Spring Training Underway Without Bryce, Manny
February 18, 2019

I'm having a love-hate relationship with my baseball app. Spring training has started, pitchers and catchers reported last week, full squad workouts have begun, and there are still about a hundred or so free agents that haven't signed a contract yet. Some fans and writers are complaining that the system is broken, others say the players are expecting too much money. Both may be true, but all I'm getting from my 'baseball news source' is a bunch of hooey.

The 'MLB At Bat' app is the official source. It's the smart phone version of Scores, columns, schedules, highlights, and, when there's nothing else to write about, lots of rumors or 'what if' columns. My problem is this: If you want to write a story about where Bryce Harper would hit in the batting order if he signs with the Giants, fine. Just don't send out an alert saying 'These are the ramifications if Bryce Harper signs with the Giants.' Writers get paid to write, and publishers demand a certain number of stories a day, but that doesn't make the story alert-worthy.

CNN was doing the same thing three years ago. Every time Donald Trump sneezed or Hillary Clinton coughed, I had to see it on my phone. The fact that the GM of the Giants was seen in a Las Vegas casino is interesting because Harper lives in Vegas, but I shouldn't have to see the headline, and open the app just to find out if he won at blackjack or not.

I hate the term 'fake news', but enough of the melodrama. When Harper or Manny Machado has agreed to a contract, then sound the alarm. Some sort of 'duh-duh-duh-duh, duh duh' sound effect would be appropriate. Even if I was somehow in a movie theater at the time, I wouldn't mind. Until then, stop putting 'Who are the top 100 prospects?' teases on my phome when I get up in the morning. I'm sure Vlad Guerrero and Fernando Tatis, Junior are 1-2, and besides, I have to go to work.

It is a shame about the free agent situation, though. I don't know what you do about it, but Harper and Machado, Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel, should all have teams by now. Harper wanted to be the first 400-million dollar man, but it doesn't like he's going to get it. Moreover, he was reportedly looking for a ten-year deal, and he's almost certainly not going to get that.

Is Harper worth it? It's not our money, so who's to say. He's 26 and, if healthy, should put up big numbers for a long time. But what if he doesn't? Do you think the team that signs him could trade that contract? Of course not. Agents will tell you that his guy is better than that other guy who was making this many million, so his guy is worth so many million more. We get that. Harper and Machado are going to get paid, just probably not for ten years.

It's hard to point blame here. There was a story today that Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer, who was still a free agent at this time last year, said he didn't even see a contract offer until the end of January. Players still need time to mull their options if they have multiple offers, so in Harper's (or Machado's) case, is this the player dragging their feet weighing their options, agents dragging their feet presenting offers to their clients, or teams dragging their feet in making offers in the first place?

Us fans, reporters, and others in the outside world don't know, which means you can't really pontificate on what to do about it. No matter who is at fault here, though, this situation should have resolved itself by now. Again, I don't know how you do it, but there has to be some sort of deadline in place.

Maybe if a player doesn't sign by March 1, he has to sit out a year. That would force a player to take a lesser offer than what he wanted. Maybe if a player isn't signed by March 1 (or pick your own date), he can go back to his old team for what he made last year. I don't think the Dodgers would want Machado back, but if that were the rule, they might not have traded for him last July in the first place. Maybe all the players who don't sign by March 1 have to join an all-free agent team, make a million dollars, and travel the country and play a series of exhibition games. Just think, the Bryce Harper All-Stars vs. the Manny Machado All-Stars at a local stadium near you. Okay, that's not realistic, but at least I'm trying. Get them in camp and let's play ball!

For openers: The first spring traing games aren't until later this week, but two clubs have already named their starting pitchers for Opening Day. Jose Urena will get the ball for the Miami Marlins March 28 against Colorado, and Jameson Taillon will be on the hill for the Pittsburgh Pirates at Cincinnati. Bucs Manager Clint Hurdle's rotation also means Chris Archer will start the home opener against St. Louis April 1.

Gripping tales: Yes, baseball fans (like me, and particularly those in the east who are knee deep in snow) get all excited about pitchers and catchers reporting, and the start of full squad workouts, but most of the 'news' coming out of camps is a little ridiculous. Today's Dodger highlights were that Clayton Kershaw threw 22 pitches in a bullpen session (that equates to about an inning, giving up a couple of base hits), and shortstop Corey Seager (coming off elbow surgery) successfully sliding over two steps to field a routine ground ball. You know, real edge-of-your-seat kind of stuff.

Politico: The 2020 presidential election is now “only” 21 months away, but the election season is having a spring training of its own. Watching one of the Sunday news programs, they announced that the first of the Democratic debates will be in June—just three months from now. Currently, nine candidates have either officially announced or have indicated plans to run. That number could end up being as high as 30. Remember the Republican debates? They started in August of 2015 with seventeen candidates. The Democratic National Committee says this is not the earliest the debates have started, but it sure seems like it.

Aaaaaaaf!: I learned a lot about myself this weekend. I learned that I'd rather watch the Alliance of American Football than the NBA All-Star Game. Not that I'm necessarily proud of this, but there were four AAF games on this weekend (two on Saturday and two on Sunday), and I watched them all. Let's face it, the Orlando Apollos beating the San Antonio Commanders was much more entertaining than a bunch of seven-foot guys standing around and watching 'Team LeBron' score 175 points. I heard the dunk contest was lame (again), but the three-point shootout wasn't bad.

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