No matter when Bud Selig finally comes down with the Biogenesis bans – and it appears today or Monday will be the day – don’t forget that the money will be one major component. Everything is about the money in some way, isn’t it? And teams have plenty of it riding on their players who are entwined in baseball’s latest ugly PED scandal.
The Yankees have $61 million owed to Alex Rodriguez from 2015 to 2017 while the Brewers are on the hook for more than $110 million to Ryan Braun through 2020, starting when he returns next spring.
Those are back-breaking bucks for a small-market club that is now stuck with a guy who can’t possibly be the face of the franchise he’s being paid to be. How are the Brewers supposed to market their team for next season? You certainly can’t market Braun, and the Brewers are on the hook for a huge chunk of change for a guy who is now a pariah in his own clubhouse.
Braun reportedly went exit stage left out of Milwaukee as soon as his suspension was handed down, issuing only a terse statement and thus forcing his teammates to stand and answer all the questions. Nice guy.
A woman was asked by security at Miller Park to leave a game last week after she changed her Braun jersey to read “FRAUD” on the back by taping over new letters to produce the new name (she agreed to turn the shirt inside-out so she could stay). But the incident shows what a circus Milwaukee games could be next year when Braun is back.
And what kind of scenes will the Brewers endure on a daily basis on the road?
The Yankees deal with that sort of stuff in every city anyway. And there’s a good chance A-Rod will never see the field again and his contract could be paid off by insurance based on his injury status. But under the current Basic Agreement, teams have no way out of these contracts altogether.
This isn’t the NFL, where you can just whack a guy indiscriminately. In baseball, the contract can’t be touched. But that might change soon.
Hall of Fame writer Bill Madden of the New York Daily News brought up that very possibility last week, making the astute speculation that teams are going to want some recourse if one of their players is nailed by a suspension caused from a violation of the drug program.
Automatic voiding of contracts, or at least the voiding of a large portion of a deal, is certainly going to be brought up by many teams in two years when negotiations start on a new CBA.
“It’s been discussed and I’m sure it’ll probably be a hot topic in the next labor agreement negotiations,” an unnamed MLB official told Madden.
It would seem like the union doesn’t have much to stand on when the topic comes up. Why should players be rewarded in the way the Brewers would have to pony up with Braun?
He signed an extension with Milwaukee in 2011 that pays $19 million a year from 2016 to 2018, $18 million in 2019 and $16 million in 2020 before a 2021 mutual option that has a $4 million buyout.
Baseball isn’t a salary-cap sport but teams essentially set their own cap. The cheats shouldn’t get their money – and cause their team further hardship in the process.
East Aurora to Hall
A big salute to MLB.com writer Paul Hagen, who was honored in Cooperstown last weekend with the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for meritorious contributions to sportswriting, as voted upon by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Hagen, as it turns out, is a native of East Aurora and 1969 graduate of East Aurora High School. Mayor Allan A. Kasprzak attended last weekend’s ceremonies and declared it “Paul Hagen Day” in the village.
Hagen, 62, is best known for his 25 seasons as a Phillies beat reporter and columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News but has also covered the Dodgers and Texas Rangers in his 38-year career. He graduated from Ohio University and has never worked professionally in Western New York.
I’ve read Hagen’s work regularly over the years but, frankly, had no idea of his Western New York connections until I read an article he wrote on his career in the Hall of Fame’s monthly magazine.
In the piece, Hagen talked about how he listened to the calls of former Bisons announcer Bill Mazur on the radio, how his parents subscribed to the then-Buffalo Evening News and he read the Bisons stories of Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Famer Cy Kritzer.
In his acceptance speech last weekend at the Hall, he talked about how a third-grade teacher at Parkdale Elementary School named Miss Fisher walked over to his desk and asked him who he was rooting for in the 1959 World Series and he responded, “What’s the World Series?”
“She explained to me that it was the championship of baseball between the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers and asked me who I was rooting for,” Hagen recalled. “She said she was rooting for the White Sox to win. So, of course, I said I was rooting for the Dodgers. That’s how it started.”
His parents then helped fuel his love for the sport.
“When I became engrossed in baseball, they took me to see the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons at Offermann Stadium,” Hagen said, drawing some applause from the audience. “Pancho Herrera, Bobby Del Greco, Bobby Wine and Art Mahaffey were more real to me than Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle.”
Oddly enough, those ’59 Bisons were a farm team of the Phillies, the club with which Hagen is most closely associated.
WNYers in the pros
We’re experimenting with a new weekly post starting today on the Inside Pitch blog at Buffalonews.com and it’s an update of the statistics of players with Western New York connections in pro ball.
From former Canisius College pitcher John Axford in Milwaukee to Jim Negrych with the Bisons to 2013 draftee Jonah Heim of Amherst with the Gulf Coast League Orioles, we’ll try to give you a glimpse of their stats for the rest of the season.
I’m betting I’ll miss a couple of players, especially from the lower minors. So be sure to comment on the blog or send me an email with any omissions.
Around the horn
• The Yankees have announced their special pregame ceremony to honor the retiring Mariano Rivera will be held Sept. 22, prior to the game against the Giants. Good way to steal some attention away from the NFL on a Sunday in the New York media.
• The mess in Washington grew bigger last week with the firing of hitting coach Rick Eckstein, a close confidante of outgoing manager Davey Johnson. GM Mike Rizzo and Johnson are reportedly on the outs with each other, with Johnson telling Rizzo to fire him rather than the hitting coach even though the Nats’ woeful offense clearly sealed Eckstein’s fate.
• The Tigers need to get Miguel Cabrera healthy, as he was scratched again Friday due to a lingering abdominal strain. This might be a time for a quick trip to the DL to get their slugger right, but Detroit has a crucial four-game set opening Monday night in Cleveland, so that’s not likely to happen.
• The Indians have been red-hot at home but the difference in the race thus far is their 3-9 record against the Tigers, who have outscored them, 71-48, in the 12 games.
• Who had the Royals running off a huge winning streak, pushing for their first winning season since 2003 and sidling into the wild-card race? Especially after trading top prospect Wil Myers. That’s a pretty unheralded managing job by Ned Yost even if Boston’s John Farrell is going to get the bulk of the Manager of the Year votes.
• The Charlotte Knights announced last week they have sold all 1,000 club seats for next year’s inaugural season at the new BB&T Ballpark in downtown Charlotte. The $54 million facility will price club seats at $21-$41.50 per game in contracts lasting from 3 to 5 years. The total capacity will be around 10,000.
The Knights currently play at a rundown facility across the border in Fort Mill, S.C., and are last in the International League in attendance with an average entering the weekend of just 3,686 per game. Here’s betting they’ll be close to first next year.