Over the weekend, I was spending time with my friends, my wife, and my dogs in the lovely mountains of Boone, NC when I made the mistake of checking Twitter. Saturday afternoon, I saw several tweets calling out John Kruk for his terrible remarks about a certain Ronald Acuña home run.
From my understanding, based on the tweets I saw, Ronald Acuña had hit a homer (again) and admired it before proceeding to first base. It appeared that John Kruk had scolded Ronald Acuña for admiring his work. Some tweets even insinuated that Kruk was a racist for having such a response and that old white people are going to hate the way he is going to play the game.
Then I watched the actual clip Monday morning.
Pretty cool to see an old school guy like John Kruk giving Acuña some props. "I guess when you hit it like this, you can admire it some, huh? pic.twitter.com/BvQtF7qed6
Saturday’s John Kruk/Acuña drama has led me to the conclusion that I need to spend less time on social media.
There seems to be a lot of younger fans on the interwebs who believe that older white folks are going to hate the swagger that Ronald Acuña plays with. There seems to be folks who think Acuña is the first young baseball player to admire a home run, and that all old white men will hate the way he plays baseball.
Here’s a fun Ryan Klesko bat flip compilation. He’s a white guy.
Check this guy out. He’s also a white guy.
This cracker had the audacity to pump his fist around the bases after blasting one into the seats.
Look at all the angry white people in the stands after this guy gloated after murdering one of his 493 career home runs.
Check this guy out with his chains and swag. Then notice the angry white folks.
White people are fun. Non-white people are fun. Baseball is fun. The end.
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I know I’m probably in the minority when I say this, but I absolutely LOVE watching Nick Markakis play baseball for the Atlanta Braves.
Markakis may not be the player you or many other Braves want him to be, but he’s the leader in the clubhouse who’s value reaches farther than the stat sheet. When the Braves do get back to those winning ways, it will be in large part because of the veteran mentorship and wisdom he left in the clubhouse.
2000+ hits at baseballs highest level??? He didn’t ask for 11 million. Someone offered it to him. He accepted it. This is a TEAM game. Markakis is the least of ur worries. I’d take 24 other mentalities and talents just like his. https://t.co/uP5YgIOU5A
The insufferable intolerance of Nick Markakis among many Atlanta Braves fans is long past overkill. It is now mostly white noise and borders upon the absurd.
It’s not lost on me that Markakis is on the downhill decline of his career and thus, more than likely, won’t be a Brave in 2019. I’ve accepted that, and when the time comes, an ode to Markakis will probably be penned. In the meantime, he is still an Atlanta Brave. It’s discussed, ad nausea, about Markakis being primarily a singles hitter; those sentiments are justified, to an extent.
Since 2006 (Nick’s rookie season), he ranks second among all active Major League players with 1,438 singles; Ichiro ranks first. It’s ALSO TRUE that he ranks third in DOUBLES with 431, only Robinson Cano and Miguel Cabrera rank higher at one and two, respectively. In that same span, Markakis is in the top 10, with runs scored (965), top 25 in RBI (876), and first in plate appearances with over 8000.
Additionally, since Ender Inciarte joined the Braves in 2016, he has hit more singles in a Braves uniform than Nick Markakis has. In 2016 Inciarte had 118 singles; Markakis had 110. Last year, Inciarte had 158 (of 201 hits) … one-hundred and fifty-eight … That’s almost 80% of his total hits last year. Markakis had 115 (of 163 hits), a whole 10% less than Inciarte. That’s 278 singles for Inciarte and 225 for Kakes in two seasons.
Yet what confuses me, was the praise and excitement Ender garnered from fans for leading (at one point) all of MLB in singles. Compared to the malevolent diatribe cast at Markakis.
He’s not an elite defender. BUT, in 15,518.2 innings in right field, he has made only 23 errors. In comparison, Jason Heyward has had 25 errors in 9,198 innings. My point is that Kakes is still an average, serviceable right fielder for one more year in Atlanta, especially with the makeup of the current roster. Nick Markakis, yes, hits a lot of singles. But so does Hunter Pence, Torii Hunter, Curtis Granderson, and Ichiro Suzuki.
But, of everything Nick does well, or for everything he doesn’t do well, there’s one thing you have to respect about the man. He comes to the park ready to go every day. He puts his head down and does his job. He’s the quiet leader in clubhouse and doesn’t say a lot. But you have to at least respect the opinion of a Hall of Famer when Nick Markakis is the topic of discussion. #StopHating
And what would u know about mediocrity at this level??? Dude is a VERY good player and VERY well respected amongst his peers. Lemme see the back of ur baseball card!!! https://t.co/r6iY7tWJwM
You don’t have to hit 30 home runs in a season or drive in 100+ runs to be considered productive. And you certainly don’t have to be an elite defender, saving 25 runs a season. you still need to see the guy actually play baseball. Yes, I know, it’s an anomaly that players don’t play on a sheet of paper. There’s a reason teams still employ scouts and send them to watch guys, you know, actually throw or hit a baseball. You need that part of the evaluation. Every player on the team (*AHEM*) on … the … TEAM, plays a role.
One guy’s role may be to hit home runs, one player’s role may be to pitch in the 7th inning (sidenote: this is called a starter). Another player’s role is to come in off the bench and provide a late inning spark and maybe, it another olayer’s role to be the veteran mentor to a group of kids who need some direction, and whatever else they contribute is gravy.
Nick Markakis is a ballplayer. #SorryNotSorry.
Now, go on and share this truth with your friends, you knuckleheads.
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A baseball glove is a large leather glove worn by baseball players of the defending team. They’re sometimes called “mitts.” They are meant to assist players in catching and fielding baseballs hit by a batter or thrown by another teammate.
If a baseball player is right-handed, he wears his glove on this left hand. Conversely, if a baseball player is left-handed, he wears his glove on his right hand. This allows the baseball player to throw the ball with the hand that is not occupied by the glove.
To expound a bit, a baseball team is challenged with of two main jobs. To accumulate runs and to stop runs. A game is comprised of 9 innings and there are two halves to each inning. The visiting team always bats first, which means they’ll be on offense during the top-of-the-first inning, at which point the home team with be on defense. After the top of the inning, the teams switch. The home team then goes on offense, as the visiting team makes its way to the field to defend against the offense.
The field is comprised of defensive positions. Catcher, first base, second base, shortstop, third base are your infield positions. There are three outfield positions – right field, center field, and left field. When a team is on defense, they send a man out (wearing a glove) to occupy each of these positions. Sometimes the manager of the baseball team might induce a shift, which means positions shift to another part of the field. For example, if the left-handed hitter at the plate has a propensity to pull the ball, the team on defense might institute a shift, moving defenders to a far right position.
Historically, the team on defense puts these efforts into place in an attempt to prohibit hits. For example, the second baseman and shortstop wear gloves and are standing at a ready position in the event that the baseball is deflected from the bat to where they can stop the baseball with their glove. If they catch the baseball in the air, it’s an automatic out. If they stop the baseball, after the baseball has already hit the ground, they must throw the ball to first base before the batter crosses the bag. If the batter crosses the bag before the first baseman catches the ball, this is called a hit.
Up until very recently hits mattered, which warranted the above mentioned baseball players and scenarios. Since 1887 baseballs that were hit, landing where defenders were not located, which didn’t make it over the wall (which is called a home run) mattered. One of the best hitters during the 20th century was Roberto Clemente. While younger generations now might not recognize him as an effective baseball player, because he was very proficient at getting hits, its important to remember the history of the game.
Ender is really good but he isnt better than Blackmon or Springer, and my point was clear: hits are a bad way to measure offensive talent. https://t.co/Xnm073jOVh
While hits no longer matter, clinical psychologists are trying to understand why giving up hits does seem to matter. Studies have shown that fans, and even writers, seem to display angry online behavior if a baseball player gets lots of hits, which would lead one to believe that, by the same logic, they would not care if their favorite pitcher gives up lots of hits. But alas, no-hitters and prohibiting hits are still en vogue on the defensive side of the ball.
There have been many new progressive solutions to fix the game of baseball since discovering that hits don’t matter. One idea has been to allow the defenders to play red rover while the opposing team is up to bat. The pitcher and catcher, of course, would not be able to engage in the game of red rover because they would be occupied with throwing to the batter, trying not to give up home runs (the only type of offense that is now awarded with any type of statistical value or online respect).
Another idea that has been floating around thought circles has been to allow the defenders to engage in staring contests. Some analysts include blinking in the confines of staring contests, while others believe that as long as you don’t laugh or smile, you win the contest. According to Baseball America, Matt Wisler of the Atlanta Braves has the strongest stare and could be one of most effective starers in 2018.
Perhaps the idea that is gaining the most popularity over the last several months is also the most noble idea, because baseball fields (especially world-class Major League baseball fields) are meticulously maintained, there seems to be an opportunity to turn these green spaces into urban farming communities. Opponents of this idea argue that if this were done, teams would be wasting money that they already have invested in defenders, especially center fielders. The argument against this is – if teams can teach defenders basic farming practices, they could utilize their investments (the players) in more effective and noble ways. Concerns of covered stadiums still need to be addressed, should MLB go this route.
Such drastic changes and ideas are certain to bring fear into the more traditional baseball fan. But, now that hits do not matter and baseball players like Nick Markakis serve little-to-no purpose, something needs to be done to make the baseball field matter again.
Here's a partial list of outfielders with larger SLG% than Nick "doubles" Markakis since 2009: 1. Mike Trout 16. Matt Kemp 22. Justin Upton 27. Carlos Quentin 43. Andruw Jones 54. Nick Swisher 71. Melky Cabrera 83. Jonny Gomes 112. Matt Diaz 122. Nick Markakis https://t.co/oTjuk99Vtt
Since baseball gloves are also no longer needed to prevent hits, there have been many folks within the baseball community trying to figure out new innovative ways of using the baseball glove.
Toronto Blue Jays fan and musical artist, Justin Bieber, has offered to incorporate a baseball glove in his act, much like Michael Jackson’s famous glove. The idea would be to enhance his stage performances when people like Andy Harris go to watch him.
Another idea has been reallocating gloves to pursue medical needs. Proctologists for years have touted the glove snap. Because of this, progressive thinkers believe that former baseball fans like Stephen Tolbert might be open to having their prostates examined for sticks up their anal cavities if said proctologists were using baseball gloves to perform their examination. This could encourage men to get checked at younger ages, which could in turn prevent prostate cancer.
Now that hits and their counterpart, baseball gloves, no longer matter, hopefully baseball fans can now turn their attention to other things that actually matter. Like spending time with each other, exploring the great outdoors, or rescuing a dog from a local shelter.
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If you’re a casual fan like I once was, then the start of the new baseball season is often simultaneously exciting and confusing. You may have been paying attention to a whole bunch of other crap that was more important to you at the time. If you’re from Braves country you might have been chasing the Georgia Bulldogs, Clemson Tigers or the Alabama Crimson Tide fighting for the College Football National Championship. Maybe you were watching the Falcons break your heart, or the Jags nearly pulling off an NFL miracle, not to mention those of you who are college football fans watching the coaching carousel fiascos.
The point is, I get it. I know what it’s like to suddenly tune back into baseball and not have a clue what is going on. Add in the fact that the Braves have had arguably the weirdest winter in the team’s history, and it’s quite a bit to take in. I thought it might be helpful to give you a fast review of all the things you might have missed. So without further adieu, I give you…
A Knucklehead’s Guide to the 2018 Atlanta Braves.
First let’s recap the offseason.
John Coppolella quit. He got into a metric crap-ton of trouble and he resigned as GM. Oh yeah, he’s also now banned from baseball for life.
Let’s keep it simple and say
– He cheated.
– So did everyone else.
– He cheated and didn’t hide it.
– He wasn’t very good with leading people.
– MLB needed an example, they made one.
The basics: he bundled contracts of not so good international players and funneled that money to better players so they would sign with the Braves to get around rules that say you can only spend so much on international bonuses. This is a set of really ignorant rules that MLB has in place to keep teams from paying players what they are actually worth. That being said, rules are rules and Coppy and his team broke them.
The results: The Braves get smashed by MLB and 13 Braves prospects become free agents and sign with other teams. The only one you probably knew is Kevin Maitan. He’s now an Anaheim Angel (like half of the former Braves players and prospects, seriously they are like “Braves West” now).
The Braves also can’t sign any international prospects for a few years (there’s more details, but you probably don’t care, and if you do there are better articles for that).
Braves keep all their really good prospects other than Maitan. Including OF Drew Waters (it was about 50/50 on him going away there for a while).
Ok, so now we’re past that Crap storm.
Oops, wait, no we aren’t. In the midst of all that, John Hart (VP of Baseball Ops) appoints himself as decision maker and signs Snitker to a one year deal as well as firing half the coaches under Snit (Pendleton and Perez – fortunately they stayed with the organization), while hiring several new faces (Walt Weiss and Eric Young, Sr to name a couple).
But wait, it gets better. Then the Braves hire Alex Anthopoulos (AA) to come be the new General Manager. This was a great hire. He comes from winning teams and understands baseball. But here’s the kicker:, John Hart then rides off into the sunset (Anthopoulos probably kicked his butt out) scott-freaking-free. In fact, last week MLB hired him to return as an anchor on MLB tonight. So the guy who oversaw the greatest scandal in the past 20 years of baseball gets off without any accountability whatsoever. Ain’t baseball grand?
Ok, so back to the team.
Anthopoulos. Really smart. Basically Coppolella with hair and personality. They even sound the same (it’s freaking weird).
Before you get all excited about names… Gonzalez (who has been atrocious the last few years) was immediately cut loose by the Braves as part of the deal. Kazmir, while once terrific, is coming back from a few years of significant injuries, and McCarthy (who had a great year last year) is a bit of an injury concern himself, having only pitched in about 17 games last year. Long story short, there is some good potential here for quality players, but the best part of the deal was dumping Kemp’s contract, bad hamstrings, and apocalyptic defense.
Next – Addition by subtraction.
These guys are all gone now…
Matt Kemp – Gone.
Matt Adams – Gone. The Braves didn’t sign him back because he has no place to play. (NO, he can’t play outfield or ANY position other than first base and that position is taken.)
Adonis Garcia – Gone. A-dong-is wanted to play in Korea. HE GONE.
– MLB’s #1 Prospect, Ronald Acuña will be playing LF (after April 13th) – most likely.
What does all of THAT mean?
– Well, it means ATL isn’t going much over $100M in payroll despite what they said last year.
– It means Camargo is going to get a real shot to show what he has.
– It means the Braves don’t have a ton of power.
This last point is the one everyone is going to harp on, and they probably should. The Braves have one guy projected to hit more than 20 HRs – Freddie Freeman. This team is going to be an on-base dependent team. They’ll pop a home run or two (and maybe more than people think), but for the most part, they’re going to have to play a bit of old school baseball; get them on, get them over, get them home. Fortunately, nearly the entire team has speed and should be fun to watch.
What to watch for in 2018.
Well, they changed some rules, nothing too major (thankfully), but they did limit coaching/catcher visits to the mound per game, and the amount of time in between innings, let’s see if it speeds things up or not.
The Twins added a bunch of talent in the off-season, as did the Yankees (Giancarlo Stanton is now a Yankee). The Red Sox signed JD Martinez to try to keep up. The Angels won the Shohei Ohtani (famous pitcher/hitter from Japan) sweepstakes. Oh, and if you tuned out before the playoffs, the Washington Nationals STILL have not won a playoff series in team history.
Johan Camargo (5 doubles, a triple, and 2 home runs in 87 ABs in the 2017/18 Dominican Winter League)
Ronald Acuña. Acuña, baseball’s #1 prospect, is going to explode on the scene this year and he’s full of piss, vinegar, and a whole lot of swagger. You might not like him if you like your players to act like a stoic member of the Queen’s guard.
At the end of the day, this team is going to be fun and fast. They may be bad at times, they may be really good at times. However, most of this year is going to ride on their ability to pitch.
Watch for how Snitker develops the young kids (he’s spent his whole life doing just that), and look for the kids that truly surprise at the Major League level.
Now that you’ve read a knucklehead’s guide to the 2018 Atlanta Braves, you know enough to be horribly dangerous when talking Braves baseball with your friends. If you have questions feel free to ask them in the comments and I will fill in any gaps that I can. Chop on!
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In part one, I showed that I believe the Braves 2018 payroll currently stands at $99M. Considering the 2017 Braves opened the season with a payroll of $126M and finished at $123.3M, one would think the Braves should have a lot of funds available to spend this season, perhaps as much as $30M or more. Which begs the question that I’ve heard time & time again this off-season: “Why haven’t the Braves spent any money?!?! Sign Martinez! Sign Moustakas! Bring in Jake Marietta!!! Spend some money you cheap bastards!!!” There are a multitude of reasons, but I need to start by explaining why my $99M payroll figure doesn’t tell the whole story of the Braves 2018 spending.
I think the Braves have to set aside more funds than just for the active roster payroll. I think their total expenditures for the season also has to include money for in-season acquisitions (like Matt Adams in 2017), bonuses for the amateur draft, and international free agency signings. In my experience, a suitable amount to set aside for in-season acquisitions is about $6M. In 2016, the Braves spent $16M on the amateur draft, but they had 2 extra picks in the first 2 rounds which boosted their pool amount. In 2017, they “only” spent $11.8M on the amateur draft. The pool values for the 2018 amateur draft have not be released yet, and the final draft order won’t be known until the remaining free agents that received qualifying offers are signed (Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb, Greg Holland, Lance Lynn, & Mike Moustakas). The Braves have the 8th pick in the 2018 draft but they lost their 3rd round pick and the money that goes with it. The Braves max out their draft spending every year, almost always spending up to 99.5% of their pool. Using the pool value of the team with the 8th pick in the 2017 draft, my rough estimate for the Braves amateur draft spending for 2018 is $9.8M. The Braves international bonus pool for 2018-2019 is $4.75M but they’re limited to signing players for no more than $300,000 since they went over their pool during the 2016-2017 signing period. I would guess that they’ll try to trade some of that money to other teams that aren’t restricted but I think they’ll also sign some talent. Let’s be generous and say they use a little over half of their pool for 2018 – $2.5M.
$6M + $9.8M + $2.5M = $18.3M
Add that to the $99M for active roster payroll and the total for player costs comes to $117.3M. Even with a budget of $130M (which I think is a little high), that actually only leaves $12.7M to spend on free agents, which isn’t much. I can only venture to guess at what the Braves’ budget for player costs is, but I think it’s fair to say they might be looking at the total picture, rather than just the active roster payroll. This could explain why they haven’t spent any money this off-season – they actually have less available than we think.
I’ve read lots of opinions on why the Braves haven’t spent any money this off-season – Liberty Media is cheap, they want to recoup the signing bonus money they lost when MLB took away their international prospects, the free agents aren’t a fit, Liberty Media wants to sell the team, the team is gun-shy after the big money failures of Bartolo Colon, BJ Upton, Hector Olivera, etc. All of these might come into play in some form or fashion, but I’m pretty sure it all starts with what happened on October 2, 2017.
That’s the day John Coppolella was forced to resign by the Braves for his infractions in the international free agency market. That forced the Braves to completely reset the way they run the team – they had to bring a new GM (Alex Anthopoulos) and overhaul the entire front office. It would make sense that this new front office might not be the kind of free spenders the fans would expect, especially when they have to get used to a brand new team, learn about the assets they have, and the budget that might be imposed by team ownership. Going into the off-season, prior to the IFA penalties that MLB dropped on the Braves, it was probably fair to say that the Braves could be spenders this off-season in an effort to turn the page on the re-build. But once Coppy was canned and a whole new front office was brought in, I think the Braves organization had to take a big step back and look realistically at where they are and whether it was a good idea to spend a lot of money this off-season. They decided that 2018 was not the season to spend big and that they would make every effort to move any cumbersome contracts that would restrict their future spending *cough* Matt Kemp *cough* and see what the young stash of prospects they have can do at the major-league level.
Let’s take a quick look at what the Braves have on their team right now. They have a known quantity at first base, center field, and one rotation spot. That’s it. 3 players. 3. Right field, catcher, & 2 starting pitchers (Brandon McCarthy & Scott Kazmir) are free agents after the 2018 season. Left field (assuming it’s Ronald Acuña), second base, 2/5 of the rotation, and over half the bullpen are rookies or players with less than a year of experience. Shortstop still has a lot to prove, third base is a black hole and has been since Chipper Jones retired. The Braves aren’t going to be able to answer the questions at those positions by spending a whole bunch of money in 2018. They have to give it another year to really see what they have. If the young starting pitchers click & third base remains a black hole, then they know they need to spend on third base next year. If Austin Riley slugs his way to AAA by the end of the year, Ronald Acuña wins the 2018 NL Rookie of the Year, but the rotation struggles, the Braves know they need to sign an ace to lead the staff next year. If the 2018 Braves bullpen blows lead after lead after lead this year, that’s where some of the future spending might have to go. There are too many unknowns on this team right now to warrant spending much money this season.
I don’t think Liberty Media is being cheap this year. I think the new front office, led by the bright and forward-thinking Alex Anthopoulos, is making a concerted effort to actually see what the Braves already have and where they may need to spend in the future to create a fully competitive team. I can’t image a smart guy like Anthopoulos would have accepted the Braves GM job if he knew that ownership was gonna handcuff his ability to spend.
I read somewhere once that most Unsuccessful rebuilds pay money for something they think they need before they actually knowwhat they need when they are truly ready to compete. That screams of the San Diego Padres of the last few years to me. The just signed Eric Hosmer to a huge deal thinking he’s their answer, but is he? Most don’t think so. To me, if the Braves were to sign Mike Moustakas to a huge deal this season, it would be the exact same thing – sinking a lot of money into something that a lot of fans think is the answer for the team, but in reality, it’s not. Why spend a fortune on a guy who averages 2 WAR per season when you could wait a year and get one who averages 7 (Josh Donaldson)?
Side note: the argument for signing Moose to a cheap 1-2 year deal since he’s stuck out there on the free agent market is also a bad argument b/c he would cost the Braves their 4th round pick in this year’s draft. There would be no way to recoup that pick either because Moustakas can’t be given another qualifying offer when his contract is up – player’s can only receive one in the their career under the new CBA. With the Braves’ restrictions on signing international players from now until 2021, I feel like amateur draft picks should be treated with even more value than before – the Braves are going to need as many of those as they can get to keep the farm system stocked with top tier talent in the coming years.
The Braves rebuild has taken over 3 years now, and it’s destined to take one more before we fans really get to see the upswing and return to legit contention. But the Braves have the pieces in place with a lot of potential to be a great team very soon. I’m sure a lot of fans are tired of being patient with this team and really want them to do something big RIGHT NOW to start winning again RIGHT AWAY. But think about it – would you rather spend it all too early to maybe win once, or would you rather hang on to see if your investments grow into valuable commodities, then spend to fill in the gaps to send the team over the top and win for many many years to come?
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The Braves have long been tight-lipped about their annual budget for the 25-man roster. Rarely has it ever been stated “Hey, we have $100M to spend this season.”, but I suppose that’s pretty normal for most ball clubs to not come right out and tell the public what their roster budget is for the year, except for the Marlins, but that’s a dumpster fire for another day. Apologies to their fans, both of them.
While we never really know what the Braves roster budget is for a season, we can estimate it based on previous years’ payrolls and what the team already has on the books for that season and beyond. The Braves’ 2017 Opening Day payroll was $126M and by the end of the season, they’d shed almost $3M from that total – the final tally for 2017 was $123.3M. Those totals, combined with statements from the team that revenues should pick up from the new stadium and surrounding Battery, led many to think $130M could be the rough roster budget for 2018. Then Coppy resigned & Alex Anthopoulos was hired and the entire front office was re-worked and in short, things changed drastically. I’m not so sure that we can expect the payroll to be that high anymore, or at least, we have to change the way we think about what the Braves are spending their money on.
All that being said, leads us to my breakdown of the Braves 2018 payroll so let’s dig into what that situation is right now. As of today (2/22/18), the Braves have 15 players under guaranteed1 contracts for 2018:
1 Only the first 8 contracts listed are guaranteed. All the rest are 1-year arbitration contracts or non-guaranteed major-league deals signed during Spring Training. These 7 players can all be released before the end of Spring Training and only be owed a portion of their salary (30 or 45 days’ worth, depending on the day they’re released). Once they’re placed on the 25-man roster, their contract becomes guaranteed.
3 Moylan’s contract is non-guaranteed. It becomes guaranteed and escalates to $1.25M if/when he makes the 25-man roster
4 Brothers and Whitley signed non-guaranteed split contracts for 2018. This means they’ll get one base salary if on the major-league roster ($1.1M for Brothers, $0.8M for Whitley), and a different, smaller salary if in the minors. The totals above are the minor-league base salaries for their split contracts so I’m adding that in as the guaranteed amount for those 2 players.
You might be wondering why I didn’t include Chris Stewart and his $0.575M salary for 2018. His deal, like Moylan’s, is non-guaranteed. I think he made a bet on himself to make the OD roster and guarantee the contract. When he said he wouldn’t come to Atlanta unless it was a major-league deal, he was at least guaranteeing himself $92,742 (30 days’ worth of his $0.575M salary, if he’s released before March 13). If he is DFA’d and remains with the Atlanta org, he’d still be entitled to the pro-rated portion of the $0.575M deal if/when he’s added to the 25-man roster during the season. If he’s DFA’d and chooses free agency rather than accepting the outright assignment, he’d forego the entirety of the $0.575M.
Plus that pesky fee for drafting a player in the Rule 5 draft (Anyelo Gomez). This is in addition to said players’ salary, which would be league minimum and is included in the “League minimum” total above.
Rule 5 fee – $0.1M
Add all those figures up and this is what you get:
TOTAL EXPENDED: $106.005M
But wait! There’s more! Believe it or not, the Braves are receiving money from other teams for BOTH of their Matt Kemp trades: $2.5M from the Padres in the trade that brought Kemp to ATL and $4.5M from the Dodgers in the trade that sent him back out west.
From others: $7.0M
Subtract that from the TOTAL EXPENDED amount and the final tally is…drum roll please…$99.005M.
Now, you’re probably thinking “But Boggy, why do other websites like Cot’s Baseball Contracts and Spotrac have the Braves at $116.1M and $109.8M respectively? Your number is WAY lower!” The easiest explanation is this: those sites pro-rate signing bonuses across the life of a player’s contract, which is the same thing MLB does for the purposes of calculating team payrolls in order to determine if a team has to pay the luxury tax. The easiest way to explain “pro-rating signing bonuses” is to use an example. Suppose a player signs a 5 year, $55M contract that includes a $5M signing bonus and salaries of $10M annually. For sites like Cot’s, Spotrac, & MLB, they divide up the signing bonus over the life of the contract ($5M / 5 years = $1M per year) and add that to the base salary for each year. Thus, to them, the player is making $11M per year.
But I have a big problem with that. To me, a player that receives a signing bonus gets that money right away. Otherwise, what’s the enticement to sign for that bonus? This is the real world, not the luxury tax world, and in the real world, that money is spent the year the contract is signed, unless otherwise noted (like Uggla). As an example, Brandon McCarthy’s contract included a $6M signing bonus that was paid in 2 installments the year he signed that contract. For my purposes, I will never pro-rate signing bonuses – I will always apply them to the year a contract is signed, unless otherwise noted.
That’s one difference between my figures & theirs. The other main difference is that those other 2 sites are not deferring half of Scott Kazmir’s salary to 2021. After much research into Kazmir’s deferred payments (and consultation with @jervass of Outfield Fly Rule), I’ve confirmed that the Braves are only responsible for Kazmir’s $16M, but that they will pay it out as noted in the deferral: $8M in 2018 and $8M in 2021. Here’s an AP source that states it clearly. This will inevitably vary by news source over the course of this season and future seasons, but for the sake of doing the most accurate bookkeeping, the $16M should be realized when it’s paid – half in 2018, the other half in 2021.
So, $99M is what I estimate is on the books for the Braves to open the 2018 season. I will go further into what this means for what’s actually available to spend in Part 2 of this post. For now, I’ve spoken enough about salary figures and deferrals and non-guaranteed contracts for one day. Please digest this and wait patiently (ha!) for Part 2.
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Baseball players don’t care about you. It’s not their job to care about you, or your family. Jerry Seinfield says it best when he makes the joke about how baseball fans just cheer for clothes.
Sure, sometimes there’s a hometown kid drafted by their hometown team and because you can truly relate to that local ballplayer, you are a fan of them instantly. Said player might be involved with local charities. He might have grown up rooting for the very team that now employs him. So, because said player grew up being a fan of the very team that you’re a fan of, and because said player now plays for said team, you’re more of a fan of him than, let’s say, the guy who’s on a one-year deal.
But, that’s rare. More times than not, because of free agency and trades, baseball teams are made up of guys who are on that baseball team because their job is to play baseball. Baseball is their trade. They’re being paid to do their job. And, more times than not, they’re on their respective team because that’s the team that has offered them (and their agent) the most money. Not because they love the fans. Not because they love the city. Not because they are a fan of your favorite team. Bartolo Colon didn’t have an affinity towards Atlanta. Neither did B.J. Upton, or even the great Greg Mddux. And sure, R.A. Dickey was a Nashville guy, but the only reason he came to Atlanta was because they paid him millions of dollars to be an okay pitcher every fifth day.
This is the cold hard truth. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be a baseball fan. It doesn’t mean that nothing matters and that you cannot get emotionally invested into something greater than yourself that you cannot control. It means that baseball players don’t care about you. They don’t necessarily hate you (unless you’re that weirdo who travels from park to park in an attempt to collect as many baseballs as humanly possible). They just don’t care about you. They don’t make their decisions on or off the field with you in mind.
Baseball fans are a needy group of folks. We like to pretend that we’re purely analytical without any type of emotional capacity. But we need to feel appreciated. We want players to love us and appreciate us just like we love and appreciate them. We even hinge our own moods and reputations to the success or failures of an athelete’s play or his public perception.
We want this so badly, in fact, that the smallest act of kindness from a baseball player lightens our world. A baseball player tossing our son or daughter a used game baseball (that he did not pay for) can influence our opinion about a guy instantly. You’ve heard someone tell a story like this, for sure. “I love so-and-so because back in 2010 he threw my kid a baseball.” Because of that tiny measly moment, which the baseball player forgot 5 minutes later, you and your kids are now a fan of that player for life. You buy his jersey. Your passwords and login info are changed to the guy’s first name and whatever year it was that he threw your kid a baseball. You troll anyone on the internet who ever lifts a virtual finger against the player who threw your kid a baseball back in 2010. How dare someone slander such a heroic and selfless human being? If they knew him, they wouldn’t say such disrespectful things.
Imagine if our standards for each other were at the same level as our standards for baseball players. Freddie Freeman threw your kid a game-used baseball (that he didn’t pay for) five years ago and since then every time Freddie Freeman’s name comes up in a conversation you’re going to let everyone know, “Freddie Freeman is the nicest guy ever. He threw my kid a baseball five years ago when the Mets were in town.”
Apply that to your next door neighbor and think about how weird that would be. Just imagine. When Norm pulled into his driveway yesterday when he got home work he threw my son Eddie some of his grass clippings as he walked inside. He didn’t stop to talk, but it meant so much. He just didn’t have to do that! My neighbor on the other side of my house never throws Eddie any of his grass clippings. But Norm did. Norm’s now Eddie’s favorite neighbor and we’ve named our chocolate lab Norm.
Baseball players don’t care about you. Dexter Fowler didn’t care about Cubs fans so much that he went to their competitor, after him and his wife “prayed about it”, because the Cardinals gave him millions of dollars. Roger Clemens went to Yankees because he didn’t care about Red Sox fans. Tom Glavine played for the Mets because they offered him more money than Atlanta.
At this point, there’s a good chance that you’re thinking about Chipper Jones. Chipper Jones is a unicorn. They don’t exist. Cherish him, but know that the only loyalty that is constant in your life is the loyalty of your friends and family. Baseball players are not your friends and family.
Baseball players don’t care about you. This is the first step in becoming an emotionally self-sufficient baseball fan.
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A power hitting switch hitting catcher is always intriguing and after slugging 16 homers his Junior year at Cal, the Braves selected Cumbo in the 2nd round. The Braves sent him straight to Danville and he was a little below average there. I caught him catching Ian Anderson in Instructionals and saw a minor league catcher. He isn’t ever going to win a Gold Glove, but he’s built like a catcher and is quick enough on balls in the dirt (Anderson was a little wild that day) only giving up 6 passed balls in nearly 400 innings last year. He only started at catcher about half of the time, DHing the rest of the time. He absolutely crushed in Rome – 10 HR, 176 wRC+ and a .269 ISO in 55 games in the Sally League before being promoted to Florida. He continued to hit for average in the pitcher friendly league and, though he only hit 1 homer in his 56 games in the sunshine state, he still managed a 127 wRC+. His bat went all the way down under this winter, and though he played most of his games in the outfield there, he kept on hitting with 7 homers and a .980 OPS in 26 games. It will be interesting to see where Cumberland starts 2018, I doubt they give up on him this fast behind the plate, but the Braves are flush with young backstops. Herbert and Jackson will need help in Florida and Mississippi respectively and Cumberland can always DH.
An unheralded signing back in 2015, JCE burst onto the scene in 2017 after a unspectacular 2016 DSL campaign. A big kid at 6′ 3″, I took notice of him when he continued to start at third over many highly touted infielders signed in 2016. He hit for power, played a solid third base and ran the bases well for someone his size. After mashing to the tune of a .937 OPS in 27 GCL games, he was promoted to Danville where he regressed slightly in 23 games only posting a .671 OPS in 23 games. However, he still made plenty of contact hitting for a .290 average. At 20 years old, it wouldn’t shock me if he opened as Rome’s Opening Day third baseman.
A pop up guy if there ever was one, Tarnok didn’t even start pitching until halfway through his Junior season. Committed to the University of Tampa as a shortstop, he’s a gifted athlete and once scouts saw his 6′-4 frame pumping fastballs in the mid 90s he shot up draft boards. Similar to the Ian Anderson pick and the Sean Newcomb acquisition, Tarnok is a rare low mileage arm from Florida with as much upside as any pitcher in the system. With a fastball that sits 91-94 and as high as 97-98, with a plus hook and a feel for a change, he should be a fun guy to watch in 2018. With him most likely starting in Danville, I should get to see him a lot in Extended Spring Training.
17. Kyle Muller –
The 44th pick in the 2016 Draft, Muller was part of the “Big 3” of that draft class, where the Braves picked 3 prep pitchers in the first 70 picks. Muller however has been on a different timeline than his draft mates, while Ian Anderson, Joey Wentz and Bryse Wilson all headed to Rome to start 2017, Muller stayed back in Florida. He pitched decent in 47.2 Gulf Coast League innings. I caught one of his starts and though he looked healthy and smooth on the mound his velocity was noticeably down from his high school stuff. Reports of his high school coach overusing him causing the dip in velocity have surfaced, but just yesterday Driveline Baseball posted a video of Muller hitting 95.3 MPH off the mound. Hopefully that is a sign of things to come. As Brian Bridges likes to say Muller is “Just what they look like”
I hate that Weigel got hurt last year, and if he comes back anywhere close to where he was before that, 16 will look foolishly low. Unfortunately injuries happen, and it usually takes almost two years before a guy is fully back to his old self. If anybody can beat that timeline though I believe in the big right hander as he’s bounced from D1 to JUCO and back again to D1 to 7th round pick. Weigel has taken his big fastball all over the place and turned into a real pitcher with plus stuff and a frame to last. I saw him spin a 7 inning one-hitter in Rome with none other than Josh Brown back in 2016, and caught him again in relief of Kolby Allard in ML Spring Training. There is no question about his stuff, it’s just a matter of getting healthy again. His floor is a big league reliever and in my opinion it’s only up from there.
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“You know, we should really start loading up the box.”
“We won the World Series!”
The pronoun “we”, when referring to a sports team, is synonymous with die-hard fans. And for the die-hard fan, “we” is used as if they were Liberty Media or Arthur Blank, even though this isn’t even close to the truth. We didn’t suit up and step across those lines. We didn’t walk the sidelines whispering to a defensive coordinator that the team should swap to a 4-3 base from a 3-5-3. And we certainly didn’t buy the team or pay to build the stadium (unless we’re counting taxes).
So why do we do it? Why do we say, we?
There are instances when this very personal pronoun, when applied as such, is accurate. High school and collegiate athletics are an example. I’m an Alabama Crimson Tide fan (Roll Tide), I’m a Kansas State Wildcat fan (EMAW), and I’m an Arizona State fan (Forks Up). I say “we” for every one of those schools. I’ve never set foot on the campus of the University of Alabama. While I’ve been on to the campus of Kansas State University, I was never a student there. Ironically, I’ve never set foot on the campus of Arizona State either, but I’m a full-time online student working on my BA in Mass Communications and Media Studies. While I work my actual job with the US Army, I never went to West Point. However, I have absolutely NO PROBLEM saying “we” concerning the Black Knights, Sun Devils, Wildcats or Crimson Tide.
Rabid fans of sports teams use this word as if they have some incomparable insight; as if the team calls upon them to discuss lineup adjustments, which free agents to sign, or who to trade. We often say “we” like we’re paid staff members. That’s not an ignorant oblivious perception of reality. We know this is inaccurate, a fallacy, and a fantasy. We know our paychecks aren’t signed by the Atlanta Braves or the University of Alabama.
So, again, why do we say … “we”?
I’ve read a few psychological pieces speaking to this very thing. One particular article I liked characterized it simply as this: We see ourselves as an extension of that team. And perhaps, for all intents and purposes, we are.
Players come and go all the time. They come here, stay a while, and move on. They get traded, leave in free agency, or retire. The players are temporary, the fans are forever. It’s passed from generation to generation. Father to daughter, mother to son, grandfather to grandson. These teams feel like they are a part of our heritage, we become emotionally involved, as if they’re one of our children or perhaps we are one of theirs. We celebrate every walk-off with them. We hang our heads with each heartbreaking loss. We cry when our favorite player gets traded, and rejoice when they sign a big time free agent contract (except for BJ Upton).
But it’s not just the legacy either. We buy in to the product. Not only the product on the field. Tickets, jerseys, memorabilia, and even tuning in to the local cable channel. Kind of makes you think, what happens if the fans stop going or stop buying in. We as a collective group of fans, buy “stock” in an idea of identity and relationship shared from the team’s brand, investing in part ownership in the teams themselves. We has now become a verb: a word used to describe an action, state, or occurrence. We are the occurrence and we are the action.
Sports bring people together for a bigger purpose than themselves and even shares with them an identity. Sports teams that represent cities share a common interest and brand for a shared geographical identity. The advent of social media has expanded the fan’s presence and the idea of “we” as a body of fans. I haven’t met, in person, 99.9999% of the “friends” I have on social media that I share my Braves fandom with. Yet, I feel like some of them I have known my whole life.
The shared identity and mutual relationship fans have together does not mean WE always agree, but when the team sprints out of the dugout on opening day we are certain that for the next 3 hours we will run the gamut of emotions together through our shared relationship with the team and our shared experience as fans. We will high-five, throw fists into the air, and might even hug after a Free-Bomb. This is the personification of “WE”. It has nothing inherently to do with the men or women on the field or court. It has everything to with the men and women in the third deck, cheap seats, sitting and standing all around you.
Yes, we love our sports. We love our teams, and we may even love those players. But, when it all comes down to it, at the end of the day, you… “we”… are the fans. “We” are prideful. “We” are the veins that lead to the heart. “We” are the 12th Man. “We” are the 26th man on the roster. “We” are #KnockahomaNation! “We” are #InBrotherHood.
No matter your team, no matter your town. We is a term of pride and you speak it with conviction. You may not have signed a contract to play, but you have probably signed your life in time, attention, and your identity and emotions, away to the undulating highs and lows that come with being a fan. Maybe the reason fans feel like they are an extension of the team is because, well, we are.
Maybe the team should think of you, the fans, as an extension of themselves. Is the product that they sell us the team on the field or is it the identity and emotion of the fan in the stands? You… “we” are a massive force. We shift the tides of momentum and can be the difference between a pitchers nerves, a quarterback’s composure or even a referee or umpire’s call.
We are a family. We are the pulse of a franchise. We bigger than our individual selves or the specific players on the team. We the fans.
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The clock is ticking for MLB, and it’s ticking fast.
In 2017, the average baseball game took 3 hrs 5 minutes and 11 seconds to play. Since 1978, the average time of an MLB game has increased 38 minutes. That’s an average increase of almost 51 seconds per year. At that pace, in 15 years, MLB will be pushing a nearly 3 hour and 20 minute game. This would surpass the time of the average NFL game (3 hours 12 minutes).
Tick. Tick. Tick.
Currently, baseball is a network television driven business. Regional sports brands spend big bucks to leverage their channels from the value of team brands. This creates value for their entire channel and brings in revenue, not only through commercials during live games, but also through advertising on their other programming they are able to subsequently attract game viewers to consume. Think of it this way, Fox Sports South isn’t just getting Braves fans’ attention for Braves games, but also for episodes of Driven, College Football games, replays of Braves games, and much more. For these television networks, it is of vital importance that the game of baseball continues to attract fans to their broadcast format. This creates a sense of urgency for MLB to continue to regulate the game in a way that best packages the sport for network television formats and storylines that keep the undivided attention of its audience.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
There are a lot of different causes and solutions tossed about for why the game is ‘slow’ and how to most effectively speed it up. Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred and the MLB front office have attempted to take multiple steps to try to increase the pace of play within the game itself. Last year, they removed throwing pitches for intentional walks, instead giving free passes to first base. In spite of these changes, the average game actually increased 4 minutes and 30 seconds in 2017 compared to 2016.
MLB is likely to enact more pace of play changes like a pitch clock, allowing only one trip to the mound by a catcher per pitcher per inning, and raising the bottom of the strike zone. The players’ union has declined these changes for now, but they are likely to happen even without the players explicit permission. Manfred is even going to test the idea of starting extra innings with a runner on 2nd base (this is an incredibly dumb idea). While I think that some of these things might speed up the pace of play by a couple of minutes per game, at some point we must begin to question how much they change the integrity and nature of the game itself. There are many peripheral elements that affect the flow of the game.
The average MLB game you watch on TV will consist of more than 70 commercials. SEVENTY COMMERCIALS. If you’re an Atlanta Braves fan you know half of those commercials are the creepy don’t drink and drive commercials by the State’s Office for Highway Safety and the other half are for Cooks Pest Control.
Those seventy commercials will make sports networks like Fox Sports South somewhere between $8-15 Million per season. Just one of those regular season spots can cost somewhere between $1200-$2500 depending on the teams playing.
In a 9-inning game, there will be 17-inning changes, (one after the top of the first, another at the bottom, etc) that create natural breaks in the game. Since the game began, the use of relief pitchers has gone up at an average of 1% per year. That seems pretty low, but we are all the way up to 3.2 relief pitchers per team per game now, that’s just shy of 7 pitching changes per game. If Walter Johnson knew it would come to this he would have pitched until he was 70. Not only does the pitching change itself take time, but the multiple mound visits by pitching coaches, catchers, and ultimately the manager, makes this a drawn out drama that can bring a baseball game to a grinding halt.
The breaks between innings and pitching changes alone attribute to 24 breaks in a baseball game. Much of that time can’t be compressed, as you need time for the teams to change sides, and for pitchers to stretch. However, if you could remove just one 20-second commercial per break you could easily decrease a game’s time by more than 5:40 minutes. However, removing those commercials would be an obvious loss for network tv resulting in the loss of millions of dollars of potential revenue over the course of a 162-game season. Obviously, it is unlikely such a solution would be pursued.
I’ve often suggested that moving to a soccer style of production, where the game doesn’t stop for television, could work. Of course that would open the door to the slippery slope of sponsored jerseys, sponsored teams, and create the necessity of cut away commercials. And of course it is doubtful this works for profit reasons as well. Let’s be real, network television and MLB don’t have a real problem with the length of games as much as what they consider the pace of play. The longer a game the more time and space for commercials, green screen spots, and in-park advertising, and I can guarantee you that MLB doesn’t mind that.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
What about instant replay? While I will always love the days of Bobby Cox getting tossed from the game, as well as the pitcher, batter, and half the team, replay has had some advantages. It gets calls correct, or at least it should. Replay takes a pretty good beating because it frequently takes so long. I can empathize with the fan who is willing to excuse the occasional bad call for the sake of living in the moment. I can’t imagine hearing Skip Caray call the famous “Sid Slide” and then having to wait for a replay break to confirm if he was safe or out. However, I can also appreciate the value of my team getting the benefit of having a play called correctly. At the end of the day, replay probably slows the game down slightly, but if you take into account the time it takes to restore order, get coaches back into the dugout after arguments with umpires, and continue the flow of the game prior to the implementation of replay it’s probably a minuscule difference. We can have a separate debate about replay’s role in the game today, but in regards to time, it’s a pretty small leak of total minutes.
Perhaps what is more fascinating, is the underlying philosophy that illustrates MLB’s dramatic shift in sacrificing the nature of its on-field product, a vital part of which has always been the uniqueness of the umpire, for the sake of accuracy that fits the television model’s values more effectively. Sometimes the greatest stories are the ones with the best embellishments.
While MLB is constantly evaluating ways to speed up the game and make its complexion more television friendly, I think we still are missing the actual problem that MLB has with pace of play.
Tick. Tick. Ti…………
Network Television is dead and the internet killed it.
In my opinion, MLB continues to go to the dentist when it needs to see a proctologist. The dentist can keep your teeth clean and your smile happy, but if the problem is the stick up your ass, then a proctologist is better suited for the job. Simplified, I think MLB’s ticking time problem has nothing to do with the pace of the game.
It is estimated that by 2021, 30% of all adults in the United States will not have traditional pay TV. That’s more than 81 million people. If you’re like me and are a cord cutter, you are very aware of how little traditional sports organizations have done to embrace you as a consumer. MLB (like most other sports organizations) drags its heels at every opportunity to empower its future audience to build rhythms that include baseball into their new consumer habits.
In 2017, traditional TV was still the most-used medium for that consumption with the average consumer taking in 170 minutes of TV viewing per day last year.
The internet – 140 minutes per day.
Estimates show that this could narrow to just a 7 minute gap by the end of 2018.
After that, traditional network television is dead.
The reason MLB is falling into this trap is that as network television becomes scarcer, the rates people are paying for prime advertising slots continue to skyrocket. Playoff games last year often cost advertisers more than $500,000 per commercial. Network channels like TBS and FOX paid more than $12.4 BILLION for the rights to carry the playoffs and All-Star games for 8 years. That is $1.5 Billion per year. The trap is being set for MLB by its own success. MLB is being paid more than ever for commercials because there are so few other avenues where people actually still sit and are forced to watch commercials.
Here’s the rub, if you eat the cow that you milk, eventually you run out of milk and meat. If MLB (and other sports) continue to build their entire product model based on meeting the needs of the dying goliath of network television, they are tying themselves to their own death anchors.
Not only is MLB already behind on cord cutting and how it has changed the media consumer landscape, future technologies are about to radicalize the way we think about consuming products even more dramatically. Virtual Reality technology is already changing how players prepare for games, but it’s only a matter of time before the statcast data, advanced analytics that are used to analyze every play in a game, and technologies like virtual and augmented reality are harnessed to alter the consumer experience. Consumer attention spans haven’t shortened, as the pace of play argument would suggest, instead, consumers have changed their expectation for how their attention is used on those things they consume.
MLB and teams must begin to think in ways that follow their end user market; can they imagine fans paying for season tickets to enjoy the Braves via virtual reality? What if the Braves could create a way for fans to digitally stand in the batters box beside Acuna as he faces Max Scherzer? What would fans pay for that experience? Sound futuristic? It’s not. The technology is already within grasp to augment the audience reality with instant stats like the spin rate on the pitcher’s curveball, or the distance a player runs to make a diving catch. MLB audiences would salivate at the opportunity to zoom in to watch replay through their augmented reality devices to see the player’s foot touch the bag from 3-inches away. There is no lack of innovation, there is a lack of pursuit of that innovation by MLB. These things are not far fetched they are all technologically attainable within the next ten years, but only if MLB prepares for them.
However instead of pursuing innovation, regional networks and MLB are more focused on pissing contests over blackouts and area coverages. If you’re a Braves fan living in Atlanta, you can’t even watch your favorite team if you cut the cord. This is the epitome of stupidity. Piss off, or at the very least ignore, your future base to feed your dying bloated giant cash cows their last meals. While MLB thrives on fat television deals from those dying giants, there is an inherent problem. In 15 years, will those TV companies even still exist? Many fans expect the Braves to save themselves in the competitive market with some miraculous new TV deal in 2027, but the truth is, will there even be a TV company around to be interested?
The clock problem that MLB has is not a problem with the pace of the game, but a problem with their inability to move their behemoth of an organization off it’s spoiled fat rump to keep up with the pace of the changing environment and habits of their primary future consumers. And the primary consumers they have forgotten are fans, not TV executives.
TICK. TICK. TICK.
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