Archive for March 2015

Looks Like the Houston Astros Were Right About Brady Aiken After All

March 27, 2015

Brady Aiken underwent Tommy John surgery yesterday, suggesting the Astros were right after all when they pulled their $6.5 million offer off the table last Summer.

The regressive nature of the Astros’ bargaining made the team look pretty bad last year, and I was one of the people to pile on.  However, the fact that Aiken blew out his elbow tendon without pitching even one professional inning is pretty compelling evidence that the Astros had legitimate concerns about the thickness of his elbow tendon.

Part of the problem is with the draft system.  Teams lose little by pulling offers after medical exams turn up something of concern, because they get a similar draft pick the next year (the Astros get the No. 2 pick in the 2015 Draft after not signing Aiken with the 1st overall pick in 2014).  Meanwhile, agents don’t make prospects available for physical examinations until after an offer is on the table, because what the teams don’t know increases the likely draft position of players like Aiken.

Aiken may yet be a future 1st round pick, but it’s certain he’ll never be a top-five pick again.  Jeff Hoffman went 9th overall last year after tearing his elbow tendon.  Hoffman, however, a college pitcher with a more proven track record than any pitcher tearing his elbow tendon coming out of high school.

A Dark Day for KBO Baseball Fans

March 25, 2015

South Korea’s KBO has announced new rules barring fans from bringing in their own beer and soju (South Korea’s most popular distilled spirit ranging anywhere from about 40 to 70 proof) into the ballparks.

While it’s certainly a dark day for KBO fans, it was more or less inevitable that KBO teams would eventually bar outside alcohol because captive-market priced alcohol is simply too big a revenue stream to let go by uncaptured, particularly when you can claim that your motivation is simply to reduce excessive drinking at the ballpark and the problems that come with it.

It’s also a sign that KBO is feeling its oats and is confident in its increased expansion.  When you’re trying to bring in every last fan you can, you let them bring in their own market-priced booze.  When you are confident the fans will come regardless, you ban outside booze and charge captive-market prices inside the park.

One day soon KBO fans will get to know the joys of $8 drafts and finding creative or not-so-creative ways to smuggle in their own affordably priced 200 ml bottles of the strong stuff.  Absent a pat-down, it’s just about impossible to catch the half-pints.

Soju is clear, which raises the interesting question whether team employees will be sniffing every plastic water bottle that fans try to bring into the stadia.  My guess is not.

Enough fans will follow the new rules and pay captive market prices, making it unwise to police every water bottle entering the stadium, because of the risk of offending paying customers.   Employees may, however, insist that only factory-sealed water bottles are allowed inside the park. If so, fall back on smuggling in the half-pints.

Los Angeles Dodgers to Sign Hector Olivera for the Big Money

March 25, 2015

The Dodgers and Hector Olivera have reached agreement on a six-year $62.5 million deal with a team option for a seventh season at $1 million if Olivera tears his elbow tendon during the first six seasons.  The deal is pending a physical, so there is still a chance the deal won’t go through.

If the deal does go through on these terms, I have to think it represents the end of major league teams signing veteran Cuban players for relative bargains.  Olivera turns 30 in early April, and he’s played only the equivalent of one full major league season over the last four years due to injuries and his defection from Cuba.

That just doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence, but he’s still going to be getting almost as much as Jose Abreu got a year ago when he was three years younger and a whole lot healthier than Olivera in the years immediately before defection.  The age alone means that this deal won’t be nearly as team-favorable as the Abreu or Yoenis Cespedis contracts.

Olivera may turn out to be worth the contract the Dodgers are reportedly prepared to pay him, but the odds seem really slim he’ll significantly outperform his salary.  At least the Dodgers can afford it, but as a Giants fan, I won’t be disappointed if this contract blows up in the Bums’ faces.

Chicago Cubs Better Bring Kris Bryant North

March 21, 2015

There is controversy brewing in Arizona regarding the Cubs’ intentions regarding where top prospect Kris Bryant will start the 2015 season.  If the Cubs don’t want savage their rep with young players and their agents, they should bring Bryant to Chicago with them when Spring Training ends.

Last September I wrote about my surprise that the Cubs didn’t promote Bryant to the majors after the AAA season ended.  The Cubs’ stated justification for this decision was that they didn’t want to overwork Bryant, who was coming off his first full season in professional baseball.  At the time, I thought that this reason sounded like BS, since Bryant had played in 98 college and professional games in 2013, the year before.  138 minor league games in 2014 really wasn’t that big of a step up.

Bryant is now leading all of MLB with six Spring Training home runs and has an OPS over 1.800 (granted, in only nine games).  Bryant isn’t just ready now — he was ready last September.

The only reason to send him back to AAA is so the Cubs can hold onto his rights for another season.  If the Cubs do so, everyone in baseball is going to know that’s why they sent him down.  Bryant is much better on both sides of the ball at this moment than anyone else the Cubs could play at 3B.  The sooner he reaches the majors, the sooner he’s going to learn to hit major league pitching, and the sooner the Cubs can build a winner.

I think it sends the wrong message to every player in a team’s system, if players don’t get promoted when they’ve proven to everyone they’re ready for the next level.  Sure, sometimes a youngster gets blocked by another youngster ahead of him whom the organization thinks is a better prospect because they drafted they drafted the latter prospect in the first round.  And sometimes a youngster gets blocked at the major league level by a high-priced veteran who can’t be moved without the team eating salary.

In Bryant’s case, there’s nothing between him and the Show, except management’s possible desire to hold his rights for another season.  That’s just not a good enough reason to keep Bryant in the minors at this point.

Sure Tired of Elbow Injuries

March 17, 2015

Every baseball fan must be on their last straw when it comes to elbow tendon injuries (pun intended).  Zack Wheeler will be undergoing the Tommy John knife soon, joining Yu Darvish as the most disappointing blown elbow tendons this Spring Training.

I don’t see the pitchers’ elbow blowouts diminishing any time soon.  Sliders are too important to modern pitching, and pitchers are steadily getting bigger, stronger and training hard at earlier ages in order to develop the skills necessary to become a ridiculously well paid major league pitcher.

Something’s got to give, and it’s not surprising that it’s ligaments and joints, which you can’t build up through diet and current training regimens.  During the Steroid Era — which is still around to a lesser, quieter extent — there was a lot of talk about the effect of muscling up on ligaments and tendons, which can’t be built up through a routine of steroids intake and strength conditioning.

Even without steroids, there are a whole lot of different things modern athletes can do to get bigger and stronger, generate more torque on their pitches and put increasing strain on the parts that can’t be strengthened by lifting weights.

Someone’s going to have to figure out what can be done to strengthen and increase flexibility to joints, ligaments and tendons.  The person who figures out how to do to these body parts what has been done to muscles (and patents the idea) will make a fortune (at least until his or her patent expires).

There has to be a way to do it.  It’s mostly just a matter of someone figuring out what it is that has to be done.  Until then (and after some trial and error), it’s going to enormous numbers of blown elbow tendons every year.