The Week That Was in Baseball: March 3-9, 2014
Scott Boras: Baseball’s Next Commissioner? • Ian Kinsler’s Rangers Rant
Will Minor Leaguers Take Down MLB’s Antitrust Exemption? • R.I.P. Frank Jobe
The Case For Mr. Boras
About a year ago, we listed ten people we felt were high-profile candidates to be baseball’s next commissioner. Then it hit us this past week that we left someone out who could emerge as Major League Baseball’s smartest option: Super-agent Scott Boras.
Mention “commissioner” and “Boras” in the same sentence to any team owner, and you’re likely to get a painful squinting of the eyes and gnashing of the teeth in response. To many of the Lords, Boras is the something of the devil, one who has used impressive negotiating tactics to squeeze teams out of big-time money for his clients—many of whom never lived up to the expectations of their contracts.
But the owners should consider putting their war wounds aside and giving some thought to Boras. He has savvy business and legal instincts, qualities that are essential to successfully run the commissioner’s office; his negotiating skills will help generate plentiful revenue for MLB, especially in the area of broadcast rights; and he has a great sense for how the game and its business works, having once played and having dealt with every team owner as an agent.
Boras’ bravado will make him a powerful figurehead in baseball—certainly far more than Rob Manfred, who is looking more and more to be the default choice as Bud Selig’s heir apparent. But that ego could also work against him; many of the owners have felt ripped off by Boras at one point or another, and such emotions don’t dissipate quickly; besides, they all want a lap dog, a yes man who does with that say. Do you think Roger Goodell earned $44 million as NFL commissioner last year based on what he thought? No, he earned it by doing the owners’ bidding. Baseball likely wants someone similar. In that regard, Manfred is ideal for the job.
And still, the owners should consider Boras. He is persuasive and full of ideas, even if they are sometimes off the charts from a baseball perspective (such as his idea to make the World Series an extended party held at a neutral site, a la the Super Bowl). There’s also this: If you make him the commissioner, you’ll get him off the streets as a player agent. And that alone may be worth it to the Lords.
So When's That First Tigers-Rangers Game?
Now a member of the Detroit Tigers, Ian Kinsler apparently is free to say what’s on his mind about his former team and general manager, The Texas Rangers and Jon Daniels. And what was on his mind? “I hope they go 0-162,” Kinsler told ESPN the Magazine about the 2014 Rangers. “I got (Rangers players who are my) friends, and I love my friends, but I hope they lose their ass.” If that wasn’t bad enough, he had even tougher words for Daniels, calling him a “sleazeball” who “got in good with the owners and straight pushed (Nolan) Ryan out,” referring to the power struggle that left the Hall-of-Fame pitcher and Texas CEO out of a job in Arlington after helping to build the Rangers into back-to-back AL champions in 2010-11. Daniels also got low marks from Kinsler after he asked the veteran second baseman to move to first to accommodate hotshot infielding prospect Jurickson Profar (Kinsler declined) and for being practically the last guy to tell him he’d been traded to the Tigers. Daniels claims he couldn’t reach Kinsler because he was on a flight. (Note to Daniels: Next time, pay the $10 for the in-flight Wi-Fi.)
Daniels has been at the center of much of the Rangers’ tabloid news over the past few years; besides this and the standoff with Ryan (now consulting for the Houston Astros), he’s also remembered for having Michael Young storm out on him at a restaurant when the long-time Rangers star was asked to move from shortstop to third to make room for another promising yet untested prospect (Elvis Andrus). When Daniels moved Young again in 2012—this time, to Philadelphia—it enraged Kinsler, who felt Young “held everything together” in the Texas clubhouse.
In response, Daniels gave a safe and cordial reply to Kinsler‘s comments, stating: “He was a key member of the best teams in the history of the franchise. He's entitled to his opinion.” And Kinsler also took some refuge from his own comments, playing the “taken out of context” card. To which we ask: How does “sleazeball” get taken out of context?
Speaking of Sleazeballs…
If you’re viewing this page through something other than thisgreatgame.com, you’ve been duped. That’s because some losers in Arizona recently decided that it was a good idea to copy all of This Great Game to their own web site. Maybe they’re jealous, but they’re definitely in trouble. Multiple hosting sources and legal eagles are on this. Note to the copycats: We’ll take your copy-and-paste move as a compliment—but otherwise, goodbye and good riddance very soon to you.
A Major Minor Deal
Major League Baseball has withstood challenge after challenge to its cherished antitrust exemption, most recently from San Jose—which unsuccessfully tried to convince the courts that MLB had illegally interfered with the Oakland A’s attempted move to its city.
But now MLB has to legally defend the exemption from an unexpected direction: Minor leaguers.
Three former minor leaguers recently sued MLB for essentially continuing a reserve clause-like protocol in the minors that leaves the majority of such players without signing bonuses to earn wages even lower than those of fast food workers. Baseball will probably respond by stating that the players chose this profession and profit from it in the long run should they make it to the majors (though some nine out of ten minor leaguers never do), receive per diem pay for meals and are more likely to get free room and board from “hosting families” than, say, a cub reporter might.
The suit took on a bigger life this past week when the number of plaintiffs dramatically increased from the original three names, essentially steering the case toward class action territory.
In our recent discussion about life in baseball without an antitrust exemption, the one area you would see the biggest change would lie in the minors. It is theorized that the farm system concept would become an endangered species, with minor league teams more likely to become independent—in turn, minor leaguers would become free agents of sorts, as opposed to the seven years they are currently locked in by an major league organization from the moment they’re selected in the amateur draft (which, oh, by the way, would also become threatened).
It will be interesting to see how much legs this suit has, and whether it will reach a point of intensity before MLB decides to negotiate a deal to keep its holy exemption.
Closing the Book of Jobe
In our Lists section, we feature baseball’s ten most influential people. Frank Jobe, who passed away this past week at age 88, is not on the list—but it could be argued that he belongs. He’d certainly make a Top 20.
Some of you may be asking: Who is Jobe? He is none other than the father of ligament replacement surgery—or as it is better known in the sports world, Tommy John surgery, named after its first patient back in 1974.
John, pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers at age 31, was off to an excellent start with a 13-3 record and 2.59 ERA in 22 starts. He was easily on pace for 20 wins and, very possibly, the National League’s Cy Young Award. Then, suddenly, his arm went dead; he couldn’t pitch, and when he attempted the traditional recovery of icing and rest, it didn’t work. He put his faith in Jobe, at the time the Dodgers’ surgeon, to perform ligament replacement that had never been done on an elbow. The recovery was long, but it was worth the wait; John returned in 1976 and pitched 14 more years, winning 164 more games with 20-plus victories in a season three times.
In our They Were There interview with John, the 288-game winner said of the procedure: “It should be called Dr. Jobe surgery, to be completely honest.” But it’s not, and his name is forever linked with a procedure that nearly a third of current major league pitchers have undergone, many from doctors who learned the process from Jobe himself.
Tomorrow’s Game, Today
It was a sequence that, all by itself, was worth the price of admission for those who entered the gates to watch the Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim square off at a Cactus League exhibition on Thursday: One superstar (the Angels’ Mike Trout) was thrown out on a very close play at the plate while attempting to score an inside-the-park home run when he was defensively nailed, in large part, by a superstar-in-the-making (the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig).
At that point, it wasn’t a done deal. Angels manager Mike Scioscia came out and wanted a video review—but not for the reason you would have thought. Rather than suggest that Trout beat the throw home, he asked the umpires to review under the revised home plate collision rules, an odd choice given that Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis clearly did not get in Trout’s way. (Either way, the call was upheld.)
By the way: The linked story says that the review lasted one minute and 12 seconds. Wrong. From the time Scioscia came out to lobby for a review to the time it was complete, there actually was about two and a half minutes of dead time—roughly the same time as numerous other video reviews in spring training this week. This Great Game’s video review method would have settled it in less than a minute, with the same result. Just saying.
Like it or Not, It’s Here to Stay
The future has spoken, and it’s not kind to baseball. In an ESPN poll released this past week, kids in the 12-to-17 age bracket said they has as much interest in Major League Soccer as they do in Major League Baseball. In fact, of all the major pro sports as well as college football and basketball, only the National Hockey League ranks lower in overall interest within this age group. That MLB is on a par with a league that didn’t even exist when Bud Selig commandeered the commissionership in 1992 is just one more sign that MLB’s marketing magicians need to whip up some potent potions, and fast.
Oh, It’s Just the Marlins
The Miami Marlins were reportedly upset that the Boston Red Sox came over for a spring game this past Thursday with virtually all of their regular starters left behind; perhaps the world champion Red Sox felt they needed to lower their talent level to match that of the Marlins (62-100 last season) on their best day. Apparently they were right; the game ended in a rain-shortened 0-0 tie. And although Boston GM Ben Cherington publicly apologized to the Marlins, owner John Henry took a shot at Miami counterpart Jeffrey Loria a few days later by tweeting: “They should apologize for their regular season lineup.”
A Perfect Combination
Javi Salas threw a perfect game for the University of Miami this past week—but what made the moment even sweeter was that his younger brother, Jorge Salas, called the play-by-play for the student radio station.
Tweet of the Week
Can someone please fire the intern?
So you’re nuts about baseball and travel to virtually every MLB ballpark, loading up on collectables, signatures and other worthy items along the way. Then one day you come home and find everything’s gone. The rough irony in the preceding true story for 27-year-old New York resident Nilay Shroff is that his apartment wasn’t burglarized; instead, it became a case of mistaken identity when a “trash removal service” asked to clean out a nearby apartment accidentally cleared Shroff’s by accident. (By the way, it wasn’t just the memorabilia he lost; he also lost seven suits valued at $1,300 each, a Kindle book reader and some very nice furniture.)
Shroff is suing his landlord, the property management company and the removal service for $40,000 in damages, but the question is: What did the removal service do with all those collectibles? Did they just trash it or is much of it lying low in one of these guys’ closets?
Wounded of the Week
Spring training is all about playing it safe and getting oneself into Opening Day shape, but even with all the precautions taken there’s always the risk of major injury. And those risks were exposed this past week with several major injuries.
San Diego outfielder Cameron Maybin, who missed all but 14 games last season and was counted on for a comeback presence to help boost the Padres’ fortunes, attempted a diving catch in Cactus League play and not only came up with the ball but a ruptured left biceps tendon. He will miss up to three months.
At Detroit camp, it was announced that outfielder Andy Dirks will also miss up to three months after undergoing back surgery to repair a disc that has bothered him since high school.
Finally, Kansas City pitcher Luke Hochevar—a former no. 1 pick and long-term bust for the Royals until last year, when he proved tough as nails in a relief role—will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the entire 2014 season.
He Said What?
“A different approach probably would’ve been better.”—Philadelphia Phillies president David Montgomery, looking back on the Phillies’ controversial decision to report two draft picks to the NCAA for using a paid agent after both decided to spurn the team and return to college.
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