FORT MYERS, FLA. – This nation’s sports media long has held baseball to a higher standard than the other major leagues in this country. A recent example came six weeks ago in New England’s quiet 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams in the 53rd Super Bowl.
Patriots receiver Julian Edelman had 10 receptions for 141 yards and was voted as the MVP. Edelman had served a four-game suspension for PED use at the start of the season.
The outcry in the media was minimal, including the failure of Edelman’s recent PED past to draw a mention on the Fox Sports telecast.
In 2013, Detroit used shortstop Jhonny Peralta in two rounds of playoffs after he had served a 50-game suspension for PED use. There was much righteous indignation over this in the nation’s sports media.
Rival players also complained, and when negotiations that winter increased the suspension to 80 games for the first PED offense, it came with the caveat that those players would not be eligible for that postseason.
A person has a tendency to get stuck in traffic down here, and I spend time at red lights finding sports talk stations. When baseball is briefly discussed, it will include taking as gospel the narrative of Scott Boras and other agents:
Baseball’s big problem these days is that half the teams — it’s usually “half,” sometimes “one-third” — are not spending money to retain or bring in high-priced players, and thus are not trying to compete.
Last year at this time, Examples A and B were the two Florida teams, the Marlins in Miami and the Rays in Tampa Bay.
Certainly, the work of the arrogant Derek Jeter and his partners after taking over the Marlins in that newer ballpark was a travesty. At the same time, the Rays, tenants in the worst big-league ballyard in existence, took all the broadsides and then through remarkable decisionmaking won 90 games.
The Boras soapbox has now produced a similar narrative from the MLB Players Association:
To save the game, as well as a good share of their free agents on the front side of 30, the next negotiation just has to be one that allows pitchers such as Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel to get the multiyear, $100 million contracts they were counting on.
The Twins decided to take advantage of the depressed market for veteran free agents in 2018, signing designated hitter Logan Morrison, 30 ½, on Feb. 28 and starter Lance Lynn, soon to be 31, on March 12.
They would have been better off putting the $6.5 million guaranteed to Morrison in a pile and burning it. And they would have been far better off sticking with Anibal Sanchez, 34 and signed on the advice of their big brains in pitching analytics, than releasing him when Lynn was signed.
Kyle Gibson, now 31, is the Twins’ player rep (with assistance from Jason Castro). He kindly ventured to the press box to answer questions about the forthcoming pace-of-play changes that were announced Thursday.
Asked about the cold market for veteran free agents, Gibson mentioned center fielder Adam Jones, 33. For players, it was puzzling as to why Jones wasn’t getting a deal, and he finally signed this week with Arizona for a mere $3 million guaranteed.
“You can’t force a team to sign Adam Jones; it’s just how it is,” Gibson said. “I definitely know that there are revenues out there that can be used to make a team better, and I think the more teams that are trying to win the World Series, the better it is.”
My opinion is there’s much less tanking in baseball than in the NBA, which openly has one-third of its teams fighting to increase their percentages in the lottery. And there actually are more teams in the NFL trying to lose enough to get a shot at the hot quarterback in the next draft than in baseball, where the surest thing in the next draft could be four years from the big leagues.
Baseball is as it has been since playoffs came to the game precisely 50 years ago: a handful of teams that appear loaded, a handful at the bottom, and the majority of teams waiting to find out what they got. The 2019 Twins are in MLB’s large middle.
How many teams are actually in “we’re going to be the Astros” mode? Orioles, Royals, Marlins, Mariners (mysteriously), maybe Tigers and Pirates.
No greater number of such teams than in the NFL and far fewer than in the NBA.
But it’s baseball. So we’re outraged.
Imagine if the Tigers had made it to the World Series in 2013 and Peralta was the MVP? We’d still be feigning indignation to fill the baseball moment on sports talk radio.