MLB.TV.PSA

Readers of this website know that this author is among the last people on Earth who would go out of his way to promote an MLBAM business decision, but here you are, reading a post by me notifying you that MLB.tv is on sale today for a loosely speaking fair-ish price.

Of course, this occasion mostly serves as a reminder of MLB’s callous media-distribution practices. Six years ago, the league settled an antitrust lawsuit attacking things like its telecast blackout policy and centralized MLB.tv product by agreeing to make pricing and offering concessions to fans. Specifically, the seasonal price of the full MLB.tv package at that time would drop from $129.99 to $109.99, and the league would create a new, single-team package at a seasonal price of $84.99. These prices were to remain fixed for five years (i.e., through the 2020 season), subject to annual increases only up to the higher of three percent or the rate of inflation.

Now, that settlement agreement has expired, and MLB is seizing the opportunity to undo its effects. Most obviously, across-the-board pricing is up, doubly insulting as the league simultaneously excludes games from the full MLB.tv package for the benefit of its new partnerships with NBC and Apple.

Perhaps even more underhanded, however, is the soft killing of the single-team MLB.tv package. When first offered, the single-team option was priced at seventy-seven-percent of the full package price, then a twenty-five-dollar difference. MLB now has aggressively closed that gap. At today’s sale pricing, for example, the cost of the single-team option has jumped to eighty-six-percent of the full package price, just a ten-dollar difference. Stated otherwise, someone considering a single-team package can receive a thirty-fold increase in programming for just ten additional dollars. “Even you dummies know that’s a good deal,” fans hear Rob Manfred saying in their heads, even as they wonder why it doesn’t quite feel like a deal. The move to neutralize the single-team package feels like a purely spiteful move designed to achieve the functional undoing of one of the settlement agreement’s most visible achievements without any meaningful cost savings to MLB.

As I have been writing here for years, the message should be a simple one: “Rather than changing the game he wants people to watch . . . Manfred ought to change the way people can watch the game, obviously by making it easier for them to do so.” For how much longer can Manfred continue to squeeze baseball’s fans– including, as a recent example, Padres fans required to purchase yet another streaming service to watch this morning’s Peacock-exclusive game against the Atlanta Braves beginning at 8:35 am San Diego time– remains to be seen.

Miguel Cabrera’s 3,000th Hit Put Him in Exclusive Company (via FanGraphs)

Miguel Cabrera had to wait a couple of extra days to make history, thanks to a hitless afternoon capped by a controversial managerial decision and then a rainout. Nonetheless, on Saturday afternoon he collected his 3,000th career hit with a single off the Rockies’ Antonio Senzatela. In doing so, he joined some elite company as not only the 33rd player to reach 3,000 hits, but also the seventh to do so as a member of the 500-homer club and the third to reach both of those round numbers with a career batting average of .300 or better. The other two? Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. You may have heard of them, and even if you don’t put much stock in batting average, you have to admit that’s about as cool as company gets.

What’s more, Cabrera actually owns the highest batting average and on-base percentage of the seven players who have both milestones, with a wRC+ that trails only Mays and Aaron[.]

For all of his struggles over the past half-decade, Cabrera would still have to go 0-for-352 to drop his batting average to .299. Even with those struggles and his lack of defensive value (he’s 102 runs below average in terms of Defensive Runs Saved, including 11 below in just 847.1 innings at first base since 2018), he ranks 11th in JAWS among first basemen (68.8/44.8/56.8), in no danger of slipping below Palmeiro (13th at 71.9/38.9/55.4) or Murray (16th at 68.7/39.2/53.9). And while he may be the last to reach 3,000 hits for some time given the dearth of candidates (Dan Szymborski put Jose Altuve, who has 1,783 hits, at 34% and Freddie Freeman, who has 1,723 hits, at 28% last September), he’s hardly the least.

Cabrera joined Ty Cobb and Al Kaline as the other players to reach 3,000 hits as Tigers. As ESPN’s Marly Rivera pointed out, he’s the first Venezuelan to reach 3,000 hits and the seventh Latino, after Roberto Clemente, Rod Carew, Palmeiro, Rodriguez, Adrián Beltré, and Pujols. … Read More

(via FanGraphs)

[UPDATED] Braves not Truist to their word on new tax handouts (via AJC)

The fact that the Atlanta Braves got a ton of cash from taxpayers to build their new ballpark is largely forgotten in the wake of the team’s World Series victory.

But there was an understanding when the Braves got $300 million-plus from Cobb County to construct its park: It was that the team, on its own nickel, would build all the affiliated restaurants, apartments and office towers ― AKA The Battery.

Mike Plant, the team’s development chief, promised this back in 2015 when he said, “We do not ask, nor do we intend to ask, for any incentives for the mixed-use part.”

Well, that was then.

Last week, the Bravos were up at the plate again looking for a second helping of taxpayer love. The team and their friends at Truist, the mega-bank with a silly name, approached the Cobb Development Authority with the latest scheme: a 10-year property tax break to help build a $200 million, 250,000-square-foot office tower overlooking Truist Park. … Read More

(via AJC)

UPDATE: “The Atlanta Braves and Truist Financial this past week withdrew their application for property tax breaks on a $200 million office tower at The Battery, Cobb County development officials confirmed to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.”

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Previously
“Atlanta” Braves seek millions more from Cobb County
Ted Turner on the Atlanta Braves’ move to Cobb County
2017 Atlanta Braves Season Preview
Braves finally strike a positive note in move to new stadium
The political costs of a new baseball stadium
Previewing the 2016 Atlanta Braves
The Braves are failing on their own terms
New Braves stadium project continues to falter
Georgia Supreme Court Upholds Cobb’s Braves Stadium Bond Deal
Braves Break Ground on Baseball Boondoggle
The yard sale at Upton Abbey continues
From Barves to Burbs: What’s happening to baseball in Atlanta?

No Joy in Mudville, No CBA Deal in Jupiter, and No Opening Day on March 31 (via FanGraphs)

So much for commissioner Rob Manfred’s stated desire to avoid a “disastrous outcome,” and so much for the urgency of the owners’ “defensive” lockout, which was supposed to jumpstart negotiations towards a new collective bargaining agreement — albeit in a most curious manner, with 43 days of radio silence and just one formal proposal to the players over a 71-day span. On Tuesday evening, the commissioner canceled the first two series of the regular season — a total of 91 games, constituting five to seven for each team — after the players union and the owners failed to meet his artificially-imposed deadline for a new CBA in time to preserve the season’s scheduled opening on March 31.

“I had hoped against hope I wouldn’t have to have this press conference where I am going to cancel some regular season games,” said Manfred on Tuesday. Citing the two sides meeting in Jupiter, Florida for nine straight days, he added, “I want to assure our fans that our failure to reach an agreement was not due to a lack of effort by either party.”

If indeed those games are lost, they would be the first regular season games missed due to a work stoppage since the 1994-95 players’ strike, and the first due to a lockout by the owners….

It’s worth reiterating that any attempt to reduce the number of games below 162 and thus salaries, service time (including eligibility for free agency), and bonuses would be subject to collective bargaining as well, opening a can of worms that could affect both sides’ positions on other issues….Read More

(via FanGraphs)

The Bonds of Enshrinement: Assessing the Cooperstown Case for David Ortiz in 2022

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Earlier this year,* the Baseball of Fame passed an important threshold when Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, and Sammy Sosa each failed to secure enough votes for induction on their final year of eligibility (though various mop-up committees conceivably could change that in the future). In other news, David Ortiz was the only player selected for enshrinement this year.

In the last decade or so, the online baseball social media community quickly and unequivocally came to the unwavering position that Bonds, allegations of wrongdoing cast far aside, belongs in the Hall.** Thus, any voter supporting Bonds’ candidacy is cheered as righteous, upstanding, intelligent, and correct, while any failing to do so is an unreconstructed hypocrite. These are the only choices.

As ever with these types of social movements, it isn’t enough to be “right.” One also must be right for the right reason. Naturally, herein also enters the discussion of identifying the right reason why the wrong are wrong, perhaps so as to convert them– upon receipt of the crowd’s wise and agreed critique– to being right. Among collective critics, few devices are more seductive than the critique of hypocrisy, and boy are people who think Barry Bonds should be in the baseball hall of fame enjoying lobbing that one over the barricade right now. As enunciated by ESPN baseball “insider” and live Pinocchio puppet Jeff Passan, the latest version goes like this:

The campaign against Bonds has spanned decades, involving malfunctions of fairness and logic across multiple cohorts.

It starts with Major League Baseball and the blind eye that Selig, his office and the game’s stewards turned toward PEDs. From there came the duplicity of riding the steroid wave to new stadiums and bigger TV deals and exponential revenue growth while villainaizing the very people who fueled it.

Perhaps ironically (irony being another too-seductive critique of people expressing themselves on the internet), Passan’s thesis contains some infirmities of its own. Omission of serial commas aside, this seems to ignore the fact that the Hall is a separate entity outside the control of MLB or its commissioner or club owners. Everyone associated with baseball profited from the game’s pharmacologically driven power boom in the second half of the 1990s, and MLB still recognizes all of the statistics posted and records broken during that era. Among “the game’s stewards,” only the Hall and its electors have tried to deny laudatory acknowledgement of this period of history. The facts do not support this particular smear of Bud Selig and the owners. (Readers of this site know there are plenty of other, valid reasons to engage in that exercise.)

Nor does logic support the levying of this charge. If player-driven, sport-wide profits should buoy the Hall-of-Fame credentials of the players whose playing pushed those profits, then, the theory would hold, more support is due to, for example, the non-serving players who kept the game going during World War II (vis-a-vis the likes of Hank Greenberg and Ted Williams) or the white players, simply by virtue of their skin color, during MLB racial segregation. As concerns this sort of parsing, the far-better and generally accepted view is, of course, the opposite. Passan’s contention is too reductive to be useful.

And none of this explains Ortiz’s first-ballot election. Let’s start with the case for Ortiz. He spent most of a twenty-season career with a very successful, popular, and visible Boston Red Sox team for which he was one of the most visible faces. He was a key part of three World Series championships, adding World Series and ALCS MVP honors to ten regular-season All-Star nods. Ortiz didn’t experience much of a decline as he aged, and, as a forty-year-old, he led all of baseball in slugging (.620), OPS (1.021), and doubles (48) in 2016, his final season. He finished with 2,472 hits and 541 home runs.

I don’t lose much sleep over first-ballot (or unanimous first-ballot) status; you’re either in or you’re out. That said, here, in reverse-chronological order, is the full list of players selected for enshrinement on their respective first ballot:

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You Took the Words Right Out of My Jam

Nobody hit that grand rock production sweet spot like Meat Loaf, who died yesterday at the age of seventy-four, and who, this now being the end of time for which no one prayed, Satan better hope is not coming his way. My first memory of Meat Loaf was an appearance at an MLB all-star game. (Google suggests it might be this one, but I’m not so sure.) When I later heard the original music he created with Jim Steinman, Prof. Roy Bittan, the Mighty Max Weinberg, and Todd Rundgren, with assists from Edgar Winter and Phil Rizzuto, it was almost impossible to believe it was real, and seeing that music presented in the context of the Rocky Horror Picture Show didn’t make it any easier to believe. Bat out of Hell, Meat Loaf’s 1977 debut, is punch in the face after punch in the face, and the title track and “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” are knockouts. A decade and a half later, 1993’s Bat out of Hell II proved Loaf & Co. still had it, opening with comeback epic singalong “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do that).” (Full disclosure: this post is not sponsored by Dr Pepper.)

Meat Loaf’s memory can bear two selections, and these two heavy hitters will serve as this week’s Jam:

Miguel Cabrera stays positive in 2021, and the Detroit Tigers outperform expectations

Before the 2021 season began, we, along with everyone else, predicted that it would be a historic season for Miguel Cabrera. The team’s veteran anchor had within range two of baseball’s all-time career benchmarks: 500 home runs and 3,000 hits. On August 22, Cabrera knocked his 500th career homer over the right-center fence in Toronto, becoming just the twenty-eighth player in MLB history to accomplish that feat. And, even in the face of declining batting average and power production, Cabrera came within a baker’s dozen of 3,000 hits. He finished the year with a career total of 2,987, teeing up another exciting celebration for early in the 2022 season.

Also significant: according to WARP, Cabrera was a positive-value contributor to the Tigers in 2021. While not remotely glamorous, his 0.7 WARP represented his best seasonal performance by that metric since 2016. It also marks his nineteenth-consecutive year as a positive WARP contributor, keeping alive the possibility he finishes his career among the elite, selective group of players who played at least twenty-one seasons without tallying a negative in the wins-above-replacement column. Among active players, only Yadier Molina (eighteen seasons of positive WARP); Robinson Cano (sixteen seasons of non-negative WARP); and Joey Votto (fifteen seasons of non-negative WARP) even are candidates to join this group in the next six years, and the best bet probably is that none of them will make it. As much as anything, Cabrera’s contract, under which he’s signed through his twenty-first season (with extremely unlikely to vest options for more beyond that), makes this achievement a possibility.

As for the rest of the team, there were some other things to like in 2021 too. Other outlets have covered player and prospect development more comprehensively, so I’ll just add a note that the team as a whole outperformed the major projection systems’ preseason expectations (PECOTA: sixty-six wins; FanGraphs: seventy-one wins) by notching a lofty seventy-seven wins. There were some nice winning stretches this season, including a hot start to the second half, which afforded them, with five games to go, mathematical possibilities of finishing with a .500 record and second place in the division (alas, neither of those things occurred).

Finally, on the subject of projections and expectations, had 2021 played out the way PECOTA saw it before the season started, we would have seen some special oddities:

Cabrera didn’t hit a triple, and Buck Farmer did not earn his first career save, the latter a big miss for our readers, especially since the Tigers released Farmer in mid-August after just 35.1 innings pitched. Jeimer Candelario was not caught stealing all year, though, and Matthew Boyd at last notched a sub-4.00 ERA season. Not bad!

As nice as those small accomplishments appear, their respective contexts provide additional color. For Candelario, it was a nothing-ventured-nothing-lost situation. While he wasn’t caught stealing for the first time since 2017, nor did he successfully steal a base, something that also last occurred in 2017. Candelario, it appears, was not part of A.J. Hinch’s base-stealing revolution in Detroit. For Boyd, his 3.89 ERA made for a career-best mark, but it wasn’t a career-best season for him, as the Opening Day starter appeared in just fifteen games and pitched fewer than eighty innings, missing all of July and nearly all of August and September due to soreness in his throwing elbow. Boyd, who may be headed to free agency, likely would’ve traded a slightly worse ERA for a full season of healthy starts in 2021. A difficult reminder that PECOTA may be able to tell us the what (at least fifty percent of the time, anyway), but not the how or why.

Now it’s onto the postseason (the AL wild card round begins tonight) and, hopefully, an exciting and active offseason for the Tigers, who appear ripe to move aggressively back into contention for the division in 2022.

Five Hundred Home Runs Dies In Darkness?

The ever-astute and hip Washington Post decided to celebrate Miguel Cabrera’s historic home run achievement by opining that Cabrera and Albert Pujols may be the last major leaguers to reach five hundred home runs and three thousand hits because apparently they tallied a lot of their numbers while opposing pitching was relatively bad and batters (but we’re not saying who!) artificially extended their careers with prohibited performance-enhancing drugs, and pitching is good now and PEDs are gone.

Rather than engage that cheerful take, let’s join the throngs of the genuinely happy and have yet another look at the rarity of Cabrera’s accomplishment from two big-picture perspectives.

Cabrera famously hit his first career MLB home run in his first career MLB game, a walk-off shot in the bottom of the eleventh inning. That day, June 20, 2003, Cabrera, then twenty years old, became the 18,306th person to play Major League Baseball. (A list of all 2003 debutants is available here.) As of this writing, 22,538 people have done so, meaning that Cabrera, the twenty-eighth player to five hundred homers, joined a group that represents barely a tenth of a percent of all MLB players ever. Whether we eventually will look back at this benchmark as– perhaps like Rickey Henderson’s 1,406 career stolen bases or maybe Denny McClain’s 31 wins in 1968– an irreplicable vestige of eras past is, for this moment, a matter for dour D.C. dilettantes to debate. We can celebrate and appreciate the extreme rarity and therefore special nature of Cabrera’s feat right now.

Also noteworthy in the present moment is the rarity of the observation of the achievement for current fans. The six seasons between Cabrera’s five-hundredth blast and David Ortiz’s was the longest such gap between such career landmark hits since the nine-year period between Mike Schmidt’s (1987) and Eddie Murray’s (1996).

That the combination of talent, consistency, and longevity required to hit five hundred major-league home runs always has been rare and appears likely to remain so does not in any way diminish the significance of the accomplishment. And although the Washington Post isn’t projected to produce any journalism on the level of Woodward and Bernstein’s Watergate work in the foreseeable future and hasn’t since, neither has Cabrera taken time to comment on the Post’s weaker competition during the zenith of institutional print media. (Selections from today’s online front page for modern reference.)

Thus, a humble suggestion that the Washington Post aim its performative social criticism elsewhere. Cabrera, with his excellent resume and obvious love of the game, can handle it, but it doesn’t become them. Perhaps the editors just are embarrassed that their own team can’t hang onto this type of historic player and so responds by lashing out at other greats. Regardless, I look forward to not reading a Washington Post sportswriter’s forthcoming book on Stephen Strasburg’s career entitled The Final Days.

Miguel Cabrera’s Monster Milestone (via FanGraphs)

On Sunday afternoon against the Blue Jays, Miguel Cabrera became the newest member of an elite baseball club by hitting his 500th regular-season home run, making him just the 28th player to reach that mark in MLB history; he joins Albert Pujols as the only active players on the list. (He’s also the first-ever Tiger and first ever Venezuelan-born player to get there). Cabrera is also chasing entry into the equally exclusive 3,000 hits club, but he would need roughly a hit per game for the rest of the season to do that, making 2022 more likely, so let’s focus on 500 and his road there. … Read More

(via FanGraphs)

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Related
Miguel Cabrera in the bWAR era
Miguel Cabrera continues to shine in the DRC era
Miguel Cabrera further bolstered by sabermetric update
Trout vs. Cabrera, and Aging with DRC+ (via Baseball Prospectus)
Man vs. Machine
Real talk: The media is completely blowing it on the Miguel Cabrera triple crown story

Cherry picking the 2021 Detroit Tigers All-Stars

The annual National Cherry Festival resumes this weekend in Traverse City and runs until the start of the 2021 MLB All-Star break begins after the following weekend. Let’s use that time to look at how the Detroit Tigers have been performing over an intraseason period selected solely to make them appear better than they have been if you do something foolish like take then entire season into account.

On May 7, the Tigers lost to the Minnesota Twins 7-3, dropping their record to 9-24, and leaving them as the only MLB team without a double-digit win total. Miguel Cabrera was running a career-worst .127/.225/.238 line, and the team had just one above-average hitter in Jeimer Candelario (115 wRC+, with his BABIP still hovering around .400).

On May 8, though, the Tigers reversed the scoreboard and beat the Twins 7-3. That started a 25-21 run, a .543 winning percentage that– holding all else constant– would bump Detroit up to third place in the AL Central (or first place in the NL East).* Sure they actually remain locked in a virtual tie for last place in the division, but let’s stick with this May 8 thing a little while longer.

Since May 8, Detroit quadrupled its tally of above-average hitters. Robbie Grossman and Eric Haase (both 107 wRC+) have come on strong and clutch. And Jonathan Schoop and breakout star Akil Baddoo are on fire. Their respective 167 wRC+ and 159 wRC+ marks would make each of them top-ten hitters if extended over the full season to date. (On the other hand, Candelario dropped 100 points of BABIP and flipped his wRC+ from 115 to 85.)

As he so often does, Miguel Cabrera deserves special mention. He’s pulled up his offensive rate numbers a good deal and continues to accumulate historic-level career achievements. He continues to close in on 3,000 hits (2,915), and at 493 homers, he now is tied with Lou Gehrig and Fred McGriff on the all-time list.

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