It’s, uh, been quite a decade this week for baseball. Last Wednesday, Rob Manfred said there would 100 percent be a baseball season. Then on Monday, he said he wasn’t sure. Then on Tuesday, he and Tony Clark met face to face and then on Wednesday it was announced there was a deal for a 60-game season. Only it wasn’t a deal, as far as the MLBPA was concerned. It was just a proposal. What’s happened, from my perspective, is that the players called the owners’ bluff with their very good “when and where” social media campaign. Then the owners, potentially inadvertently, called the players’ bluff with a proposal for a season that offered prorated pay at a higher number of games than any previous proposal. So the players have come back with a 70-game proposal including some ways for the owners to make some additional revenue and some owner called it “the worst” proposal he’d ever seen. It wasn’t bad enough to put his cowardly name on that quote, but apparently it was the worst. I still think this gets done one way or another, but the owners have shown their ass quite clearly on this and when the labor wars heat up again to negotiate the next CBA, they’ll have far less of the public on their side than they usually do. It probably won’t make a difference, but at least I’ll be happy to know that.
- There has been a lot of talk about Manfred and his role in all of this. If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I think Manfred is a boob, but one of the points I see made a lot is that Manfred works for the owners and just carries out their wishes. While I believe that to be somewhat true, he is the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, and even though the owners are the group that elects him and likely keeps him employed, I think he has a duty to oversee the health of the game beyond just what the owners want. Because let’s be real. The owners want profits. There are a handful in the 30 groups who actually truly care about baseball, but the vast majority want the game to do whatever it can to make them profits. And I totally get that and I don’t disparage them that. But I believe the commissioner’s job is not simply to do whatever the owners want, but to listen to them and then take the health of the game into consideration. While I think Bud Selig is also quite the boob, in my opinion, he at least did that moderately better than Manfred ever has, at least after the strike in 1994/1995. Note I didn’t say he did that well, but just better than Manfred. I understand the owners saying they will be losing this much or that much money and Manfred being the guy to tell the players that it’s his way or the highway, but it’s very clear that the “negotiating” the two sides have done have been with very little give to what the players agreed to do back in March and have been all about minimizing ownership losses. There is no big picture outlook here, and that’s a huge mistake. It’s Manfred’s job to see the big picture and get the owners to do that as well, and that’s one of the biggest reasons I think he’s failed miserably throughout this process and his tenure as a whole.
- One thing that I thought was fascinating was asked to me on Twitter by Jesse Newell of The Kansas City Star. In an odd question, he asked me if the Royals are the winners of the Coronavirus. And while nobody is really the winner of this whole situation, of course, the Royals have done quite well for themselves throughout this entire process. We’ve talked a lot about the way they’ve taken care of their people over the last few weeks, and that’s led to an UDFA class that is rivaled by nobody, which I’ll get to shortly. But really, Jesse makes a heck of a point. Beyond that, which is a huge part of it all, a shortened season and likely expanded playoffs to eight teams in each league takes the Royals from being one of the longest of longshots to a viable playoff team. Let’s say the season does end up at 66 games. With a proposed schedule of 70 days, I looked at 70 days beyond the start of the last few seasons and the average winning percentage of the eighth best team in the AL has been right around .500. If the bullpen is as improved as it looked back in Surprise a few months ago and they have a healthy Salvador Perez and Adalberto Mondesi and guys like Maikel Franco and Nicky Lopez take the steps the Royals hope they’ll take this season, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Royals could put together a 33-33 type stretch. I’m not saying I’d run to the casino to bet on it or anything, but it’s certainly possible. So yeah, I’d say that when you combine their reputation gains and this, they’ve had about as good a run over the last three months as anyone. Someone responded to that Twitter thread and mentioned the Astros because people aren’t talking about them anymore, and I’d have a hard time arguing that one too, but the Royals are definitely in the top four or five teams.
- Now, let’s talk about those undrafted free agents teams have signed over the past few days. The biggest name is Kale Emshoff, a catcher out of Arkansas who ranked inside the top 200 on Baseball America’s pre-draft list. That’s a heck of a get in this situation when he could have returned to school next year. He hit .417/.527/.800 in the early part before the season was banged and while you could argue that’s a small sample, he also spent a good amount of time while recovering from an injury re-working his stance and swing, so he could be someone who shoots through the system if the changes were for real. Clint Scoles and I still talk regularly in spite of no longer writing together and we had the same thought about Tucker Bradley. It’s that he’s Alex Gordon. Obviously it’ll take a lot to reach that, but that’s the kind of player he is and that’s who his swing reminds me of. He also saw some added power in the early college season. The other catcher the Royals signed, Saul Garza, was actually a player they drafted and didn’t sign just last year. He probably doesn’t have the defensive chops to start at catcher, but with some massive power, he could be an intriguing Evan Gattis type backup. I don’t know a ton about John McMillion or AJ Block, but you can never add too much pitching and when you have a guy who throws hard enough to break a metal bat, you’ll take that. I really liked the Chase Wallace pickup. I remember seeing him either last year or the year before at Tennessee and I was really, really impressed with his sinker. I know that’s not the in pitch right now in baseball, but it was extremely heavy. The odds are he doesn’t make it, but that’s a nice weapon to have in your back pocket to work your way through a system. Matt Schmidt is the latest signee, and he seems like more of a warm body than anything, but it is believed that he has some power in his bat, so maybe with the Royals new development team they can unlock something in him.
- Assuming a season does happen this year, and that’s what I’m going to until I’m told otherwise for my sanity, the 2021 draft is something that I think needs to be addressed, but I feel won’t. Whether the season is 60 games or 70 or 40, that’s hardly enough to be representative of anything important. Expanding the playoffs will definitely let in some teams that don’t deserve it, but it also could allow more time for the cream to rise to the top and have the best teams win. But, in a short season, there’s a huge risk of one of two things happening. One, a team could fluke its way to a bad record and maybe even the top overall draft pick. What happens if a team that is expected to contend has a few injuries and some bad luck and ends up at 25-41? I think that’s somewhat unlikely, but that team gets the chance to draft Kumar Rocker when they’re likely to win 90+ games for the next few years? Or, maybe a middling team gets off to a rough start, say 7-15 and they realize that tanking for five or six more weeks isn’t really that difficult to swallow. Then they suddenly have a chance at a top five pick if not the top pick. I get that the same thing can happen in a 162-game season, but it’s far less likely. I don’t know what the answer is, but I think a lottery makes a lot of sense to account for some of the randomness of a short season. Maybe there’s another suggestion too, but simply going from worst record to best doesn’t seem like as good an idea as it usually is.