I’m not sure what caused the spending spree in the baseball free-agent marketplace this past week, but I’m reasonably sure it was more than anxiety about the next collective bargaining agreement. The conspiracy theorist in me keeps coming back to something said more than 50 years ago, a time when all the major sports leagues were going through various stages of growing pains.
“The one thing players have going for them,” a very sage observer said, “is the fact that owners don’t trust themselves.”
That’s probably as true today as it was then, and in this particular case it’s safe to say the owners have company — because the players for sure don’t trust them, either.
So, with a self-imposed deadline for negotiations looming, and players more than anxious to make a deal, a handful of owners decided to make “Giving Tuesday” a weeklong venture.
Mets owner Steve Cohen, generally recognized as the richest owner in baseball, if not all sports, played the part, spending money like the proverbial drunken sailor, $140 million for some bit parts and then nearly doubling down that much for Max Scherzer ($130 million).
The Rangers acted like A-Rod was coming to town again in signing Corey Seager for 10 years and Marcus Semien for seven. The Tigers (Eduardo Rodríguez), Mariners (Robbie Ray) and Blue Jays (Kevin Gausman) were unlikely participants while some of the usual big spenders, the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers were nowhere to be found — yet.
Even Tampa Bay got into the act, and it says here the Rays made the best deal of all — signing Wander Franco for 11 years, which means they get the best three, four or five years and then have a huge bargaining chip when the contract gets too expensive.
In the meantime, nobody really knows what the playing/paying conditions would be like going forward. Stay tuned.
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Quickee quiz and no cheating: Jon Lester is baseball’s most recent 200-game winner, who is the most recent (and very possibly the last) 300-game winner? The answer is at the bottom of the column.
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In today’s game no pitcher is worth $130 million throughout three years, but I will concede this much to Cohen and the Mets — if you’re going to hang your hat on one arm out there, it’s the right one belonging to Scherzer.
Here’s what is really intriguing about the Mets’ starting rotation, which now has a pair of pitchers who have won five Cy Young awards. Some will tell you they already had the best pitcher in the game in Jacob deGrom, unquestionably the master of a game’s first six innings.
It will be interesting to see if the addition of Scherzer, who relinquishes the ball with the enthusiasm of an agitated bulldog, will have on the Mets’ pitching philosophy. “Mad Max” didn’t take too kindly when Dave Roberts came to the mound during his short stint with the Dodgers.
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Like many others, I found myself caught up in a lot of the Division I football rivalry games last week … lots of good stuff. Funny how nobody seems to complain much when these games often close in on the four-hour mark like we tend to do for World Series games.
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On that note, watching Gonzaga (No. 1 at the time) and Duke (No. 5) square off was an early treat on the early basketball scene, with reputedly the two top players in the country squaring off against each other.
The problem is both are freshmen. Between the “one and done” craze and the transfer portal, college hoops has become borderline unwatchable to these eyes.
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Just a wild guess here, but I’m thinking Carlos Correa wasn’t counting on a courtship with the Yankees when he casually observed that Derek Jeter didn’t deserve those “Gold Gloves” he won when the free-agent shortstop was in middle school.
People tend to rate shortstops strictly by their perceived range, or lack thereof, and Jeter did fall into that category. A better way to gauge would be to follow the advice Earl Weaver gave Cal Ripken, who fit into the same mold as Jeter: “Catch the ball and throw it straight.”
The rest is gingerbread.
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Happy to note that the NFL has caught up to MLB in one regard — letting teams trade away players while continuing to pay their salary. You would think the two draft choices Rams gave up for Von Miller would be a decent deal, right?
But just in case, the Broncos sent along $9 million to cover Miller’s salary. Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred could explain how that works to his NFL counterpart, Roger Goodell. Major League Baseball for some reason has been allowing that brand of economics for a long time.
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I had this line I forgot to use after the National League Championship Series: The Dodgers ran out of openers, while the Braves had enough starters. I know, ugh.
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Who else remembers when your team’s primary radio/TV sponsor was your dad’s favorite beer? (I’m raising my hand.)
Now it’s his favorite gambling site. Who wudda thunk it?
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I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to move past the Astros and garbage cans. It’s not like there’s never been cheating in baseball — or any other sport — if it was legal and you could get away with it.
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Quiz answer: Randy Johnson, who won his 300th game in 2009.
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox
Jim Henneman can be reached at JimH@pressboxonline.com