Archive for the ‘New York Yankees’ category

Milwaukee Brewers Decline Eric Thames’ $7.5 Million Option

November 5, 2019

In a move that caught my attention, the Brewers declined Eric Thames‘ $7.5 million option for 2020, instead electing to pay Thames a $1M buy-out.  In other words, it was a $6.5M decision, which is surprising only in that fangraphs valued Thames’ 2019 performance at $15.4M, his three year contribution under his current contract at $39.8M and never less than the $7.2M fangraphs says he was worth in 2018.

Of course, the Brewers could well value Thames’ contribution differently, and Thames will be going into his age 33 season in 2020.  Thames strikes out a lot, can’t hit lefties, and doesn’t have any defensive value.  He does, however, draw walks and hit for power, two skills that tend to age well.  The Brewers have also made the play-offs the last two seasons, presumably at least in part due to Thames’ contributions.  It’s strange that they would consider $6.5M too much for Thames’ services in 2020.

The Brewers have already made it known that they might be willing to take Thames back at a lower price than $6.5M.  Clearly, the team doesn’t seem to think anyone else will offer Thames a one-year $6.5M deal.  I, however, would be surprised if at least one team did not offer Thames at least $5M for 2020.  Jose Abreu will also be 33 in 2020 and hasn’t been significantly more productive the last two seasons than Thames, but baseball reference still predicts Abreu will get two years and $28M this off-season, not to mention the fact that the ChiSox have already made Abreu a $17.8M qualifying offer.  Further, baseball ref predicts that Edwin Encarnacion, going into his age 37 season, will get an $8M contract for 2020.

Paired up with a right-handed hitting slugger who pounds lefties, Thames would be a bargain at $5M.

For MLB as a whole, there is relatively little down-side for owners to non-tender players whom they might like to bring back at a lower price.  The Braves also rejected Julio Teheran’s $12M option in favor of a $1M buyout, but have suggested they might also be willing to re-sign Teheran at a lower price.  Given Teheran’s age and relative effectiveness in 2019, though, I’d be surprised if he does not get a two-year offer from someone else for significantly more than $11M.

The advantage to non-tendering players is that more players on the open market drives down their prices as a basic matter of supply and demand.  The more teams non-tender close calls like Thames and Teheran, the less teams will likely have to pay for them or their replacements.  The Brewers’ decision to non-tender Thames seems like clear evidence that the Brewers think this will be another tough off-season for free agents, because even one-dimensional players with .850 OPS numbers are hard to come by.

Although Milwaukee is a small market, the Brewers were 8th in attendance in 2019 and 10th in both 2017 and 2018, as they have fielded winning teams the last three seasons, again in some part due to Thames.  The fact that they see Thames as too great an investment at $6.5M suggests the Brewers know something about the current market for free agents that the general public doesn’t.

NPB Signings, Rumors and Speculations

November 3, 2019

We are in the phase of the MLB post-season, where teams are mainly designating marginal players for assignment and players and teams are deciding whether to exercise their option rights.  It’s not a tremendously exciting time for anyone but the individual players involved and the real hot stove league die-hards.

Aroldis Chapman exercised his opt-out right to squeeze another season (2022) and $18 million out of the New York Yankees, which seems entirely reasonable for the parties concerned.  It’s hard to imagine a Cuban player like Chapman wanting to leave NYC.

Stephen Strasburg has also opted out of the last four years and $100M with the Nats.  My guess is that he could well command six years at $150M going into his age 31 season.  We’ll see if the Nats are willing to pay that, or if another team steps in and ponies up the bucks.

The most recent two signings of former MLBers by Japanese teams are the Yakult Swallows signing former Kansas City Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar for a reported $800,000 for 2020 and the Hiroshima Toyo Carp signing former Padres and Phillies 2Bman Jose Pirela for a reported $600,000 plus another $250,000 in performance incentives.

Escobar spent most of 2019 at AAA Charlotte in the White Sox organization, until he was released on August 2nd, probably because Escobar was frustrated the Sox had’t promoted him to Chi as he had expected.  Escobar will 33 in 2020, which is old for a foreign player signing a first contract with an NPB team, but Escobar has a record of staying healthy and playing every day.  He posted a .787 OPS in the suddenly hitter-friendly International League in 2019, which seems in line with his past MLB performance.

The most interesting thing about the Escobar signing is whether it means the Swallows are more likely to post 2Bman Tetsuto Yamada this off-season.  Escobar will presumably play SS for the Swallows in 2020, because that’s where is value (mostly defense) is greatest.  The Swallows’ main shortstop in 2019 was Taishi Hirooka, who batted a feeble .203  and struck out an awful lot.  However, Hirooka was willing to take a walk and hit 10 home runs, resulting in a .710 OPS, which isn’t bad for a 22 year old middle infielder.

I don’t really see the point in signing Escobar, unless the Swallows plan to post Yamada and move Hirooka, who is still worth trying to develop into an NPB star, to 2B.  With Yamada going into his age 27 season in 2020, he should bring the Swallows a pretty penny if posted to MLB teams.  We’ll see soon enough.

Pirela is no spring chicken either, going into his age 30 season.  He also mostly played at AAA in 2019.

Rumors have it that Seibu Lions’ star outfielder Shogo Akiyama wants to play in MLB in 2020 now that he’s earned his international free agents rights.  However, he suffered a broken toe on a HBP on November 1st while playing in a post-season exhibition game.  An untimely injury makes it at least a little more likely he remains in Japan.

The Hanshin Tigers reportedly offered 2019 break-out relief pitcher Pierce Johnson a two year contract for 2020-2021.  However, Johnson’s wife just had a baby, leading to speculation he’ll want to return to the U.S. if he can get a major league contract offer from an MLB team.

Rumors also have it that the Hanshin Tigers are targeting Adam Duvall and Tyler Austin this off-season.  I would expect Duvall to get a major league contract offer from an MLB team after his strong late-season performance with the Braves, although the Tigers could certainly offer him more money than an MLB team might guarantee.  Tyler Austin is now a free agent after being outrighted off the Brewers’ 40-man roster.  Going into his age 28 season, Austin looks like a prime candidate for NPB, as does former Brewer and Padre Corey Spangenberg, who turns 29 next March and was also just outrighted by Milwaukee.

Other news out of Japan is that Scott Mathieson, who had by and large eight very successful seasons pitching out of the bullpen for the Yomiuri Giants, announced his retirement at the end of the 2019 Nippon Series, in which the SoftBank Hawks swept the Giants in four games. He won’t be well remembered in MLB circles, but he’s unlikely to be forgotten any time soon by Japanese baseball fans.  And, of course, he made a pile of money playing in Asia.

I haven’t seen anything yet on signings of new foreign players by KBO teams, which usually all take place by the end of November.  Most likely the signings will start once all MLB teams get closer to making their final 40-man roster cut-downs going into the free agent signing period, which starts tomorrow.

The Best “Foreign” Pitchers in NPB History

October 9, 2019

This is the post-2019 season update on a topic I’ve been writing about and updating for the last few years, as the all-time leader boards I’ve compiled change. The post lists the best “foreign” pitchers (see discussion below) to have pitched in Japan’s NPB in terms of career NPB wins, ERA (800 innings pitched minimum), Strike Outs and Saves.

WINS

1. Tadashi Wakabayaski 237-144

2. Taigen Kaku (Tai-yuan Kuo) 117-68

3.  Genji Kaku (Yuen-chih Kuo) 106-106

4.  Gene Bacque 100-80

4. Joe Stanka 100-72

6. Randy Messenger 98-84

7. Jason Standridge 75-68

8. Nate Minchey 74-70

9. Jeremy Powell 69-65

10. Seth Greisinger 64-42

11. D. J. Houlton 63-39

One of the things you learn when blogging is that the answers to seemingly simple questions often aren’t simple at all.  Who exactly qualifies as a “foreign” player for NPB purposes?  For some players, it is an extremely complicated question.

Tadashi Wakabayashi was a Japanese American born in Hawaii. He played in NPB from 1936 until 1953. He originally held duel citizenship but renounced his Japanese citizenship in 1928, but then renounced his U.S. citizenship in 1941 and became a Japanese citizen again, shortly after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.

On the other hand, Victor Starrfin, who went 303-176 as one of NPB’s all-time great aces, while being born in Russia, emigrated to Japan after the Russian Revolution in 1917 when he was a small boy. He grew up in Japan and went through Japan’s education and baseball systems, before becoming NPB’s first 300 game winner.  And what about NPB’s all-time wins leader, Masaichi Kaneda (born Kim Kyung-hong), a Korean citizen born and raised in Japan who was not allowed to become a citizen?

Wally Yonamine, another great Nisei star of NPB, clearly seems more “foreign” to me for NPB purposes than Wakabayashi because Yonamine had a professional sports in the U.S. before going to Japan, and he died in Hawaii as well as being born there.

Wakabayashi played high school ball in Hawaii and then went on a playing tour in Japan, where his pitching earned him a scholarship at a top Japanese University (Hosei University). That certainly makes Wakabayashi less “foreign” than Yonamine — even today foreign players who play at Japanese Universities for four years before going pro are not considered “foreign” for NPB roster-limit purposes.

Is Wakabayashi more foreign than Micheal Nakamura, mentioned below, who was born in Japan, but graduated from high school in Australia, played college ball in the U.S. and then had a long U.S. minor league career before joining NPB?  A comment to the original post said that Nakamura was treated as “Japanese” for NPB roster-limit purposes, presumably due to his Japanese birth.

Ultimately, I have decided to continue treating Wakabayashi as a “foreign” player, because he was born and raised in the United States.  But I have left Starffin and Kaneda off my lists because, they were products of Japan’s baseball system, even if they were denied equal treatment due to their ethnicities.  I have left it up to you, gentle reader, to make your own determination on this perhaps not very significant question.

Tai-yuan Kuo and Yuen-chih Kuo, known in Japan as Taigen Kaku and Gengi Kaku, respectively, were Taiwanese pitchers both of whom starred in NPB in the 1980’s and 1990’s.  The two Kuos/Kakus were the best pitchers to come out of Taiwan prior to Chien-Ming Wang breaking through to have MLB success in 2005.

Gene Bacque and Joe Stanka were two Americans whose Japanese careers roughly overlapped in the early and mid-1960’s.  Stanka was a marginal major leaguer of the type typical among players from the Americas who try to make a go of it in NPB.  He pitched in two games for the Chicago White Sox in 1959 at the age of 27, and apparently realized he had little chance of future major league success, and somehow got a job with the Nankai Hawks (now the Softbank Hawks) in 1960.

Gene Bacque was a mediocre minor league pitcher who got cut by the Hawaii Islanders of the AAA Pacific Coast League after only two relief appearances early in the 1962 season.  What he had going for him was the fact that he was still only 24 years old and apparently the physical proximity to Japan when his minor league career ended.  Japanese Hall of Famer and Hanshin Tigers teammate Masaaki Koyama taught Bacque how to throw a slider, and he also improved his knuckleball and became a star.

Bacque and Stanka both had their best NPB seasons in 1964.  Bacque went 29-9 with a 1.88 ERA and 200 Ks in 353.1 innings pitched, while Stanka went 26-7 with a 2.40 ERA and 172 Ks in 277.2 IP.  Bacque was awarded the Eiji Sawamura Award, NPB’s equivalent of the Cy Young Award, becoming the only foreign player ever to win that honor.

Bacque and Stanka faced off against each other in the sixth game of the Japan Series that season, which Stanka won, throwing a complete game shutout.  Stanka’s team, the Hawks, won the series in seven games, and Stanka was named the Series MVP.

I was sad that Randy Messenger, the most successful foreign starter of his generation in career terms, wasn’t able to win his 100th NPB in this his final season.  He went 3-7 to finish at 98 NPB career wins, although he did add to his all-time strike out record for a foreign pitcher, as indicated below.  Messenger lasted long enough in NPB to earn his domestic free agent option with eight full seasons of NPB service, which is a tough feat to accomplish.  However, he had previously stated his intent to retire as a Hanshin Tiger, and that’s what he did.

ERA (800+ IP)

1. Tadashi Wakabayashi 1.99

2.  Gene Bacque 2.34

3.  Glenn Mickens 2.55

4.  Joe Stanka 3.03

5. Randy Messenger 3.13

6. Seth Greisigner 3.16

7.  Taigen Kaku 3.16

8.  Genji Kaku  3.22

9.  Jason Standridge 3.31

Messenger finished his NPB career with 1,475 Ks, making him foreign strikeout king, at least so long as I don’t consider Masaichi Kaneda (4,490) and Victor Starffin (1,960) as “foreign” pitchers.

STRIKE OUTS

1.  Randy Messenger 1,475

2.  Genji Kaku 1,415

3.  Taigen Kaku 1,069

4.  Tadashi Wakabayashi 1,000

5.  Joe Stanka 887

6.  Jeremy Powell 858

7. Jason Standridge 844

8.  Gene Bacque 825

SAVES

1. Dennis Sarfate  234

2.  Marc Kroon 177

3.  Chang-yong Lim 128

4.  Eddie Gaillard 120

5.  Rod Pedroza 117

6.  Genji Kaku 116

7.  Micheal Nakamura* 104

8.  Dong-yeol Sun 98

9. Tony Barnette 97

Foreign relief pitchers have had quite a bit of success in Japan, going back to the late 1980’s, starting with Genji Kaku who both started and closed at different times in his NPB career.  Marc Kroon was an American with a high 90’s fastball, who didn’t throw enough strikes in the U.S. to have MLB success, but was dominating in NPB.

Dennis Sarfate broke Marc Kroon’s career saves record and NPB’s single-season save record (among everyone) in 2017.  His 54 saves broke the old record by seven.  Unfortunately, Sarfate hurt himself badly a month into the 2018 season, tearing something in his right hip requiring surgery, and he didn’t pitch again in 2018 or at all in 2019.  He may still have one year left on his multi-year deal with SoftBank, so it’s at least possible, if unlikely, that he could pitch again in 2020.

Dong-yeol Sun and Chang-yong Lim, like Seung-hwan Oh who saved 80 games in NPB in 2014-2015 before jumping to MLB, are products of South Korea’s KBO.  Sun and Lim were probably good enough to be successful MLB pitchers, but ended up starring in NPB instead.

Kris Johnson (57 wins, 2.54 ERA in 752.1 NPB innings pitched), Rafael Dolis (96 saves) and Brandon Dickson (career 3.32 ERA in 800+ NPB IP) should or could be added to my lists a year from now.  With the lists as currently compiled, no one gets on the lists without topping somebody already there.

Minnesota Twins Start Randy Dobnak with Predictable Results

October 6, 2019

What were the Twinkies thinking?  They had nobody better than Randy Dobnak to start Game Two of the ALDS against the Yankees?

Dobnak may or may not go on to have a great major league career.  His 2018 and 2019 minor league campaigns certainly don’t suggest he’s going to be the next Johan Santana, but he’s young enough that anything is possible.

What I am dead certain of, however, is that it is unquestionably foolish and almost unforgivable to start a rookie with 28.1 major league innings pitched, a rookie pitcher who had not pitched above the full-season Class-A level before this season, in the second game of a play-off series in which your team is already down 0-1.  No rookie deserves to be thrown into that much pressure after only 28.1 major league innings pitched.

As Earl Weaver once said, the best place for a rookie pitcher is middle relief.  Sometimes, injuries make that impossible.  However, the Twins won their division by eight games.  There is no way they couldn’t have prepared their rotation to have somebody other than Dobnak start Game 2.  Maybe if Dobnak had shut down the Bombers in one of his five regular season starts, but no way if he’d never faced them before, which he hadn’t.

Presumably Rocco Baldelli was playing a hunch, but it wasn’t a good one.  He would have looked like a genius if Dobnak had pitched even reasonably well, but, of course, Dobnak didn’t, and now Baldelli looks like the rookie manager he is.  In fact, it feels like an admission that Baldelli thinks there’s no way his starting rotation can hold back the Yankees’ line-up.

After today’s pasting, it’s going to take some serious stones from Jake Odorizzi, even pitching at home, to prevent this from being a three-game sweep.  It’s worth noting here that in 18 career games against the Yankees, Odorizzi has held the Bombers to a manageable .235/.289./.446 in 418 plate appearances — only the home run ball has been a real threat.

Is It Worth Tanking to Improve Your MLB Draft Position?

September 25, 2019

My team, the SF Giants, are currently in line to get either the 13th or 14th pick in the 2020 June Draft.  Gints fans will remember that the team made deals at the trade deadline, but they were kind of push.  The team sold on a couple of relievers, but also made trades designed to help the team going forward in 2019.  The Gints still had an outside shot at making the play-offs at the trade deadline, and they play in a market large enough to make total rebuilds relatively expensive.

Is it worth tanking, at least once the team has realized it has no reasonable chance of making the post-season, in order to get a higher selection in the next MLB draft?

I looked at the first twelve draft picks from the June drafts starting with 1987 (the first year the June draft was the only MLB amateur draft conducted for the year) through 2009 (which is long enough ago that we should now know whether the players drafted were major league success stories).  Suffice it say, with the first 12 draft picks of each June draft, the team imagines it has drafted a future major league star in compensation for sucking ass the previous season.

In order to keep things simple, I used baseball reference’s career WAR totals to determine whether each drafted player was a major league success.  Not precise, I’ll admit, since what drafting teams really care about is the first six-plus major league seasons of control.  However, I don’t know how to create a computer program to figure out the years-of-control WAR for each drafted player, and I’m not sure I’d be willing to spend the time to do so even if I knew how.  Career WAR seems a close enough approximation.

Also, for purposes of my study, no player is considered to have lower than a 0 career WAR — you cannot convince me that a drafted player who never reaches the majors is worth more than a drafted player who played in the majors but had a negative career WAR.  A player reaches and plays in the majors 9 times out of 10 because he is the best player available at that moment to take the available roster spot.  The tenth time, he is worth trying to develop as a major league player because of his potential upside.

As a result, I did not bother with averages.  Instead, I looked at median performances (i.e., for the 23 players picked at each of the first 12 draft slots during the relevant period, 11 players had a higher career WAR and 11 players had a lower career WAR than the median player.

Also, if a player was drafted more than once in the top 12, because he didn’t sign the first time drafted, I still counted him as his career WAR for each time he was drafted.

Here we go:

1st Overall Pick.  Median player:  Ben McDonald (1989, 20.8 Career WAR).  Best Players drafted with the No. 1 pick: Alex Rodriguez (1993, 117.8 career WAR); Chipper Jones (1990, 85.3 WAR); Ken Griffey, Jr. (1987, 83.8 WAR).  Odds of drafting a 15+ WAR player = 61%.  [Examples of 15+ WAR players are Mike Lieberthal (15.3 WAR); Gavin Floyd (15.6 WAR); Eric Hosmer (15.7+ WAR); and Phil Nevin (15.9 WAR).]  Odds of drafting a 10+ WAR player = 65%.  [Examples of 10+ WAR players are Rocco Baldelli (10.2 WAR); Shawn Estes (10.4 WAR); Todd Walker (10.5 WAR)  ; and Doug Glanville (10.9 WAR).]  Odds of drafting a 5+ WAR player = 70%.  [Examples of 5+ WAR players are John Patterson (5.0 WAR); Mike Pelfrey (5.3 WAR); Billy Koch (5.4 WAR); and Sean Burroughs (5.5 WAR).]

2nd Overall Pick.  Median player: Dustin Ackley (2009, 8.1 WAR).  Best Players drafted with the No. 2 pick: Justin Verlander (2004, 70.8+ WAR); J.D. Drew (1997, 44.9 WAR).  Odds of drafting a 15+ WAR player = 35%.  Odds of drafting a 10+ WAR player = 43%.  Odds of drafting a 5+ WAR player = 70%.

3rd Overall Pick.  Median player:  Philip Humber (2004, 0.9 WAR).  Best Players drafted at No. 3: Evan Longoria (2006, 54.2+ WAR); Troy Glaus (1997, 38.0 WAR).  15+ WAR player = 22%10+ WAR player = 35%5+ WAR player = 43%.

4th Overall Pick.  Median player: Tim Stauffer (2003, 3.8 WAR).  Best Players drafted at No. 4: Ryan Zimmerman (2005, 37.7+ WAR); Alex Fernandez (1990, 28.4 WAR).  15+ WAR player = 17%10+ WAR player = 26%5+ WAR player = 39%.

5th Overall Pick.  Median player: zero value.  Best players drafted at No. 5: Mark Teixeira (2001, 51.8 WAR); Ryan Braun (2005, 47.7+ WAR).  15+ WAR player = 30%10+ WAR player = 35%5+ WAR player = 39%.

6th Overall Pick.  Median player: zero value.  Best players drafted at No. 6: Derek Jeter (1992, 72.6 WAR); Zack Greinke (2002, 71.3+ WAR).  15+ WAR player = 9%10+ WAR player = 13%5+ WAR player = 26%.

7th Overall Pick.  Median player: Calvin Murray (1992, 2.1 WAR).  Best players drafted at No. 7: Frank Thomas (1989, 73.9 WAR); Clayton Kershaw (2006, 67.6+ WAR).  15+ WAR player = 30%10+ WAR player = 39%5+ WAR player = 48%.

8th Overall Pick.  Median player: zero value.  Best players drafted at No. 8: Todd Helton (1995, 61.2 WAR); Jim Abbott (1988, 19.6 WAR).  15+ WAR player = 13%10+ WAR player = 26%5+ WAR player = 39%.

9th Overall Pick.  Median player: Aaron Crow (2008, 2.6 WAR).  Best players drafted at No. 9:  Kevin Appier (1987, 54.5 WAR); Barry Zito (1999, 31.9 WAR).  15+ WAR player = 26%10+ WAR player = 26%5+ WAR player = 48%.

10th Overall Pick.  Median player: Michael Tucker (1992, 8.1 WAR).  Best players drafted at No. 10: Robin Ventura (1988, 56.1 WAR); Eric Chavez (1996, 37.5 WAR).  15+ WAR player = 39%10+ WAR player = 48%5+ WAR player = 52%.

11th Overall Pick.  Median player: Lee Tinsley (1987, 1.7 WAR).  Best players drafted at No. 11: Max Scherzer (2006, 60.5+ WAR); Andrew McCutchen (2005, 43.6+ WAR).  15+ WAR player = 13%10+ WAR player = 17%5+ WAR player = 22%.

12th Overall Pick.  Median player: Bobby Seay (1996, 3.0 WAR).  Best players drafted at No. 12: Nomar Garciaparra (1994, 44.2 WAR); Jared Weaver (2004, 34.4 WAR).  15+ WAR player = 26%10+ WAR player = 39%5+ WAR player = 48%.

What do I conclude from all of the above number-crunching and name-dropping (and my cursory review of the Nos. 13-15 draft picks during the relevant period)?  It’s worth tanking to get the first or second pick in the June Draft or to get one of the top ten picks.  Since teams bad enough at the trade deadline to have a reasonable shot to get the No. 1 or 2 picks will be tanking no matter what, the only real lesson is that teams that have the 11th to 15th worst record in MLB approaching the trade deadline and realize they have no reasonable shot to make the post-season should SELL, SELL, SELL in order to get one of the top ten draft picks the next June.

The second lesson I take from my study is that teams should ALWAYS draft the player they think to be the best available/remaining if they have a top 12 or 15 draft pick and PAY what it takes to sign the player, unless the potential draftee has made it clear he will not sign with the team under any circumstances.  After the two best players in any given draft, there is too much uncertainty for teams not to draft the player they think is the best available.  Drafting a player the team thinks is a lesser player in order to save $2 million to throw at a high school player drafted in the 11th round is going to be a bad decision in most cases, particularly in the current regime where teams get a finite budget to sign their first ten draft picks, and the draftees know the cap amounts.

I see no obvious difference in the results for the third through tenth rounds, because, I assume, after the first two consensus best players in any given draft, teams have different opinions about the merits of the next, larger group of potential draftees, to the point where it more or less becomes a crap shoot.  After the first two rounds, and with the notable exception of the 10th round, the median player drafted with the third through 12th pick isn’t really worth a damn, and the odds of selecting a 15+ WAR player, a true star, are considerably less than one in three.

As a final note, I don’t like the fact that post-trade-deadline waiver deals can no longer be made.  I don’t see the downside in allowing losing teams to dump their over-paid veterans after the trade deadline (but before the Sept. 1st play-off eligibility deadline) in exchange for some, usually limited, salary relief and prospects, while play-off bound teams get to add veterans so they can put the best possible team on the field come play-off time.  I hope MLB can find a way for these deals to resume in the future.

What Could He Possibly Have Been Thinking?

September 19, 2019

The news today out of Pittsburgh is that Felipe Vazquez has confessed to police his attempt to have sex with a then 13 year old girl and to sending her pornographic photos and videos of himself having sex with someone else.  What could he possibly have been thinking to mess around with a girl that young?

Is it simply that some successful professional athletes feel so entitled that they think can get away with anything?  Is he just incredibly stupid?  Does he have some deep personality flaw or episode from his past that made him think that screwing around with a girl that young was a good idea?

Now, I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck — I know that some men well over the age of 21 screw around with under-age girls.  Hell, I remember that a few girls when I was in middle school and high school (8th, 9th and 10th graders) were dating men well over 20.  The girls I remember were 13 or 14 or 15, but looked like they were going on 19 or 20.  However, the latest reporting suggests that Vazquez knew this girl was well under-age the first time he spoke with her at a Pirates game and initially told her she was too young, but then apparently changed his mind.

The thing that is different between Vazquez and your average 25+ year old jail bate chaser/predator is that Vazquez has a job in the public eye for which he is paid millions of dollars a year, a job where public relations is incredibly important to the gravy train the players and management all enjoy.

However, I also remember that once upon a time, it simply wasn’t that big a deal when ball players fooled around with under-age girls.  For example, Luis Polonia got in trouble back in 1989 for having sex with a 15 year old girl he picked up at a game in Milwaukee, back in his hotel room.  It got media attention at the time, but it didn’t impact his professional future in any significant way.

“Nutsy,” which is what one of my college friends (an A’s fan) called him even before the rape charge, was sentenced to 60 days in jail for statutory rape (or some lesser pleaded-to charge), paid a $1,500 fine and was ordered make a $10,000 contribution to a sexual assault treatment center in Milwaukee.  Luis earned $182,500 that year and was probably able to take the ordered charitable contribution as a tax deduction.

The judge in Polonia’s case allowed him to serve the brief sentence during the off-season, and at the start of the 1990, Polonia resumed his major league career as if nothing had happened, making most of career earnings in subsequent seasons.

Vazquez was 26 when his crimes occurred, only a year older than Polonia was in 1989.  Also, Vazquez apparently did not actually succeed in having sex with his 13 year old, although it sounds like he certainly tried.

However, times have sure changed since 1989.  Today, Vazquez will be seen as a sexual predator in a way that Polonia, during the boys-will-be-boys 1980’s, was not.  I will be very surprised if Vazquez receives only a 60-day sentence or something reasonably close to 60 days today.

My guess is that once Vazquez is formally charged, the Pirates will seek to void the remaining $14.5 million guarantee on his current contract, and that in spite of his exceptional baseball abilities, no other major league team will be eager to sign him, even at a bargain price.  I don’t see that MLB will be able to permanently ban Vazquez and make it stick in the face of a union grievance hearing, based on the limited discipline Polonia and other players received in the past for similar crimes.  Still, that may not prevent teams from effectively black-listing Vazquez if no one is willing to deal with the incredibly bad publicity that such a future signing would generate in today’s America.

I, for one, won’t feel sorry Vazquez if his criminal and professional punishments are significantly greater than those suffered by Polonia 30 years ago.  Times have indeed changed with respect to society’s attitudes about the sexual exploitation of girls and women, and it has long since been time for knuckleheads like Vazquez to get what is rightfully coming to them, particularly if it sends a message to every over age 21 male in America about the possible consequences of sexually exploiting 13 to 15 year olds.

One Good Thing about the Service Time Rules

September 3, 2019

As most people inside MLB know, it is extremely difficult for a player past his 27th birthday to establish himself as a major league regular.  It does happen, but every major league team more or less believes that once a prospect reaches age 27, he’s no longer a prospect because the odds of his subsequently establishing himself as a major league regular and continuing to play well enough remain a major league regular for more than a season or two are slim indeed.  Moveover, the way to build a winning team is to develop prospects young enough that they can reasonably be counted on to produce at least three seasons each as productive major league regulars before they become free agents.

Nevertheless, there are late bloomers who catch a break, and the service time rules can actually benefit them if they establish themselves as legitimate major league regulars after the age of 27.  Two older prospects who have broken through this year are Mike Tauchman and Mike Yastrzemski, both 28 year old rookie outfielders.  After accomplishing little or nothing at the major league level through their age 27 seasons, both have established themselves in 2019 as possible rookie of the year candidates.

It remains to be seen whether either Tauchman or Yaz can continue to be productive major league players in 2020 and beyond, but at least both can be assured of receiving major league contracts for 2020 by virtue of service time considerations.  Tauchman came into the 2019 with only 79 days of major league service, and Yaz came in with no prior major league service.  As such, major league contracts could easily cost their respective teams less than $600,000 each for 2020.

In fact, Tauchman apparently received major league contracts for both 2018 ($547,000) and for 2019 ($557,000), although it’s possible he received a split contract that paid him a lower rate for minor league service and just a little over the major league minimum for major league service.  Presumably, he received a better deal than most minor leaguers get because of his strong AAA performance and ability to play all three outfield positions.

Both Tauchman and Yaz are in their seventh professional seasons, which could mean that they would become free agents unless their current teams tender them major league contracts this off-season.  In any event, it is so relatively cheap for their current teams to hold on to them for 2020 by offering them major league contracts that it’s hard to imagine any other outcome.

In short, by virtue of their getting the opportunities and playing well enough at the major league level in their age 28 seasons, they have achieved the almost mystical quality of being seen as “major league players” by MLB teams, and their ages will no longer be a draw-back at least until they become arbitration eligible should they continue to play well enough to hold onto major league roster spots.