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There have been few MLB players who I have been more critical of than former Pirates, Nationals and Brewers OF Nyjer Morgan. And perhaps it is something I should back off soon. As it has been announced that Morgan will not return to the Japanese Yokohama team next season, there is a good chance he will land a job back in major league baseball as a 4th OF or even a platoon starting situation in the right spot. In that regard, I wish him the best. He is still a very serviceable player who put up decent to good numbers at Yokohama. I am presented my own award, which goes to the biggest bonehead of the MLB season, and I am calling it the “Nyjer Morgan Award”, presented by www.johnpielli.com.
I guess my disdain for @theRealTPlush comes from a series of incidents that happened within a little more than a year from each other. There was his barreling over of a defenseless catcher who was nowhere near the plate against the Marlins. While playing for the Nationals, his hit on Brett Hayes was uncalled for. What was worse was his reaction after being hit in retaliation for it, which escalated the situation. I am not saying he should have taken it, but to show up the team by stealing bases in a meaningless time of the game added to the fact that he was already wrong by hitting the catcher for no reason. If that was the one time he brought the negative vibes to himself, I could deal with it. Then there was him sticking his head into the Brewers/ Cardinals rivalry of 2011. His unprovoked shouting match with Cardinals RHP Chris Carpenter seemed like a cry for attention, and maybe an attempt to prove himself as a “Brewer”. With the fact that Carpenter has a reputation for antagonizing opposing players, that was another situation where if it was isolated, it would have been forgotten. Then there was the bold statements regarding the Cardinals playoff chances, which in itself simply made him look foolish. The Cardinals defeated the Brewers to win the NL Pennant and eventually the 2011 World Series. Add in the fact that he intentionally yelled “fuck yeah” knowing it was going to be heard on air on TBS, I have found it very difficult to endear myself to this man. Perhaps if he signed with my favorite baseball team, the New York Mets, I would give it one last chance.
But Nyjer Morgan is not the only associated with MLB that stands out as being a bonehead. 2013 was full of moments like that, from Mets SS Ruben Tejada’s overall cocky attitude almost costing him a job to some of the umpires either doing a terrible job at what they get paid to do or going on a world tour with the hopes that the general public knows their name. I came up with the five biggest boneheads in MLB for the 2013 season. But, before I get into them, here are some honorable mentions:
Brewers OF Carlos Gomez was clearly in the wrong when he took his grudge with Braves LHP Paul Maholm too far in a game in Milwaukee. Starting a fight with the entire Atlanta Braves team did not make Gomez look good, but to this point, this is the only time I have seen Carlos Gomez act that way.
Dodgers OF Yasiel Puig burst onto the scene and pretty much saved the Los Angeles Dodgers 2013 season. He did not do it without some questionable hick-ups though. The fact that he became enraged during an altercation with the Arizona Diamondbacks is justified as he was hit in the face. His lack of hustle and overstated bravado have made him as many enemies as fans.
Mets infielder Jordany Valdespin has hopefully learned his lesson after running himself off the New York Mets. He has not proven himself to be an MLB player, let alone one who can spout off at veteran teammates and then his manager after being sent down to AAA. Getting popped for a 50 game PED suspension did not help.
However, the Mets players and perhaps management decided to isolate Valdespin, which put them in the fire. They deserved some criticism for allowing Jordany to get hit by Pirates RHP Bryan Morris in a game after Valdespin admired a HR in a game that had been decided already. Valdespin should not have done what he did, but to let the Pirates discipline him made the Mets look small.
Marlins RHP Jose Fernandez showed up the Braves a little bit in a game this past season. I did not look at this as a serious bonehead move, but one that should be stated. Braves 3B Chris Johnson looked just as silly when he involved himself, then intentionally took a scared route around all the players. (It was clear he wanted to speak but wanted to nothing to do with backing up what he had to say.)
I am sure many others can be mentioned in regards to incidents that happened this season, so feel free to let me know. Before I get into my top five, I need to mention the consistent bad performance of umpire CB Bucknor, a man who I am sure tries very hard, but he is among the worst at what he does. Without further due, here are my top five boneheads of 2013 in MLB.
5. Carlos Quentin, OF, San Diego Padres: I would have ranked him a little higher as my initial reaction to his actions in the LA game had me more upset than I currently am. But, Carlos Quentin had no reason to rush the mound after he was hit by the Zack Greinke. While stating he was hit by Greinke twice before, he failed to acknowledge the fact that he stands closer to the plate than any other MLB hitter and is frequently among the most hit batters in all of MLB. If he has such a problem getting hit, maybe it is time to back off the plate.
4. Umpire Tom Hallion: Hallion has had enough of a reputation for being a hothead. Maybe he simply needs some anger management. However, his actions during a Rays game in Chicago simply make Hallion look silly. After what arguably seemed like a small strike zone by Rays LHP David Price, it seemed like Price composed himself professionally walking off the field after the 7th and final inning of his outing. Was he happy? No, but he did nothing to show up Hallion. Hallion took his mask and said, “Throw the fucking ball over the plate!”, enraging the Rays bench and leading to his subsequent ejection of Rays RHP Jeremy Hellickson. Hallion then called Price and the Rays bench a “liar” when asked about it after the game. My two cents: The Rays bench would not have reacted the way it did had Hallion not made that statement. Fans come out to see the players play baseball, not Tom Hallion.
3. Umpire Angel Hernandez: This will be my final time I cite a MLB umpire in this piece (#HoldUmpiresAccountable). Similar to Bucknor, there is no doubt that Angel Hernandez is one of the worst at doing his job. This was something known prior to his actions in a game between the Oakland Athletics and Cleveland Indians when he was named temporary crew chief when Gerry Davis was unable to participate in Oakland. A ball hit by Athletics infielder Adam Rosales was ruled a double on the field when there was uncertainty over whether it went over the HR line or not. The umpires went to watch the video replay of it, which should have shown inconclusively that the ball hit the railing above the yellow line over the fence in right center field. As the crew chief, Hernandez refused to overturn the improper call. After ejecting Athletics manager Bob Melvin, MLB determined that Hernandez made the incorrect call, even though instant replay was used.
2. Brian McCann, catcher, Atlanta Braves: I, personally, like the fact that Brian McCann defends his teammates and has the reputation for being a very good leader. That should translate well to his new team, the New York Yankees. And the two particular incidents were provoked by Jose Fernandez and Carlos Gomez, respectively. But, McCann does look like a bonehead after taking it upon himself to be the police on the diamond. Many players show up the opposition by admiring home runs, and in my opinion, Fernandez did nothing more than what guys like Yasiel Puig and David Ortiz do on a nightly basis. If the first instance does not happen, the second is not blown up as much as it was. I thought McCann overreacted with the Fernandez situation, though he was correct with the way he handled the Gomez one. And while I admire McCann for defending his teammates, there is no one MLB player in charge of morality.
1. Luis Cruz, 3B, team Mexico in WBC, Dodgers, Yankees: I find it amazing that the biggest bonehead in 2013 happened to be over an incident during MLB’s spring training. I figured somebody would have topped it during the long MLB season, and subsequent postseason. But Cruz, who currently is not playing for a MLB team and was let go twice during the season, still owns the prize. Not only did Cruz provoke a nasty brawl between team Mexico and team Canada, but the fact that he did not understand the rules of the tournament made him look even more foolish. After Canada OF Shane Robinson laid down a bunt to reach via a hit while Canada held a decisive lead, Cruz openly signaled to his pitcher to hit the next batter. The rules of the tournament stated that if teams finished with the same records, one of the ways of determining which team moved on was total runs scored. Cruz’ voice was heard, which led to three pitches being thrown inside to the next batter, the last which incited the aggressive brawl between the two teams. Cruz recently signed a contract with the Chiba Lotte Marines of the Japanese Professional League.
Perhaps I missed some other boneheads in MLB in 2013. Feel free to comment if there are any that strike your ire. Just remember, bitter feelings towards a manager for a team not doing well really dont count. Neither do underachieving players. Congratulations to Luis Cruz on winning the first annual “Nyjer Morgan Award”, presented by www.johnpielli.com.
Going over the expansion draft of what would be the 1969 Seattle Pilots made me think about the franchise a little bit. How could a city that was given an expansion franchise lose that team after one season. The more I thought about it, the more I found some sense to the whole thing.
Expansion first hit baseball in the 1961 season. The Washington Senators, an original American League franchise, decided to move to Minnesota. While this was not the first time an MLB team changed locations, it was the first of its kind. Every other time a team relocated, it was at the expense of a team that had another baseball team in the same city of district. The Boston Braves moved to Milwaukee for the 1953 season, but Boston still had the Red Sox. The St Louis Browns moved to Baltimore for the 1954 season, but St Louis still had the Cardinals. The Philadelphia Athletics moved to Kansas City for the 1955 season, but Philadelphia still had the Phillies. As much as it was protested, the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants still moved to Los Angeles and San Francisco for the 1958 season. Because of all the New York bias, many refused to cope with the fact that New York still had the Yankees. So much, that the New York Mets were added to the National League for the 1962 season. But the move of Washington was the first of its kind.
The result of Washington’s franchise moving to Minnesota led to baseball’s first expansion. Washington, DC was left without a baseball team. That was the first time a MLB city was left without a team. MLB decided that Washington should have a team, which led to the re-addition of the Washington Senators to the AL for the 1961 season. Because scheduling conflicts would exist because one team is added, the AL added another team, the Los Angeles Angels. The decision of owner Charlie Finley to move the Kansas City Athletics to Oakland for the 1968 season bothered a lot of people, and left for Oakland for the 1968 season. The NL reacted to the unhappiness by granting the city of Kansas City an expansion franchise for the 1969 season.
So, if you have read to this point, you are probably saying, “I know about all that! What does all that have to do with Seattle losing its team after the 1969 season?” After a brief stay in Milwaukee, the Braves moved to Atlanta for the 1966 season. A similar outcry resulted in Milwaukee, but one that was for naught. Not only was Kansas City given a team for 1969, but cities that had never had an MLB team such as Seattle, San Diego and Montreal were given expansion teams. Why was Milwaukee not given an expansion team? Based on the history of the Senators and Athletics/ Royals, it was a fair question to be asked.
With new teams in San Diego and Montreal having long histories in the minor leagues, Seattle became vulnerable and a target of the baseball trust in the city of Milwaukee. Geographically, San Diego was a solid addition to baseball of the West Coast, joining LA and San Fran. There would have been some greater implications of trying to take the Expos out of Montreal. In the end, Milwaukee got a baseball team back, the Brewers from 1970 on. MLB did keep up with rewarding cities that lost teams by granting Seattle a franchise for the 1977 season. But, Washington did not have to wait at all to get a new team. Kansas City had to wait one full season. Milwaukee just four. Seattle had to wait a record seven seasons before they had a new team there. Of course, Washington now owns the record with a 33 year gap without having a baseball team. Montreal is entering its 10th season without a team in 2014. And from what has been heard, it seems unlikely there will ever be a professional baseball team in Montreal again. And that is sad.
Baseball fans should be excited as there have now been more days in the offseason than there are left until the pitchers and catchers report for spring training. Of course, teams and players have yet to submit their bids for potential arbitration cases. Within that, many of the cases will settle for somewhere in the middle of the bids of the team and the player. Plus, the amount of free agents that are out there will impact which teams are projected to have higher payrolls than they currently have. The following is a list of which teams, at this very moment, have the highest payroll. This does not include contracts that have been agreed to that have not become official. In parenthesis are the amount of the players on the 25 man roster have already been signed (not counting arbitration eligibles and players on progressive contracts).
1. LAD(16) $188.3M
2. BOS (15) $155.0M
3. SFG (14) $138.2M
4. PHI (11) $137.3M
5. NYY (11) $134.4M
6. LAA (10) $129.9M
7. TOR (15) $121.2M
8. DET (11) $119.3M
9. TEX (14) $101.9M
10. STL (8) $91.5M
11. WSN (12) $87.1M
12. CIN (12) $78.6M
13. ARI (11) $74.8M
14. MIL (8) $71.2M
15. MIN (8) $66.0M
16. COL (8) $65.5M
17. CHW (9) $62.5M
18. KCR (9) $62.1M
19. CLE (10) $55.6M
20. CHC (8) $48.4M
21. NYM (4) $48.2M
22. PIT (9) $47.5M
23. BAL (9) $46.0M
24. ATL (6) $45.5M
25. SDP (9) $43.1M
26. SEA (4) $36.1M
27. TBR (9) $33.8M
28. OAK (5) $33.5M
29. MIA (6) $20.4M
30. HOU (3) $16.8M
It should be understood that recently agreed to contracts for the Mets Bartolo Colon ($10 mil), Dodgers Juan Uribe (7.5), Twins Mike Pelfrey ($5.5) and the Braves expected signing of Gavin Floyd are not counted against the listed payrolls. The Mets would be at $58.2 mil (19th), Dodgers at $195.8 (still at 1st) and the Twins at 71.5 (14th).
Assuming the Floyd deal in Atlanta is $8 million, which is the median of the starting pitchers salaries this offseason, I have included the four mentioned deals in what can be projected as the payrolls for the 2014 season. One thing needs to be understood, however. All the free agents on the board will eventually come off the board and there is still a possibility that more trades will be made. Plus, salary arbitration cases are very unpredictable. So, as we head into the season, here is where payrolls could be, with the remaining 25 man spots estimated with salary arbitration estimates and the balance of players paid the league minimum.
1. LAD $224.8M
2. BOS $165.5M
3. DET $157.3M
4. PHI $155.3M
5. NYY $154.9M
6. SFG $148.2M
7. LAA $144.4M
8. WSN $133.1M
9. TOR $132.7M
10. TEX $115.4M
11. STL $103.5M
12. CIN $102.6M
13. ARI $96.3M
14. ATL $91.5M
15. KCR $88.1M
16. NYM $86.2M
17. MIL $83.7M
18. MIN $83.5M
19. BAL $81.5M
20. CLE $81.1M
21. CHW $80.0M
22. COL $78.0M
23. CHC $74.8M
24. SDP $73.6M
25. OAK $71.0M
26. PIT $69.0M
27. TBR $62.2M
28. SEA $52.1M
29. MIA $37.5M
30. HOU $29.3M
As will be expected, teams like Seattle, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Baltimore and even the Cubs, Rockies and Brewers could spend considerably more. Especially with either the Orioles or Mariners likely to sign Nelson Cruz. The payroll totals at the moment as well as the projected ones from here are in no way a guarantee of what will be in a month or two. But it does set a good barometer of where teams may be by spring training. Stay tuned.
It has been a couple of weeks since the Detroit Tigers traded 1B Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers for 2B Ian Kinsler. Of course, Fielder just finished the 2nd year of his 9 year, $214 million contract he signed with the Tigers before the 2012 season. Numbers wise, Fielder was far from a disappointment, inspite of his dreadful postseason which was most noticeable during the Tigers loss in the ALCS to Boston in 6 games. But lets get one thing straight, it was not like Fielder proved himself to not be the players the Tigers signed him to be. His 2013 was respectable, not solid, as he hit .279, 25, 106 with a career low OPS of .819 while playing all 162 games for the 3rd straight season and 4th time in the last 5 seasons.
The decision to move Fielder had more to do with GM Dave Dombrowski wanting to free up salary to extend 2013 AL Cy Young Award Winner Max Scherzer. Additionally, he will be able to shake up a good team that just has not been able to complete the task of winning the World Series. The issue that the Tigers were dealing with was the fact that other teams were not going to simply take on Fielder’s contract AND give the return warranted under my fair MLB trade proposition. That is why the Tigers received Kinsler, a good player, but one that is not considered in the same league as Fielder. The Rangers were interested in signing Fielder a couple off seasons ago, but simply did not want to invest the amount of money Detroit was willing to. The $30 million that the Tigers kicked in to help pay his contract allowed the Rangers to feel more comfortable about taking it on. If the Tigers had been willing to take on a significant amount of the deal, of course the Rangers would have had to give up some more significant players than just Kinsler. It should turn out to be a deal that will help both teams.
The Fielder/ Kinsler trade in its own way was kind of revolutionary. The Boston Red Sox had made a similar trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012 where they traded Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto to LA and received a much less impactful package in return. Comparing both deals, it is understood the Dodgers received the better players in the mega-trade while the Rangers received the better player in the deal with Detroit. Other teams have plenty of interest in the success or failure of these types of trades. While the Red Sox/ Dodgers deal looks like it helped both teams, taking LA to the NLCS and helping the Red Sox to a World Series Championship, you have to look no further than the Miami Marlins to see that sometimes unloading players to move their contracts is a complete sign of surrender for those who want to play competitive baseball.
I am sure the Milwaukee Brewers will be keeping an eye on how the Fielder trade works out. Fielder’s former team has OF Ryan Braun under contract until the year 2020. Perhaps the Brewers aren’t desperate to move Braun, but probably had to at least considered trying to cut their losses after his PED suspension in 2013. Right now, Milwaukee is in the phase of wanting to get competitive talent that matches that of Braun in a deal. Otherwise, it seems to be no inclination they will deal him. Oddly enough, if Braun returns to form next season, the Brewers may be more inclined to move him then if he falls far from his MVP season in 2011. If Braun struggles, it would mean either he is a Brewer for life or the team has to pay a large sum of the contract for him to get out of Milwaukee. If he hits MVP form, the Brewers would be able to move the deal and get a quality return for him. But what happens if Braun simply puts up above average numbers? For example, what if Braun plays in 155 games in 2014 and hits .280, 28, 90 with 35 2Bs? And a guy who has a .312 career batting average sees his OPS drop to .869 for the full season (his OPS in 2013 over 61 games) or lower. Braun’s career OPS is currently .938. It would be safe to say his future decline could have to do with being off the PEDs. The Brewers, of course, could choose to hold onto him or consider moving him in a trade.
The problem with this scenario is, the team potentially trading for Braun is looking for the 2011 MVP version. They would not be getting that. But Braun is getting paid like the 2011 MVP version. At this point, if the Brewers wanted to move Braun, they would have to either pay a significant portion of his remaining contract and receive quality players back or deal him and a portion of the contact to another team and receive maybe a good player, but not one that will produce even at my projected 2014 results.
Another example is LA Dodgers OF Matt Kemp, the 2011 runner up in the NL MVP voting to Braun. Kemp’s story is different, as of now, as Kemp has simply been hurt for the majority of the past two seasons. After his 2011 performance put Kemp in the category of the best player in the game discussion, Kemp was on his way to that status again in 2012, before an injury around the All Star break. He has not been the same player since. Kemp is signed through the year 2019, as his 8 year, $160 million extension started in 2012. Similar to Braun, Kemp will be watched closely as he looks to come back healthy in 2014.
The only difference is the fact that the Dodgers have a situation where they have 4 OFs for 3 spots, due to the emergence of Yasiel Puig. Though Andre Ethier is also on the block, it may be in the Dodgers best interest to move Kemp. Regardless, it is likely one or the other will be moved before the start of the 2014 season. Ethier, who started his 6 year, $95.5 million deal in the 2012 season as well, looked nothing like the player he was before he signed the extension. In fact, his .272, 12, 52 in 142 games make his extension look like more of a mistake than Kemp’s. Obviously, the jury is still out on Kemp as he looks to return from his injuries.
Right now, if a team was to trade for Kemp or Ethier, the Dodgers would have to either pay a large percentage of the rest of the contract and receive a comparable package (ie. top prospects, impact players) or pay a smaller portion of the contact and receive a player or two that would not make the trade seem fair on those players best days and the LA players worst.
Players that have signed free agent contacts this offseason could find themselves in the same situation down the road. Questions already exist over Albert Pujols first two seasons with the Angels. Could you see the Angels move him to a team just for the sake of the salary relief? Seems unlikely, but I am sure it has been discussed. Jacoby Ellsbury is now under contract for the Yankees for the next 7 seasons. Robinson Cano will now be getting paid from the Seattle Mariners for the next 10. Whatever happens, I am sure teams will be looking in to the success or failure of the Prince Fielder and $30 million to the Rangers for Ian Kinsler trade as a marking grounds over whether future trades like that can be made.