Well, we’re into November (my keen grasp of the obvious is working at its usual high rate of efficiency), and I guess it’s time to put on my pointed hat with stars and crescent moons on it and try to look ahead into the future. To both my loyal readers (Lisa and mom), I’m sure you know my gift of prophecy possibly cannot get any worse *cough* Astros in seven *cough* so I shall gallantly forge ahead as only Nostradumbass can…
So, here are my picks for six stories worth following in the offseason:
1. Offseason spending as it relates to expiring CBA …
Oh … so it’s gonna be one of those freaking offseasons.
Don’t get me wrong, I can understand why the White Sox are doing this; they’ve just won the World Series and they don’t want to open their offseason with the momentum killing loss of one of their star players; a player who has clubbed 81 home runs the last two years. But my fear is that this offseason is going to dictate how the next round of collective bargaining goes at the end of next season. If the market is nuts and a lot of middling free agents end up with superstar contracts, then you’re going to see the labor hawks come out in droves demanding more salary restrictions and revenue sharing. This translates into same the three-way fustercluck that detonated the 1994 season: players versus owners and large market teams versus small market teams.
2. Carlos Delgado and Frank Thomas
If you’re not a Blue Jays fan (does such a thing really exist?) you might want to skip this one.
If Jeffrey Loria is feeling a little short then he should step away from son-in-law David “A step up from Eddie Gaedel” Samson. South Florida, courtesy of hurricane season, isn’t in a giving mood regarding corporate welfare. The silly politicos in the Sunshine State feel that rebuilding after a hurricane disaster is more important than coughing up a wad of corporate welfare to a business that really does not need it; hence Loria and Co. are looking
to make a pointto save a little money by possibly dealing big ticket item, Carlos Delgado. Last year Delgado signed for four guaranteed years for a total of $52 million. He earned just $4 million of that last year, which tells you math whizzes out there that he’s got $48 million coming to him over the next three years. Suffice it to say Loria would prefer somebody else pay that, or at least most of that. Well the Blue Jays need a big bat and have the money to spend, and I’m sure that Loria would be willing to pay a bit himself to be rid of the big man. Memo to J.P. Ricciardi …
If the Konerko contract happens and the White Sox are willing to part with future Hall of Famer Frank Thomas (and Delgado doesn’t end up in Ceh-neh-deh), Thomas would look good batting in the third spot at the Rogers Centre. Give him a year with an option at about $2 million and load it up with incentives based on playing time (if he’s healthy he will most assuredly rake) that could goose it to the $10 million range. Regardless, the Jays need a big time bat (nobody on the Jays hit 30 home runs or 100 RBIs last year) big time. How bad? The Jays’ leader in *OPS+ (400 at-bat minimum) was Frank Catalanotto (115). Yuck. Yeah, he’s got a lot of baggage, but the Jays lineup also had a lot of suckage.
3. Steroid legislation
Bud Selig has offered Don Fehr and the MLBPA penalties of 50 games, 100 games and a lifetime ban for first, second, and third steroid offenses. The U.S. Senate is countering with a half-season suspension for a first offense, a one-season ban for a second offense and a lifetime ban on the third with five random tests a season.
Pick your poison, Don.
Fortunately for Fehr, the bill provides a one-year grace period for MLB/MLBPA to negotiate tougher standards before taking effect. The MLBPA can continue to stall, bluster, and study, but ultimately Fehr and Gene Orza might end up having a harsher program legislated on them than they could’ve had “voluntarily.” The CBA is up for re-negotiation next year, and if he doesn’t have the full support of his membership, the MLBPA is going to get steamrolled. And if Fehr and Orza’s inaction on this issue costs them a more punitive program than they could’ve otherwise had, then his position in the upcoming negotiations could be untenable. Fehr needs to look long term and get off his philosophical high horse. Stronger testing is coming whether he likes it or not. He can either get off the tracks or get run over by the train. He’s not going to win this one, so it’s time for him to fold his hand gracefully and keep his powder dry for another time … like next year’s CBA negotiations.
4. Stadium issues in South Florida, Minnesota, and Oakland and the contraction card
I’ve had a peek at The Hardball Times baseball Annual 2006 (well I did help write the thing y’know), hence I know that SABR’s Business of Baseball Chairman, Maury Brown, feels that contraction won’t come up during the next negotiation. Now I realize that Maury is much smarter than me (like I set the bar sooooo high) and that handicaps him in understanding Bud Selig. Now an idiot like me can relate to a guy like Bud, and it’s a doggone cinch that if Selig thinks something will help him give the MLBPA a royal reaming, he’s going to try it. If Selig thought that standing in a bucket of salt water while trying to stick an icepick into a outdoor electrical outlet on a house at the top of a hill during an lightning storm while holding a metal umbrella over his head would give him a leg up on Fehr and Co. well …
Selig has been saying ad infinitum ad nauseum that without a new publicly financed luxury suite laden ballpark, the 1997 and 2003 World Series Champions, the 2000, 2002 and 2003 AL West champs and the 2002-2004 AL Central winners have no hope and faith, and they’ll continue getting steamrolled by the perpetual World Series champion New York Yankees until Judgment Day and beyond.
They can’t threaten relocation to Washington D.C., Portland and Las Vegas are no closer to having a temporary major league ready stadium (let alone the kind of publicly financed retractable roof virtual ATM machine that Selig uses in lieu of Levitra) than Dildo Newfoundland is. So how can you open up a can of Extortion Whoop Ass on these communities without a “viable” threat? Of course there’s the upcoming CBA negotiation too, and if this offseason goes all spend-happy, what is Selig going to use against the MLBPA to convince them
to give more free money to billionaires who mismanage their baseball business and still expect to reap obscene profits without actually working for it that the game needs more competitive balance and parity so the Yankees don’t keep winning the World Series forever? Well ownership “won” the right to unilaterally contract in the last negotiation, and Selig has never let minor details like common sense, logistics and being realistic to get in the way of a bargaining position. Expect the other “C” word to reappear in 2006. Selig says contraction is not even on the radar screen so you know that it probably is.
5. What’s next for Jason Giambi, Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro?
Jason Giambi won Comeback Player of the Year, Barry Bonds will continue the assault on Hank Aaron’s all-time home run mark, and Rafael Palmeiro is hoping he’s still somewhat employable. Is Giambi’s resurgence due to better chemistry than he had before? Will the new inevitable testing put the issue to rest once and for all? Obviously we cannot take Giambi at his word, and I think most baseball fans (myself included) are hoping he’s doing it the old fashioned way. He’ll still be under the microscope. In a sense, he can’t win. In old Salem, one way they tested if you were a witch was by throwing you in the water. If you sank (and drowned) you were innocent. If you floated, you were guilty and they burned you at the stake. In short, once accused, you were dead; it was a simple matter of deciding how you wanted to die. If Giambi continues to hit well, folks are going to think he’s using undetectable steroids like HGH or THG, if he struggles, then it proves he was using undetectable HGH and THG and stopped when the penalties got too scary. Bonds’ performance and assault on Aaron will be viewed in the same light. If he acts his age (he’ll be 42 in July) it’ll be attributed to not using PEDs anymore, if he’s BARRY BONDS, he’ll pass Ruth and Aaron under a cloud of suspicion. Will anybody take a flyer on Palmeiro? Sure. Palmeiro posted a decent enough *OPS+ of 113 with 31 extra-base hits in 369 at-bats. At the very least he’ll get a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training. Nobody will be scared off by his baggage or how he’ll be accepted in the clubhouse. Don’t forget, teams haven’t shied away from signing former replacement players if they felt they could help the club. If somebody thinks Palmeiro can still hit, he’ll find work.
6. Whither Manny?
Manny Ramirez wants out of Boston. Well he really doesn’t. On the other hand he does, then again, maybe not. He loves Boston, he hates Boston. He once said he’d love to play in New York but now wouldn’t want to go to the Mets. Manny’s just being Manny. Ramirez’s moods change. Ramirez is willing to accept a trade to the Angels, Indians, and perhaps the Diamondbacks. The Red Sox aren’t going to take a bath on a deal just to accommodate Ramirez (nor should they), and no team is going to take on the entire contractual obligations owed to Ramirez. Of course Ramirez could expand the number of teams he’ll accept a trade to, or maybe he’ll pull a Ken Griffey Jr. and reduce it to one team, or maybe he’ll decide he loves Boston and when he dies he wants to be buried under the Green Monster, or maybe he’ll just run off to chase a dog with a puffy tail. I’m guessing Ramirez will open his 2006 where he ended his 2005 regular season—as the Red Sox left fielder and resident hitting savant.