Thoughts and Prayers, 4/15

Happy Monday, April 15th, 2019. I’m feeling a more rambling post today, so here we go. Let’s touch on a bunch of things.

  • Easter weekend is one week away. At one time in my life, this was one of the busiest weekends of my year. There was a time when I never missed church. In fact, at one point in my life I was an altar boy. Now my elder relatives basically implore me to attend my church. That would be the same church that used to have three masses every weekend, and the 9am mass had well north of 100 people every week. Now there’s just a Sunday, 8am mass with 15 people. I blame the church (Catholicism at large) for many of it’s own problems, but I also find the situation kind of sad. Many of the lessons I took from church were good things that society could use. Unfortunately the shame and disappointment in the church’s failings win out.
  • I slept through a tornado warning last night. Yes, one seems to have touched down in Scranton, but apparently all of Eastern Pennsylvania was under a warning. I’ve lived in Iowa a few times, where tornadoes have been known to be deadly. I guess I didn’t learn much.
  • Thursday was Wawa’s 55th birthday. What a glorious day for anyone in the Philadelphia “sphere of influence.” I did get my free coffee, at the Mt. Pocono Wawa on 115, and made sure to post it on social media. Whether I’m in the Tampa area, the Jersey Shore, center city Philadelphia, or College Hill in Easton, I love me some Wawa.
  • Pope Benedict was already my least favorite Pope in my lifetime, but that angry old man’s letter blaming homosexuality for pedophilia in the church only cemented my dislike for him. To be clear, homosexuality and pedophilia are not the same thing, or even loosely related, or frankly related at all. The priests that molested children didn’t do so because they liked men or women, they did so because they are sick individuals. His argument that the “sexual revolution” of the 1960’s is to blame for this disgrace on the church is little more than an attempt to pass the buck. Women and homosexuals living openly sexually is not to blame for the men of the church abusing their power and harming children. Full stop.
  • I know a lot of my fellow Hillary alums and fans are not going to want to hear this, but Democrats need to cast a wider net for votes in 2020 than she did, and no, that doesn’t just mean we do that with people who didn’t vote. There are a lot of people in the Democratic Party who would like to believe that Barack Obama was elected through “the rising electorate,” and therefore that the future pathway forward is “demographic destiny,” but they are not correct. It is worth noting that both in 2008 and 2012, Barack Obama ran incredibly strong in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa, winning them all by fairly substantial margins both times. The demographics of those states didn’t change much, and yet Hillary Clinton lost all of them but Minnesota, which she very narrowly won. The excuse of many Hillary loyalists is to simply say they are all racists, and that the way forward is to turn out more of the base. That won’t work. So much of that “rising electorate” is confined to “blue” districts in “blue” states that they won’t tip enough states. Hillary did fine holding the line in Virginia, Colorado, and New Mexico, despite some drop off among base turnout in 2016. We’ve found Florida, North Carolina, and Arizona as all possible, but tough nuts to crack so far. The reality is that Texas and Georgia stayed red, even in a great cycle like 2018. We’re going to have to appeal to some of the Obama-Trump voters, or at least non-voters that are not absolute locks to always vote Democrat if they vote. We did this well in 2018. We mostly rejected far leftist candidates in swing districts of the Rust Belt, and instead ran on things like health care, education, housing, and infrastructure, with practical plans to improve on the status quo. A grounded strategy of appealing to the public’s needs in swing states is the only way to beat Trump.
  • I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about the younger me. Namely, how I interacted with people who I actually liked in my younger years. People who are different than me. I’ll probably expand on this in another post, but I wish I had been more aware as a teenager. I wish I had been more aware of how life must have felt for them. I probably could have been a better friend.
  • The Phillies are 9-5, first in the NL East, after a week that felt disappointing. They went just 3-3, got destroyed twice, and gave away a big lead in a game. Odubel failed to run a ball out, Gabe tried closing a game with Edubray Ramos, Nola gave away a lead, and Eflin got shelled by the Marlins. You know what though? I’ll take it, first is first. Sure beats the last several seasons.
  • I posted an article to my Facebook about how Democrats are more likely to unfriend someone for differing political views. A lot of people took this as a positive thing- it is not. At the point where politics is all consuming, and you can’t co-exist with people of different viewpoints, politics has failed you. If every Democrat is an anti-American socialist, and every Republican a racist, we’re pretty much dead as a country.
  • Sixers-Nets game two tonight. Joel gave his team a nice lift, and Jimmy Butler was awesome, unfortunately no one else really played in game one. Let’s hope Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris are present tonight, and maybe J.J. Redick is a little helpful. Otherwise, this series will be shockingly done.

The MLB Season Preview

It’s Opening Day! Well, technically the Seattle Mariners are already up a couple games on the Oakland A’s from last week’s Tokyo games, but for the rest of the league, today’s games mark the beginning. A few things stand out to me on this Opening Day.

  1. Not a single player on an active roster today was playing Major League Baseball in the 20th Century. This means that this season is the first season in which the “steroid era” is officially the past.
  2. Toronto Blue Jays Rule 5 pick Elvis Luciano will become the first player born in the year 2000. Fernando Tatis Jr. made the Padres and is all of 20. Obligatory mention of Acuna and Soto here. Youth is here around baseball.
  3. Bryce Harper’s era in Philadelphia begins today. So does J.T. Realmuto’s, Jean Segura’s, Andrew McCutchen’s, and David Robertson’s. Aaron Nola begins his four year extension. Rhys Hoskins moves back to first base. In short, after their “super team” off-season, the Phillies have their best team since 2011, and are back to contention.
  4. Despite the crazy money that was thrown around this off-season, Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel don’t have teams yet. Keuchel who pitched game one of the 2017 World Series, and Kimbrel who was the closer for the 2018 World Series Champions. In a purely baseball world, both could improve literally any roster. But this is a business. We’re seeing that play out here.
  5. Excitement in San Diego! Manny Machado is their’s. Fernando Tatis Jr. is there. They still have the top minor league system in the game.

Overview

Despite the madness of the off-season, what changed in the American League? On paper, Boston and Houston are the best two teams in baseball, still. The New York Yankees line-up and the Cleveland Indians rotation are the best two challenges to those two. Oakland and Tampa Bay have two of the best low-budget squads that one can put together. Those six teams are likely to be the six teams to watch. The Angels could be relevant, and the Twins and White Sox can hope their young talent clicks, but all three are long shots. In Baltimore, Kansas City, Texas, Toronto, Detroit, and Seattle, it’s a rebuilding year at best.

The National League on the other hand is looking pretty wide open. The Dodgers get to enter as favorites, but had a less than inspiring off-season. Watch for the Rockies to give the Dodgers fits. The National League East is looking like a four wide race between Atlanta, Washington, Philadelphia, and New York. The National League Central is a very compelling race that figures to feature the defending champion Brewers, the recent kingpin Cubs, the heavily improved Cardinals and Reds, and last year’s surprising young Pirates (yes, I’m giving every team in that division a shot). You can argue that every NL city has at least some reason for optimism today, which is rare.

So with that in mind, my predictions…

AMERICAN LEAGUE

East

  1. Boston Red Sox 101-61*
  2. New York Yankees 97-65*
  3. Tampa Bay Rays 94-68*
  4. Toronto Blue Jays 70-92
  5. Baltimore Orioles 61-101

Central

  1. Cleveland Indians 86-76*
  2. Chicago White Sox 76-86
  3. Minnesota Twins 74-88
  4. Detroit Tigers 64-98
  5. Kansas City Royals 60-102

West

  1. Houston Astros 100-62*
  2. Oakland A’s 88-74
  3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 82-80
  4. Texas Rangers 72-90
  5. Seattle Mariners 68-94

NATIONAL LEAGUE

East

  1. Washington Nationals 94-68*
  2. Philadelphia Phillies 92-70*
  3. Atlanta Braves 88-74
  4. New York Mets 82-80
  5. Miami Marlins 60-102

Central

  1. Milwaukee Brewers 92-70*
  2. St. Louis Cardinals 90-72
  3. Chicago Cubs 85-77
  4. Cincinnati Reds 78-84
  5. Pittsburgh Pirates 76-86

West

  1. Colorado Rockies 91-71*
  2. Los Angeles Dodgers 90-72*
  3. San Diego Padres 74-88
  4. San Francisco Giants 68-94
  5. Arizona Diamondbacks 64-98

PLAYOFFS

Dodgers over the Cardinals in a one game playoff.

AL Wild Card- Yankees over the Rays

NL Wild Card- Phillies over the Dodgers

ALDS- Yankees over the Red Sox 3-2, Astros over the Indians 3-2

NLDS- Phillies over the Nationals 3-1, Brewers over the Rockies 3-2

ALCS- Astros over the Yankees 4-2

NLCS- Phillies over the Brewers 4-3

WORLD SERIES- Astros over the Phillies 4-2

INDIVIDUAL AWARDS

AL MVP- Aaron Judge

NL MVP- Nolan Arrenado

AL Cy Young- Chris Sale

NL Cy Young- Max Scherzer

AL Rookie of the Year- Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

NL Rookie of the Year- Fernando Tatis Jr.

AL Manager of the Year- Aaron Boone

NL Manager of the Year- Dave Martinez

Trout Fishing Hits Big in LA

Mike Trout did a smart thing yesterday- he signed a ten year contract extension that will guarantee him $426.5 million over the next twelve years. While I certainly wanted him to reach free agency and come home to Philadelphia, I cannot make a economic argument that opposes taking $426.5 million in guaranteed cash for a 27 year-old.

There are plenty of hot takes about who won and lost here. The Phillies, Bryce Harper, and every team that waited this Winter on signing a superstar have been declared losers. The Angels and Trout have been declared winners. I think most of these takes are basically wrong.

I’m not sure how the Phillies “lost” here. They had an off-season for the ages. Yes, they landed a generational talent in Bryce Harper, and universally are considered to have done so at a team friendly price. They landed a multi-time All-Star shortstop in Jean Segura, who gives you 200 hits and a huge improvement at a position where they stunk last year. They got arguably baseball’s best catcher in J.T. Realmuto, and like Segura got him on more than a one year rental. Lost in the shuffle of those guys is former NL MVP Andrew McCutchen, who provides a veteran bat and wildly improved left-field defense to upgrade this team. In David Robertson, the Phillies signed one of the most consistent late-inning relievers in baseball over the past decade. They extended Aaron Nola for four years. They did all of this with prospects and payroll to spare. While they won’t get their shot at Trout, I guess that shows you the wisdom in going big with Harper now. They still have payroll space to lock in some of their other core players. They’re in very good shape to contend for the playoffs now.

How did Bryce Harper lose here either? His career earnings will end up in the $400 million range, thanks to his $330 million deal with the Phillies, enough money to live on. He signed with a franchise committed to winning and spending money. He signed a big contract, but one that offers the club room to continue to improve. He’ll play in a hitters ballpark, one that he has succeeded in previously, and one that should help his career numbers. He signed with a team who’s core players are basically in his age range. He signed in one of the biggest markets in the country, which has a lot to offer.

I think Mike Trout did great here, but let’s not pretend his decision is totally beyond reproach. Staying with the Angels basically is co-signing to continue his relative anonymity as a superstar. He’s played three playoff games in his career so far, despite his multiple MVPs and All-Star Games. His club is still saddled with bad contracts, like Albert Pujols’ deal, for a while. Shohei Otani already has major injury issues. They lack pitching. Their minor league system has continuously been bottom tier since Trout’s arrival. How do the Angels improve their system or payroll situation by throwing a record-breaking contract at Trout now? Trout has not managed to outshine the crosstown Dodgers so far in his career, so how does his extension change their status as the “B team” in LA? The deal is long enough for them to work in, and I don’t think it’s an overpay, so I won’t rip the Angels here. It also does give them certainty on keeping their star, and at what cost they’ll pay him, but it doesn’t change who they are either. Signing Harper probably did more for the Phillies long-term trajectory than this extension does on it’s own for the Angels. With all of this said, Trout and the Angels both do win here. There was no trade of Trout that would make baseball or PR sense, and losing him to free agency would have been crippling. And he’s crazy wealthy now.

The real losers here? All the teams that didn’t go out and get themselves a star this off-season. The Phillies, Angels, and Padres should take a victory lap for getting their centerpieces. The Dodgers lost the last two World Series, but did nothing to get over the top here. The Cubs window to win with their current group is growing older. The Yankees didn’t do anything huge in their quest to catch Boston and Houston with their current 100 win roster. You could mostly say the same for Cleveland. The Mets didn’t try to keep up as the Phillies transformed their line-up and the Nationals assembled possibly baseball’s best rotation, and even worse, haven’t extended either of their ace pitchers yet. Meanwhile players like Bregman and Arrenado signed extensions that take them off the free agency market for future seasons. The chances to land a major free agent and change the direction of a team are slimming. Premium talent will only get more expensive on the free agency market.

So for what it’s worth, I don’t agree with most of the hot-take commentary around Trout’s contract. While I’m sad the Phillies won’t get a shot at him, I can’t say Trout, the Angels, or the Phillies lost here. The losers are the teams who stood pat.

Why You Should Support Millionaire Athletes

The rookie minimum salary in Major League Baseball is a shade over $500,000. For the first three years of a baseball player’s major league career, they don’t really have any negotiating rights at all on their salary, and can’t shop their services to any other team in the league. After that, they are eligible for binding arbitration with the team for three or four more years, before they can reach free agency. While MLB contracts are fully guaranteed in most cases, that doesn’t mean most players will ever get to negotiate one. The average career span is 5.6 years, while it takes six to seven years to reach free agency. While we think of the huge contracts for ballplayers, when we think salary, the average salary is only about $4 million a year. One in five position players make it only one year. A large chunk of ballplayers neither play 5.6 years or make $4 million. MLB made $10.3 billion in 2018. Player salaries seem to be taking up about 50% of league’s profit. Of course, an increasing amount of that money is going towards signing young players abroad, and it also depends on if you count revenue from MLB Advanced Media and the MLB Network. If you do, players may be getting a 43% share of revenues. On the contrary, players are getting closer to 55% if you count minor league pay, benefits, and playoff bonuses.

Ok, I just threw a lot at you, so what does it mean? If players got 55% of that $10.3 billion, they got roughly $5.67 billion. Those poor owners got $4.63 billion then by comparison, before their MLB Advance Media money and their two-thirds cut of MLB Network. By my rough math, that’s another $2.9 billion, going by Scott Boras projections of the market. So owners are bringing home about $7.53 billion, in rough math. That’s about $1.9 billion more than the players. But who’s counting?

Of course, all of this misses a key point- there are roughly 1,200 players on 40 man rosters at any given time, and about 7,500 to 8,000 active, MLB affiliated players at a time, splitting up their $5.67 billion. Again, the average major leaguer is making $4 million a year- there are 30 owners/ownership groups splitting up $7.52 billion, making a cool $250 million (roughly), every year. Yes, they’re making the entirety of the “original” Texas A-Rod contract, annually, on the average for each club. Every four years, they’re pulling a billion in revenue. Most owners and majority partners are already billionaires or damn close. The average team is valued at $1.3 billion. That means an owner can get access to a lot more capital because owning a team. In other words, it’s nice to be a ballplayer, but it’s great town a team.

Most people don’t get that difference though- they view both players and owners as “rich.” $4 million a year average salary, over 5.6 years (absolutely no one hits both of these averages together) is $24.4 million, pre-tax, and that seems like a lot, to them. It might seem small next to $250 million a year for an average club share of the revenue, but what’s the difference in these two numbers, really? Well, I’ll leave that Twitter to explain.

A team’s average share of one year’s MLB revenue is over ten times as much as the average career’s worth of money at the current average salary. Just consider that. In two years, a team would make more on average revenue than the projected Bryce Harper contracts. The gap between the two sides is that dramatic. The capital is exponentially more valuable than the labor in baseball. In baseball, let alone the NFL. This is the sport that is supposedly better to it’s players than football. In fact, you would find similar results in the NBA, NHL, and NFL if you did the math I did above.

In other words, don’t defend the owners when MLB players complain about the slow free agency this year, or allege collusion among the teams to keep salaries down. “The product,” as the NFL refers to it’s players, is producing record profits in the billions, across all sports, but is splitting about half the money up among the whole league. I get it, it’s tempting to complain when you see a really average bench piece in the NBA get a three year, $40 million deal, but don’t- that’s what a relatively fair market says they deserve. They’re producing billions in economic activity for the league and cities they play in. Meanwhile the owners are getting their cities and states to finance their stadiums. While making huge profits.

Just a thought.

The Phillies are Built to Last

There was a certain satisfaction in watching last night’s Phillies win. The Boston Red Sox are certainly not one of my favorite teams, but they are baseball’s best team this year. The Phillies dropped a tough 2-1 battle on Tuesday, but managed to split the season series with a team that should easily top 100 wins. Boston may very well have this year’s AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner, but the Phillies didn’t back down from them in any of the four games, in either park. Down 3-0 on Wednesday night, facing a sweep, they fought back and won 7-4. That is a satisfying win.

When you look at the Phillies line-up, you aren’t overwhelmed. Nobody is going to hit .300 in this line-up. It’s highly unlikely anyone hits 40 homers. Rhys Hoskins is probably the only guy that drives in 100 runs, or probably hits 30 homers. They’re a bottom of the league team in batting average. What do they do well? They take a lot of pitches. Their on-base percentages are deceptively good. They’ll probably have six or seven guys hit 20 homers or more. They hit well later in the game. It’s not that they have nothing going here, but they’re not a line-up that impresses you much.

The Phillies are a good team because they can pitch. Aaron Nola has been outstanding. Jake Arrieta has been way better than some fans give him credit for. While they’re inconsistent, Zach Eflin, Nick Pivetta, and Vince Velasquez have all dominated at times, in a season where they all made tremendous leaps forward. The bullpen has become deceptively strong as the season rolls along. This team has pitched it’s way into contention, despite relative youth and inexperience, and one of the worst defensive clubs in baseball.

And yet, despite all of those positives, I’m not sure they will win the division. They are two games back of Atlanta for the first time since the virtual beginning of Summer. Atlanta has a young, ready for prime time offense. They’re beating up on bad teams better than the Phillies right now. Atlanta’s doesn’t seem like the same level as the Phillies, but they’ve done a more than admirable job, and the numbers are way closer than you think. Who wins this division probably comes down to whether Atlanta’s starting pitching or Philadelphia’s offense is better- assuming Washington is who they look like at this point.

In the long run though, the Phillies are poised to dominate the NL East. If you were to ask me what I’d rather have to improve in free agency- starting pitching or offense- I’d take offense every time. We’re coming up on a major off-season, with major available bats like Manny Machado and Bryce Harper on the market, and the Phillies are well-positioned to make monster bids on both. Other than the often-injured Clayton Kershaw, there are less available game-changing arms on the market, and they will be very expensive. Atlanta simply doesn’t have the kind of money the Phillies do either, whether to extend contracts to their own players or free agents.

Even if the Phillies third through fifth starters don’t all solve their consistency issues, the Phillies have a dominating AAA staff that is cruising through the International League, and Sixto Sanchez and Adonis Medina waiting in the wings to eventually fill in here. The Phillies will not need to dive into the expensive starting pitching market as much as Atlanta and others will. They will be able to spend in free agency to fill in their 2019 line-up, and trade from their depth of pitching to get more bats. With their deep pockets, the Phillies can build a sustained winner. The NL East is going to hate this group for a long time.

Baseball is Fine

Boston Globe writer Dan Shaughnessy recently wrote that baseball’s sky is falling. He’s not alone in that common take. It seems that MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred agrees. They argue the game is too slow, analytics are changing the game, that there are too many bad teams, that the game lacks faces. On each point, their arguments come off flat though.

Is a baseball game too slow? The average baseball game is about three hours and five minutes, which may very well be too long for someone with the attention span of my younger dog. For comparison though, Sunday football games kick off at 1pm, and the second NFL game of the day typically kicks off at just after 4pm, or about three hours later. That’s better than the prime time games, which go longer because of commercials. It’s worth noting that an NFL game is 60 minutes in length, meaning two-thirds of the time I’m watching the Eagles, I’m getting some non-action garbage. NBA and NHL games tend to stay a little under three hours, but feature a similar ratio of game to non-game time. Despite all of the discussion of baseball’s pace of play, they objectively don’t have a problem here that every other sport has- Americans can’t pay attention to something for three hours.

There is no doubt that analytics have changed baseball, and particularly play-by-play outcomes within baseball. Defensive “shifts” of player positioning around the diamond have decreased the number of base hits in a game, something Phillies fans saw all too much in the Ryan Howard era. The increasing refinement of relief pitching has hurt offenses as well, as there are now specialists to get every kind of hitter now. Hitters are refining their swings to increase their “exit-velocity” and “launch angle,” in part because it’s harder to hit a baseball past defenders anymore. It seems like analytics have changed everything, in part because they do. Do we really want to “dumb down” the game though to decrease strikeouts and home runs? Is the game really more interesting because we have more singles sneaking through the hole? I’m very skeptical that analytics are what is hurting baseball.

There are some terrible baseball teams in Baltimore, Kansas City, Miami, and Texas, just as New York had two rotten NFL teams last year, the Cleveland Browns are perpetual garbage, and the Brooklyn Nets are among probably a dozen NBA teams in purgatory. Sports are going to have bad teams. Baseball is no different. The mega-markets- New York, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Houston, Washington, San Francisco, and Phoenix- all are enjoying seasons where they have teams in contention, which is good for the sport’s economics. The thing is, Atlanta, Milwaukee, Seattle, and Cleveland are all small market teams that are in contention too. Kansas City won a World Series three years ago. Pittsburgh has been in the post-season recently. New York and Chicago have teams having lousy seasons right now too. Baseball doesn’t have a particular problem with competitive imbalance, at least not beyond any other sport’s issues.

Does baseball lack “faces” to market? Shaughnessy seems to imply that baseball needs a “flat Earth” moron like Kyrie Irving to make headlines. Perhaps baseball needs LeBron James type figures leaving their teams in shambles every four years to find the next greener pastures, or Kevin Durant taking the easiest way possible to a title, but I disagree. No, Mike Trout is not one to make headlines with his mouth, but is that necessary? Is Bryce Harper not interesting enough? Obviously the face of the game has changed a bit, the brand is more global now, and maybe that has left some people without stars to latch on to. I’m not sure baseball, or really anyone, needs ball players to start talking about a flat Earth though to be interesting.

Baseball certainly has some issues, I don’t disagree with that. Games are unaffordable for most families- my Phillies seats cost $45, a beer is running around $13, and the cheapest food is $10, and that’s after the gas to drive there and $18 to park. Most Americans simply don’t have that kind of disposable income anymore. While I generally support the idea of guaranteed contracts, teams have been getting themselves stuck in bad contracts with aging players that are past their primes. I could go either way on banning defensive “shifts,” though I think that’s a dangerous direction for the game. Prime time and playoff games start too late for most people, let alone kids, to watch. I could go on with my list of changes to the game, but I don’t think the game is broken. I’ve gone to 26 professional games this season because baseball and the beach are really the only two uses I have for the Summer.

Baseball’s real problems are not the ones being cited by Dan Shaughnessy or Commissioner Rob Manfred. Baseball hurt itself by trying to compete with the NFL business model. Baseball is being hurt by a segment of fans with a low attention span. Baseball needs to be family-economic friendly. Baseball needs to not let franchises get themselves in over-leveraged holes, like Miami, or in decrepit situations like Oakland and Tampa Bay. Baseball needs to stop chasing marginal fans who can’t pay attention to a whole game.

What baseball doesn’t need is “flat Earthers” slapping singles to right-field in two hour games. Just saying.

2018 MLB Predictions

It’s MLB Opening Day, my favorite day of the year! For the first time in several years, I have high hopes for my Phillies to do some winning. I trust the prospects.

Without wasting much time about how nostalgic I am about today, here are some predictions on individual awards and statistical champions:

  • NL MVP- Bryce Harper
  • AL MVP- Mookie Betts
  • AL Cy Young- Justin Verlander
  • NL Cy Young- Stephen Strasburg
  • NL Rookie of the Year- JP Crawford
  • AL Rookie of the Year- Gleyber Torres
  • AL Manager of the Year- Terry Francona
  • NL Manager of the Year- Joe Maddon
  • NL Home Run Champion- Bryce Harper 43
  • AL Home Run Champion- Aaron Judge 45
  • AL Batting Champion- Mookie Betts .340
  • NL Batting Champion- Charlie Blackmon .347
  • NL RBI Champion- Bryce Harper 125
  • AL RBI Champion- Aaron Judge 131
  • AL Wins Leader- Corey Kluber 20
  • NL Wins Leader- Stephen Strasburg 21
  • NL ERA Leader- Clayton Kershaw 2.27
  • AL ERA Leader- Justin Verlander 2.67
  • AL Innings Leader- Justin Verlander 218
  • NL Innings Leader- Max Scherzer 214

With the individual picks in, the big stuff- who’s going to win this year? I’ll work backwards:

  • World Series- Cubs over the Astros in 6.
  • NLCS- Cubs over the Dodgers in 7.
  • ALCS- Astros over the Indians in 7.
  • NLDS- Cubs over the Rockies in 4. Dodgers over the Nationals in 5.
  • ALDS- Astros over the Yankees in 4. Indians over the Red Sox in 5.
  • NL Wild Card- Rockies over the Brewers.
  • AL Wild Card- Yankees over the Twins.

NL East:

  1. Washington Nationals
  2. Philadelphia Phillies
  3. New York Mets
  4. Atlanta Braves
  5. Miami Marlins

NL Central:

  1. Chicago Cubs
  2. Milwaukee Brewers
  3. St. Louis Cardinals
  4. Pittsburgh Pirates
  5. Cincinnati Reds

NL West:

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers
  2. Colorado Rockies
  3. Arizona Diamondbacks
  4. San Francisco Giants
  5. San Diego Padres

AL East:

  1. Boston Red Sox
  2. New York Yankees
  3. Baltimore Orioles
  4. Tampa Bay Rays
  5. Toronto Blue Jays

AL Central:

  1. Cleveland Indians
  2. Minnesota Twins
  3. Chicago White Sox
  4. Detroit Tigers
  5. Kansas City Royals

AL West:

  1. Houston Astros
  2. Seattle Mariners
  3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
  4. Oakland Athletics
  5. Texas Rangers

Dear @MLB: Impeach Rob Manfred for his “Pace of Play” Initiatives

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I don’t go to baseball games to see how fast they can be finished. No one does, really. I spend thousands of dollars going to 40 some professional games a year, and I do so because I enjoy it. I enjoy being outside. I enjoy the thinking aspect of the game. I enjoy the game itself. Yes, a game lasts three hours. It’s not a game that lends itself to instant gratification. It’s a game that takes time, requires thought, and generally lends itself to the strategically inclined. It’s a game of inches, adjustments, and patience. Baseball fans like all of this stuff. They also enjoy kicking back in their seat, with a cold beer in their hand, and watching the game. It’s what we pay for.

Apparently Commissioner Rob Manfred doesn’t think that’s the case, or more likely, takes us for granted. In his efforts to bring more marginal fans into the stadiums and watching the TV’s, Manfred is hellbent of making baseball more timely. He thinks baseball needs to improve it’s pace of play to be more interesting. He thinks that baseball can somehow emulate the pace of play in other sports, sports like the NBA that are basically built for constant action. What he thinks is basically incorrect.

Manfred’s latest brilliant idea, limiting the number of mound visits a catcher can make, is idiotic. He has floated equally silly ideas about how many pitching changes a team can make in an inning, and putting a base-runner at second base to start innings during extra-inning games. The goal? Less stoppages. More action. A faster game. He thinks this will bring more fans to the sport in 2018. He essentially is saying society is too ADHD for baseball.

The NFL would serve as a good model for why Manfred’s plans are doomed from the start. The NFL’s best efforts to appeal to the casual fan in recent years have left them with egg on their face. From their attempts to have it both ways on national anthem kneeling, to their attempts to “get tough” on off field behavior, to their feeble attempts at addressing head injuries, to their completely inept inability to define what a catch is, the NFL’s attempts at change have left them actually with lower ratings than ever before. Is this because their efforts to protect their players and combat domestic violence were wrong? Of course not. It’s because these attempts at doing the right thing, at changing a league’s identity, are not going to bring new people into the game, by and large. You do that through enhancing the experience for fans in attendance, and creating more compelling television for the fan watching at home. One could simply look at the NBA’s recent success with these things and see that.

People who don’t watch baseball now are not likely to start watching baseball because you speed up the game. People who find baseball boring aren’t going to come over because of rule changes. They’re going to come over because the game is compelling TV. You have a game that is going global, who has compelling stars like Jose Altuve, Clayton Kershaw, and Giancarlo Stanton, and an in-game experience for the fans at the game that is enjoyable and relaxing. Changing the identity of the game to chase people who don’t like baseball now is going to leave Rob Manfred every bit as unpopular with the fans as Roger Goodell is with NFL fans. It’s also not going to work- kind of like the NFL’s recent decisions haven’t. Market what we love, don’t chase people who don’t. That’s the formula for success, and Manfred should understand that or get lost.