Baseball’s winter of discontent begins

Braves not tendering Adam Duvall is baseball at its cheapness.
Image: Getty Images

As baseball’s non-tender deadline passed last night, it didn’t end up being the bloodbath that some had predicted, and indeed was expected. Fifty-nine players who could have been offered a contract weren’t, which is a slight rise from the 54 who found themselves in the same situation last year, when things were normal.

The difference this year is that there are a few names that are more recognizable than in previous years. We’ve been over Eddie Rosario and Kolten Wong. The big name to drop in the afternoon, which isn’t a big name in the grand scheme but isn’t the type to be usually cast aside, was Adam Duvall from Atlanta. Duvall has spent parts of two seasons with the Braves and been more than a plus hitter for them, including hitting some big postseason and late-season homers for them. And yet the Braves didn’t think the $4M-$5M he would have gotten in arbitration was worth it. The Braves, mind you, aren’t all that far removed from getting Cobb County to pay for a shiny new ballpark for them so they can reap all the profits without any of the cost.

The other name that will cause eyebrows to shift is Kyle Schwarber, whom the Cubs didn’t feel was worth the $9M-$10M he would have earned in arbitration. The odd thing about both of these players is that these clubs made these decisions without knowing if the DH was going to stick in the National League or not. Both are certainly candidates to fill that role at least part-time, and both teams will have to resolve that slot if it is installed permanently, as well as the outfield spots these two would have taken up.

If you want to make a baseball argument, and if you do you’re assuredly an asshat, the Braves have Johan Camargo, Austin Riley, Ender Inciarte, Cristian Pache, and Ronald Acuna Jr. to rotate through 3rd base and the outfield spots as they see fit. The Cubs don’t make enough contact and strike out a ton, and Schwarber only exacerbates that, as well as providing minimal defensive value for a team that’s already defensively questionable in left and center.

But that has nothing to do with any of that. These aren’t baseball decisions. Depth is a good thing in baseball. $5M will not break the Atlanta Braves. $10M will not break the Chicago Cubs. This is simply nickel-and-dime horseshit so that billionaire owners do not have to suffer the gross indignity of a second year of losses, however massive they will try and tell you they are. $10M is a lot of money to you and me and most everyone. It is not to Tom Ricketts. $5M for Liberty Media is what they’d find behind the salad that’s gone bad in the employee fridge.

It is startling cheapness. It is two teams who absolutely can afford not just a good team, but a contending team, deciding it’s just not worth it. It’s too much of a pain in the ass. Which is a pretty sad day for the game, but sadly no one in charge of it will bother to notice.

It’s been too long since I’ve included something to feel good about in this here morning soiree, especially a day after Cris Collinsworth used his national platform to express amazement that various women actually follow sports closely. Stephanie Frappart yesterday became the first woman to referee a Champions League game, being in the middle for Juventus-Dynamo Kiev. You may remember her from the Women’s World Cup Final, and Frappart has been working Ligue 1 games in France for a while now. She even had a minor kerfuffle to deal with – an offsides VAR check, though that’s always out of the ref’s hands for the most part. Any step forward is a good one, and this is one.

The Ravens-Steelers school-trip matinee finally got played, and it seems the Ravens see through the charade. Being restricted to no practices and half-speed walk-throughs for 10 days certainly isn’t proper preparation for a football game, and fill-in quarterback Robert Griffin III had to exit early with hamstring trouble. Which is the kind of thing that will happen when a team has to go from sitting around, barely moving, to trying to ramp up instantly to a live NFL game. Needless to say, after everything, the Ravens simply were not up to full strength, mentally or physically, as the Steelers remained undefeated with a 19-14 victory.


Wednesday’s matinee even included a dance number.
Image: Getty Images

But Roger Goodell got to go on NBC and extol the virtues of their protocols and beam about how every game has been played, and that’s all that matters to the NFL. And no one who can will question it. That’s the way the whole durned comedy keeps perpetuating itself.

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