Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Ask Collier 1/11/19


Harper Harper Harper. Photo Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Harper Harper Harper. Photo Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

On deadline day for doing arbitration contracts, MLB beat reporter Jamal Collier did a mailbag.  Its been a notable week with more Bryce Harper rumors and the Nats running their payroll right up to the limits of the Luxury tax cap with the Brian Dozier signing.

Here’s the questions he took:

Q: Harper is on my mind. Spring Training is days away. Aren’t the guys worried about will happen? No way they can be just “whatever,” right? Especially if he ends up in Philly?

A: If they can’t figure out from the slew of Mike Rizzo moves what the team’s intention is with Bryce Harper by now … well maybe a sledgehammer would be more subtle.  Its mid January and Rizzo has made 8 moves that should impact the opening day 25-man roster and another 2-3 that may be impactful down the road.  He’s now got the payroll north of $190M.

So what if he goes to Philly?  I think the whole “don’t trade within the division” is nonsense.  Yeah we’ll see him a lot.  But its a closed loop; he has to go to one of the 30 teams in the league, and we are bound to see him no matter who he plays for.  There’s 30 teams, and only half of them are even frigging trying to win right now, and then halve that again for those who even have payroll room to compete for Harper (or Machado).  And Philly is one of them.

As far as “the guys” … are you talking about his team-mates?  Well one of two things would be true about his teammates:

  1. They hate his guts and are like, “good riddance.”
  2. They are his fellow union members and want him to get every dollar possible because their union so royally screwed them selves in the last couple of CBA negotiations.

Collier notes that his fellow players know this is “part of the business” that Harper may eventually leave, and that he’s been a national figure since he was 16.  

Q: If Harper re-signed with the Nationals, how would they work the outfield? Would Victor Robles start the season in Minors? Or would they trade Eaton?

A: You’d have to trade Adam Eaton.  And you’d be trading low.  You can’t move Juan Soto … he’s making MLB Min and could be an MVP candidate.  You really shouldn’t move Victor Robles; he’s supposed to be a *better* prospect than Soto, so you’re hoping for 4-5 win performance for (again) MLB min salary.  These are the kinds of players you keep when you’re trying to win.  Putting Robles in the minors would be an absolute waste, and if that was their plan then i’d advocate attempting to flip him as a centerpiece for a top 20 player in the league (like a Corey Kluber or something).

Collier agrees.

Q: If Harper returns, how does it change how the team will handle Anthony Rendon negotiations?

A: Hmm.  That’s a good question, because despite the fact that Anthony Rendon dropped in the draft over injury questions he’s actually been pretty solid as a pro.  I liken Rendon’s reputation and capabilities to Adrian Beltre; fantastic defender, sneaky good at the plate, and suddenly you look up and he’s put up a hall of fame career.

Will that translate into a $200m salary?  Probably not.  But Rendon is no dummy, and neither is his agent Scott Boras.

That being said … can the Nats do this whole “stars and scrubs” thing for ever?  If you have 5-6 guys on high 8-figure salaries (Scherzer, Strasburg, Corbin, Harper, Rendon) can you put a good enough team behind them?

I personally think Rendon is an incredibly important player for this team, even if he isn’t that high a profile.  And because he’s not high profile, I think you can get him for $20M/year or something like that on a longer term deal, which would be a steal value-wise.  I hope committing money to Harper doesn’t close the door on a Rendon negotiation.

Collier says …. he has no idea, nor does Rizzo.

Q: How should we look at 2019 Dozier replacing ’18 Daniel Murphy? Both are above-average offensive second baseman with liability at fielding. Is this an upgrade, downgrade or equal move?

A: Absolutely an upgrade; Daniel Murphy had negative bWAR last year while even playing through injury Brian Dozier contributed.  If Dozier is healthy and performs at his 2015-2016 level again … watch out this is one of the steal signings of the off-season.

Collier basically agrees and gives good contextual numbers.

Q: Do you think Washington will add a starter? If it does, I think Wade Miley is fine.

A: I think they will … but not a guy to replace Joe Ross in the rotation.  I think they’ll be looking for MLFAs with 5/1 or 6/1 buy-outs, like Edwin Jackson or Tommy Milone signings last year.  I can’t see them breaking the luxury tax for a 5th starter.

Collier agrees, remembering that the team has already signed Henderson Alvarez for just such reasons.


40 Responses to 'Ask Collier 1/11/19'

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  1. Where the players really screwed themselves was in not anticipating that the lower third of the league would start refusing to even attempt to be competitive each year. There ought to be a “payroll floor” in place to go along with the luxury tax that penalizes teams for not spending–and I would set it at half the luxury tax threshold.

    That said, I also think baseball’s revenues are in a bubble and are about to take a huge hit. Attendance has actually been declining the past couple of seasons, even with all of the games they play, such as counting no shows and giveaway tickets, to keep it up, Moreover, these huge regional cable deals are unsustainable as it’s been shown that younger adults neither have the ability nor the desire to pay $100 a month for channels for channels they mostly don’t watch. At some point cable and satellite operators are going to refuse the demands of the regional sports networks, and when that happens baseball’s robust increases in revenue will come to an end.

    Karl Kolchak

    15 Jan 19 at 2:50 am

  2. You never hear of certain NFL teams spending $100M+ less than other teams in a season because IT DOESN’T HAPPEN. Yet it happens all the time in baseball. Those teams aren’t penalized, though, or face relegation to AAA (wouldn’t that be fun?!). They’re actually REWARDED with “Competitive Balance” picks and some additional revenue sharing. It’s all part of the evil work of one of the poorest owners — both financially and morally — Bud Selig, who more or less remained an owner while he was commissioner (his daughter ran the team). Bud made not trying cool, profitable, and not punishable.

    Yes, there are some key differences between the NFL and MLB, most notably with the local TV contracts for baseball vs. the massive national contracts for the NFL. But the fundamental point is that every NFL team is trying, while perhaps one-third of MLB teams are not. (Plus the A’s have been proving for almost two decades that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to be competitive.)

    While the MLB local TV deals provide almost built-in inequity, that situation is often more of a convenient excuse for not spending than it is an actual hardship. The Nats have one of the worst TV deals in the league (thanks to Bud!), yet they’ve had a top-five payroll over the last several seasons. Some of that comes down to the vetting of ownership groups. What MLB has allowed the Jeter group to do in Miami is an utter embarrassment to the game. Have the Marlins been punished? Um, not only have they not been punished, they’ve been given the highest Competitive Balance pick for 2019.

    (I hate the concept of Competitive Balance picks and would do away with them if I were king, but if you’re going to have them, here’s a novel idea — give the lower-payroll team with the MOST success the highest pick. So the A’s would have the top pick. In other words, reward teams that are trying.)

    Also, I completely agree with Karl that the model built on local TV deals will collapse by the mid-2020s. Like everyone else, we’re paying a fortune basically just to have access to the Nats, Caps, and ESPN and starting to seriously contemplate not doing it anymore. In fact, whenever the MASN deal finally gets settled, I wonder whether the Nats would be in a position to be on the leading edge of something new, which would probably be streaming-based. (Alas, considering the scuttlebutt that Mark Lerner has been the one who has mangled various stadium naming-rights deals over the years, maybe not.)


    15 Jan 19 at 10:25 am

  3. Whether Bryce ends up in Philly or not, the Phillies are going to suck. They’re going to suck because they’ve spent their money poorly. I remember posting something at the end of the last offseason about how much better the Phils would have been if they had spread the bucks they dropped on Arrieta and Santana over five or six other players. This offseason, despite having a tremendous amount to spend, all they’ve managed to do is add Robertson and somewhat miraculously unload Santana’s awful contract. They need at least two starting pitchers and had Morton publicly begging to be close to Delaware. The Phils probably could have signed both Brantley and Pollock for what they’re offering Bryce. There were inexpensive players out there with solid bats like Matt Adams, Kurt Suzuki, and Brian Dozier. Collectively, that trio will make about half of what Machado is being offered.


    15 Jan 19 at 10:39 am

  4. I agree that Eaton would be traded if Bryce signs. I don’t like that scenario, as I really like Eaton, but clearly the OF alignment with Bryce in CF didn’t work. I sure wish there were some way to keep Eaton as the 4th OF and trade Taylor, though. MAT may ended up traded regardless because of his ridiculous arb figure.

    Robles HAS to start in CF. The Nats have turned down too many deals for him over the last three years not to let him play and see what they’ve got. The Steamer projection for him seems reasonable: .274/.335/.417, with 13 homers and a wRC+ of 102. I know that some are expecting more, considering all the hype, but right now, the Nats just need him to be competent . . . and stay healthy.


    15 Jan 19 at 10:49 am

  5. Rendon: Let me start this by noting what a fantastic, underappreciated player he is. His fWAR over the last two seasons is 13. He’s often eclipsed in the spotlight by Arenado (10.3) and Bryant (10), but he’s had more overall “value” than either of them.

    I would love to extend Rendon . . . for three or four seasons. The elephant in the room is that he’s going to want six or seven. His extension would begin in his age-31 season. The great Chipper Jones was really good through age 36, but that’s unusual, and that’s still only five years. Scott Rolen, who is a borderline HOF candidate, was good through 35 then fell off a cliff. There are more cautionary tales just up the road in Philly, where Rollins hit the wall at 33 and Utley did at 30, although he was still decent through 34. There are a few Beltres out there who defy the odds, but not many. In the post-steroid era, most guys are not nearly the same player at 35 that they were at 30.

    So . . . while I love what Rendon has done for the Nats, I don’t know that an extension is as cut-and-dried a great thing as a lot in the Natosphere make it out to be. As with all extensions, I would rather slightly overpay for a shorter term, say 4/$100M, but most agents are having their guys hold out for ridiculous lengths. Would Rendon have the leverage to get seven years from some team? Who knows? Arenado would be on the market at the same time, and the general perception is that he’s “better.”


    15 Jan 19 at 2:41 pm

  6. Wow, there’s a lot there. Not sure I agree with all of it, though. Let’s see:
    1) ‘Phils going to suck’ – I don’t agree. Pretty good pitching, added Segura and Robertson, plus the rigid husk of Cutch. Hoskins back to 1B, which will help the defense immensely. So I don’t see them as contenders, but won’t suck either, and they probably aren’t done. Even if they don’t get one of the big two, they’ll probably get Pollock and, I don’t know, that’s a 83-85 win team?
    2) ‘bubble in local cable revenues’ – I agree that it seems like it is coming, but I’ve also heard that MLBAM is expecting it, and has a streaming-straight-to-end users option lined up when it does (they can’t do it now because of these local deals). So maybe not as big a fall off as we think
    3) I think your Rendon numbers are off a bit. He is 28 now, with a birthday in June. If he did a 6 year extension to follow this (and I agree, I would add $1m in AAV and drop a year of length to 5), he ends it as a 34/35 yr old. I get your point, but that’s not horrible
    4) MLBPA – whole heartedly agree that they did a horrible job in the last CBA; I don’t know how Clark still has a job, it was that bad. And the players are angry and honestly, I can’t see how they avoid a work stoppage in 2021, or whenever. The issue is simple, really: the players agree to all of the current structure: no pay as a minor leaguer, fixed minimum salaries, arb for three more, and 7 years of overall control (technically 6, but you know) for one, and only one, reason: they expect to get paid when they are free. If the owners/FOs now say ‘well, actually, you really aren’t that valuable at this stage’ – which is a correct point, but irrelevant – then the players have no choice but to force market based pay while they are valuable. So their ask is going to be huge: free agency after 5 years, or 28, which ever comes first; arbitration immediately, … Which the owners will balk at and, well, I just see it needing to go to a work stoppage before a deal is reached. I think the players made a horrible choice to in Clark to succeed Michael Weiner, and are largely responsible for where things stand, but the owners are also too greedy and there is a risk they spoil the golden goose.


    15 Jan 19 at 6:49 pm

  7. One other thing: I think the Lerners may have a lawsuit against Angelos for mismanaging MASN by not taking advantage of these crazy revenue pops while they existed. A majority shareholder gets to call the shots, but also has some fiduciary responsibilities to run the business competently and in the best interests of all shareholders. So if there were some deals on the table to sell the rights for obscene money and they passed on it, they might have liability. And given how bad this relationship is, who knows


    15 Jan 19 at 6:53 pm

  8. Oops, you’re right, Rendon will be in his age-30 season at the start of an extension. Still, one would expect Boras to be gunning for a seven-year deal. I’m sorry, but those types of deals are terrible for baseball, although in some ways you can’t blame the players for trying to get as much as the market will bear. Their CBA certainly didn’t get it for them.

    I forgot about Cutch in Philly. He’s a 2.6 fWAR player who is 32. He hit .255 last year and had a pretty negative defensive rating. He moves the needle some, but not a lot.

    I’ve wondered for years if the MASN deal would be settled before Ted Lerner and/or Angelos dies, particularly Angelos. The whole case has been an embarrassment for the commissioner’s office from start to finish.


    15 Jan 19 at 7:24 pm

  9. If you are a fan of LAD, ATL, MIL or HOU, I think you have to be really frustrated with how the FO is playing things. These teams are right there on the cusp of WS contention, yet I think all of them have lost more then they’ve gained since the end of the season, and have plenty of money to be aggressive with upgrades. It really would sit poorly with me.

    You may not agree with all the changes that Rizzo or even BVW have made, but you can’t fault their effort. Their trying to win and it’s not just noise.


    16 Jan 19 at 11:31 am

  10. I love Tony as a player but I have concerns about extending him for two reasons: (1) age and (2) he derives a not insubstantial amount of value from his defense, which is likely (but not certain) to get worse over the term of his extension. I don’t think Zim is a great comp for Rendon, but he was of similar age and also a good defensive player when he signed his extension before 2012. Zim is a decent approximation of the downside of signing Rendon. Age/defense are the reasons I prefer signing Bryce, even at the higher price: I think Bryce’s bat will age better (and later) than Rendon’s defense.

    Re cable, let’s not be too quick to identify a bubble. I think MLB is incredibly well positioned to maintain if not increase revenue while the cable TV industry is disrupted. The key issue is how much revenue MLB teams earn by selling broadcasts of their games to viewers. It is immaterial whether that revenue comes from payments by cable providers (which are funded by subscriber fees and ad revenue) or from MLB- or team-owned operations, e.g., selling subscriptions directly to consumers and selling ad space directly to advertisers. The reasons cable companies pay huge sums to MLB teams for the right to broadcast games are, at a high level: (1) a lot of people like watching MLB games; and (2) people watch them in real time, which forces people to watch ads, which makes advertisers willing to pay higher prices for spots. Both of these things are likely to endure as over-the-top tv options proliferate. Now, it’s possible that advertiser demand for live sports will decrease simply because non-tv options for advertising continue to improve (e.g., Facebook), but this is a separate issue from the traditional cable tv bundle falling apart (which I agree is likely to happen, especially if 5G is as fast as they say).


    16 Jan 19 at 11:31 am

  11. Derek, good point about Rendon and the likely declining defensive value. The Rendon extension is going to be a tough call for the Nats. I do think there are a few points working in their favor to getting a reasonable deal. One is that Arenado would be on the market at the same time and likely would be seen as the alpha on the market (something Nat fans have always disputed, but that’s the perception). Another is that Bregman is entrenched at 3B for Rendon’s hometown Astros, so there would be no interest by the local team. Rendon is similar to Stras in personality and very likely would prefer the low-key approach to an extension rather than a Bryce-like circus. Also, unless an extension happens early in the season, the Nats will have some additional data on Luis Garcia’s progression before they have to make a decision, not to mention Carter Kieboom’s.

    My hunch is that there have already been extension talks during the arb negotiations (which the Nats settled generously in Rendon’s favor) but that any extension deal is being held hostage until Harper’s fate is settled.


    17 Jan 19 at 9:26 am

  12. Wally, I agree that it’s been surprising how few contenders have made many moves this offseason. One may not agree with everything the Nats have done or exactly how they have allocated their money, but there’s no doubt they’re better. The Yanks and the Cards have been reasonably active, but all the teams you mentioned have only signed one or two guys while also losing several significant pieces.

    The Dodgers have the need for a big bat in their lineup, openings in their OF, and have cleared the cap space. Harper makes a huge amount of sense there. I would bet that Friedman is hung up on not going more than six or seven years, though, and I don’t blame him.

    The Astros are losing Keuchel and Morton from their rotation and have yet to sign any pitching. The Bosox have no back end to their bullpen. The Brewers sort of had Grandal fall in their laps but still have serious holes in their rotation. And there’s barely been a peep from the Cubs about anything.

    Yes, curious times, and still a fair amount of talent available.


    17 Jan 19 at 9:42 am

  13. Here ya go, Todd — start the HOF debate on current players now:


    17 Jan 19 at 10:31 am

  14. Ottavino to NYY for 3/$27m. That’s a deal I like and would have done. Wonder if he gave them a hometown discount. Seems light compared to some, like Herrera. Even Britton getting 50% more seems too much.


    17 Jan 19 at 2:40 pm

  15. Maybe the Ottavino “discount” was partially in exchange for the third year. The AAV may be low, but he’s guaranteed $27M.

    And yes, I think I would have preferred spending $9M on Ottavino rather than Dozier . . . unless Dozier really bounces back and proves me wrong.


    17 Jan 19 at 3:55 pm

  16. Loogy/swingman Vidal Nuno joins the fold on a minor-league deal. He was very good in his brief stint with TB last season plus started 10 games in the minors. Doesn’t look like a huge threat to Solis in the spring, but you never know.

    I see lots of drooling over Sonny Gray, but I don’t see the logic right now. His salary would require the Nats to deal multiple folks to stay under the tax line, plus he’d be a FA after one season so not worth giving up much to get. It’s time to go with Ross and/or Fedde in the #5 slot. Not sure why so many folks can’t comprehend that. Ross was dang good in ’15 and ’16, at least when he was healthy.


    17 Jan 19 at 8:46 pm

  17. Sonny Gray for us? Nah, no need. Ross or Fedde are fine as 5th starters. Wouldn’t mind another quality reliever, otherwise I’m ready for pitchers and catchers


    18 Jan 19 at 3:14 pm

  18. Sonny Gray’s #1 career comp on B-R is . . . Tanner Roark. Just sayin’.

    If the Reds get Gray, they’ll be on the verge of getting interesting, although they would be counting on comp bounce-backs from both him and Roark. It’s not an easy division, but it’s also one where the Cubs have basically sat out the offseason and the Brewers and Cards haven’t done much. If the Reds get Gray to go with Roark and Wood, their rotation might be betters than Milwaukee’s. Not saying that Cincy is going to shock the world, but if the lineup stays healthy and Puig and Kemp have good years, they could make things interesting for the presumed favorites.

    As for Gray and the Nats, there are a number of folks in the Natosphere still insisting that the Nats have to add another starter, over Ross/Fedde. I’m still not totally convinced by Fedde, but Ross should be healthy by now (although innings-limited), plus the Nats don’t have any cap space left (unless of course they just blow past that line to bring back You Know Who).

    I do expect the Nats to sign another starter or two, though, but to minor-league contracts. There are still a good number of them out there:

    Heck, Fister lives in Fresno!


    18 Jan 19 at 9:44 pm

  19. Nuno’s only getting a minor/major league deal seems odd given how effective he was last year. I mean a 1.64 ERA in the AL East isn’t anything to shake a stick at, and he exhibited odd reverse splits (better against RHB than lefties). Perhaps that’s the reason; the non- splits.

    Todd Boss

    19 Jan 19 at 9:51 pm

  20. How about discussing the possibility that Dozier replaces Rendon at third in 2020? He likes the Nats. If he is looking good in ST why not extend him if the terms are reasonable? If Rendon somehow agrees to reasonable terms, Dozier could be moved to first in 2020.


    20 Jan 19 at 10:13 am

  21. Yes, Nuno suffers from reverse splits, just like Solis. Hard to blame Nuno for going on and taking a reasonable offer, though. With zillions of guys still unsigned, it’s got to be nerve-racking for marginal players unsure whether they’ll even be in camp anywhere.

    Speaking of zillions of guys still unsigned, that Harper market sure is heating up, isn’t it? Crickets from the Philly front, Dodgers said to be pursuing Pollock. Note to Ted Lerner: don’t bid against yourself. In fact, if Boras calls (probably ID’d on your phone as “Scam Likely”), start talking about five years instead of ten. In fact, I’d be much happier with 5/$175M than 10/$300M.


    22 Jan 19 at 9:55 am

  22. Dozier at 3B: hmm. He did come up as a SS, so he’s had some time on the left side of the infield, but even if he has a superb season and gets extended, and Rendon leaves, I think I would be more likely that the Nats would put Kieboom at 3B and keep Dozier at 2B. I doubt Dozier is a Nat in 2020, though; if he’s good, he’ll want more than the Nats would be willing to pay with Kieboom ready, and if he’s bad, they won’t want him at all.


    22 Jan 19 at 10:02 am

  23. Rangers get Cabrerra for >$5M, confirming that the Nats overpaid for Dozier. I did find it curious that the Nats were never linked to Asdrubal, at least as far as I heard. Maybe he wore out his welcome quickly in his brief time in DC.


    22 Jan 19 at 1:12 pm

  24. HOF vote:

    Berkman gets only 1.2% and is off the ballot. Wow. One can debate whether he’s HOF caliber, but his career OPS was .123 points higher than Baines, .943 vs. .820.

    Of the ones who got in, honestly, I have no idea why Mussina was borderline. He’s solidly in by most measures and trumped Halladay on many career measures. Schilling, Clemens, and Bonds inch toward acceptance, maybe. Frankly, why don’t Clemens and Bonds have the same number of votes? What differentiates them in a voter’s mind? Both are tainted in the same way, both were big jerks, and both were two of the very best ever.


    22 Jan 19 at 8:53 pm

  25. Markakis back to Braves for a low-ball amount. The Braves’ weird offseason continues. They had the pieces in place and the money available to really do some things, but they haven’t. Not that I’m complaining. Donaldson could be good for them if he stays healthy, but there were much better OFs than Markakis available, and they need (and still need) a couple of starters.


    22 Jan 19 at 8:55 pm

  26. Markakis to Braves – good, they’ll feel obligated to play him. I don’t get it for them, but like you said, i’m Not arguing.

    HoF – I have no argument with the guys who got in, they all seemed of that level to me. I don’t care about Rivera being unanimous. But PEDs, look, I get it, people are angry, somehow it’s personal. whatever. But here is an inescapable truth. We know a few people who have been caught, but no one knows who else was on them. You have suspicions but no proof, nor even a realistic view. We just don’t. We rely on how things have been reported, which is very unreliable.

    Barry Bonds was the most amazing hitter I’ve ever seen in 40 years watching the game. No one has even come close. Maybe not ever. Not Mike Trout, Griffey, ARod, none of them. His stat line was a video game.
    You. Could. Not. Pitch. To. Him.

    They walked him with the bases loaded, and with no one on base. He hit everyone. A HoF without Barry Bonds loses credibility, and PED hate doesn’t make it ok.


    22 Jan 19 at 10:44 pm

  27. Eh, I’ll defend the line against Bonds and Clemens.

    First, it’s a good thing PEDs are out of baseball. Sure they’re not heroin but there are studies showing they’re quite bad for you, especially in the long run. I don’t watch football anymore because I can’t stand creating incentives for people to do that kind of damage to themselves. In general I’m happy that baseball is a “safe” sport in the sense that it is quite unlikely to give players the sorts of horrific injuries which will ruin the rest of their lives. (On football it’s not just the CTE; read about ex-linebackers and their incredible struggles with pain, weight, and injuries.)

    And what’s particularly nasty about players juicing is that they obligate everyone else to juice too. There are enormous benefits to being the last guys in the majors vs the first guy out (or the last guy getting a big $ contract vs the first journeyman, etc). On an individual level, the choice to juice in that situation is obvious to get over the line (heck, I’d do it). Unfortunately, someone else then has to juice to keep their rightful spot. So you end in a bad equilibrium where everyone juices (as, realistically, is probably pretty close to the truth in the late 90s / early 2000s).

    Unfortunately, catching it is pretty tough. In situations with a low probability of catching someone, the only way you can keep people from chancing it is if there are huge penalties to getting caught.

    In some sense it’s unfair that the person who gets caught pays a big penalty while many other cheaters don’t get caught and pay no penalty. But the eventual benefit for everyone of getting to a setting where people (mostly) don’t have pressure to cheat. Unfortunately, this should include the Hall and at the end of the day both I’m sure both Bonds and Clemens with their $$$ are living better than almost everyone.


    22 Jan 19 at 11:30 pm

  28. Matt: how do you then defend the rampant use of amphetemines in the 60s and 70s?

    do you really think PEDs are out of the sport? What about the ridiculously high percentage of MLB players getting TUEs for Ritalin? what about the fact that you can’t really test for HGH?

    I support Bonds and Clemens for multiple reasons. Each was inarguably among the best of their position in the history of the game, PEDs or not. You should just stop right here and consider what the entire point of the Hall of Fame is, and if you still have to move on and make more arguments for or against hte players I’m thinking … you don’t get the wholepoint of the museum.

    If you want to try to litigate if and when they were using and then discount/discredit their accomplishments past that, so be it, but both still had *multiple* MVPs or Cy Youngs before any credible claim can be made that they were using, which would still qualify them. Neither ever failed a drug test. The Evidence against them is leaked grand jury testimony and hearsay accounts from incentivized players trying to sell books or keep themselves out of prison; not exactly court-approved evidence.

    lastly, if you want to claim some BS about the character clause, then explain Ty Cobb, Gaylord Perry, Tris Speaker, Juan Marichal, Rogers Hornsby and a slew of others who were not exactly angels but yet are still in.

    its a slippery logic slope.

    Todd Boss

    23 Jan 19 at 12:39 pm

  29. Todd – thanks for the detailed response! I know I’m in the minority here, so I’ll try not to get too into things.

    I don’t defend amphetamines. Those guys should have been punished just as severely; that stuff is bad.

    And yeah, people are surely figuring how to get around the tests. The point isn’t that baseball is perfectly clean but that it’s a lot cleaner and safer than 20 years ago.

    In terms of who to exclude: my bar is beyond a reasonable doubt but this isn’t a court and we’re not talking about jail time so you don’t get the benefits of the 4th amendment. So, I’m not in favor of exclusion by suspicion (as people worried was going to happen to Bagwell). But if it’s (credibly) leaked that you’re in the Mitchell report for testing positive then I’m opposed.

    And I agree if the goal is the most “enjoyable” hall then Bonds and Clemens are in. They were both great and should be remembered as such. I just want to clean up the game to the extent possible and this is one punishment which can be used to further that.

    Finally, I’m not a general character clause person. No one got a heart attack at 50 from cutting baseballs (or corking bats or stealing signs etc). Honestly, that kind of cheating adds character to the sport (obviously baseball should still punish it, but I don’t see it as the kind of threat to the long-term health of the sport as steroids use is — or amphetamines as you point out — and so I’m not in favor of maximum punishment).


    23 Jan 19 at 1:04 pm

  30. I’m also irritated with Bonds/Clemens votes because of reasons as detailed by Jeff Passan here:

    we now know about 60% of the ballots thanks to the online HoFame vote tracker:!11134&ithint=file,xlsx&app=Excel&authkey=!ACeqm-knNxexBw8 … and there’s a massive difference in voting trends between public and private votes, and there’s a specific reason why even those who do make their votes public aren’t voting for these two: 9 times out of 10 they don’t even cover the f*cking sport!

    Here’s a quote: “Only 10 percent [of those 60 public voters who did NOT vote for Bonds/Clemens] or so are full-time baseball writers. Plenty are retired. Some are general sports columnists. A handful are football writers. Others cover hockey, golf, college basketball. Another does digital marketing. One writes for the American Heart Association. Two, actually, are honored by the Hall of Fame for their baseball writing, and perhaps it’s best to start with one of them.”

    Think about that. The absolute highest honor in our sport is being decided by a bunch of guys who are retired or not full time baseball writers. How can you possibly have a credible opinion about the game, where it is now, the context of a player’s value, and how to evaluate them if you don’t cover the sport full time?

    Meanwhile, there’s hundreds of writers “on the internet” who are infinitely more qualified to cover the game … yet a guy who writes for a Medical association currently still votes. H ow much sense does that make??

    Todd Boss

    23 Jan 19 at 2:02 pm

  31. Can they induct Bonds, Clemens, Schilling, and A-Fraud on some snowy January day with no speeches and no TV coverage? They all belong in the Hall sooner or later based on what they did on the field, but jeez, no one wants to hear those guys talk or particularly see them honored.

    One of the interesting parts of this debate is that they’ve got two no-doubt inner-circle guys at the center of it, and another one coming up in A-Rod. They’ve already managed to shove aside guys like McGwire and Palmiero who had numbers that previously would have made them locks, and they seem on the way to doing the same with Sosa. Ramirez may eventually get in, but Sheffield, with 509 homers, isn’t trending well. I’m not sure how/where they’re supposed to draw a line, but there obviously is one.

    I’m actually in the middle on this debate, if that’s possible. I don’t see how Bonds and Clemens (and A-Rod) can’t be in the Hall, eventually. At the the same time, I’m sorta glad they’ve had to wait and be held up to a little shaming. However . . . to use Jay Jaffe’s big argument, once they let Bud Selig in the Hall, all bets should have been off. He knowingly oversaw a tainted game and did nothing to stop it, in large part because the HR fest was helping people forget that he had completely shut down the sport and cancelled a World Series.

    Plus where’s the line? They’ve already admitted a named user (Pudge Rodriguez) and two accused ones (admittedly with very thin evidence) in Bagwell and Piazza. Perhaps there’s a different line for guys like Manny who actually got busted . . . but then so did A-Rod.

    McGwire has 583 HRs, .983 OPS, and 163 OPS+. If you want to point to Sosa’s 609 HRs, you also have to point to his .878 OPS and lowly 128 OPS+. Palmiero is at a similar level, .885 OPS and 132 OPS+. Sosa and Palmiero have very similar OPS/OPS+ numbers to McGriff and Kent, both of whom didn’t get traction. So if the modern line is there (and if you ignore the much lower Baines Line), then ignore the additional big flies and hold Sosa and Palmiero to it. But McGwire and Ramirez are far above that line, so if you’re opening the door to the juicers, you can’t have it just selectively open.


    23 Jan 19 at 2:21 pm

  32. Pollock to Dodgers. Sorry to kill your dreams, Bryce.


    24 Jan 19 at 9:50 pm

  33. Bonds and Clemens won’t get in until they’re dead. The absolute LAST thing the Hall clearly wants is to give a microphone and an audience to Barry Bonds to air his opinions on the situation.

    Ortiz will be a very interesting test case. He is associated with PEDs based on practically no evidence, yet never really wavered in his production up or down until he retired. In fact, he led the AL in slugging, OPS+ and RBIs in his retirement season, amazingly. He was beloved as a character by all … and i’ll bet he’s a first ballot HoFamer despite his alleged appearance in the leaked anonymous testing results.

    Not sure what that means for anyone at this point. As Keith Law noted (paraphrasing): people forget what is convenient to forget in order to support their own narratives. If Ortiz was a grand mal prick to the media, i wonder if he’d be the next Gary Sheffield.

    Todd Boss

    25 Jan 19 at 12:44 pm

  34. Here’s 2022:

    Ballot Armageddon. Bonds, Clemens, Schilling, and Sosa in their last year, A-Fraud and Papi in their first, and Manny and Sheffield still lingering, among others.

    Of course it’s possible that there’s a break in the logjam before then. Jeter is the only lock among the new candidates on the 2020 ballot, and there’s no one coming onto the ballot in 2021 who will be a strong contender to make it at any point, much less in the first year.


    25 Jan 19 at 1:47 pm

  35. Boz: “Now, let me make my next Boz-you-fool prediction. Harper will be funneled to Philadelphia, where I doubt that he longs to play, for less than the $300-million 10-year offer from the Nationals that he rejected in September. He’ll end up with the Phillies because no other team in MLB will make him a competitive offer. He’ll be boxed in.

    “And Machado will end up signing for perhaps $200 million with the Chicago White Sox, a team that lost 100 games last year and that, by normal baseball logic, should hold little charm for Machado. Except, hold the chuckles, the White Sox traded for his brother-in-law last month.”

    Wow. But in looking at the current known “market,” it’s hard to disagree. It would be nuts for any team to give either guy 10 years at this point.


    25 Jan 19 at 1:55 pm

  36. KW

    25 Jan 19 at 1:57 pm

  37. I am starting to think that Bryce as a player is also not thought of as highly as his image suggests. 1 wonderful season with the rest good. If his 31 WAR was accumulated more like 1.5/2.5/3/5/6/6/7, things might be different.

    Been thinking about this whole mess. The players need to start the public relations war now for the next CBA. Its crazy, but fans mostly side with owners so the players need to be smart about it, and from what I’ve seen from Longoria and Arrieta, they aren’t off to a good start. They can’t complain about the contracts being given out, because they mostly are reasonable. The public isn’t going to support you if you complain about that. But the issue is the fundamental bargain between the owners and players doesn’t make sense any more, and that’s what they have to highlight. If I was a big time player, I’d write something in the Athletic along the lines of the following:

    “There has been a lot of talk lately about the stagnant market for players in major league baseball. Clearly the industry is going through some big changes, and it’s clear that players who reach free agency are not valued like we have been in the past. Ok, so that is a new fact of life, but what’s the cause? I’ve heard analytics being criticized, but I don’t think that’s the problem. We all use them to get better, and, besides, when did hard work, studying and creativity ever become a bad thing? Collusion? Well, I’m open to seeing the evidence, but I don’t think that’s going on either. I doubt owners and front offices are getting together to decide player salaries. Tanking? Well yes, this seems an obvious point. If you take away a large amount of teams from bidding for players in our market place, that has to have an impact. And there are other concerning things: in the last team years, baseball revenues have increased xxx%, while the player portion of this revenue has decreased by yy%. It would be one thing if those savings were at least going to fans, in the form of lower ticket prices, concessions or merchandising. But those things have increased zz%, aa% and bb% respectively over the last ten years. So all this extra value has gone to only 1 source, the owners. I am reluctant to make negative conclusions, but it is concerning.

    But even more than any of that, I think the most important thing that is happening to our game is a fundamental change in the skill sets necessary to be successful, and valued by the teams. Baseball isn’t unique: this has happened in scores of other industries in America over the last 50 years, and like all of our brothers, sisters, parents, and friends in other industries and unions that went through transformative change, the burden is on us to adapt. And as a player and union member, I’m ready to adapt.

    But the problem isn’t really that the recent free-agent contracts aren’t what we were expecting. It’s that the basic, fundamental agreement between the players and the teams no longer fits how teams approach team building, and so it needs to change along with everything else. For the last 45 years, players spend on average 3 to 6 years in the minor leagues and get paid virtually nothing. If we are lucky enough to make the majors, our rights are controlled for effectively 7 years by our team, and our pay for those seven years is highly restricted and suppressed. After that period of control, usually in early our 30s, we become ‘free’ and able to sign contracts equal to however the market values us. There is a lot of risk for us, but in weighing the pros and cons, it was worth it so long as that ‘free’ period was also a valuable period in our careers. But now, when we finally are free, we no longer are as valuable. Ok, we understand and will adapt, but a consequence will be that we no longer can be willing to agree to such long periods of control and artificial compensation restrictions. Of course we will honor our existing CBA, but looking forward, the CBA will need to change to reflect the new reality. We have to more fairly distribute compensation with performance, and that’s going to mean shorter years of team control, and higher pay while being controlled. If the owners are reasonable, we should be able to work this out and minimize disruptions to the game we all love. If they aren’t, then the only conclusion to how revenues have been shared is that the owners see an opportunity to exact onerous conditions on us players for their sole benefit, and are driven by greed and manipulation. I really hope it is the former, but time will tell.


    25 Jan 19 at 5:53 pm

  38. Sorry for such a long post. I got rolling and it just didn’t stop 🙂


    25 Jan 19 at 5:54 pm

  39. Wally, well written, informative, and though-provoking. No apologies necessary!


    26 Jan 19 at 8:55 pm

  40. Well said.

    Todd Boss

    27 Jan 19 at 2:17 pm

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