Nats Win!

Wow, what a ride.  And of course it all happens after I went to bed!  Bah.  Sometimes I hate having to get up for work early, but it’s a necessary evil I suppose.

Kinda weird though, considering this isn’t even MY team.  I haven’t followed the Nationals all year, but since my Boston Red Sox didn’t make it to the post-season (after winning it all in 2018), I needed a new ‘pony’ to root for.  In steps the Washington Nationals, the relocated Montreal Expos, the first baseball team in Washington, DC since the Senators moved to Texas to become the Rangers in 1972.

Certainly someone to root for.  They were perennial underdogs in the post-season, and as I understand it, they started out the season 19-31, so not exactly a suggestion that they were even going to be around at the end of the season, much less make the playoffs.  But they were scrappy, and made the most of what they had, and to add insult to injury, it was a year removed from when Bryce Harper left for a big payday in Philadelphia.  I bet he’s kicking his own ass over that boner.  Nice job, Bryce.

A very weird World Series to be sure.  Every game, the visiting team won.  Not once did home field advantage come into play this year.  It was almost as if someone thought, “hey, let’s make the visiting team win every game in the series” as if that was the best idea in the bag.  Certainly no one expected the Nats to win the first two games in Houston.  But as soon as they traveled back to DC for games 3-5, there was whispers of a sweep.  Or a meltdown by the Astros, and it would be season over and a ‘World’ Championship for the Nationals at home.  But, irony as they say, has a sense of humor.

So, every game was a barn burner in DC.  Every game, one thought that this one was the one the Nationals were going to win, to put away the Astros, but no.  EVERY win, was the Houston Astros.  What?  How was that even remotely possible.  But it happened.  And we all watched it happen.  Boggled.  At the end of Game 5, going back to Houston, the pundits were thinking the other way.  It was going to be Houston’s Series.  They were going to win their second Series in 3 years.  But again, dun dun duuuuunnnnnnn…irony.

In a ‘must-win’ game, the Nationals beat the Astros in Game 6.  Stephen Strasbourg pitched a gem, and their third baseman, Anthony Rendon exploded for 5 RBI’s during the course of the game.  Justin Verlander, who the Astros had picked up from the Detroit Tigers, collapsed =again= in the post-season.  Couldn’t manage to win for his team.  He’s a great pitcher, but for whatever reason, put him into a post-season game and he can’t finish what he started.  At the end of the night, the score was 7-2, Nationals.  Another Game 7 was in the offing.

Max Scherzer, the ace of the Nat’s staff, had the ball for the game.  He was supposed to start Game 5, but for whatever reason he had a neck spasm and was unable to start that one.  Miraculously, over the course of several days he had a shot of something in his back and was able to recover in order to pitch last night.  Certainly he wasn’t brilliant in his start, he gave up 2 runs, but he pitched actually pretty good.  I would say all the starters on both teams pitched pretty well, for the most part the series was won and lost in the bullpens.

If one were to post the stats for both teams on a board and compare them, the Astros should have won the series hands down.  But baseball, while now being a game that’s figured out on stats sheets, it’s still played on the field, where stats don’t really matter in the aggregate.  Just because a certain right handed pitcher is great against right handed batters doesn’t mean he’s going to get every single one out.  There’s always the element of surprise.  The element of, who knows what’s going to happen.  And that’s what makes the game watchable.  The unknown factors.  It’s why in Games 1 & 2, with Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander pitching for the Astros, the Nats shouldn’t have won either game.  But they did.  And in convincing fashion.

Bottom line, the Nationals won me over for now.  I even went out and bought a Nationals cap and wore it out in public, despite being a die-hard Red Sox fan.  Come next year, I’ll be rooting just as hard for the Red Sox as I did this past year.  And I’m just pleased as punch the Yankees didn’t get to the series.  The deserving team won in 2019.  Congratulations to the Washington Nationals.  Nice job, guys.

What would you do?

I was going through news and articles this morning as I do, and I came across an article about the California Angels’ ballplayer Albert Pujols, who hit for his 2,000th career RBI last night.   Apparently, for the feat, he hit a home run, which landed in the stands of Comerica Park, where the Detroit Tigers play.  The ball was grabbed by a local fan, who decided to keep it, rather than give it to the player in exchange for swag, which is completely within his right to do.  He explained that he might have given up the ball to Tigers’ security, or the reps from the Angels if they hadn’t been so rude and heavy-handed with him from the outset.  (Naturally, the reps from both teams dispute this, but of course, they would)

The fan, (who just happens to be a lawyer) said that the Tiger’s security person began his negotiation by stating he the fan wouldn’t be able to re-sell the ball, because there’s no ‘chain of custody’ available, to authenticate that that ball was indeed the ball whereby Pujols hit for his 2,000th RBI.  If it were me, I’d be a little peeved with that too, suggesting the only reason I was being stubborn about it was that I wanted money.  The fact that the guy, later on, wasn’t interested in any of the other items that were offered to him (an autographed ball, a ‘meet and greet’ with Pujols, a signed jersey and even Tigers swag from another player [Mickey Cabrera]) definitely tells me that all he was interested in was the ball and the fact that he had never caught one at a ballgame.  It didn’t matter -which- ball it was, even though this one is somewhat special.  Honestly, for Pujols, it would only be another ball in his collection, gathering dust on a mantle or in a display case, until it was sold years later (or donated) after he either died or his family needed money.  Since Major League Baseball gave him the bases from Comerica Park to commemorate the moment, he has in concert with them, the bat that he used, the jersey and whatever else he wishes to save, he could take any ball and say ‘Hey, that’s the one‘ and be done with it.

Even after he was informed that the fan didn’t want to part with the ball, he seemed ok with it.  He didn’t want the stadium staff to push the issue, he seemed to understand that he’s there to participate in a sporting game for their benefit and if someone wants to keep a ball, they should be able to.  Not to mention the fact he’s getting paid an exorbitant amount of money to play said game, so it’s good to know that he ‘gets it’, even though there is a multitude of people on social media arrayed against this particular fan.  They seem to think he should give it up, but sure, they can make that call, since it’s not them.  If it were they sitting on the ball, would they be so quick to give it up?  Something like that changes when you’re the one sitting on the problem.

As for me, personally?  I think it would depend on the situation.  If like here, the stadium personnel were asses about it, I’d hold onto the ball until the furor died down.  After a bit of time I was over the ‘newness’ of the ball, I’d have a lawyer or someone in authority reach out to the player in question and ask if he’d like to have the ball.  To me, it’s a ball.  It has a memory attached to it of where I was, who I was with and so on.  To him, it’s a milestone of sorts.  I can understand if he’d want to have it, for him, his family and friends and whoever else wants to see it.  Would I hold out for swag and a meet and greet and whatever?  Nah.  I don’t need autographed items from ballplayers or famous people.  I enjoy what they do, and pay for the privilege of seeing them in action, either on the screen, at the ballpark or wherever.  They can keep the overpriced items.

But as for you, dear reader…what would you do?  I’m curious to know.

Baseball Salaries are getting ridiculous

I’ve been a Boston Red Sox fan for the past 40 years.  Since the mid 1970s.  Long before the turn of the century/millennium when in 2004 they ended the 86 year drought and won a ‘World’ Championship.  Then 3 more in ’07, ’13 and most recently last year.  So I’m very familiar with the phrase “wait til next year!” that was the mainstay of any Red Sox fan during the 70s, 80s and 90s.  Anyway, that’s not what this post is about.  It’s more about the paychecks that modern baseball players are getting, and have been receiving since the end of the reserve clause and the birth of free agency also in the 1970s.

But let me back up a bit here.  A little history is in order to understand how things got the way they are now.  Going back to the late 1800s, baseball was becoming a lucrative business to a certain extent, and the players were starting to make serious (at the time) money that far and away was more than your average worker would make in a year.  The baseball club owners decided that they needed a method to keep the players in check, so they wouldn’t be able to leave whenever they wanted to, to work/play for another team the next year.  So they came up with a clause in every player’s contract called the reserve, essentially binding the player to that team every year they played.  Every player signed a new contract every year.  The owners determined their value and if they didn’t wish to sign the contract, then they couldn’t play.  Players tried to unionize, but it didn’t work out for them since basically the Owners ignored the union and continued to do what they wished.  Some players sued the leagues on the grounds that the Owners were essentially creating a monopoly, but the players lost in the Supreme Court when the justices torpedoed that idea by labeling baseball not as a business, but as an ‘amusement’, making it immune to anti-trust laws.  Many feel this was a BS decision, the justices didn’t really believe in the ruling, but they feared giving the players the power to decide for themselves their worth would have ruined the game, so they gave the baseball owners a pass, hoping that things would work out for the best.  In essence, it was a Dred Scott type decision, since the players became indentured servants to a certain extent, beholden to their team until the team owner decided they no longer served a purpose or were valuable anymore and got rid of them.

By the late 1960s, baseball had become integrated and a player by the name of Curt Flood decided that he didn’t wish to accept a trade from his current team, the St. Louis Cardinals, to another team in the same league, the Philadelphia Phillies.  The owners of both ball clubs had created a trade, and Flood was one of the players being dealt.  Flood sued, stating that he wasn’t a commodity, that he didn’t have to go where the owners wished he would go, but should be permitted to negotiate with any of the other 23 baseball clubs to determine where he could play in the future.  This case too eventually went to the Supreme Court, where Flood lost and the reserve clause was again upheld, though the justices did make note that their earlier ruling about baseball being exempt from anti-trust laws was possibly in error.  This eventually paved the way to the next step, which was handled by Marvin Miller, who was the Executive Director of the Major League Players Union at the time.  Boiling down what was accomplished, Miller managed to finagle a way to do away with the reserve clause with a little sleight of hand.  Once the reserve clause was eliminated, the players could become ‘free agents’, meaning that they could then negotiate with any team at the conclusion of their current contracts.

However, Miller tried to institute a new system, so that every year every player wasn’t trying to switch teams, creating a new problem.  Players had to stay with a team for a certain amount of years, in order to be rewarded with the ability to be a free agent.  This made it more acceptable to the team owners, who would be able to ‘protect’ their more valuable players for a time, rather than lose them all enmasse year to year.  Free agents would be available to negotiate with any team, without restrictions and the market would determine the value of the players.  It worked, for the most part, for many years.

In the last 10 years however, it’s starting to break down again as salaries are starting to get ridiculous.  In the just recent 2018-2019 post-season, several players have signed mega-deals and extensions that have been worth $120-330 million USD, which translates to anywhere from $20 million to $33-$35 million per season.  A baseball season is 162 games.  It lasts from late April to late October (if one makes the post-season).  So that’s basically $20-$35 million for five months work.  Break it down further, if a player were to participate in every game in the season (not all do), that player would be making $123,456 – $216,000 per game.  $13,717 – $24,005 per inning.  Compare that to someone that’s making the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hr.  And that person isn’t just working for five months.

The thing that got me started on this was an interview that was posted on Facebook over the weekend, where Xander Bogaerts stated that he ‘left money on the table’ when he signed his contract extension for $120 million over the next 6 years.  The reason, he stated, was because he wanted to remain with the Red Sox.  I’m certain if he wanted to remain with the team, he could have done it at a lot less than what he signed for.  He was already making $12 million a year.  Which is hardly chump change.  But anymore, it’s not team loyalty that drives these people.  It’s money.  ‘Money talks, BS walks’ is the old adage.  You’d be hard pressed to find any player that has the interest in spending their entire career with one team anymore.  They’re going to go where the dollar signs take them.  And that’s just another sad thing that’s happening in the national pastime.

My question of course is, where’s the upper limit?  How soon is it going to be where a player signs a contract for $1 billion over time?  How can someone who plays a child’s game be worth that much?  To my mind, they can’t.  Especially the way that the game is played anymore.  But that’s another blog post.