Baseball Needs Free-Agent Signing Deadline
PLUS: NEW VETERANS COMMITTEE FAILS, PICKS JUST ONE NEW MEMBER
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Seattle should be well-positioned to contend in the AL West after topping the entire American League in ERA. Though strong at three of the four up-the-middle positions with catcher Cal Raleigh, shortstop J.P. Crawford, and center fielder Julio Rodriguez, the team has parted ways with four of its most productive (but most expensive) hitters and is operating like a small-market franchise even though it ranked 10th in 2023 attendance . . .
Speaking of the AL West, the Athletics are keeping their name and their green-and-gold colors even though they’re moving to Las Vegas . . .
CC Sabathia, a future Hall of Famer himself, will pitch an inning of the upcoming East/West game scheduled for Cooperstown’s Doubleday Field on Memorial Day Weekend — even though his burned-out shoulder shortened his career prematurely . . .
Sabathia, Dave Stewart, and Josh Barfield are on the advisory board for the forthcoming new Hall of Fame exhibit highlighted black baseball history . . .
Brian Snitker says Jarred Kelenic’s potential will emerge because he’s now part of a Braves group with a winning pedigree . . .
Atlanta will be seeking its seventh straight division crown, the longest active streak in the majors.
Baseball Desperately Needs To Impose Free Agents Signing Deadline
By Dan Schlossberg
Enough is enough!
Why bother staging the Baseball Winter Meetings, setting up the fans for a frenzy of hot moves in cold weather, when absolutely nothing happens?
Even with all 30 managers, general managers, and owners under the roof of Nashville’s glass-domed Opryland Hotel, little happened beyond rumors. In fact, more teams denied rumors than acknowledged them.
Only a handful of trades went down, with little between the Jarred Kelenic swap that started the week and the Juan Soto deal that closed it. And none of the upper echelon of free agents signed at all. That’s right: none.
Aside from Jim Leyland’s election to the Baseball Hall of Fame, plus the museum’s announcement about resurrecting the East/West Game with a spring exhibit on black baseball, precious little went down. Maybe the baseball people were preoccupied with country music concerts and honky-tonks.
As Christopher (Mad Dog) Rizzo and sidekick Alanna Rizzo agreed on High Heat Thursday, Major League Baseball desperately needs to create a signing deadline — something football, basketball, and hockey already have.
Because the other three sports have salary caps, their free-agent signing seasons are short but spectacular (stealing the Seinfeld line “they’re real and they’re spectacular”).
That makes the other sports, at least in this instance, better than baseball, where signing season is long and boring — even to ardent fans.
This year, too many teams spent the meetings twiddling their thumbs, waiting for Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto to pick their teams for 2024.
By waiting, of course, both men created self-imposed bidding wars, running up their prices and aggravating the very fans they hope will purchase their hats, shirts, jackets, and baseball cards.
Thanks to super-agents like Scott Boras, who always has multiple players in the annual stockpile of free agents, the waiting game translates into a winning game — for him.
Boras invariably insists his players hold out until the last possible moment, which Bryce Harper did before signing a 13-year, $330 million deal with Philadelphia in March 2019, after spring training had already started.
But suppose a deadline — maybe the last day of the winter meetings — had been in place. Players would still have more than a month between the end of the World Series and the end of the meetings. That’s not enough to collect all possible offers and decide on the right one?
Baseball could enforce the winter meetings deadline the same way it enforces the mid-season deadline. Players and agents who miss it would be penalized, maybe not permitted to play until May 1 or June 1 of the following season.
Sure, the Players Association would object — and might even make it an issue for the next Collective Bargaining Agreement.
On the other hand, if the union can accept the ridiculous Manfred Man, also called the extra-inning “ghost runner,” it should be able to accept anything.
This year’s lackadaisical winter meetings proves the importance of adding a deadline.
Teams would not be able to horde their shekels, hoping Ohtani will choose them over six or seven other bidders, because even the most elite superstars of the game will be forced to decide their futures in December.
What a concept!
HtP weekend editor Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is organizing a spring book tour his forthcoming Home Run King: the Remarkable Record of Hank Aaron. E.mail Dan via email@example.com.
Eras Committee Strikes Out in Picking Only One New Inductee
By Dan Schlossberg
Proponents of a small Hall should be happy.
Jim Leyland was the only one of eight candidates from the Baseball Eras Committee vote on non-players after 1980 chosen for the Class of 2024.
Lou Piniella missed by one vote for the second time, while fellow world championship pilots Davey Johnson and Cito Gaston were basically left at the starting gate.
Umpires Joe West and Ed Montague probably split their vote, while long-time executives Hank Peters and Bill White couldn’t muster enough votes either.
This column has long insisted that the Cooperstown voting process — by both the reconstituted Veterans Committee and by the Baseball Writers Association of America — needs drastic overhaul.
Too many good people are bypassed year after year.
We’ll see what happens when the writers’ vote is announced late next month but the likely outcome is certainly less than a handful: Adrián Beltré as a first-timer, possibly Joe Mauer as well, and Todd Helton as the only holdover virtually certain to win approval, even though it’s the last chance for Gary Sheffield and his 509 home runs.
Carlos Beltrán, Andruw Jones, and maybe even the controversial Alex Rodriguez may improve their percentages and Billy Wagner could approach but not reach the magic 75 per cent.
Aye, there’s the rub: it’s just too difficult to attain that percentage when so many voters don’t fill out their ballots completely. If somebody turns in a blank ballot in protest of Pete Rose still sitting on the sidelines, the whole system collapses like a house of cards.
Ballots have 10 spaces because writers are supposed to fill them. Not because they favor election of all 10 candidates but because those 10 names are their priorities.
That would make it so much easier for several candidates to clear the bar and reach the sunny fields of the Clark Sports Center next July.
Personally speaking, I thought the new off-shoot of the old Veterans Committee would do better. Instead, it duplicated the sorry performance of last winter, when the committee considering players elected Fred McGriff but bypassed such deserving candidates as Dale Murphy and Don Mattingly.
Then the writers elected Scott Rolen, doubling the Class of 2023 to two and killing the usual Induction Weekend crowds.
The year before, the writers again picked only one: David (Big Papi) Ortiz.
Something — anything — needs to be done to break up the constipation of the process. At least that’s how it looks from here.
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is a strong advocate of a big Hall. Disagree? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Just keep it clean.
Even though the Texas Rangers have reached the World Series only once since 2011, their three-year-old Globe Life Field has hosted the Fall Classic twice — first in the virus-shortened 2020 series when MLB sought a neutral site . . .
Unheralded Tampa Bay reliever Robert Stephenson (2.35 ERA, 14.1 Ks per 9 innings) is attracting considerable attention on the free agent market . . .
Free agent lefty Will Smith has been with each of the last three world champions . . .
Marcus Stroman’s 8.29 ERA over his last 11 games is discouraging teams from signing the right-handed starter . . .
If the Phillies sign free-agent catcher Austin Nola as a backup to All-Star backstop J.T. Realmuto, they could have a brother battery whenever Aaron Nola pitches . . .
With Larvell (Sugar Bear) Blanks long retired, the best name in baseball could very well be Rowdy Tellez, the free agent first baseman . . .
When the Brooklyn Dodgers trained in Havana during the spring of 1947, fans paid little attention because they were focused on Cuban Winter League playoffs between the Havana Reds and Almendares Blues.
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HERE’S THE PITCH is published daily except Sundays and holidays. Benjamin Chase [email@example.com] handles Monday and Tuesday editions, Elizabeth Muratore [firstname.lastname@example.org] does Wednesday and Thursday, and Dan Schlossberg [email@example.com] edits the weekend editions on Friday and Saturday. Readers are encouraged to contribute comments, articles, and letters to the editor. HTP reserves the right to edit for brevity, clarity, and good taste.