Category Archives: MLB

Setting the World on Fier

By Griffin Olah

November 21, 2019

Griffin is a second-year undergraduate BGSU student from North Ridgeville, Ohio. He is a Sport Management major and a Spanish minor. His primary sports interests are baseball and football, both collegiate and professional, but he is also interested in basketball, MMA, boxing and hockey

Since baseball’s inception, teams have looked for a leg up over their opposition. Whether that is the development of signs from coaches, the shift or stealing signs, it is expected and even encouraged that teams innovate new ways to win. The Astros, however, have taken it to a new level. Earlier this month, former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers dropped a bomb on the unsuspecting baseball world: the World Series winning team in 2017 cheated.

In 2017, reports came out that the Boston Red Sox were using an unapproved Apple Watch in the dugout. Naturally, that revelation turned to thoughts of cheating, and the opponent did nothing to dismiss those. The New York Yankees, arch rivals of the Red Sox tossed in accusations that the Sox were stealing signs from their catcher. The MLB launched an investigation into the team, and found them guilty of cheating. On September 15, 2017, Commissioner Rob Manfred fined the Red Sox for their scandal and created a new discipline protocol to deter future teams (Davidoff, 2019).

At the same time, however, a far larger scheme was underway, which can now implicate 3 different MLB managers. In Houston, the Astros had a few veteran additions off to a slow start. It was then that a slumping addition who is yet to be named and a team official concocted the plan: they were going to electronically steal signs. Throughout the season, the Astros perfected the system: using a camera placed in center field to pick up the signs from the catcher, sending it to a laptop in the tunnel, where a staff member banged on a trash can to signal the coming pitch to batters (Passan, 2019). 

Fast forward to today, where the Astros are almost a certifiable dynasty. They’ve been to the past 3 World Series, hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy only in 2017. Mike Fiers, a pitcher on that World Series team had just given an interview to The Athletic where he detailed how the Astros stole signs during all home games at Minute Maid Park in 2017. The baseball world exploded, shrapnel strewn all across the baseball landscape. Did the Astros cheat their way to a championship? Who ran this whole operation? Was Alex Cora, former bench coach and current Red Sox manager, involved? What about former Astros DH turned Mets manager Carlos Beltran? Information was at a premium, and nobody could pay the price.

The media, of course, jumped at the bomb Fiers threw into the world. Every major sports news outlet was looking into the Astros allegations, and the MLB opened another investigation almost immediately. Some sources tried to prove or disprove the allegations. Most, however, either ignored, or misused statistical evidence. One ESPN article cited the Astros success on the road, both in win-loss records and batting lines (Schoenfield, 2019). While these are good surface-level stats, they don’t tell the full story. Home and away splits can illustrate the differences between the Astros’ play in Minute Maid Park and away from it, but sign stealing won’t show up as a large impact on traditional stats. If one was to look at isolated power (ISO) and strikeout rate (K%), the numbers would tell a different story. Stealing signs is going to give the hitter an upper hand, that part is undebatable, but that advantage may not be evident in hits. ISO is simplified to slugging percentage minus batting average, which shows the player’s raw power (Slowinski, 2010). The MLB average ISO is .140, with higher values showing that players are hitting the ball harder for more extra bases and home runs (Slowinski, 2010). The Astros in 2017 paced baseball with a .196 ISO as a team, .56 higher than average (“Major League Team,” 2019). The Astros also bested the league in K%, which shows the percent of at-bats where batters struck out, with 17.3%, which was only 1.2% lower than the second place Indians (“Major League Team,” 2019).

Most articles, however, strayed away from making judgements. They simply relayed the information and waited to learn more before going after the Astros’ rings. Some, however, made sure to point to the Astros’ checkered past. During the 2018, reports from Cleveland and Boston of a uniformed Astros employee recording the dugouts made the MLB first investigate the Houston franchise (Passan, 2019). This came along with allegations from that same year of Astros players clapping signals to tell the batter what the coming pitch was ( Passan, 2019). While the past of the Astros is important, constant reminders and retelling can sway opinions. If the narrative that the Astros are cheaters is pushed by the media, an investigation into the allegations can become difficult. Fans make up their notions of what happened, and those fan ideals can destroy a franchise.

While gathering information is vital in the process, making sure it is properly relayed is important. Statistics are among the few ways, along with video, to show the Astros have stolen signs. If their numbers are drastically higher, which some advanced stats like ISO show, then maybe there is creedence to Fiers’s claims. Those numbers, however, have to be given and shared with the public, as opposed to selective stats like batting average that can paint an incomplete and biased picture of the problem. The media has done a good job overall so far in their coverage of the Astros, but as always, some things could be better. It just so happens that with advanced sign stealing techniques, advanced and traditional stats could be the problem

References

Davidoff, K. (2019, November 21). Rob Manfred: Statement puts Astros in ‘serious’ sign-stealing trouble. New York Post. Retrieved from https://nypost.com/2019/11/21/rob-manfred-the-statement-that-puts-astros-in-serious-sign-stealing-trouble/

Major League Team Statistics. Fangraphs. Retrieved from https://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=bat&lg=all&qual=0&type=1&season=2017&month=0&season1=2017&ind=0&team=0,ts&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0&startdate=2017-01-01&enddate=2017-12-31&sort=4,a

Passan, J. (2019, November 12). Ex-Astros pitcher Mike Fiers: Team stole signs with camera. ESPN. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/28066522/ex-astros-pitcher-mike-fiers-team-stole-signs-camera

Schoenfield, D. (2019, November 12). What you need to know amid Astros sign-stealing accusations. ESPN. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/28066847/what-need-know-amid-astros-sign-stealing-accusations

Slowinski, S. (2010, February 15). ISO | Sabermetrics Library. Fangraphs. Retrieved from https://library.fangraphs.com/offense/iso/

Cleveland Indians’ Carlos Carrasco wins prestigious Roberto Clemente Award

By Pershelle Rohrer

November 3, 2019

Pershelle Rohrer is a first-year BGSU student from Logan, Utah. She is a Sport Management major with a minor in Journalism. Her primary sports interests are football, basketball, and baseball, both at the professional and collegiate levels.

Cleveland Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco was selected as the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award on Friday, October 26. The award is given annually to the player who “best represents the game of baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field” (“VOTE: Balloting underway,” 2019, para. 1). Carrasco was presented with the award before game 3 of the World Series in Washington, D.C. He is the third Indians player to win the award, joining Jim Thome (2002) and Andre Thornton (1979).

Carrasco was diagnosed with leukemia in late June and missed over three months of the season while receiving treatments. However, that did not stop him from making positive contributions to the community, both in the United States and around the world. He provided box lunches to the homeless in Tampa, Florida during the offseason, awarded scholarships to single mothers, traveled to Africa to distribute clothing and school supplies, and donated toys and money to his native country of Venezuela (Axisa, 2019). He also visited cancer patients in hospitals, even as he was undergoing his own treatments, and “received the 2018 MedWish Humanitarian Award,” along with his wife, Karry, in November 2018 (Noga, 2019, para. 8). His contributions to the community led to his fifth-straight nomination from the Indians and his ultimate selection for the Clemente award.

Each team nominated one player for the award in September, and they were recognized on Roberto Clemente Day on September 18 (“VOTE: Balloting underway,” 2019). The selection process occurred through a panel that included MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred; media members from MLB Network, FOX Sports, ESPN, TBS, and MLB.com; and Vera Clemente, Roberto Clemente’s widow. A fan vote took place through September 29 and counted as one vote cast alongside the panel.

Carrasco’s selection is viewed highly by the media. Media members select the winner of the Clemente Award and saw his contributions as meeting the criteria for representing Clemente and his own philanthropy. Roberto Clemente was a 15-time All-Star who was killed in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve 1972 while delivering supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. Originally called the “Commissioner’s Award,” the accolade was created in 1971 and renamed in Clemente’s honor in 1973 (Justice, 2019). 

Carrasco began his career with the Philadelphia Phillies. When he was a player there, Sal Artiaga, Philadelphia’s director of Latin American operations, told Carrasco, “You could be Clemente” (Brown, 2019, para. 11). Carrasco’s selflessness followed him to Cleveland when he was traded there in 2009, and he continued his involvement in the community through hospital visits, autograph signings, helping veterans, and giving to the underprivileged. Tim Brown (2019), who writes for Yahoo Sports, shows the impact of Carrasco through the headline of one article: “In a world with many problems, it also has selfless people like Carlos Carrasco.”

One of Carrasco’s sayings regarding his cancer diagnosis is “I may have cancer, but cancer doesn’t have me” (Carrasco, 2019, para. 47). He wants people to see that they can rise above their circumstances and defeat any problems they may be facing. 

Carrasco returned to the mound on September 3 and pitched as a reliever for the remainder of the 2019 season. His goal is to be ready for spring training in early 2020.

References

Axisa, M. (2019, October 25). Indians’ Carlos Carrasco wins 2019 Roberto Clemente Award. CBSSports.com. Retrieved from https://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/indians-carlos-carrasco-wins-2019-roberto-clemente-award/

Brown, T. (2019, October 25). In a world with many problems, it also has selfless people like Carlos Carrasco. Yahoo Sports. Retrieved from https://sports.yahoo.com/in-a-world-with-many-problems-it-also-has-selfless-people-like-carlos-carrasco-185646178.html

Carrasco, C. (2019, September 27). I may have cancer, but cancer doesn’t have me. The Players’ Tribune. Retrieved from https://www.theplayerstribune.com/en-us/articles/carlos-carrasco-cleveland-indians

Indians’ Carlos Carrasco honored with Roberto Clemente Award. (2019, October 25). ESPN.com. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/27927326/indians-carlos-carrasco-honored-roberto-clemente-award

Justice, C. (2019, September 12). Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco nominated for Roberto Clemente Award. news5Cleveland.com. Retrieved from https://www.news5cleveland.com/sports/baseball/indians/indians-pitcher-carlos-carrasco-nominated-for-roberto-clemente-award

Noga, J. (2019, September 12). Carlos Carrasco earns fifth straight Cleveland Indians nomination for MLB’s Roberto Clemente Award. Cleveland.com. Retrieved from https://www.cleveland.com/tribe/2019/09/carlos-carrasco-earns-fifth-straight-cleveland-indians-nomination-for-mlbs-roberto-clemente-award.html

VOTE: Balloting underway for Clemente Award. (2019, September 12). MLB.com. Retrieved from https://www.mlb.com/news/2019-clemente-award-vote-nominees-announced

Joe Maddon hire signals new hope for Los Angeles Angels

By Pershelle Rohrer

October 24, 2019

Pershelle Rohrer is a first-year BGSU student from Logan, Utah. She is a Sport Management major with a minor in Journalism. Her primary sports interests are football, basketball, and baseball, both at the professional and collegiate levels.

The Los Angeles Angels hired Joe Maddon as their new manager on Wednesday, October 16. Maddon returns to Anaheim after previously spending 31 years with the Angels organization as a player, coach, and manager. He will receive $4 million a year as part of a three-year deal as the Angels look to rebound from a 72-90 season, their worst since 1999. 

Maddon was the bench coach for the Angels when they won their lone World Series title in 2002. He managed the Tampa Bay Rays from 2006 to 2014 – leading them to the playoffs four times, including their only World Series appearance in 2008. He was hired as the manager of the Chicago Cubs in 2014, led them to the playoffs in 2015, and brought them their first World Series title in 108 years in the 2016 season. The Cubs made the playoffs in four of Maddon’s five years as manager, but after finishing 84-78 in the 2019 season, Chicago decided to move in a different direction. 

The media looks at Maddon’s hiring as a positive for the Angels. Given Maddon’s previous accomplishments with Chicago and Tampa Bay, the Angels have expectations that he will be able to replicate that success with a team led by one of baseball’s best all-around players, Mike Trout. Maddon is “credited with changing the culture” in Chicago, transforming a young rebuilding Cubs team to championship contenders in just a year (“Joe Maddon agrees,” 2019, para. 12). David Baumgarten (2019) of The Atlantic describes Maddon as positive, nurturing, and charming, citing his willingness to allow young players like Javy Báez to play through their mistakes along with the witty stories he shared with the Chicago press. Descriptions of Maddon in such a positive manner emphasize the media’s belief that he has the potential to revive an Angels team that has struggled for over a decade.

When Maddon was hired in Chicago, the team was nearing the end of a rebuild, something that the Angels have avoided for years. Dave Sheinin (2019) from The Washington Post explains Los Angeles’ winning approach that replicates the Cubs’ mentality through their hiring of Maddon in 2014: “The Los Angeles Angels, by hiring Maddon on Wednesday to be their manager for the next three years, appear to be placing a similar bet on the now-65-year-old skipper – minus the rebuild” (para. 3). The Angels have missed the playoffs for five straight years, including four straight losing seasons, and they haven’t won a postseason series in ten years. Sheinen also suggests that hiring Maddon could put the Angels in the race for Astros pitcher Gerrit Cole this offseason. Similar to the Cubs’ signing of Jon Lester in 2014, Maddon could become an attraction for Cole, who is from Orange County, California, bringing them another star to play alongside Trout. The parallels between the 2014 Cubs and the 2019 Angels highlight the potential for Maddon to bring new life into the team where he spent the first 31 years of his career. 

Overall, the media looks at the Angels’ hiring of Joe Maddon as a move that could transform them from a struggling team to a contender. His history of success in Chicago and Tampa makes him a promising hire, and after thirteen years away, the Angels hope for an exciting homecoming and the return of a winning culture in Anaheim.

References

Baumgarten, D. (2019, October 10). Joe Maddon was doomed by his own success. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2019/10/joe-maddon-cubs/599731/

Bollinger, R. (2019, October 21). Angels to introduce Maddon as skipper Thursday. MLB.com. Retrieved from https://www.mlb.com/news/joe-maddon-angels-manager

Joe Maddon agrees to be new manager of Los Angeles Angels. (2019, October 16). ESPN.com. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/27859727/joe-maddon-agrees-new-manager-los-angeles-angels

Kepner, T. (2019, September 29). Joe Maddon will not return to Cubs next season. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/29/sports/baseball/joe-maddon-cubs.html

Sheinin, D. (2019, October 16). By hiring Joe Maddon as manager, floundering Angels hope to replicate Cubs’ rise. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2019/10/16/by-hiring-joe-maddon-manager-floundering-angels-hope-replicate-cubs-rise/

Mismanagement and Curses in Dodgers’ Playoff Woes

By Griffin Olah

October 16, 2019

Griffin is a second-year undergraduate BGSU student from North Ridgeville, Ohio. He is a Sport Management major with a Spanish minor. His primary sports interests are baseball and football, both collegiate and professional, but he is also interested in basketball, MMA, boxing and hockey.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are the gold standard for success in the National League in recent years. They’ve been to the World Series in 2017 and 2018, and followed that up with a franchise record 106 wins in 2019. After losing two straight World Series, the Dodgers revamped their roster this past offseason, bringing in outfielder A.J. Pollock, righty reliever Joe Kelly and lefty reliever Adam Kolarek. Walker Buehler turned into a bona-fide ace and star shortstop Corey Seager was back healthy. They were heavy favorites, as usual, going into the postseason, led by the same cast of characters that always got them there: Dave Roberts and Clayton Kershaw.

The NLDS against the Washington Nationals was a roller coaster ride leading to a winner-take-all Game 5 in Los Angeles. Walker Buehler toed the rubber for the Dodgers, and red-hot ace Stephen Strasburg faced him. The Dodgers jumped out to an early 3-1 lead, and Buehler’s gem ended when Roberts lifted him in the 7th with 2 outs. Coming in from the bullpen was none other than three-time Cy Young winner and generational pitcher Clayton Kershaw. 

Kershaw got Adam Eaton out quickly to end the 7th, and then came out for the 8th. The first Nationals’ batter, Anthony Rendon, golfed a down and away pitch over the left field fence. 3-2 Dodgers. Lefty-killer Adam Kolarek sat in the bullpen as Kershaw stared down young phenom Juan Soto. Kolarek had great success against Soto throughout the series, not allowing Soto to reach base. Kershaw stayed on, however, and Soto took him deep to center field. Tie game. 

The entire dynamic of the game changed, and instead of cruising to a win, Kershaw let up two runs and now the Dodgers were fighting for their lives. Kershaw got out of the inning, and Roberts called on Joe Kelly to pitch the 9th. He sat down the Nationals in order, going 1-2-3. The game moved to extra innings, and Joe Kelly came out in the 10th. Joe Kelly. Not Kenley Jansen, one of the league’s premier relievers. Not Kenta Maeda, starter turned playoff reliever who has been lights out all postseason. Joe Kelly, who gave up nine runs in 12 ⅓ innings of multi-inning outings (Baer, 2019). Kelly loaded the bases, and then Howie Kendrick launched a moonshot through the night sky at Chavez Ravine and through the Dodgers’ hearts. A grand slam, game over.

The media looked at this collapse and talked mismanagement immediately. Blame was laid on the shoulders of Dave Roberts for his bullpen mismanagement. Critics pointed to Roberts’ “lack of confidence in the rest of his bullpen” (Baer, 2019, para. 6) as the main reason for the loss. Roberts had one of the best overall bullpens in the league, yet stuck with a starter carrying postseason demons and a reliever who struggled in multi-inning appearances all year. Others looked to the man who let the game get tied in the first place: Clayton Kershaw. It seems every season someone “write[s] about [his postseason] failure” (Baumann, 2019, para. 11). Kershaw is one of the best pitchers in MLB history, and has had his share of success in the postseason. Sure, he hasn’t won a World Series, but he is still one of the best we have ever seen. 

Many in the media want to push the narrative that Clayton Kershaw cannot pitch in the postseason, and this latest collapse is a major piece of evidence to support that point. Where is the talk of his dominant performances, though? Where is the talk surrounding his reign of dominance over the last decade, with only injuries and a few bad starts holding him back? Justin Verlander got shelled by the Rays in the ALDS, but he is still heralded as a great postseason pitcher. Both had bad outings, but only Kershaw’s is considered a problem across his entire career. Kershaw may have had some bad postseason outings, but he is not the reason that the Dodgers’ season came to an untimely close. That is Dave Roberts’ problem.

Dave Roberts severely mismanaged the end of the game, and that’s the main problem. The media likes to focus on a pivotal point in the game that swung the outcome one way or the other, and Kershaw’s meltdown fits the bill. The real issue, though, is Kershaw staying on to face Soto, or Kelly’s second inning of work. There was a capable bullpen, a fact many articles ignore, and Roberts left the game in the hands of two relievers that struggled mightily in the game. Will this mishap cost Roberts his job? No, and it shouldn’t but media members looking for a scapegoat point at both Roberts and Kershaw as the problem, and think they should be removed from the team.

References

Baer, B. (2019, October 10). Dodgers’ NLDS Game 5 loss is on Dave Roberts. NBC Sports. Retrieved from https://mlb.nbcsports.com/2019/10/10/dodgers-nlds-game-5-loss-is-on-dave-roberts/.

Baumann, M. (2019, October 10). NLDS Game 5: The Clayton Kershaw playoff narrative will never go away. The Ringer. Retrieved from https://www.theringer.com/2019/10/10/20907661/nlds-game-5-nationals-dodgers-clayton-kershaw-playoff-choke.

Is Acuna Jr.’s Hustle a Problem for the Braves and Baseball?

By Griffin Olah

October 13, 2019

Griffin is a second-year undergraduate BGSU student from North Ridgeville, Ohio. He is a Sport Management major and a Spanish minor. His primary sports interests are baseball and football, both collegiate and professional, but he is also interested in basketball, MMA, boxing and hockey.

Game 1 of the NLDS between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Atlanta Braves was entering the bottom of the 7th with the Braves up 3-1. The first game is always among the most important, and the Braves had the ability to add to their lead. Ronald Acuna Jr., the Braves’ young phenom and leadoff hitter, stepped into the box. He worked the count to 2-2, and then unleashed a long fly ball off of Cardinals pitcher John Brebbia. The ball flew down the right field line, nearly leaving the confines of Sun Trust Park and extending the Braves’ lead. However, it came up short and careened off the wall. 

After watching the ball, Braves fans willing it to stay in the air and go over the wall, and seeing it land just short of a home run, attention turned to the bases. There, Ronald Acuna Jr was inexplicably on first base. After launching a ball 331 feet down the right field line, Acuna was stranded at first. He moved to second on a groundout by 2B Ozzie Albies, and was then doubled up after a Josh Donaldson lineout. 

It’s easy to see that something went wrong on the base paths with Acuna, though. While the double play was bad, it was almost inevitable. The real issue was his single to lead off. Acuna hyped up his long ball, as usual, but this time it came up short of the fence. Acuna stood in the box, his bat raised to the sky in celebration, for two seconds as the ball was in the air. After that, he jogged to first only for Cardinals OF Dexter Fowler to play the ball off the wall and fire it into the infield. If Acuna came running out of the box as soon as the ball left his bat, he would have easily made it to second. He would have then moved to third on Albies’s groundout and the double play would have been much more difficult to turn. Acuna could have scored. 

After the game, the Braves were understandably frustrated. Veteran 1B Freddie Freeman pointed back to when Acuna was benched in August for not running out a foul ball, believing you only need to “have that conversation once” (West, 2019, para. 4). Albies believes that Acuna “probably scores that inning if he’s on second” (West, 2019, para. 8). Acuna was a problem for the Braves in that moment, but what about the rest of baseball?

Media attention on Game 1 revolved around Acuna’s lack of hustle, much like it did last season with Manny Machado’s lack of hustle and possibly dirty play in the playoffs for the Los Angeles Dodgers. This time, however, the actions of Acuna are perceived as more representative of the entire league. New outlets point to Acuna’s hustle as evidence that “the game has changed” into something selfish and immodest (Mushnick, 2019, para. 10). While people in the game – GM’s, managers, coaches, players – have excused the actions of players like Machado and Acuna, the media feeds off of it and turns it into something it’s not. Is Acuna not hustling a problem? Sure, he might have cost the Braves a key run that would have factored heavily in the 7-6 loss. Is Acuna’s hustle emblematic of baseball as a whole falling into bat flipping ruin? No, it probably isn’t.

The traditional media – old players, managers, and GMs sitting in broadcast booths – like to talk about how baseball as a whole is changing into some unwatchable mess of strikeouts, home runs and bat flips. Former pitcher Goose Gossage said of the sport “it’s not baseball. It’s unwatchable,” (Nightengale, 2019, para. 7). Hit king Pete Rose said the game has turned into a “home run derby every night” (Nightengale, 2019, para. 14). And former manager Lou Piniella derided the shift, claiming he “won a few games without having to shift” (Nightengale, 2019, para. 14). While that is up for debate and interpretation of each person watching the game, Acuna’s hustle is not some overarching issue like the media is making it out to be. It’s a key mistake in an important playoff game, but not some egregious pattern of error that needs to be corrected. With this miscue, the focus on Ronald Acuna Jr. has shifted from his near 40-40 season and his 1.579 OPS in the Postseason so far to his inability to hustle and his selfishness (“Baseball Reference,” 2019). Acuna put together an amazing season, shouldn’t the focus be on marketing one of the league’s best young players instead of his relatively small faults?

References

Baseball Reference. (2019). Ronald Acuna Jr. Stats. Baseball Reference. Retrieved from https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/a/acunaro01.shtml

Mushnick, P. (2019, October 5). Braves’ Ronald Acuna is doing his part in ruining baseball. New York Post. Retrieved from https://nypost.com/2019/10/05/braves-ronald-acuna-is-doing-his-part-in-ruining-baseball/

Nightengale, B. (2019, August 19). MLB lifers decry the state of the modern baseball: ‘Unwatchable’. USA Today. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mlb/columnist/bob-nightengale/2019/08/19/mlb-baseballs-old-timers-decry-state-modern-game/2047025001/.

West, J. (2019, October 4). Braves critical of Ronald Acuna Jr. for lack of hustle in NLDS Game 1 loss. Sports Illustrated. Retrieved from https://www.si.com/mlb/2019/10/04/ronald-acuna-jr-lack-hustle-braves

Whose Fault is it Anyway?

By Griffin Olah

October 3, 2019

Griffin is a second-year BGSU undergraduate student from North Ridgeville, Ohio. He is a Sport Management major and a Spanish minor. His primary sports interests are baseball and football, both collegiate and professional, but he is also interested in basketball, MMA, boxing and hockey.

The Cleveland Indians’ 3-year reign over the AL Central has come to an end, and the Tribe has missed the postseason for the first time since 2015. The preseason division favorite finished in second place in the Central and third in the AL Wild Card with a 93-69 record. This season definitely did not go according to plan for anyone involved, but reasons for missing must be analyzed. 

Most media attention focuses on shoddy leadership, particularly from owner Paul Dolan, as the primary reason the Tribe sits on the outside looking in on the postseason. Before the season began, Dolan ordered the payroll to be cut. Following an embarrassing sweep in the ALDS at the hands of the Houston Astros (Torres, 2019), this was particularly puzzling. The 2018 iteration of the Indians was flawed for sure, with the top-heavy offense and top of the line rotation carrying the team to 94 wins, but there was no addition over the offseason (Perry, 2019). Following a three team trade of first basemen sluggers with the Rays and Mariners that netted the Indians Carlos Santana and Jake Bauers while losing Yandy Diaz and Edwin Encarnación, the Indians sat quiet for the offseason. 

The reasons behind the blame placed on the Dolans vary based on the article, but there are two main ideas. The first is that the Dolans either don’t care to spend or don’t care about the team’s success. Following the Astros’ sweep, the Indians had a window to improve and a few key contributors on the open market, including relievers Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, outfielder Michael Brantley and third baseman Josh Donaldson. All four left in free agency on contracts that the Indians could have afforded if the Dolans opened up their pockets. There is also the infamous comment from Paul Dolan telling fans to “enjoy” Francisco Lindor when asked about resigning him (Meisel, 2019). The other idea is that it is the fault of ownership. This group believes that the Dolans went farther than restricting the resigning of players, they instructed President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff to cut payroll. The Indians “cut more than $15 million from the 2018 Opening Day salary obligations and reversed almost a decade-long trend of year-over-year increases” (Perry, 2019, para. 5), which led to the team not only losing key pieces of the 2018 team, but not being able to add any players at all. The Indians have a creative front office, but they were severely handicapped by the Dolans strategy and plans for the future.

Was this the reason that the team missed the playoffs? Yes, the offseason was flawed- letting Michael Brantley and Yandy Diaz leave was particularly painful for Indians’ fans both before and during their quality seasons- but there is a lot more to the picture than just the Dolans’ unwillingness to spend. The outfield was a serious issue, but one that was addressed by Antonetti and Chernoff. The Indians promoted outfield prospect Oscar Mercado in May, who went on to have a Rookie of the Year caliber season. They swung a major deadline deal with the Reds and Padres that brought in a year of Yasiel Puig and 5 of Franmil Reyes, shoring up the outfield and strengthening the overall lineup.

So, if the off-season concerns were addressed, what was the issue? Injuries. The Indians’ rotation, known across baseball as one of the most formidable in the sport, was decimated. Perennial Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber broke his arm on a comebacker to the mound, second ace Carlos Carrasco was diagnosed with leukemia and missed a significant portion of the season, and surging Mike Clevenger dealt with a back issue that caused him to miss over a month of the season. Jose Ramirez disappeared for the first half and then recaptured his MVP form in the second half, only to break his hamate bone in his right hand and miss the critical end of the season.

Even with all the injuries, the Tribe were still competitive, finishing 8 games behind the surprising Twins and 3 games behind the Rays for the second Wild Card spot. When looking at the season as a whole, where can the blame truly lie? The media puts it on the tight-walleted Dolans, but it should rest on the string of bad injuries. Would Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco give the team 3 more wins over the season? If Jose Ramirez performed to his MVP caliber the first half, could the team have won a few more games? These questions directly impact the win total of the 2019 Indians, possibly even more so than questions surrounding the Dolans’ choices over the offseason. So, in the ultimate question of “Whose fault is it anyway?” The answer rests solely on the unpredictability of baseball and the Indians’ lengthy IL.

References

Meisel, Z. (2019, March 25). Paul Dolan discusses the dollars and sense behind the Indians’ payroll and Francisco Lindor’s future. The Athletic. Retrieved from https://theathletic.com/884023/2019/03/25/paul-dolan-discusses-the-dollars-and-sense-behind-the-indians-payroll-strategy-and-francisco-lindors-future/

Perry, D. (2019, September 30).The Indians have been eliminated, and it’s mostly the fault of ownership. CBS Sports. Retreived from https://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/the-indians-have-been-eliminated-and-its-mostly-the-fault-of-ownership/

Torres, L. (2019, September 30). The Dolans don’t care that the Indians missed the playoffs. Beyond the Box Score. Retreived from https://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2019/9/30/20889710/cleveland-indians-ownership-dolan-missed-playoffs-cheap

What Does Harper Deal Mean for MLB and Other Leagues?

By Drew Gallagher

March 18, 2019

Drew Gallagher is a first-year undergraduate student at Bowling Green State University. He is planning to major in Sport Management with a minor in General Business. Drew is a proud native of Aurora, Illinois and is interested in many sports, but focuses primarily on baseball and football at the professional and collegiate levels.

Back on February 28th, the most lucrative free agent contract in North American sports history was agreed upon by Bryce Harper and the Philadelphia Phillies. The deal ended up being worth $330 million over 13 years (Zolecki, 2019). The contract also included stipulations such as no-trade and no opt-out clauses for the 26 year-old outfielder (Zolecki, 2019, para. 5). Now, of course, this is an insane amount of money for any one individual to be making, especially since it is 100% guaranteed.

When you examine the deal individually, you can see that it benefits everyone involved. As Kram (2019) said, “Harper receives the largest contract by total value in U.S. sports history, while the Phillies can spread the payment over more years to reduce the per-year cost” (para. 1). When you examine the deal on the larger scale though, you see that it may be a sign of what’s to come for Major League Baseball. We can predict that deals, at least for star players, will start to become more and more about long-term security in the coming years. This is especially important when you think about the number of young talented players in the game right now who will all become free agents at some point within the next decade.

Many news outlets took this news another route though. Since the NFL is the most popular league in the country, why shouldn’t its players earn as much or more money than MLB players? There are many forms of this argument that we hear frequently since the NFL is infamous for limiting guaranteed money for its players. At the surface, this argument makes complete sense. The players that earn their league more money deserve to be compensated more for their play. But when you look at it from a business standpoint, it becomes apparent why that isn’t the case.

According to Cosentino (2017), “NFL players are far more likely to sustain injuries than those in MLB… the mean number of injuries suffered per game in the NFL is approximately 4.9 times higher than the sum of those other leagues [the MLB, NBA and NHL]” (para. 5). The truth is, such a high risk of injury leads teams to be more reluctant to dole out big money to players. The same can’t be said for baseball since it is rarer that a player suffers a major injury. Baseball is a more long-standing sport with a more influential players union. These two reasons set it apart from the other two major American sports.

It is my guess that the implication of Harper’s contract will extend primarily to MLB as a whole. It does make sense though that media outlets would try to apply it to other sports to make it a more universal topic for their viewers. The truth of the matter is that the sports world is very secular and not much of what happens in one sport will affect another.

References

Cosentino, D. (2017, August 1). Why only the NFL doesn’t guarantee contracts. Deadspin. Retrieved from https://deadspin.com/why-only-the-nfl-doesnt-guarantee-contracts-1797020799

Kram, Z. (2019, February 28). The ripple effect of Bryce Harper’s record-setting Phillies contract. The Ringer. Retrieved from https://www.theringer.com/mlb/2019/2/28/18245294/bryce-harper-philadelphia-phillies-giants-dodgers-yankees-cubs-trout-betts

Zolecki, T. (2019, February 28). Harper, Phils agree to 13-year deal. mlb.com. Retrieved from https://www.mlb.com/news/bryce-harper-deal-with-phillies