Tom Verducci treats botched rebuild as a reason for teams to avoid pinning hopes on veterans
As the spring training reporting dates for pitchers and catcher approaches with so many pitchers, catchers and position players still seeking jobs, tension is emerging in strange ways.
Scott Boras has been lashing out against an anti-competitive market for a while, and while he has company in agents such as Brodie Van Wagenen, Seth Levinson and Joshua Kusnick, he’s still taking it to new heights by working on my side of the street.
Scott Boras says the Free agent freeze simply lack of competition:
‘The issue is competition..
Losing is acceptable only if there is a effort to win. The difference between an accident and murder is intent. Teams are intentionally murdering season's and fans are dying with it.’
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) February 3, 2018
Those not in the fog of the market — from reporters like Ken Rosenthal and Tom Verducci to players with jobs like Brandon Moss — are pinning the bulk of the blame on the union, although it’s too early to speak in any kind of conclusion-drawing manner about collusion, because collusion has looked and sounded similar at this point in the past.
Those voices are largely correct, especially with the ways the union bargained away the rights of future members. However, I don’t fault the players’ side for venting loudly or sounding alarms, because they’re going to have to create a united front after watching ownership use drug testing and an international draft to drive a wedge in the union. One way to do that is by making the rawness of the deal so evident that it dwarfs all lesser issues. They may be drawing attention to their own fecklessness in the short term, but ignoring the snarky reactions can be training in shedding short-term distractions.
The number of arbitration cases might be one sign of a coalescing labor force. The White Sox aren’t the only team with rare arbitration hearings on the horizon (Avisail Garcia and Yolmer Sanchez), and that development could be a bellwether:
As of right now, there will be 27 arbitration hearings this year (some will likely settle beforehand). The last time there were over 15 arbitration hearings was 1994 — the year of the strike.
— Robert Murray (@RobertMurrayFRS) February 2, 2018
Players are winning in that arena, getting the decision in five of seven hearings thus far.
* * *Going back to the Verducci article, there are a couple of things I’d like to point out.
For one, Wikipedia for the moment has an unfavorable interpretation of it:
Well SOMEBODY didn't care for Tom Verducci's perspective on MLB labor strife. pic.twitter.com/Rn5aIzIoCs
— Jim Margalus (@SoxMachine) February 4, 2018
But more pertinent to our interests, he used the the 2015-16 White Sox as the counterpoint against investing in veterans to create a surge in wins.
Here’s an example of the old way: the 2014 White Sox went 73–89. Only two teams in the American League gave up more runs. They were eighth in runs scored while striking out more than all but one team in the league. By any measure, they were not very good. But they had Jose Abreu and Chris Sale, and GM Rick Hahn didn’t want to let their primes pass without trying to win.
So this is what the White Sox did that winter: they dropped $132 million on free agents Dave Robertson, Melky Cabrera, Adam LaRoche, Zach Duke and Emilio Bonifacio. What happened? They went 76–86. They spent $132 million for three more meaningless wins. They spent money when they weren’t ready to win.
The next year they went 78–84. Finally, two years too late, Hahn began a teardown of a bad club.
This probably looks like a strong argument if you don’t follow the White Sox closely. If you know how the White Sox botched the first rebuild, it might be a better indicator of the low standards for MLB ownership. Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn established a poor pro-scouting track record before they set out on accelerating the upswing with veterans, and they reinforced that particular reputation with more bad decisions over those that stretch.
Most other teams that fail to field a winner overhaul the front office, but Jerry Reinsdorf couldn’t even bring himself to fire Robin Ventura well after he turned into a cement block. Williams and Hahn have the fortune of excessively loyal ownership. They’re basically givens.
To Hahn’s credit, he’s implementing and voicing a vastly different approach that doesn’t rely so heavily on their weakest skill, and the rebuild is off to a helluva start, so I understand why fans want to disassociate Hahn from the “bad club” he built. Reporters shouldn’t do the same.
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