few of the things that make this “kids movie” unshowable to your, you know, actual kids. Winner: The Natural
  • #3 League of their Own vs #7 Major League. wow. Tough on here. I like both movies. I have yet to comment on Tom Hanks‘ amazing rendition of Jimmy Foxx in this movie, nor the great one-liners he gets in that transcend culture (There’s no crying in baseball.”). Nor have we talked about the pretty solid performances of Rosie O’Donnell and Madonna and Lori Petty and especially Geena Davis as players. From a comedy perspective though, it can’t hold a candle to the raw in-your-face antics of Major League. League is a better ‘story’ and has as good of baseball action as they could muster, given that actresses don’t actually play baseball at any point in their lives. But Major League wins. Winner: Major League

Final:

#9 The Natural v #7 Major League. In some ways, this is impossible to gauge, because we’re talking about the best ever baseball Drama versus the best ever baseball comedy. But we’ll try:

  • The Natural pros: great baseball action, great story, easily weaves in a number of solid dramatic actors with a completely believable set of baseball players. Amazing, transcendent ending, with the filmmaking to go with it.
  • The Natural cons: Hobbs would have healed from his wound in a couple years tops; where the heck has he been for a decade and a half? And the girlfriend never went looking for him, ever? Even when she had his kid all those years? Really? He struck out Babe Ruth in front of a leading sportswriter for a national paper … and then nothing ever came of it? The Hollywood ending differs from the book; does that matter?
  • Major League pros: Charlie Sheen could actually throw in the mid 80s. The baseball players were mostly believable. Pedro Ceranno‘s lines are amazing, as are the quotes from this movie (“that ball wouldn’t have been out of a lot of ball parks…”). As I’ve said before, the premise of the movie is hilarious and the first part of the movie, from the recruitment of players to spring training, is just gold.
  • Major League cons: Tom Berenger is the lead, and he’s not a good actor, and he’s not a believable baseball player. Explain to me again why his ex-gf dumps her fiancee and her new life to return to him? What exactly did he do to win her back?

The Natural, at the end of the day, is the best combination of Movie and Baseball; it’s the winner.

Winner: The Natural


By the way, If I was re-seeding this draw …. i’d seed it as follows:

  1. The Natural (#9 here)
  2. Major League (#7)
  3. Bull Durham (#15)
  4. Moneyball (#2)
  5. League of Their Own (#3)
  6. Field of Dreams (#1)
  7. Eight Men Out (#6)
  8. 42 (#11)
  9. Bad news Bears (#4)
  10. The Sandlot (#5)
  11. For the Love of the Game (#8)
  12. the Perfect Game (#12)
  13. The Rookie (#14)
  14. Trouble with the Curve (#10)
  15. Rookie of the Year (#13)
  16. Angels in the Outfield (#16)

So, I’ve got some serious problems with their rankings. If the seedings had gone this way, We’d have Moneyball in the semis.

Written by Todd Boss

May 5th, 2022 at 9:22 am

New CBA Details and Analysis

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After “losing” the last two CBA negotiations, the player’s union was in a tough spot. They’ve already let the proverbial camel’s nose into the tent (with respect to the salary cap), and they knew they couldn’t completely get rid of it, so they leveraged what they could to get what they could.

Here’s some of the key parameters and thresholds the two sides agreed upon on 3/10/22. Using the excellent reporting by Evan Drellich from the Athletic as a starting point and then attempting to get information out of a dozen other sources who are dripping out CBA details … here’s some parameters of the new deal that i’ve found. there’s a lot to digest.

  • No Lost games: 162 game season planned, starting a few days later than normal with a compressed spring training.
  • Expanded Playoffs: this was the biggest bargaining chip the Players had, and they used it to get all the salary benefits below. 12-teams, a 3-game play-in, byes for the two best records. This is a huge win for the owners, who will net an estimated $85M per year with expanded playoffs. Phew. As a side effect, no more game 163s (a bummer), as the league will go to NFL-style tiebreakers to determine seeding. #1 Seed plays winner of #4/#5 Wildcard, #2 seed plays winner of #3 division winner/#6 wild card. No re-seeding. The play-ins are 3-game series entirely at the home site. I’m on board here, with the knowledge that a couple more teams can be a disincentive for FA spending (but can be a huge boom during the trade deadline).
  • Pre-Arbitration pool of $50M. This is brand new, and addresses the player complaints about players not getting paid enough early. The idea here is to dole out this pool to the highest performers on pre-arb salaries to get them compensation for production before they can earn it through arb and free agency processes. The pool supports the best 100 players, meaning an average of $500k per player, which seems like peanuts honestly given the cases where you have a Mike Trout generating a 10-win season at age 20, but its a start. Jayston Stark reports that last year as an example, Vladimir Guerrero would have netted an additional $1.75M salary. Again; a start, but still not paying the guy anywhere near his value.
  • Minimum Salary rises from $570,500 in 2021 to 700k, rising to $780k by 2026. That’s not bad.
  • Minor league Minimum salaries are rising too. Veterans with prior big league experience who are in the minors earned a minimum of $93k in 2021: that figure rises to $114,100 this year, with small rises each year to max out at $127,100 in 2016.
  • CBT Salary Cap rises from $210M in 2021 to $230MM/$232MM/$236MM/$244MM over the next four years. That’s something, probably not really enough in the grand scheme of things since there’s no corresponding floor AND only a few teams will even approach it. But its a start.
  • New CBT breaking penalities: The thresholds for 2022 are $230M/$250M/$270M/$290M. The agreement does put in additional penalties for going way, WAY over it (like what the Mets are going to do this year), but still allows teams to duck underneath and “reset” their penalties.
  • Dropping of $500M grievance from 2020 shortened season: I’m sure this was not something the owners wanted to see in a courtroom, given that the evidence clearly showed that they basically negotiated exactly to the number of games they wanted and the players knew it.
  • Players Union does NOT drop existing grievance against Rays, A’s, Pirates and Marlins (all of whom took in tens of millions of dollars in revenue sharing and are accused of not using it for payroll). This still needs to be litigated, and in my opinion is still a huge issue in the sport. Really, if you get money from other teams and you don’t use it to enhance the on-the-field product, you really should just be forced to sell.
  • New rules with 45 day notice as opposed to a year’s notice for any “on the field change.” I’m surprised they allowed for this, since new rules can be pretty jarring for veterans.
  • Three specific rules coming for 2023: banning the shift, larger bases, and a Pitch clock. I’ve talked about these issues in this space and i’m good with all three. The pitch clock by itself shaved more than 20 minutes off of games in the league it was tested in, shifts can be show to be directly related with precipitous drops in BABIP and wOBA over the past few years, and larger bases is a nothing-burger rule change that nobody should really care about.
  • 2021 Rule 5 Draft officially cancelled: apparently the teams got together and were just like, ah forget it, its useless anyway.
  • Draft Lottery at the top: the two sides have agreed to a lottery at the top of the draft; the top 6 picks/worst 6 teams will now use a lottery to determine who drafts first as opposed to directly by their record. Baseball is not Basketball (the other major US sport that does this); you don’t get immediate-impact/generational talents at the top of each draft, and top draft picks very frequently flame out early, so the lottery in some respects is a superficial fix. However, the MONEY associated with the lottery slots is huge: the difference in 2021 between picking 1st and 6th was $3M. $3M in “bonus dollar currency” basically is a mid-first rounder, or two mid-second round players. That’s huge.
  • Limits on teams in the Lottery over and over: this is pretty big. Large market teams are prevented from being in the lottery more than one season in a row, and smaller market teams cannot be in it two years in a row. So teams like ahem Houston and Chicago (who purposely bottomed out to get high draft picks for years in a row) can never do that again, and inept smaller market teams who year after year are in the lottery (Pittsburgh, Baltimore) are prevented from doing so as well. These teams will get kicked down to 10th in the order. This isn’t a panacea for tanking, but its a big win. The difference between the top 2-3 and #10 is massive.
  • Removal of 2021 “man on 2nd in extra innings” rule. to the collective sigh of purists.
  • Return to normal 9-inning double headers: again, a purist move to remove a one-off rule change for 2021.
  • Service time changes: call this the “Kris Bryant” rule; if a player is kept in the minors for service time manipulation purposes but finishes in the top 2 of RoY voting, they get a full year of service time awarded. It only affects 4 players a year … but its a start.
  • Permanent roster limit on # of pitchers at 13: this is probably good for the sport, and probably something teams saw coming anyway.
  • Advertising on Jerseys: its coming. For me, as a long-time soccer fan, its a non-issue and inevitable. Purists will, of course, lose their minds the moment they see a patch on the Yankees’s century-old pinstripes. I think its just “patches” and not logos across the chest.
  • Universal DH: this seemed like a no-brainer for both sides … and it is FINALLY here. I’ve been advocating for this move for nearly a decade; here’s a 2013 post I wrote about it, and basically everything I wrote then is still true. Ironic that our own Ryan Zimmerman, who probably could have hung on for another season had he known we had a DH, already retired.
  • Limits on Options: this is a pro-player move that probably doesn’t come into play for a ton of guys, but some teams are notorious for basically using options as a way to have an expanded roster, sending players back and forth to AAA over and over (Ahem, Tampa). Eno Sarris dives into it more here. There were players who were optioned more than a DOZEN times last year, a ridiculous logistical nightmare for these guys.
  • Amateur Draft now permanently at 20 rounds. This is not really that surprising; the league axed the entirety of Short-A ball, and rounds 20-30 basically existed to pick college players to play for half a season in these leagues. We don’t need that many players anymore … and for years the rounds 30-40 were essentially useless anyway.
  • Draft Pick Inducements for teams who carry top-performing rookies from opening-day. Interesting. Still seems like a crap shoot, and something that only affects the absolute very best rookies.
  • Easing the Unbalanced Schedule: starting in 2023, teams will play fewer divisional games. Interesting. Details still coming in, but it sounds like each team will play all 30 teams each year. That’d be really different. Instead of playing each divisional rival 19 times each year, that will fall to 14 times (56 of the 162 games), with the difference made up with a ton more interleague play.
  • Arbitration players to get cut in Spring training get full salary: thsi is a nice little pro-player change: if a player settles with his team on a figure, he’s guaranteed that number; no more cutting a player in spring training and getting away with just a percentage of the salary.
  • Small waiver wire changes: last year a player named Jacob Nottingham got jerked around multiple times in a weird waiver-wire claim issue between two teams, changing franchises multiple times. The players union clearly noticed and now teams cannot make a second claim on a player unless all other teams pass.
  • PED Testing changes: players will be tested more, and HGH testing will go from a blood draw to a blood spot.

Delayed negotiations: the two sides kicked the can down the road on two issues now tied to each other:

  • Qualifying Offers: players want to get rid of them and the Draft picks associated with them (because the draft picks serve as a regressive action on the Free Agency market and depress value for players).
  • International Draft: owners want it because, why else? It saves them money.

I personally think the players would be FOOLS to capitulate on the international draft for the sake of a handful of the (on average) 10-15 players a year who go through the QO process. I’ve done QO analysis for years and you can count on one hand the number of times a player was truly screwed by the QO process. And even those players who had to sit out part of the season, or take significantly less money than they were worth generally still made out later on. Players would be idiots to trade that benefit, which affects a fraction of 1% of their union to trade away the rights of every international player outside of the US. And while doing it, likely neuter or outright destroy baseball pipelines in certain latin american countries (akin to what the draft did to Puerto Rico). MLB owners are bottom-line, short sighted, wanting to save a penny instead of investing it to make a dollar later, and this is yet another example of them drastically harming the future of their sport … but the Union doesn’t represent 16yr old kids from the DR. So, expect it to happen.


What did we NOT get that was talked about/demanded?

  • Salary floor: yes the salary cap went up by 10% … but the Salary floor was not correspondingly implemented. This seems like a loss to the players, who have seen their average salary drop by 6.4% since 2017 at the same time that MLB revenues have increased more that 30%.
  • Age-based Service time: this was abandoned as a non-starter
  • Earlier to Arbitration: abandoned as a non-starter.
  • WAR-based salary determination; abandoned … though I like where they were going.
  • Expanded Active Rosters: still on the table perhaps, but not codified. we may get temporary expanded rosters to 28 players thanks to the compressed spring training.

What do I think? Well, the players got some wins, but i dont’ feel like the owners really had to make sacrifices. No salary floor, no elimination of the cap. The owners probably could care less about incremental salaries for the windfall they’re going to get from expanded playoffs. Notably, the player’s union vote included every “executive committee” player (basically the most respected veterans in the league) rejecting this deal.

but at least we’re playing ball again.

Note: a TON more detail has come out since this initial posting. The Athletic has a very comprehensive article on the new CBA with a ton more details here:

https://theathletic.com/3187914/2022/03/16/mlbs-collective-bargaining-agreement-guide-to-the-changes-in-the-2022-26-labor-deal/?source=dailyemail&campaign=601983

Written by Todd Boss

March 11th, 2022 at 9:55 am

Its Over! New CBA agreed upon

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Well, this is a shocker to me. Out of nowhere, and with the two parties tens of millions of dollars apart on several key issues as of the last update … word just came out that they’ve suddenly agreed to a deal.

We’ll do a more in-depth analysis of the terms later on … i wanted to get something out there today though to remind you that

a) yes i’m still here

b) yes I still write on this blog … though not as frequently as I used to

and

c) more is coming.

We’re still waiting for a slew of major prospect ranking shops to release their Nats lists, and we’ll continue to react to them. But now that we have a CBA, we’re going to see an amazingly frantic transaction period coming up … i’ll do my best to keep the Big Board up to date.

Written by Todd Boss

March 10th, 2022 at 3:41 pm

Final proposals pre Lockout show some interesting CBA negotiation details

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The Athletic’s Evan Drellich is in Irving, Texas, reporting from the final meetings between the owners and the players before the 12/1/21 CBA expiration deadline and subsequent lockout, and he’s come up with some really interesting nuggets.

I know the Athletic is behind a paywall; i’ll try to summarize some of the back and forth details, some of which I find pretty interesting as a fan.

Here’s some of the things the owners are offering:

  • MLB has proposed an increase to the minimum salary (which is probably a given in every CBA).
  • MLB has proposed an increase in the luxury tax cap (currently at $210M) to $214M growing to $220M. This is a start, since they proposed earlier DROPPING it to $180M along with a salary floor, but is kind of ridiculous to offer basically a 5% cap growth at a time when inflation is nearly that this year alone.
  • MLB has proposed a draft lottery at the top to stop tanking … but only in the top 3 picks (which is basically useless).

The Players have made some proposals too:

  • Basing draft order on a formula, not straight on W/L record. 60% record, 40% market size. I’m guessing they don’t want the large market teams to ever draft in the top 10 again.
  • Teams receiving revenue sharing (14 of the 30 teams mind you, and which includes teams like Colorado, St. Louis and San Diego, each of whom really have no business getting revenue sharing) would only receive draft pick compensation if they finish above .500 (which I love).
  • Proposing a scaled hard line of players getting to FA based on age and service time. Its not a hard “when you get to X years you’re free” but a sliding scale meant to prevent players from languishing in the minors for years and then not getting to FA until they’re in their mid 30s.
  • Some recognition that service time issues aren’t going away, but putting in place “bonuses” that give service time for performance (if you make an All-star team after getting held down like Kris Bryant, then you get a full year of service time). I like this.
  • Arbitration after 2 years, not 3. Owners are dead set against this.
  • Changes to revenue sharing between owners, which they believe (rightly) leads to non-competitive behavior. Hard to argue against this when you watch teams like Miami and Pittsburgh get $50M a year to normally not compete.
  • Offer the owners expanded post-season
  • Offer the owners “patches” on the uniform … aka sponsorship on the uniforms.

These last two items are worth, collectively, hundreds of millions of dollars to the owners. So … if you propose something to owners that will give them that much money, they’re going to expect something back that gives the players that much money too. As in, salary floors, or huge incrases in minimum salaries.

Some interesting factoids here, for those who possibly think the owners are negotiating in good faith:

  • The Average MLB salary has fallen 6.4% since 2017 while revenues for the league rose from $10B in 2017 to $10.7B in 2019.
  • Even more striking … the median salary in the league is down THIRTY PERCENT since 2015. 30%.

This pattern shows what we already know really; that front offices are trending towards younger players at the expense of older veterans, choosing for a pre-arb $575k player instead of a $2M veteran player in his mid-30s for that last bench spot. This has generally gutted the FA market for mid-30s hitters and has run dozens into early retirement. Furthermore, we’ve even seen declines in the top of the salary market; the qualifying offer (which is the mean salary of the games’ top paid 125 players) DROPPED this year for the first time ever, from $18.9 to $18.4M. The players see these numbers, fume at them, and know that they’re being perpetually manipulated by multi-millionaire owners who are gaslighting the public in to believing they’re actually LOSING money but who refuse to open their books.

Get ready for a long winter.

Written by Todd Boss

December 2nd, 2021 at 9:05 am

MLBPA CBA bargaining playbook strategy leaked

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The Athletic got its hands on a huge memo the MLBPA issued to its members, providing guidance and answering questions for the (expected) lockout to occur on 12/1/21.

What’s more interesting to me was the rhetoric that the MLBPA communicated as to its “primary concerns” with the state of baseball right now, and to me it reads like a list of the major demands/strategic positions the union has. We’ve talked at length about all the issues that we think are contention points, but this list prioritizes what the union is after.

Here’s a summary of the 4 main issues the union will be arguing:

  1. Incentivizing Competition. As in, the blatant and open tanking that has been going on. MLBPA wants to change things so that winning is incentivized. Possible solutions here include financial penalties for sustained and purposeful losing (like, loss of revenue sharing dollars), draft pick compensation changes, and salary floors. None of these are going to go over well, especially to the “poorer” owners in the game such as in Kansas City, Pittsburgh etc. that being said, the owners know something is coming, and has already proposed a Salary Floor of $100M. Of course … they also included a salary ceiling thats at least $40M lower than current, which is ridiculous.
  2. Ensuring the most talented players are on the field. This is a direct attack on service time manipulation, and clearly the Union has had it. I don’t blame them: when Kris Bryant was blatantly kept in the minors for two weeks simply to gain an additional year of service, and the grievance went nowhere, the Union knew it had to demand changes. Our own Nats have done something similar in the past with Super-2 considerations, though not as blatantly as some teams (ahem, Tampa Bay, who kept Wander Franco in the minors well into the summer this year). The solution here is pretty simple, and has already been proposed by the owners in one form: a standardized age for reaching free agency, which removes any and all incentives for teams to keep their best players in the minors. The challenge will be figuring out what that age is; to me age 29.5 is too old. My suggestion would be a flat number of years of control based on the age of the player at signing, which basically turns into age 28 for all players. If the player is 16 at age of signing, 12 years before FA. If player is a HS player who has not turned 19, then 10 years. If the player is 19 or a juco signing, then 9 years, and if the player has turned 21 or is from a 4-yr program then 8 years.
  3. Reducing artificial restraints on competition. This is a direct attack on the luxury tax threshold, which has basically turned into a salary cap, even for teams like the Yankees and the Red Sox, which is patently ridiculous. But it also talks about the concept of draft pick compensation, saying that it gives teams a “convenient excuse” to not compete. I can’t help but agree; Scott Boras said it well and accurately when he claimed that the value of draft picks has led to half the league tanking. The challenge here is this: the players never should have allowed the cap, and now they’ll never be able to get rid of it. Clubs are disingenuous with their finances (except for the publicly traded teams like Atlanta, who display for the world how much money they’re not spending on payroll as compared to what they’re making), so we’ll never be able to get to a revenue split like what NHL/NBA has. The Solution won’t be easy: I think the players should get a flat rate of revenues, which is accomplished through both a floor and a ceiling. I like the idea of having what the NBA has in the Larry Bird exemption, allowing teams to go over the cap to re-sign their own players; that would really do much for this issue. I think teams should be inventivized to keep their home grown players; if we had Larry Bird exemption we might still have Rendon and Harper.
  4. Getting players their value earlier in their career. This one is easy; when you have pre-arb players winning MVPs and getting paid 1/50th of their value, something is fundamentally wrong with the system. MLB has already proposed going to a WAR-driven system, which is a start. I’m not sure what the solution here is; if Mike Trout has a 9-war season at age 23, do you pay him $50M the next year? What happens if he gets hurt and misses the entire season? do you pay him $0 the next year? The other challenge with using f-WAR is that it is drastically different in evaluating pitchers than bWAR or WARP; is that fair to non-strikeout guys?

Notably not mentioned here are other issues we know are floating around, such as:

  • International Draft
  • Qualifying Offers
  • Revenue Sharing
  • Arbitration system mods (other than wanting more money of course)
  • Draft signing bonuses
  • International signing bonuses
  • anything having to do with minor leaguers (of course; they’re not union members)

So, look for the players to “give” on these issues to get progress above. This is what really scares me; if the players give up an international draft (which the owners desperately want), what happens to the pipeline of international players?

We’re in for a long winter.

Written by Todd Boss

November 24th, 2021 at 3:43 pm

Experimental Rule change Reaction

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TAMPA, FL – APRIL 4: Pitcher Andy Pettitte #46 of the New York Yankees attempts a pickoff against the New York Mets in a spring training game April 4, 2012 at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida. Pettitte last pitched in 2010. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

I’m a bit late to the game on this: Luke Erickson already posted his 2 cents on this at Nationals Prospects.

MLB has taken advantage of the fact that they now rule the Minor Leagues like a Lannister and will be implementing several rule changes this season. Jayson Stark had an interesting reaction here at the Athletic, and perhaps the simplest list of the rule changes by league is at MLBTraderumors.com (as always; they cut right to the chase).

So, what do I think? Well before reading further I guarantee one of my “takes” isn’t going to match yours for one or more of these proposed rule changes. Baseball fan opinions all exist on a sliding scale, where one extreme is the Pure Traditionalists (who are still pissed that the league went to divisional play in 1969, to say nothing of the Wild Card, 5-man rotations, the introduction of WAR, or anything we’re about to talk about), while on the other side are the Ultra-Modern Baseball fans, who embrace and seek out analytical advantages and are always looking for disruptive ways to improve the game. You can be on the “traditionalist side” of neutral and be ok with Wild Cards, but be against the DH in the NL, and you’ll still be called an idiot by your grandpa. So, take the below with a grain of salt if you’re on the conservative side.

Here’s the new rule changes, by league, being implemented in the Minors:


AAA will Increase the Size of the Bases.

I can’t see why anyone would argue with this; we’re all used to seeing the “side base” in amateur leagues created specifically to avoid collissions and broken ankles from clumsy base runners. They claim that a 3″ square increase will somehow lead to noticeable stolen base increases … but somehow I doubt that. As we already know, stolen bases are out of favor with analytical types because simple Run-Expectancy analysis shows that the break even point for SB success rate is somewhere in the 75% range, and only elite runners can break that rate. Ricky Henderson‘s career SB success rate was 80%, to give you an idea of how hard it is to keep your rate above 75%. My Verdict: go for it.


AA will Set Limits on Shifts

The initial rule will state that all four defined infielders must have their feet on the dirt. They can still shift, and put the 3rd baseman on the other side of 2nd … but he has to be in the defined “infield.” If this doesn’t have an impact, they also opened up the possibility of even more radical shift-banning, basically legislating that two infielders must be on either side of 2B, which basically would eliminate the shifting overloading we’ve been seeing.

In the past I have defended the shift, noting that it generally gets out hard-headed lefty pull hitters who refuse to adjust and take advantage of a wide open left side of the field by simply going the other way or bunting (as Robinson Cano did quite ably in this video)… listen to the announcers in this video; they basically say “its about time! How many years have we watched this with the shift…”). EXACTLY.

However.

I’m starting to come back around a bit. Why? Because offense is so down. Anyone who has played slow-pitch softball knows how much offensive oppression a 4th outfielder strategically deployed can do to even a skilled hitter. I think i’m now ok with some slight modifications to the shift rule, and the initial rule is a great start. you want to play 3 infielders on the right side against a Ted Williams-like pull hitter? That’s fine; but they’ve all gotta be on the dirt and you can’t stick the 3B in short RF. My Verdict: go for it.


High-A will see the Step Off rule implemented for pitchers. Simply put, they have to disenage with the rubber to attempt a pick off. This rule was done in the Atlantic League in 2019 and apparently succeeded in its intent to increase the running game in the sport (it led to 70% more stolen base attempts).

I think I like this rule, but for a different reason…. no more will we see lefties basically balking and picking guys off first and not getting called on it. Over and Over we see illegal lefty moves to first (see Andy Pettitte’s entire career and this slo-mo video)and rarely do we see them getting called on it; it basically has eliminated the running game for lefties just under the threat of a fake move to first. One caveat; appaerntly the step-off-quick-snap-throw for lefties is also out … which I don’t get. Isn’t that a step-off? Maybe they put this part back, because otherwise lefties seem to have almost zero way to stop the running game. My Verdict: go for it.


Low-A will see, in addition to the step-off rule, the 2 Pickoff attempt rule. You can only attempt 3 pickoffs per plate appearance; if the 3rd attempt is unsuccessful, a balk is called and the runners advance. This is the most radical rule change for me, but I understand the reasoning. Go to any game and if a pitcher throws over more than a couple times the crowd boos and gets restless. It goes towards the general goal of speeding up the game, and goes towards eliminating a rather cynical method of suppressing the running game (that by tiring out the speedy potential base stealer by making him dive in over and over). I think i’ve talked myself into it. My Verdict: go for it.


Low-A West will Adopt on-field timers … which will just codify rules already in place, so My Verdict is just enforce the rules already.


Low-A South East will adopt Robot Umpires, technically known as the Automated Ball-Strike System or ABS, to standardize the strike zone. Yes. Finally. Basically the ABS system makes a call and the home plate umpire relays it, filling in if the machine breaks down.

The challenge with an automated strike zone is defining the zone. I think all baseball fans are really, really tired of seeing obvious balls called strikes and vice versa (see Hernandez, Angel), especially when the call seems to be punitive for some other action (see this call in the 2019 World Series when umpire Lance Barkesdale clearly “took away” a strike-three call). But, what we’ve learned from automated strike zones is that the rule-book defined zone makes for some really, really hard pitches to hit (98mph heater at your chest on the corner? yeah right). But, at some point I think it has to happen. My verdict; continue the experimenting.


Wow. So i’m in favor of all the rules. Hmm. I wonder what that makes me? Oh yeah; a baseball fan who’s tired of seeing 3.5 hr games of three true outcomes.

Written by Todd Boss

March 12th, 2021 at 10:31 am

Baseball has a serious competitiveness problem

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Arenado’s trade just another example of teams not trying to win. Photo via legitsports.com

I don’t think this post is necessarily a surprise to those of us who follow the sport. MLB has a serious competitiveness problem, and it seems to be coming to a particular head for the 2021 season … just in time for the CBA to expire.

The reason I bring this up is because of a series of really, really concerning moves we’ve seen this past off-season, coupled with some of the more seismic moves seen in the past couple of off-seasons, has really got me shocked.

Specifically, i’m about:

  • the Colorado Rockies dumping their franchise player and likely future hall of famer Nolan Arenado for a set of middling prospects AND sending $50M to the Cardinals.
  • I’m talking about one of the absolute wealthiest teams in the sport (the Chicago Cubs) trading away key players (Yu Darvish) and doing little to augment their team for 2021.
  • I’m talking about Boston trading away the best home-grown player they’ve had since, I dunno, Ted Williams, in what amounted to a salary dump (again, this is Boston, who make more than $500M annually in revenues) when they jettisoned Mookie Betts.
  • I’m talking about teams in major, huge markets (Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners) basically not trying.
  • I’m talking about the best team in the AL last year (Tampa Bay) flipping its best player (Ian Snell) for 60 cents on the dollar BEFORE he even got that expensive.
  • I’m talking about teams like Atlanta (whose numbers are public record because they are owned by a publicly-traded company) earning $476M in revenue in 2019 and basically holding pat on payroll for years.
  • I’m talking about teams in mid-sized markets (Arizona, Baltimore, Miami) acting as if they’re barely staying afloat.

And so on.

I did a quick analysis of where the MLB teams stand in terms of whether they’re really “trying” for the 2021 season, based on their off-season activity and their 2020 results, and i came up with a pretty shocking list of teams. By my counts:

  • 14 teams are purposely doing as little as possible to improve their teams this off-season. Not surprisingly, these 14 teams account for 14 of the 17 smallest projected payrolls right now.
  • Another 3 teams are competitive and/or have high payrolls, but are making moves that question their intent (specifically: Boston, San Francisco, and Tampa)
  • This leaves the remaining 13 teams which are clearly “trying,” actively signing and improving their teams, increasing payroll, etc. Again, not surprisingly, these 13 “trying” teams currently comprise 12 of the top 13 projected 2021 payrolls.

Here’s the core data, stored by division and then projected payroll rank. I used Cot’s 2021 payroll projections , Fangraphs Roster Resource Depth charts/transaction trackers, and MLBtraderumors 2021 FA tracker to gauge activity.

TeamDivisionRankCB Tax 40-manTrying?Notes
Chicago White SoxAL Central11166.6YesAcquired Lynn, signed Hendricks
MinnesotaAL Central17125.9YesDone enough to maintain divisional lead
Kansas CityAL Central2196.8NoOnly minor moves
DetroitAL Central2291.2NoOnly minor moves
ClevelandAL Central2962.7NoTraded Carrasco and Lindor
BostonAL East2201.9Sort-ofThey've made moves, but really payroll hamstrung. Betts trade was disappointing
New York YankeesAL East3199.9YesSigned LeMahiue, Kluber, acquired Taillon
TorontoAL East12148.3YesSpringer acquisition plus Siemen trade, Matz trade
BaltimoreAL East2679.9NoWaiver claims and rule5 picks.
Tampa BayAL East2870.1Sort-of… but traded away Snell.
HoustonAL West4195.8YesStable, competitive roster
Los Angeles AngelsAL West7185.2YesAcquired Cobb, Iglesias, etc.
TexasAL West2389.9NoNot really attempting to compete in AL West, traded away Lynn
OaklandAL West2489.1No0 FA signings, almost no off-season activity
SeattleAL West2580.6NoVery little improvement attempts
St. LouisNL Central10169.7YesAcquired Arenado but that's about it for activity
Chicago CubsNL Central14143.5NoTanking mode; traded Darvish, non-tendered Schwarber
CincinnatiNL Central18125.6NoLittle movement in improving the team.
MilwaukeeNL Central20102.9NoAlmost no off-season activity
PittsburghNL Central3058.2No100% tanking mode; traded away most of their assets; just ONE guy on a multi-year contract
WashingtonNL East5193.7YesMultiple acquisitions pre season
PhiladelphiaNL East6186.2YesResigned Realmuto big, got Didi
New York MetsNL East8180.7YesHuge moves pre 2021; new owner, signed McCann, acquired Lindor and Carrasco, bullpen signings
AtlantaNL East15138.1YesTwo starters … but refuse to go much higher than current
MiamiNL East2773.6No
Los Angeles DodgersNL West1204.4YesDefending WS champs
San DiegoNL West9172.2YesGot Darvish AND Snell, plus Musgrove??
San FranciscoNL West13146.1Sort-ofLots of movement, but none to really make them competitive
ColoradoNL West16128.3No
ArizonaNL West19103NoNot a SINGLE off-season move

Furthermore, there’s some teams who I give credit for “trying” who just happen to be in divisions where basically everyone else is NOT trying … so just treading water constitutes as a pathway to success. Going division by division:

  • AL East: NY and Toronto competing. Boston sits at #2 in payroll thanks to god-awful contract management during the Dave Dombrowski era. Tampa was the best team in the AL in 2020, but projects to have the 3rd lowest payroll and just flipped Snell. Baltimore of course is doing almost nothing as normal.
  • AL Central: Chicago and Minnesota sit mid-league in payroll but get a free ride thanks to the rest of the division actively tanking. Kansas City, Detroit and Cleveland all trying to get worse on purpose.
  • AL West: Houston treading water with a great and expensive roster, the result of years of purposely tanking and starting this whole trend. The Angels continue to ineptly spend their money and not get Mike Trout to the playoffs. Nobody else trying, and Texas, Seattle, Oakland all sit in huge markets. Texas in particular is particularly galling; they reside in the 4th largest market in the majors and project to have the 23rd ranked payroll.
  • NL East: the most competitive division, with 4 of the 5 teams trying and spending money. Of course, as noted above Atlanta’s wealth is hamstrung artificially (which must be awesome for their fans). Miami continues to be an embarassment, a revenue suck on the rest of the league.
  • NL Central: perhaps the most egregious example; just one team seems to be trying to win in 2021 (St. Louis). The other four are dumping players and not spending money (Cubs, Cincy, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh, which projects to the lowest payroll in teh majors)
  • NL West: the Dodgers will always spend, and the Padres are really well positioned out of the blue, which has made the rest of the division wave the white flag already. San Francisco treads water getting out from under a ton of expensive, aging players, while Colorado has traded away an all-star team worth of talent in the past few years, and Arizona continues to be one of the most inept franchises in the game while sitting in the 10th largest US market, one that is growing wildly.

For me, a big part of this is the Luxury tax cap, which clearly is treated as a hard cap and thus stops wealthier teams from going over it. But another huge part is the lack of a corresponding salary floor. There’s also little incentive for teams to compete and win with pre-determined RSN payments driving their revenues. I think the league needs to look at bigger revenue sharing for its smaller teams to keep them competitive (like what the NFL does). Lastly, too many teams have now seen the pathway to success that bottoming out does and are emulating it … all at once. Only one team can draft #1 overall, but half the league is trying to do so. How do you resolve this?

In any case … the lack of trying and lack of spending has led to hundreds of millions of dollars of payroll NOT being spent on players … and they’ve got to get the playing field back to level. I think we’re going to see a pretty ugly work stoppage after 2021. I’m sure we’ll be revisiting this. But when it comes to good faith attempts to compete, more than half the league is not holding up their end of the bargain for 2021.

Written by Todd Boss

February 3rd, 2021 at 1:28 pm

Happy New Year! Obligatory Post on the 2021 Hall of Fame class

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This could be Schilling’s year. Photo via mlb.com

I write a baseball blog. Therefore, I am obligated to put in my 2 cents on Hall of Fame voting. And the new year is also the deadline for BBWAA voters to send in their real ballots for the Hall of Fame, so you see a glut of sportswriters publishing their ballots. Here’s more of the same from me.

How many years have I been doing this post?  Basically as long as we’ve had the blog.  Here’s (by class) 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011

I know lots of people have lost faith in the Hall of Fame, are tired of reading analysis like this, etc etc.  Fair enough; feel free to move on.

Here’s two key links for you, if you’re still reading.

So, the 2021 class is … well its weak. With all due respect to the newly eligible candidates on the 2021 ballot, there’s not a single one hall-worthy. Several “hall of very good” players, but none transcendent. There was just one “major award” won between any of the newly eligible players, that being Barry Zito’s Cy Young award in 2002.

Nonetheless, here’s some quick thoughts on those that are on this ballot, in rough order of descending career bWAR/likelihood of getting 5% votes to stick around on the ballot.

New to the 2021 Ballot Candidates:

  • Tim Hudson; highest JAWS of any of the 2021 new candidates, nearly the highest total career WAR. He certainly had enough time in the sun, playing for multiple playoff teams in his career (7 seasons pitching in the playoffs). Was frequently in Cy Young talks, but never really came close to winning one. Probably the best of this year’s class.
  • Mark Buehrle: the Andy Pettitte of the 00s. Their career stats are eerily similar; if you support Pettitte, you support Buehrle. I think both guys were career #3 starters with occasionally amazing stuff.
  • Torii Hunter had a surprisingly solid, quiet career. Great defender, great teammate. Not enough to make the hall.
  • Dan Haren: hey, he pitched for the Nats! And he threw 88mph (his twitter account is https://twitter.com/ithrow88).
  • Barry Zito: great early part of his career, forming the trio of amazing starters that Michael Lewis never once mentioned in Moneyball. Then became one of the worst-ever free agent contracts signed. 7 years, $126M. For that $126M he contributed a COMBINED 3.0 bWAR. Over 7 years. That’s $42M per WAR. Not the best legacy. Did win a Cy Young though.
  • Aramis Ramirez: a long-time middle of the order dangerous bat for Chicago. Multiple 30hr/100 rbi seasons. Surprised he never got more press.
  • Shane Victorino; we saw a lot of Victorino during the Philly golden years of the late 2000s. Solid player, that’s about it.
  • A.J. Burnett: pitched for years, .500 career record, just kind of always there as a #2 or #3 starter. He made one All Star team in his entire career and it was his farewell season.
  • Nick Swisher; the golden-child of the book Moneyball. Nice career.
  • LaTroy Hawkins: no disrespect, but I don’t want to ever hear about another reliever until Billy Wagner is inducted.
  • Michael Cuddyer; From Virginia! Part of a great history of players coming out of Great Bridge HS in Chesapeake over the past 20 years (also including Justin Upton, John Curtice and Connor Jones).

Returning Ballot Candidates
Here’s how I’d vote my imaginary ballot. Amazingly, i find myself struggling to get to 10 players.

  • Yes on Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Curt Schilling, Manny Ramirez
  • more tepid Yes on Scott Rolen, Andruw Jones
  • Maybe it’s time to vote for Gary Sheffield, Billy Wagner, and Todd Helton
  • Pass for now on Jeff Kent, Sammy Sosa, Andy Pettitte,
  • No on Omar Vizquel, Bobby Abreu

Quick reasoning in order of the above:

  • Clemens and Bonds are two of the best players ever to play, regardless of later-in-their-career PED transgressions (alleged or otherwise). You can cut both their careers off at the point where they both allegedly used and they’re still HoFamers. Vote them in and be done with it.
  • Schilling may be abhorrent on social media, but he deserves the Hall based on his playing career. It does not go without saying though that it is completely reasonable for journalists to pass as a statement of protest at this point. If you want a full accounting of all the reprehensible stuff he’s spewed on social media lately, see Jay Jaffe‘s HoF post for a partial list. Its ridiculous. And frankly it makes me pause even putting his name here. Maybe its “putting your head in the sand” to support someone posting the vile crap he does … especially since he’s completely aware of what he posts and seemingly now does it for attention.
  • Ramirez was perhaps the most feared RH hitter for a decade in this league and has career numbers that put him in the top 25 hitters ever to play. Again, less interested in PED transgressions at the end of his career than I am with the bulk of his accomplishments.
  • Rolen is an interesting player whose value was much more about his defense than his offense. Interestingly the Hall has no problem electing top-end defensive short stops who couldn’t hit (see Ozzie Smith or Luis Aparicio) but seem to struggle when presented with an equally dominant defensive 3B who actually could hit. That’s Rolen to a t.
  • Jones was, for the first 10 years of his career, discussed as perhaps being the second coming of Willie Mays before getting hurt and getting run out of the game by the time he was 35. Despite playing just 11 full seasons he had 434 career homers and 10 straight gold gloves in Center. I think voters have just forgotten how good he was. Keith Law had a great post at the Athletic this week about just why Jones is hall-worthy, an interesting analysis that was worth reading.
  • Sheffield is a borderline candidate but was nearly as feared as Ramirez was at the plate. Has stronger PED usage allegations than others. He was, unfortunately, a “difficult” player to deal with both for club and media, which has probably led to his tepid support.
  • Billy Wagner: has better numbers than nearly any other inducted reliever. If you have any relievers in the hall, you’d need to consider Wagner (and as long as we’re having that conversation, say hello to Tom Henke).
  • Todd Helton was better than you remember. He had a season once where he hit .357 AND hit 42 homers. Just look past the fact that he was once arrested for DUI while buying lottery tickets. Lottery tickets! For a player who made $156M in his career.

Passing on and reasoning:

  • Bobby Abreu: good but not transcendent. Frankly i;m amazed at the support he’s getting so far on the bbhof tracker.
  • Jeff Kent is a polarizing figure, both while he played and on the ballot. He’s a borderline guy and his voting totals have indicated that.
  • Sosa: too hard to make a case that he reinvented himself as a home run hitter completely thanks to artificial mechanisms. He was a 36–40 homer guy then he suddenly rips off seasons of 66, 63, 50 and 64. I will say though, i do “buy” his corked bat explanation once I read that the league confiscated all his other bats and found no other cork.
  • Pettitte lead the league in wins in the 90s (much like Morris did in the 80s) but is recognized similarly to Mark Buehrle; a lefty 3rd or 4th starter for most of his career who stayed healthy and accumulated wins and strikeouts, but was rarely even the best hurler on his own team.
  • Vizquel was a mediocre hitter who played forever and nearly got to 3,000 hits. He was a solid defender yes, but I’m kind of at a loss as to why voters are giving him so much credence while Rolon struggles.

2020 MLB Awards Predictions

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So, I try to do this every year, and every year I do reasonably well in predicting the end-of-season awards as voted upon by the media members of the BBWAA.

This year? I have no idea what is going to happen. A combination of work, pandemic, side projects and other interests has really taken away from my focus on baseball in 2020. So honestly I have no idea who is set to win these awards. But lets do some educated guessing, with the help of some of my favorite national baseball writers.


AL MVP: Well, if you use the old adage “best player on the best team,” you end up with Brandon Lowe on the Tampa Bay Rays. Is Brandon Lowe getting MVP buzz? Of course not. Could you pick Brandon Lowe out of a lineup? Yeah me neither. He’s the only guy on the Rays who hit double digit homers but he’s hitting just .269 on the season and posted a 2.1 bWAR, nearly a full win below some of his compatriots in the league. Tampa is a team effort with great starters and even better relievers that probably won’t go far in the playoffs.

No, this award seems to be coming down between two hitters:
– D.J. LeMahieu of the Yankees, who had a monster batting season and really carried a team that was missing its two best hitters for half the season.
Jose Abreu, who also blew up this year, hitting .317 with 19 homers in 60 games to lead the resurgent and dangerous White Sox into the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade.

I like the Abreu narrative. I’ll go Abreu 1, LeMahieu 2 and Trout getting sympathy 3rd place votes for yet another playoff-less season for the Angels. Cleveland’s leading slugger Jose Ramirez continues to mash in anonymity and should be in the conversation for 3rd here as well.


NL MVP: well, its pretty clear that the three best hitters this year in the league were all in the NL. Freddie Freeman, who has never finished in the top 3 in MVP voting amazingly, blew up this year, posting an OPS figure above 1,100 and really continuing to show why he’s consistently year in, year out one of the most underrated hitters in the league. Meanwhile, Mookie Betts quietly led the league in bWAR with a 3.4 figure in just 60 games (that’s projecting to a 9-win season in a full year), but a good chunk of that WAR is defense-related (which some writers struggle to evaluate). Lastly you have our own Juan Soto, who just put up a 212 OPS+ season (the 26th best single season OPS+ figure EVER), became the youngest player to ever lead the league in BA, and posted 2.9 offensive bWAR in just *47 games* (that’s a 10-win offensive season projected to 162 games, before taking away his defensive correction which drags him down from an overall bWAR perspective). And none of this even recognizes any of the guys in San Diego (specifically Fernando Tatis Jror Manny Machado) who have rocketed that team to respectability quickly.

Honestly, I think the narrative gets Freeman the award, given that he’s never come close to winning it anymore. The award goes Freeman 1, Betts 2 and Soto 3. Maybe Tatis takes 3rd over Soto, penalizing the Nat for his false-positive Covid test that cost him a chunk of the season.


AL Cy Young: I think it has to be Cleveland’s Shane Bieber, who gets the pitching “triple crown” in the AL: he leads the league in Wins (8), ERA (1.63) and Strikeouts (122, which worked out to an astounding 14.2 K/9 rate). His ERA+ figure was 281, good for the 3rd best single season figure … EVER.

I’m not even sure who fills out the rest of the AL bracket: perhaps Toronto’s Hyung-Jin Ryu 2nd for his solid performance in his debut Toronto season, and then Dallas Keuchel, who posted a sub 2.00 ERA for the White Sox.


NL Cy Young: this race is a mess. If it were me, i’d be seriously considering Max Fried of Atlanta, who was basically unhittable all year (7-0, 2.25 ERA), but who got hurt and did not pitch enough innings to even qualify for the ERA title. But Cincinnati’s Trevor Bauer was even more unhittable, posting some astounding numbers this year: just 5-4 as a W/L record but his ERA was a league leading 1.73, he also led the league in WHIP with an amazing 0.795 figure, he posted a 276 ERA+ (the 5th best seasonal figure ever), and he struck out 12.3 K/9. Just amazing.

I think it goes Bauer 1, Fried 2 and then someone like Yu Darvish or Jacob deGrom 3rd, to recognize their excellent seasons as well.


AL Rookie of the Year: who knows: there’s been so many debuts this season, it has been hard to keep track. I’ll go with who I see getting more sportswriters buzz; Kyle Lewis of Seattle.

NL Rookie of the Year: I think the narrative gives it to San Diego’s Jake Croneworth, who exploded out of nowhere to have a solid rookie season at the age of 26. Yes, there’s some eye popping figures coming from Milwaukee rookie reliever Devin Williams (53 strikeouts of 100 batters faced, or a 17.7 K/9 rate, good for an ERA+ of … get this …. 1375!), but he’s a middle reliever. we’ll see how the voters evaluate him.


Managers of the Year: how do you possibly evaluate managers in a short season like this? I default to “manager of the team that surprised people the most and snuck into the playoffs.” Following this theory i’ll go Rick Renteria of the White Sox in the AL(who improved from going 72-89 last year to 35-25 this year) and Don Mattingly of the Marlins in the NL (whose Marlins won just 57 games last year). San Diego’s Jayce Tingler deserves votes here too, as does Cincinnati’s David Bell.

There you have it.

Post publishing Actuals:

For 2020, I got 6 out of 8 predictions right. Missed on one RoY and one Manager.

  • RoYs: Devin Williams and Kyle Lewis.
  • Managers: Don Mattingly and Kevin Cash. Amazingly, the guy i thought would win was *fired* a few days before he was named a finalist. Not since Davey Johnson and the Orioles in 1997 have we seen something like this.
  • Cy Youngs: Trevor Bauer and Shane Bieber
  • MVPs: Jose Abreu and Freddie Freeman

Do we really think there’s going to be a season?

9 comments

I alluded to this in comments on the previous thread…. but it is a question worth asking.

Here’s the rough timeline for the 2020 season:

  • Friday, June 26: Transactions freeze ends at noon ET
  • Sunday, June 28: Teams must submit 60-man player pool names by 3 p.m. ET
  • Wednesday, July 1: Teams report to Training Camp 2.0
  • Friday, July 24: New Opening Day
  • Monday, August 31: Trade deadline (usually July 31)
  • Tuesday, September 15: Players must be on big league roster to be eligible for postseason

So, notably, here we sit not even to July 1 yet, and we have the following issues:

MLB has a plan, of course.  And true to MLB fashion, its vague and arguable throughout.  Per the “contingency plan” they can stop the season if:

  1.  if restrictions on travel throughout the country are imposed;
  2. if the season poses “an unreasonable health and safety risk to players or staff to stage those games,”; and
  3. if the competitive integrity of the season is compromised by the number of players who are available.

Those aren’t “or” clauses; they’re “and” clauses.  Meaning all 3 need to take effect.  #2 in particular seems particularly vague enough to basically never be agreed as being true by the 35-40% of this country that still seems to think this pandemic is a joke or a media invention.

I mean, what do you do if the virus hits a team and knocks out a third of their roster?  You can’t possibly ask them to keep playing with a bunch of minor leaguers.  That clearly compromises the integrity of the season.  Meanwhile, we already have players like our own Ryan Zimmerman make pretty cogent arguments that they’re in really tough spots personally to expose themselves to three months of high-risk travel and group settings (If you’re Zimmerman, with an immuno-compromised parent and a small child at home … what would YOU do?)

I dunno.  I think its a frigging mess.  As much as I like baseball and want a season to discuss and analyze, as much as I want to see Max Scherzer vs Gerritt Cole on opening day … part of me thinks we’re gonna get to mid-July and there’s going to be huge roadblocks to play.   We’ll see I suppose.

When our 60-man roster is announced i’ll do another post to talk about it.

 

Post-publishing addition: I completely forgot to add in concerns  about (some of which was mentioned in the comments):

  • our foreign players actually being able to fly HERE
  • our foreign players actually being allowed to fly home.
  • state-based flying restrictions just announced.
  • the fact that the DC mayor has apparently banned large gatherings and the Nats may not be able to train at home.

just so many issues.

Written by Todd Boss

June 28th, 2020 at 8:33 am