We’re inching closer to opening day, but plenty of spring notes remain such as: a mini soap opera between commissioner and agent, nostalgia in full force, the current disparity between MLB’s two LA franchises, and even a personal tale.
It’s all right here, just waiting for you.
As MLB Turns
Many of us are aware of the Kris Bryant situation currently playing itself out within the Chicago Cubs organization. For those who are not, here’s the gist: the Cubs are most likely to keep Bryant in the minors, despite his white-hot spring, when the season begins for a couple of weeks before calling him up. That allows them to have one more year of control than if he started opening day on the MLB roster.
With the rules in place between MLB and the MLBPA, this is an easy decision for every team in the league. From a business standpoint, why wouldn’t you play it that way? Of course, Bryant’s agent—none other than super agent Scott Boras—wasn’t happy about it, and has slammed the Cubs publicly for damaging “MLB’s integrity and brand.”
No Scotty B, MLB does a fine job of that on its own. It’s business, Boras. Being the businessman you are, you should understand this far better than probably every other agent in the league. Oh, but it doesn’t end there, as commissioner Rob Manfred entered the fray on Friday. “I don’t think the Cubs’ decision with respect to what’s going to happen with Kris Bryant is really any of Mr. Boras’ business,” he said.
At the end of the day, Bryant is Boras’ client so anything that involves Bryant is his business, but that’s not the point. Obviously Boras is being Boras, and no matter what he does the outcome will remain the same: in all likelihood, Bryant will begin the season on a minor league roster. Joel Sherman of the New York Post would like everyone involved in this to just “shut up,” but I’ve got a better idea.
With Wrestlemania tonight, why not entertain the idea of a triple threat cage match between Manfred, Boras, and the President of Baseball Operations for the Cubs, Theo Epstein. No? Fine. Well if you prefer the shut up method, how about the spoken word over the written word?
It’s still real to me, damn it.
Nostalgia, Thy Name is Zito
He’s 36 years old, he didn’t make a major league appearance last season, and he was really, really bad in his seven seasons with the San Francisco Giants from 2007–13. So why would Oakland Athletics fans want him to make the starting rotation this season? Sweet, savory nostalgia, baby.
Just don’t count on it actually happening. He’s had a solid spring, posting a 2.30 ERA over 15 innings of work, only walking four batters and notching a save in the process. But let’s not pretend that what Zito is doing now will end up being what Zito does when the real games begin. In his seven seasons with the Giants, he didn’t have one season where his ERA or FIP was under 4.00. He’s always walked way more batters than starters should, as indicated by his career 9.7 percent walk rate. With a career strikeout rate of under 18 percent, that doesn’t stack up too well.
Look, I love Zito and the early days of his career with the Athletics were wonderful. If he can stick around to pitch well out of the bullpen this coming season, that’s one thing. But if fans want him to start games on a regular basis in 2015, I’m not too sure they want to win.
Olivera Reaches His Destination
The saga has finally ended, friends, and it couldn’t have been more anti-climactic. Earlier this week, 29-year-old Héctor Olivera signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers to the tune of $62.5 million over six years. The deal includes a signing bonus of $28 million.
Not only does the signing end such a strange offseason journey for Olivera, it also brought to light the fact that fellow teammate Yasiel Puig learned from the same hitting coach growing up as the Dodgers’ new infielder did: Olivera’s father. During the week, Puig spoke on a few things with the focus primarily on LA’s newest acquisition. Translated from Spanish, some of the answers read: “His father was my hitting coach. He was a tremendous influence on me. You can see why his son can hit too.”
Strong bonds like these can only be good for a ball club as we approach the regular season, but that’s not all the Olivera signing has done. The Dodgers, one year after snapping the New York Yankee’s streak of having the highest opening day payroll, they’re set to significantly increase upon their mark of $235 million from last season. As of this posting, their payroll sits just north of $262 million. How does that make you feel?
Pride Takes a Hit
This is the cycle: player becomes a star, stagnates, and then fades. For C.J. Wilson and Josh Hamilton (and no, this has nothing do to with his relapse), that time has come. On Thursday the Los Angeles Angels tweeted out a photo of their entrance:
— Angels (@Angels) March 26, 2015
The banners included three players that were there a season ago in Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and Jered Weaver, but added Garrett Richards, Erick Aybar, and Huston Street. Gone are the banners of Wilson and Hamilton, along with their “face(s) of the franchise” moniker. When reached for comment, the pitcher suggested, “It’s the big leagues. You lose 10 or 11 games, you’re not going to be the face of a franchise. It’s fine.”
Perhaps it is, but we all usually have a good idea of what the f-word means in this instance. Disappointment would be a normal reaction, and if that’s what Wilson is feeling, then so be it. He’s human, and he can feel however he chooses. The Angels will hope Wilson can rediscover the form that made the organization spend so much money on him in the first place, while the verdict for Hamilton is still to be determined.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference and Fangraphs.