Baseball Musings: 6/25

Hello everyone! Welcome back to this week’s edition of Baseball Musings. This was a week for a lot of discord and discussions about money that distracted from the games a bit. This is right up the Baseball Musings’ alley so let’s jump right in and touch on a few of these subjects.

 

Mickey Calloway and The Mets

 

Another year and the Mets are a bit of a mess yet again. There are so many layers to this scenario, it’s not as simple as Mickey Calloway yelling at a reporter and attempting to throw him out of the clubhouse and then Jason Vargas threatening to fight said reporter. This is pretty extreme, especially when you consider the fact that most reports indicate that all the reporter said was “See you tomorrow, Mickey.”

For a short interaction, there’s a lot to unpack both about the incident, the sport itself and how we as fans watch the game.  I think it’s worth breaking the situation down into several parts, essentially the Ownership, Management (The GM and President of the organization), the media the coach, and the players.

First, let’s talk about the coach. Known for his ability as a pitching coach, Calloway had long been ticketed for a head coaching job.  With much love towards New York, I wouldn’t wish on any coach to get their first job in NYC. It’s a really intense environment that will always be at the center of attention.

Given how disappointingly the season has gone for the Mets the last two years, it is understandable that Calloway is on edge and testy. It doesn’t excuse his actions obviously but it certainly helps put them into context. We’ve all snapped at co-workers when things haven’t gone well, especially when they are someone we work tangentially to as opposed to being on the same team as.

Now for Vargas. His actions are the highest level of inexcusable toxic masculinity. Threats of violence are unacceptable and are in no way how we should ever solve problems. Again though I get it.  It’s a player coming to his manager’s defense.

In reality, this is absolutely not the case, especially once you factor in that Vargas reported charged the reporter and had to be held back. That kind of behavior would and should cost most people their jobs in any other work environment.

This creates a hostile work environment. A reporter should have every expectation of being able to go to work and not be threatened or attacked, regardless of his reporting (which seems great) or any questions he asked (again reports say he said “See you tomorrow”).

The debate really should end there.  As for the fans and ballplayers who argue that reporters have no place in a locker room or clubhouse, I do make a simple counterpoint. As fans, we eat that insider reporting up. They are in that locker room because it’s what we want to read about. On the player’s side of things, it’s worth remembering that all that inside information also helps raise their profiles (when it’s good news obviously) and that reporting on sports isn’t just a one-way street in terms of who benefits. Unless you try to assault a reporter that is, and then no one benefits.

This brings me to my final point, and frankly who I actually blame for the situation and that’s the owners and management. I would never call for a person to lose their job, though it’s clear Calloway isn’t the guy for this team given their performance and attitude. When you have a team that had high expectations, made a ton of moves to be competitive and exists in what is essentially baseball’s epicenter market-wise, they’re creating the environment for this situation to boil over in the manner that it has. This isn’t the Marlins, who had to know they would be bad, or the Indians who exist relatively out of the media spotlight.

At some point you have to wonder if A) the Mets are doing a disservice to Calloway by keeping him and B) if they don’t have at least some culpability for the environment and situation.

 

Adam Eaton’s Take on Minor Leaguer’s Struggles

 

As opposed to the previous section where several different people acted wrongly but at least somewhat understandably in a situation exacerbated by losing, Adam Eaton is just plain wrong when he says that the struggles of minor league baseball players are good for them.

First off, the perseverance through adversity concept works for only a certain subset of minor league players.  The signing bonuses players receive drop precipitously after Round 10, along with no health insurance, sick days or paid vacation. In fact, according to a study done by SABR (Society of Baseball Research), a huge portion of the MLB player pool is from the players drafted after the 10th round.  Take a look at rounds 11 – 20:

Rounds % of players play in MLB % of Player’s play 3 years in MLB # of Players per year that will play 3 years
11-15 12.7% 5.2% 8
12-20 9.9% 4.4% 11

So you’re looking at 19 players per year that will see at least three years of MLB playing time out of 310 hopefuls. By the way, having been drafted in the 19th round, Eaton is one of those 19. Given where they were drafted it seems reasonable to expect that it would have taken four to five years (if not more) for those players to even reach the majors. So they don’t get a real signing bonus to keep them afloat AND they’re paid pennies on the dollar for most of that time.

According to this article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, AA salary for the Pirates’ affiliate is $1,500 A MONTH. They’re also not paid for Spring Training (which is almost two months long) or any fall leagues they might participate in, per the article.

What about the 291 other players who will never get the salary boost of making the majors but toil for years in minors making less than minimum wage (minor league ballplayers are exempt from minimum wage and other labor laws).  So certainly living in squalor may have been a boost to those 19 players (it also likely had little to do with it), but for those other players? Not so much.

Talent is beside the point.  In any given year there are roughly 6,500 players in the affiliated minor leagues. Even if every single MLB team had their 40-man roster made up of rookies that would only include 1,240 of those rookies.

So why so many other players?  The hardest part about baseball is the sheer number of players needed to play a game. If you add multiple pitchers into the equation you’re talking about needing 12-15 players on each team just to play a regular game. Now add in the other starting pitchers and a full bullpen and we’re talking a lot of holes you need to fill with players who will never make the majors.  Without them, you don’t have enough players to HAVE minor leagues.

MLB, as it’s currently structured, can’t function without the MILB. Yet MLB will never pay them a living wage to make sure they can have a league? Tell me how that makes sense.

 

California and College Athletes

 

Like I said earlier, lots of talk about sports and money and exploitation this week. One of the reasons I held off on publishing this piece so long is that I wanted the chance to talk about this specific issue. Earlier in the year, California put forth a bill that would allow college athletes to make money off of their names, images, and likenesses.  This could be an earthshaking development for the sports world and I don’t think Sports Illustrated’s Michael McCann is exaggerating when he states that it could mean the end of amateurism in sports.

Now the NCAA hasn’t taken this situation lightly and has threatened to ban all California schools from being eligible for NCAA championships and tournaments, a gambit which I’m assuming is meant to put pressure on the universities who love getting those sweet T.V. and Bowl Game dollars.

The final vote on the bill by the California Assembly’s Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media Committee is today and if it passes it will be law whether the NCAA likes it or not. What does this have to do with baseball? Well, recently Game 2 of the Women’s College World Series final had more viewers than all but three softball and baseball games INCLUDING MLB GAMES. The teams involved? Oklahoma and … UCLA.

Last year game two of the Men’s Final between Oregon State and Arkansas was the second most-watched baseball game of the year. USC has the highest winning percentage in NCAA baseball history and has won the most titles with 10.  Cal State Fullerton and Stanford are annual powerhouses.

It also adds an interesting twist for recruiting.  Will recruiting for California schools go down since the players might not get the prestige and exposure granted by the College World Series, or will it go way up dramatically, especially by those who might be capable of starring at the college level yet never make it to the show and therefore make money off local endorsements or other opportunities while they can? The rippling effects it could have on the baseball world are hard to fathom but as someone who is well on the side of paying collegiate athletes I think this bill is fantastic and I hope that it passes.

 

The June Bump

 

Okay back to the games! I’ve written pretty extensively about how the cold weather can have a huge effect on offense at the beginning of the season. Now that we’re almost all the way through June let’s take a look and see if hitting has taken that leap now that the temperatures have risen.

Month AVG OPS wRC+ wOBA HR/FB% ISO SB R RBI
Full Season .251 .752 97 .319 14.9% .179 1,130 11,207 10,736
March/April .245 .742 95 .316 14.4% .176 430 4,046 3,876
May .252 .751 96 .319 15.0% .178 379 4,086 3,899
June as of the 25th .256 .765 100 .323 15.5% .184 333 3,196 3,059

It certainly seems like offense has steadily gone up each month so far this season as things keep getting warmer. The crazy part is we’re likely due for at least one more bump in July as temperatures peak and players fully hit their strides. Several cold-weather teams have also reaped the benefits of the weather turning, namely the Rockies, Indians, Red Sox, and Pirates. Check their monthly rankings according to runs scored:

Team March/April Rank May Rank June Rank
Rockies 22nd 2nd 4th
Indians 25th 20th 9th
Red Sox 18th 3rd 5th
Pirates 29th 9th 13th

And in case you wanted a more advanced stats approach, here are their rankings by wRC+:

Team March/April Rank May Rank June Rank
Rockies 30th 6th 24th
Indians 27th 19th 8th
Red Sox 20th 3rd 9th
Pirates 25th 16th 10th

Outside of whatever weirdness is going on with the Rockies and wRC+in June, we see once again these teams’ bats come to life.  Lastly, let’s talk power in terms of ISO:

Team March/April Rank May Rank June Rank
Rockies 17th 2nd 21st
Indians 29th 21st 2nd
Red Sox 23rd 5th 14th
Pirates 27th 26th 18th

All these teams got better with warmer weather other than the Rockies, although as a Denver resident I can tell you we’ve actually still been getting some snow and below 50-degree weather. Either way, it’s a good reminder that we shouldn’t really draw conclusions about a cold weather offense until we start to get into May and June. Also, now might be the time to invest in the Cleveland offense before everyone realizes they are knocking the stuffing out of the ball suddenly!

Next week we’ll take a look at the pitchers and start setting the table for a very exciting couple of weeks as I will be heading to the land of my birth, Cleveland, to cover the All-Star game and take in a few local minor league games. Until next time folks!

(Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)

 

Daniel Port

Daniel is a Fantasy Baseball writer, Brewer, and Theatrical Technician, located in Denver, Colorado. A lifelong fan of baseball and the Cleveland Indians since before Albert Belle tried to murder Fernando Vina, he used to tell his Mom he loved her using Sammy Sosa's home run salute, has a perfectly reasonable amount of love for Joey Votto and believes everything in life should be announced using bat flips. If you want to talk baseball, beer, or really anything at all you can find him on twitter at @DanielJPort !

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