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Buster Olney’s top 10 teams — Yankees, Dodgers have some competition

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Mike Trout, the player with the most significant contract in baseball, does not play for the Dodgers. Neither does Bryce Harper, who has the second-biggest contract, nor Giancarlo Stanton, Gerrit Cole, Manny Machado, Nolan Arenado, Albert Pujols, Stephen Strasburg, Anthony Rendon, etc., etc. In fact, the biggest financial obligation that the Dodgers have with any individual player is $46.6 million, owed to Clayton Kershaw for 2020 and 2021.

The Dodgers haven’t and won’t announce the details of Andrew Friedman’s newly signed contract, but based on his last deal and industry precedent, it’s likely that the Dodgers owe more money, as of this morning, to their head of baseball operations than to anybody in uniform.

But it would be misleading to say the Dodgers haven’t spent big money, or aren’t going to spend. Since Frank McCourt agreed to sell the franchise to the group headed by Guggenheim, L.A. has consistently had one of the largest — if not the largest — payrolls in the majors.

2013: $220 million (2nd)
2014: $209 million (1st)
2015: $272 million (1st)
2016: $254 million (1st)
2017: $226 million (1st)
2018: $191 million (3rd)
2019: $197 million (4th)

The Dodgers’ investments have paid off, with seven consecutive National League West championships and an average of about 96 wins — over 1,000 games of dominance. Their average margin in winning the West has been about nine games, and if you ask a lot of evaluators with other teams, they will tell you that the Dodgers have the best players, by far, and the most efficient organization.

But as every Dodgers fan and every Dodgers player is well aware, the team still hangs on the memory of Kirk Gibson’s miracle home run in 1988 because L.A. hasn’t won the World Series since. Just one championship would change the perception of what the Dodgers have accomplished since Friedman took over, and they’ve come so very close — falling in Game 7 of the 2017 World Series to the Astros, who will soon be hammered with penalties for illicit sign stealing, and losing to the Red Sox in ’18. They began the NL playoffs last fall as the favorites, but were beaten by the eventual champion Nationals in the divisional round.

They’ve worked to find the finishing pieces, whether it be the addition of the best available starting pitcher in the 2017 summer market (Yu Darvish) or the best position player before the 2018 trade deadline (Manny Machado).

The perception of a lot of Dodgers fans is that they haven’t gone all-in. Bill Plaschke wrote about this the other day, and spoke with club president Stan Kasten about it, and the biggest reason for that feeling is that under Friedman, they haven’t grabbed one of the mega-contract players. The most expensive players have landed elsewhere.

And you know what? That’s been a good thing for the Dodgers.

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Astros’ Josh Reddick — Death-threat messages also target kids

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Houston Astros players have gotten threats “every day” since the team’s 2017-18 sign-stealing scheme came to light in recent weeks, according to outfielder Josh Reddick, who said Friday that messages he’s received also targeted his family.

“You just see the first things in your suggested box and it just says, ‘I will kill your family. I will kill your kids. Blah blah blah,'” Reddick said. “It’s depressing to read because it’s over a game of baseball. It’s not worth that kind of drastic measure.”

Reddick, who did not take part in the trash-can banging scheme, said the threats he has received so far were limited only to social media. He spoke about his experiences one day after former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers, who revealed to The Athletic in November that the Astros were stealing signs in violation of MLB rules, said he had received death threats.

As he enters his 12th major league season and fourth with the Astros, Reddick said he expects to hear more from fans about the issue both on and off the field, to the point where he thinks “it could be very dangerous outside of the ballpark to even bring your family.”

“There are ways to add security to a lot of places on the road whether it be in our hotels, on the way to the field,” he said. “At the field, obviously, being a lot more hostile environment. Be a little crazier. I think, also, at the hotels because you see a lot of people line up at our hotels. They know where we stay, they know what times we usually go to the ballpark. And what time we get back.

“For me, myself having almost 5-month-old boys, it is going to be pretty scary because my wife is going to go want to come on a lot of road trips just because wanting to have my help in raising them and do our parenting thing. So it is definitely something you can think about every night.”

Astros players won’t necessarily be safe when the games begin, as pitchers such as the Cleveland IndiansMike Clevinger and the Los Angeles DodgersRoss Stripling have hinted at the possibility of throwing at Houston batters.

Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout this week joined a long list of players who have been critical of the Astros’ actions, saying he “lost some respect for some guys.” Reddick said he didn’t believe condemnation from opponents was adding fuel to the online threats, but he said he would like to see a more unified front in light of the messages.

“I think the best situation for us is to have our families be safe and ourselves be safe,” Reddick said. “But yeah, I think player unity is going to be a big thing. Especially with the way things are going now and way things will be in a couple of years to renegotiate stuff. I think that is one way the players need to get united. I think the more we are one on the same page and united it is going to be better for the whole game. It may take time the way this thing is being handled right now. I think ultimately the family safety is a big issue right now.”

For now, Reddick said his plan to deal with the most egregious messages is largely to “just avoid clicking on it,” but he still gets angry when he sees people threatening his children.

“I put a post of my kid rolling over for the first time and I gotta look down there and see ‘I hope your kid gets cancer,'” Reddick said. “It makes you really want to see that person in person. Really makes you want to go up to him and see what they would do if you put your face to their face and really get a little bit of retribution for yourself. Pisses you off.”

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The Phillie Phanatic has gotten a spring training makeover

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One big rumor circulating around spring training camp this week: The Phanatic — the Philadelphia Phillies‘ green and furry mascot — may be getting a new look. While the details won’t be revealed until Sunday when the team hosts the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Phillies’ spring home opener at Spectrum Field, a few (very small) details have emerged: It seems the mascot may have new shoes and socks — and may be either thinner, wider, taller or shorter. Ooh, the mystery!

While lots of players changed teams during the winter, and new-look uniforms have been released for many teams — this is the very first mascot change we’ve heard about.



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Teams close with 7-5 edge in arbitration as Diamondbacks’ Archie Bradley wins final case

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PHOENIX — Arizona Diamondbacks reliever Archie Bradley won the final salary arbitration case of the year, leaving teams with a 7-5 advantage over players.

Bradley, a 27-year right-hander, was given a raise from $1.83 million to $4.1 million Friday by arbitrators Andrew Strongin, Steven Wolf and Jules Bloch. The Diamondbacks had argued for $3,625,000.

Bradley was 4-5 with a 3.52 ERA in 65 relief appearances and one start last year. He struck out 87 and walked 36 in 71 2/3 innings.

Teams won six of the first seven decisions, and players won four of the last five. Teams have had a winning record in four of the past five years, the exception a 12-10 margin for players in 2019.

A relatively small percentage of players went to hearings among the 162 who were eligible after teams offered contracts on Dec. 2. Just 20 players exchanged proposed salaries with their clubs on Jan. 10, and nearly half of them wound up with agreements.

Clubs defeated Philadelphia Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto, Boston Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez, Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson, Minnesota Twins pitcher Jose Berrios, Milwaukee Brewers closer Josh Hader, Atlanta Braves reliever Shane Greene and Colorado Rockies catcher Tony Wolters.

Winning players included Dodgers reliever Pedro Baez, Houston Astros infielder Aledmys Diaz, Miami Marlins first baseman Jesus Aguilar and Los Angeles Angels outfielder Brian Goodwin.

Phillies reliever Hector Neris agreed Thursday night to a one-year, $4.6 million deal, avoiding a hearing. His deal includes a $7 million team option for 2021 with no buyout. Neris can earn an additional $1.2 million this year in performance bonuses for games finished: $50,000 each for 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 and 35; $100,000 apiece for 40, 45 and 50; and $200,000 each for 55, 60 and 63.

Neris was Philadelphia’s most reliable reliever last year, leading the team with a career-high 28 saves in 34 chances. He had a 2.93 ERA with 89 strikeouts in 67 2/3 innings, earning $1.8 million.

He is 67-for-83 in save opportunities in his career.

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