IS STANTON TRADE IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF BASEBALL?

I would like to see baseball commissioner Rob Manfred don his “Bowie Kuhn” cap and veto the trade of Giancarlo Stanton to the New York Yankees, telling us that this trade “Is not in the best interest of baseball.”  The systematic dismantling of the Miami Marlins by new owner Derek Jeter is similar to the time when Oakland Athletics owner Charlie Finley tried to sell of three of his star players…starter Vida Blue, outfielder Joe Rudi and closer Rollie Fingers. Kuhn put the “kibosh” on the sale and there was quite a flurry of back-and-forth comments by Finley and Kuhn.

This case seems quite similar to Oakland’s in that Jeter is just beginning his purge…he is expected to trade away several more of his players. And…oh, by the way, does anybody think that Jeter trading Stanton to his former team is a little fishy?

One way that MLB has tried to prevent a team from “over-spending” on free agents and trade candidates is the so-called “luxury tax”. Teams that exceed the luxury tax threshold is taxed a percentage of the amount they have gone over that limit. The Yankees have exceeded the luxury tax limit over the past four seasons. The penalty for doing so is for a team to be taxed a percentage of the amount over the limit. The first offense is 22.5%, the second offense is 30% and the third…and subsequent offenses is 50%. Over the past several seasons the Yankees have paid nearly $300 million in taxes. Obviously, the luxury cap is not working for them. The Yankees would rather spend the money, make more money and pay the taxes and figuratively stick their tongues out at MLB.

The Yankees are certainly not the only team that has exceeded the luxury tax limit over the past few years. The Dodgers have paid over $81 million in luxury taxes and very nearly “bought” a World Series championship in 2017. Now, the question is: can the “Boys in Blue” make it back to the Fall Classic? Odds are they won’t…last year was the first time since 1988 that the Dodgers went to the World Series…their longest drought in franchise history.

So, is there anything Commissioner Manfred can do to prevent the Marlins from getting rid of all of their talented players? Probably not. The franchise has conducted a “fire-sale” twice before: After the 1997 and the 2003 seasons. Of course, that was a little different: those happened after the Marlins won World Series titles. This time, they are doing it just to get rid of current and future stars.

Rest assured, the people in Miami are not happy all of this is happening. After the team helped finance a new ball park, at a tidy cost of $515 million, fans were hoping the franchise would then put a competitive team on the field.  That has not yet happened and probably will not happen for several years to come. Have fun, Mr. Jeter!

 

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SOMETIMES “STEADY” VERSUS “FLASHY” CAN GET A PLAYER ELECTED INTO THE BASEBALL HALL OF FAME

Most of the time, when a former major league player gets elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame, it is as a result of his reputation as being “flashy” as well as putting up impressive numbers during a long and successful career. Then, there are players who get in because of steady, consistent performances. Two these kinds of players who were just recently elected into the Hall of Fame, were exactly that: steady, consistent players.

Starting pitcher Jack Morris and shortstop Alan Trammell, who both played the majority of their careers with the Detroit Tigers, were selected by a committee that focuses on players who played in the majors since 1970. Both players displayed remarkable endurance: Morris pitched for 18 years…13 of them with the Tigers…while Trammell lasted 20 years…all with Detroit.  Both players posted some very impressive career statistics.

Morris won 254 games in his career. That was not even in the top 40 list of most career wins; however, he won more games than Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, Whitey Ford, and Luis Tiant. He recorded 20 or more wins three times and had 19 victories in 1984. Morris may not have displayed flashiness, like a Marichal or a Tiant, but he accomplished something far better: he won four World Series rings! Several notable superstars…Barry Bonds, Rod Carew, Ken Griffey, Jr., Tony Gwynn, Ty Cobb and Ted Williams…never won a single World Series ring!

Morris was consistent when it counted: in the post-season. He made 13 post-season starts and won seven games. In the World Series alone, he was 4-2 with a 2.96 ERA. To say that he was a “money” pitcher would be an understatement.

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In this day and age of free agency and higher-than-normal trade activity, not many players get to be on the same field for more than three or four seasons.  That makes the following stat so very incredible: Alan Trammell and his second-base teammate, Lou Whitaker, played together with Detroit for a staggering 1,918 games! Of the 2,188 games Trammell played, 2,134 of them were as a shortstop.

Again, like his teammate Jack Morris, Trammell was not flashy…not like an Ozzie Smith, or a Phil Rizzuto. Trammell was, however, consistent: a six-time All Star, winner of four Gold Gloves plus three Silver Slugger Awards…although, he would not have been considered a “slugger”, per se. Trammell hit only 185 career homers but did drive in over 1,000 runs. A lifetime .285 hitter, Trammell did hit .300 or better seven times and collected 2,365 hits. He was also durable: Trammell played in 139 or more games six consecutive years and had over 9,000 plate appearances.

Trammell and Morris played together on the Tigers’ 1984 World Series Championship team…the last time Detroit won a World Series title. Managed by the legendary Sparky Anderson, Detroit started that season 35-5 and cruised to 104 wins and won the division by 15 games. Then, in the post-season, the Tigers disposed of the Kansas City Royals in three straight and eliminated the San Diego Padres in five games.

In that championship year, Trammell hit .364 in the LCS and .450 in the World Series. Morris won one game versus the Royals and then went 2-0 in the World Series with a 2.00 ERA.

Flashy? No. Consistent? Yes. That is why Alan Trammell and Jack Morris will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2018. They were the epitome of what makes a solid player…they showed up every day or every start.

 

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PLENTY OF REASONS TO GIVE THANKS

Author’s Note:  A couple of weeks ago, someone told me that they would like to have me write about things other than sports. So, with that in mind, here is my latest.

     Another Thanksgiving has come and gone and as I sit here still trying to digest all that I ate yesterday, I am reflecting back on past Thanksgivings that provided some interesting memories for me and my family.

When I think about the “best” and “worst” Thanksgivings, I am reminded that those two actually happened in successive years. The worst Thanksgiving was when I was still in the military. I had the misfortune of being assigned “duty” that day. My “Thanksgiving Meal” was a greasy cheeseburger and fries that were tepid at best. Adding misery to that day was that my Detroit Lions not only lost to the Minnesota Vikings, they were shut out!

I received a “make up” on a traditional Thanksgiving meal, though, as a local family invited me and a couple of other sailors into their home.  I don’t remember much, except that the home was in Hubbard Woods…an affluent Chicago suburb.  I remember thinking: if I were to settle in Chicago, I most definitely would consider Hubbard Woods.

Coming in second in the race for the worst Thanksgiving ever, was when I and several of my co-teachers attended a convention in Orange County.  The first day was always the best as it was capped off by a wonderful sit-down dinner. That night, however, things began to go South very quickly.

Around 2:30 in the morning, our hotel’s fire alarm went off. A person on the loudspeaker and said that everyone had to evacuate.  So, off we went, down several flights of stairs, and out into the damp, chilly night. Of course, nobody had time to grab a coat!  After several minutes, we were allowed back into the hotel.

Then, less than an hour later, the fire alarm went off again! So, back down the stairs we went and once again we were back into the damp chilly night. Again, after a few minutes, we were allowed to return to our rooms. I found out, several years later, that a person had deliberately set fires; then, went around to the people outside and was offering bottles of water to them!  Of all the nerve!

The two ventures into the damp, chilly night took a toll on me and I wound up getting extremely sick and pretty much slept through Thanksgiving!

The year after my worst Thanksgiving turned out to be my best. That time, I met my wife and we went on our first date.  I remember inviting her over to watch the Lions beat the Oakland Raiders; however, she did not make it until after the game.  She confessed to me, years later, that she missed the game “on purpose”! Nevertheless, we had a great first date…Disneyland, no less…and the rest, as they say, is history.

So, sometimes, good memories are made and, unfortunately, sometimes, not-so-good memories are made!

 

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FREE AGENT FRENZY IS UNDERWAY FOR MLB PLAYERS, TEAMS…WHO IS GOING WHERE?

Here we go again…the time of the season when teams try to sign a free agent or two that will help them “get over the hump” and into the World Series. At the same time, there are players…free agents, who dream of cashing in on their performance this past season and sign a lucrative, long-term contract.  MLB pundits call this time period…from the end of the World Series to the start of Spring Training  “The Hot Stove League”.

Over 200 major and minor league players are looking for a new team during this off-season. Of those, there are 15 that would be considered “top-notch free agents…players coveted by several teams; players who could get their new team “over the hump”. The question is: will the teams dig deeply into their pockets to sign these players, or will they try to stay under the luxury cap limit: the cap is $197 for 2018.

Two free agents are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to the type of contract they desire: Jay Bruce, who played for the Mets and Cleveland in 2017, is seeking a five-year deal worth $89-90 million. That is extremely believable. J.D. Martinez, however, who divided his 2017 season between Detroit and Arizona, is seeking a deal worth over $200 million. You read that right…$200 million! That would be okay if a team wants to sign him to a 15-year deal!

Now, before we try and figure out why there is such a chasm between what Bruce desires and what Martinez thinks he is going to get, let’s compare their production numbers over the past five seasons:

Bruce, who is 30 years old, averaged 28 home runs and 92 RBI from 2013 to 2017. His highest season batting average is .262, accomplished this past season. For Martinez, I had to average his totals from the past four years…the reason being is that he played in only 86 games in 2013 and his numbers from that year would have severely skewed his averages. In the past four seasons, Martinez has averaged 33 home runs and 87 RBI…very comparable to Bruce with one huge caveat: In 2014, Martinez was released by the Houston Astros…the 2017 World Series champions!

To find a comparable productive hitter with a large-scale contract, one can turn to the numbers of Justin Upton. Last year, with the Tigers and Angels, Upton had a .273 batting average with 35 homers and 109 RBI. He recently signed a five-year, $106 million contract to remain with the Angels (Actually, he signed the contract with the Tigers…the Angels added a fifth year to his contract so he would not opt out).

So, what is the reason Martinez is asking for a $200 million contract? One name provides the answer: Scott Boras, his agent. Boras has been the architect of a few gaudy contracts: He got Alex Rodriguez a 10-year, $252 million deal; then, he successfully negotiated long-term contracts for Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg…both of the Washington Nationals. Scherzer signed a seven-year, $210 million contract while Strasburg’s deal is for seven years at $175 million.  In addition to negotiating for Martinez this off-season, Boras and his agency also represents free agents Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Jake Arrieta.  To say that Boras’ agency is slated to make a ton of money this free agent period is an understatement.

An issue facing Boras and his clients is that some teams that have already signed players to long-term contracts are not going to risk going over the luxury threshold. The current Collective Bargaining Agreement has a clause in place that teams who consistently surpass the cap will pay more of a tax than the previous year; so teams like Boston, the Yankees, and the Dodgers are not going to open up their wallets. So, what teams are going to go after the likes of Bruce, Martinez, Hosmer, Moustakas and Arrieta? Stay tuned and we will keep track of who signs where and for how much.

 

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TWO MORE UN-DESERVING MLB MANAGERS GET FIRED

Quick, now:  what do John Farrell and Dusty Baker have in common?  Their teams both won 93+ games over the past two seasons? Nope. That their teams won consecutive Division titles? Uh-Uh!  Oh, those are very good answers!  How about that, for their efforts over the past two seasons, they were both fired from their jobs as managers? You got it!

You will have to forgive me…I was always under the impression that the reason a manager in MLB was fired was because their team failed to make the playoffs! Like, Brad Ausmus of the Detroit Tigers, whose teams missed the playoffs for the third straight year after winning 90 games and a division title in 2014. Nay…Farrell and Baker were let go because their teams failed to advance past the Division series. Really?  There are managers from ten teams in the American League and ten teams in the National League that would have loved to be in the position that Farrell and Baker were at the end of this season.

So, what was the reason given by the Red Sox (Farrell) and Nationals (Baker) for terminating their managers? They wanted to “go in a different direction”. Translation: They want to make it to the World Series or their season would be considered a “bust”. I guess Mr. Dombrowski and Mr. Rizzo don’t realize that only one team from each League makes it to the World Series.

In the case of the Red Sox, I think it was a case of being too greedy…to try and get a fourth World Series title in 13 years after going without a title for 86 years.  Even in the first season without David Ortiz, the BoSox won another division title. Apparently, an early exit from the playoffs, at the hands of a very good Houston Astros team, was too much to bear. Scapegoat: Farrell.

For the Nationals, give them credit…they have been trying! Washington has been in the playoffs four times since 2012; unfortunately, they have not made it past the first round in any of the seasons. They tried with Baker this year and last year; they tried with Matt Williams in 2014; they tried with Davey Johnson in 2012…the result was the same: elimination in the Division Series.

I guess the Nationals thought it was Baker’s fault that Bryce Harper missed 51 games; that shortstop Trea Turner missed 64 games; that Adam Eaton, their projected leadoff hitter and catalyst for the offense, appeared in only 23 games before he went down for the season.  Scapegoat:  Baker!

So, what does a prospective manager need to do in order to keep his job? In the case of the Red Sox or Nationals, you had better get your team to the World Series, or you will wind up in the unemployment line.  Boston is pinning their hopes on Alex Cora. Washington? They are still looking. I just wonder how many prospective managers Washington has to interview until they find one that is crazy enough to try and fill Dusty Baker’s shoes…or Matt Williams’…or Davey Johnson’s.

 

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CFB: MID AMERICAN CONFERENCE UPSETS ARE NO LONGER UPSETS

This coming Saturday, there is a college football game scheduled that will be so far under the radar, no one will notice it.  None of the predictors on College Game Day will say a thing about this one; however, if the road team wins, it will be a cause for celebration…for one particular conference.

The game is between the University of Toledo Rockets and the Miami University Hurricanes to be played on Miami’s home field. What the Rockets would like to do is continue a trend that began way back in 1991 and has continued through the first three weeks of the 2017 season…a Mid American Conference (MAC) team knocking off a so-called “Group of Five” FBS opponent. It seems to happen every year and nobody really cares…except for the teams in the Mid American Conference!

As a definition, the “Group of Five” conferences are the ones in which the four teams picked to play off for the College Football National Championship usually come from one of five conferences: The Atlantic Coast Conference; The Big 10; the Big 12; the PAC 12; and the Southeastern Conference. The other conferences in the FBS are considered mid-major schools and are typically not in the mix for a shot at the National Championship. With the recent spate of upsets by the MAC over “Group of Five” conference schools, however, these teams are now starting to be considered.

Upsets of major college football teams by teams from the MAC began in 1991…in fact, there is even a list of top ten upsets by MAC teams! Five of the top ten upsets occurred in 2003: Northern Illinois upset Alabama (SEC) by a score of 19-16 (had to happen before Nick Saban!); Bowling Green topped Purdue (BIG 10), 27-26; Northern Illinois defeated Maryland (then of the ACC) 20-13; Toledo edged Pittsburgh 35-31; and Marshall knocked off Kansas State, 27-20.

Fast-forward a decade or so and the MAC teams are still pulling off upsets. In fact, these so-called upsets are happening so many times, they are probably not even considered upsets any more. Just in 2017, alone, there have been four games in which MAC teams have knocked off “Group of Five” opponents: on September 9, Central Michigan defeated Kansas (BIG 12), 45-27 and Eastern Michigan topped Rutgers (BIG 10), 16-13. The following week, Ohio defeated Kansas, 42-30; then, in perhaps the biggest upset since that Alabama game in 2003, Northern Illinois turned back Nebraska (BIG 10), 21-17. The rumblings heard in and around Lincoln were severe:  “Fire Coach Mike Riley”; “How Could this Happen?” It is because the MAC is no longer a patsy conference.

As a matter of fact, a MAC team muscled its way into the BCS playoff picture, in 2012.  Northern Illinois University rolled to a 12-1 season and was chosen to play in the Orange Bowl…one of the BCS major bowl games. They were defeated by Florida State, 31-10.  Then, last season, Western Michigan University steamrolled their way to a 13-0 regular season, including wins over Northwestern and Illinois (BIG 10). They did not make the “Final Four” but were invited to the Cotton Bowl to play another BIG 10 team, Wisconsin, and bowed, 24-16. It is safe to say that the Mid American Conference has accorded itself well over the past decade-and-a-half.

Attention “Group of Five” athletic directors:  Don’t schedule a Mid American Conference school unless you are prepared to lose the game!

 

 

 

 

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A COMEBACK FOR THE AGES…AGAIN!

This past January 2, in the Rose Bowl, the USC Trojans trailed the Penn State Nittany Lions by a score of 49-35 entering the fourth quarter.  The Trojans rallied to tie the game and, with no time showing on the clock, Matt Boormeester booted a 46-yard field boal to give USC a 52-49 win.  It was called “A Comeback for the Ages”.

Fast forward exactly eight months to Saturday, September 2.  The UCLA Bruins trailed the Texas A & M Aggies by 34 points.  All Josh Rosen and the Bruins did was to stage the biggest FBS comeback since 2006 as they rallied for a 45-44 win…ironically, in the Rose Bowl which is the Bruins’ home stadium.  It was called “A Comeback for the Ages.”  That lasted one week only, thanks to a miraculous finish by the Washington State Cougars over the Boise State Broncos.

Trailing the Broncos by 21 points going into the fourth quarter, Wazzou rallied to tie the game; then won it in the third overtime. Fans who watched the game at Martin Stadium in Pullman were treated to a tremendous offensive display by both teams.  Some of the statistics:

A total of 856 yards by both teams.

There were 166 total plays

The defenses forced seven total turnovers

Once again, it was labeled as “A Comeback for the Ages”!  That is, until the next one occurs…since there are at least two more months left in the college football season, you can count on another “Comeback for the Ages.”

So, how long did a three-overtime game that started at 7:30 p.m., Pacific Daylight Time last?  Well, the writer that filed the story at 11:50 p.m. For those on the East Coast, that was 2:50 a.m.!  In the morning! I have to believe not too many people on the East Coast watched that game until the end.

College Football Sidebars

  1. After taking delight in watching the Ohio State Buckeyes get hammered by Oklahoma, I was wondering when was the last time the Bucks lost two regular season games. Turns out it was 2011; they actually lost their last three games of the regular season…to Purdue, Penn State and Michigan…then, for good measure, they lost to Florida in the Gator Bowl.
  2. Speaking of losing streaks, how about the Governors of Austin Peay from Clarksville, Tennessee? They have lost 29 games in a row and 49 of their last 50 games. Austin Peay has a long way to go in order to catch the all-time record of 80 consecutive losses by Prairie View A & M.
  3. If you were a football head coach, what kind of play would you call if you had a third down and goal to go…FROM YOUR OWN SEVEN-YARD LINE? It happened to Louisiana Tech this past Saturday. Tech fumbled the ball and it was kicked about four or five times before it was downed at their own seven.  So, that made it third and 93 yards!
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