SPRING TRAINING STARTS TODAY MINUS MANY FREE AGENTS
The day of the long-term, nine-figure major league baseball salaries may be coming to a screeching halt, at least that’s what it looks like from my point of view.
There’s a long laundry list of very talented major leaguers who must feel like they are in a state of limbo because spring training for pitchers and catchers begins today and these players who opted for free agency rather than re-sign with their 2017 team are really getting nervous.
Last weekend Japanese star pitcher Yu Darvish may have become the last player to ink a huge multi-year contract, agreeing to a $126 million, six-year contract with the Chicago Cubs.
Perhaps the Cubbies’ brass was on vacation last October when Darvish
was pummeled by our Houston Astros in the 2017 World Series and was only able to get five outs for his Los Angeles Dodgers in two starts. Needless to say, Houston won those two games which was significant in them being crowned the World Champions.
Darvish has to consider himself as one of the luckiest baseball player in the major leagues. And the Cubbies must really be desperate to get back into the World Series in less than 108 years this time.
Darvish was one of a reported 100 free agents still seeking contracts before today’s start of spring training, according to the Associated Press last weekend.
Heading the list of free agents are Eric Hosmer, J.D. Martinez, Mike Moustakas and Jake Arrieta just to mention some of the more prominent players without a team.
Other job-seekers include pitchers Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn, reliever Greg Holland, infielder Eduardo Nunez, outfielders Carlos Gomez and Carlos Gonzalez and catcher Jonathan Lucroy.
The Major League Baseball Players Association is distancing itself from the rumors that the free agents were planning to boycott spring training, according to this week’s edition of “USA Sports Weekly”.
The MLBPA issued a statement which said “the players sitting out a portion of spring training in protest of a suppressed free agent market was not a ‘recommended course of action’ from the union.”
Last week prominent agent Brodie Van Wagenen accused owners of collusion to suppress the market and suggested that an angry and motivated group of players might boycott spring training to send a message.
Collusion is almost impossible to prove. Tanking and taking the cookie-cutter, follow-the-leader approach–“The Astros and Cubs pulled it off. So can we!”—makes more practical sense.
You must recall that not too many years ago both franchises stripped their rosters from all the aging, high dollar players and used young prospects from their farm teams obtained in trades for the aging veterans.
Both the Cubs and Astros suffered with 100-plus loss seasons, but came right back the following season to win the World Series.
The Astros accepted this in 2012 and ’13 as their plan to rebuild bottomed out. They refused to pay market value for big names who would add only a few wins to already-dead seasons.
The term “tanking” refers to a team that strips itself of high-dollar stars and reduces the team payroll in half or better. Then the team finishes that season in the cellar and obtains more draft dollars money from MLB to maintain parity.
“Why give Free Agent A $80 million for five years when you can pay the minimum for comparable production from Players B, C and D and have the latter under team control for years?” a Houston Chronicle article pointed out last week.
Those complaining the loudest about the free agent situation are some of the sport’s most prominent agents like Scott Boras and Van Wagener, “who have been spewing biased gibberish for years, all while piling up the game’s best talent and lining their pockets when the stars get paid”, the Chronicle concluded.
KWICKIES…I never heard the name Ted Potter, Jr. until this weekend when he won the prestigious Pro Golf Tour AT&T Pro Am Pebble Beach Championship by three strokes over some pretty prominent names like Dustin Johnson, Chez Reavie, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day. Potter was out of golf for two years recovering from a broken ankle that required two surgeries—one to insert 12 screws and two plates and another to remove all that hardware. His biggest paycheck was $33,000 before receiving one for $1.332 million and a return to the Masters.
Several Orange County high school football players committed to play at the next level at last week’s National Signing Day. Bridge City had two players—Josh Sanders (UT-Permian Basin) and Hunter Denson (Blinn College); West Orange-Stark also had two—Blake Robinson (Lamar) and Paul Ivory (Davidson); Little Cypress-Mauriceville had Chris Winters (Tyler Junior College) and Vidor had Joe Ciccio (University of Arkansas-Monticello).
Another virtually untested NFL player struck gold last week when quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo came to terms with the San Francisco 49ers for a record-breaking five-year contract worth $137.5 million, with an average annual value of $27.5 million per season. This is $500,000 more than the previous high reached last year by Detroit’s Matthew Stafford.
A speaking of big money, Clemson’s defensive coordinator Brent Venables became the second assistant college football coach to reach the $2 million plateau. Venables joins LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda as the only college assistants to annually make $2 million. Aranda recently received a contract worth $2.5 million.
Former NFL quarterback Frank Reich was introduced yesterday as the new head football coach for the Indianapolis Colts. Reich was the second offensive coordinator to be introduced by the Colts in the last five days. New England’s Josh McDaniel reneged on a deal to take the Indianapolis job to replace Chuck Pagano, who was fired minutes after the Colts’ final game of the season. Remember it was Reich who engineered that great comeback of the Buffalo Bills over the Houston Oilers many years ago.
JUST BETWEEN US…A name we haven’t heard for a while—Johnny Manziel-popped up Monday on ESPN’s “First Take.” The story claims that Manziel is “clean and sober” and is taking medication after being diagnosed as being bipolar. He has been training real hard in hopes of an NFL comeback. I won’t believe he is ready for the NFL until he gets some help for his alcoholism problem!!