Gather ‘Round the Stove

 

A Chicago newspaper illustration prior to the 1913 American League Meetings

If you want to keep the peace then you don’t step on the third rail of American conversation. No, it’s not Donald Trump. It’s not even politics. Or religion.

“So, what do you think (fill in the blank with local baseball team) should do this offseason?”

These wintertime conversations used to take place down at the General Store around the stove (hence the phrase, “The Hot Stove League.”) Sometimes the conversation would get so heated the stove was no longer needed.

Eventually, the conversation moved to talk radio and now has migrated to the internet. Neither move elevated the conversation one bit, nor has the creation of the new “nerd stats” which make everybody and his sister Sally an analytical genius General-Manager-in-Waiting. Now, instead of talking about dingers, and Uncle Charlie, it’s WHIP and WAR, launch angle and exit velocity.

What hasn’t changed is the unreasonable and often contradictory nature of it all. The starting points remain the same. “Well, if I were in charge I’d start by trading for (last year’s Cy Young Winner) for (the worst player on my team) and a bag of batting practice balls. If you were (the targeted player’s team) you’d go for that trade, wouldn’t you?”

Mmmmm, sure. Why not?

Or it’s this one: “Man, that contract of so-and-so’s is a killer! Why did they give him all that money? And he’s always hurt and can’t stay on the field! The idiots!” And five seconds later the same guy says, “Why don’t they offer that player an outrageous sum of money for an outrageous length of time? I’ll tell you why! ‘Cause our ownership is cheap, that’s why! And that GM is an idiot!”

Ohhhhhhhh-kay.

Next are the geniuses who have figured out that time only moves in one direction. “Our guys are getting old. That guy’s bat has slowed down, and that other guy has an aging arm. They should bring up that Paul Bunyan kid. Tore up the Forest League last year. Kid can’t miss, I’m telling you.”

“I heard they were thinking of trading him to the Yankees for pitching.”

“What?! Are they freakin’ nuts?! This kid is gonna be a superstar! He’s the future of this franchise! Idiots!”

Wisdom of the ages? “Potential” is that French word for “ain’t done it yet,” Frank Robinson was not an “old 30,” and in the words of that great baseball savant Doris Day, “The future’s not ours to see, Jackson.”

Of course, the Hot Stovers are blessed in their ignorance. As they argue over transactions they’re only trading numbers on a spreadsheet. They know nothing of the people behind the game — who was struggling because one of their parents was dying, which kid in the minors seems to be universally loathed by his teammates, or who had nagging little injuries that kept them from performing well but it wasn’t bad enough to put them on the DL.

But in these cold days of January, with snow on the diamonds and even spring training games feeling like an eternity away, it keeps the blues at bay. Throw another log on the fire and let’s check Twitter for the latest rumors.

Published in Sports
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  1. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    It’s the most underrated part of the season.

    Pitcher and catchers report: 22 days, 12 hours, 48 minutes.

    • #1
  2. thelonious Member
    thelonious
    @thelonious

    The biggest news is what’s not happening. Harper and Machado still not signed. Could it be dah dah dah ……. collusion?

    • #2
  3. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    It’s been a relatively dull off-season so far.  

    • #3
  4. Scott Wilmot Member
    Scott Wilmot
    @ScottWilmot

    I hot stove with Richard Justice and Anthony Castrovince on MLB’s Morning Lineup podcast. It is great talk to get you through the winter – and the season. Good stuff – check it out if you are not familiar with it.

    As for my team the Tribe – I hope they hold on to Kluber, Carrasco, and Bauer and get some outfielders who can hit and drive in runs and score.

    • #4
  5. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    thelonious (View Comment):

    The biggest news is what’s not happening. Harper and Machado still not signed. Could it be dah dah dah ……. collusion?

    Players need to figure out that the economics are changing.

     

     

    • #5
  6. thelonious Member
    thelonious
    @thelonious

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    thelonious (View Comment):

    The biggest news is what’s not happening. Harper and Machado still not signed. Could it be dah dah dah ……. collusion?

    Players need to figure out that the economics are changing.

     

     

    Interesting to see the Dodgers cutting payroll. Also the Red Sox, Yankees and Cubs don’t seem very interested in increasing their payroll. The big paychecks these big market teams were all too willing to hand out don’t seem to be there anymore.

    • #6
  7. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    thelonious: Could it be dah dah dah ……. collusion?

    “Collusion” is a Latin medical expression meaning a temporary period of mass sanity.

    Part of this is fueled by the agents through the media. A national reporter asks an agent what he thinks his client deserves and that sets the baseline of the conversation, regardless whether the numbers make sense or not. When that market doesn’t materialize nobody says, well he’s asking for unrealistic and unreasonable contract, it’s always the clubs are colluding against them.

    • #7
  8. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    thelonious: Interesting to see the Dodgers cutting payroll.

    The Players Association love the big money teams, but they also want healthy teams from top to bottom. That’s why they agreed to the luxury tax on total payrolls. The recent trade the Dodgers made with Cincinnati is an example of that at work. They jettisoned four players on their major league roster for a pitcher with a bad arm and a pre-trade agreement to give that pitcher his unconditional release, all because that contract was worth less under the tax formula under the collective bargaining agreement. A buyout of $28M actually saved them money.

    • #8
  9. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    EJHill (View Comment):

    thelonious: Could it be dah dah dah ……. collusion?

    “Collusion” is a Latin medical expression meaning a temporary period of mass sanity.

    Part of this is fueled by the agents through the media. A national reporter asks an agent what he thinks his client deserves and that sets the baseline of the conversation, regardless whether the numbers make sense or not. When that market doesn’t materialize nobody says, well he’s asking for unrealistic and unreasonable contract, it’s always the clubs are colluding against them.

    Based on limited experience (people I know), those on the left buy into the collusion narrative to a considerable degree.  In their world, players are still “workers” and management is capable of anything.  The fact that the luxury tax thresholds are actually doing what they were designed to do seems to escape those who hold this view.  The collusion comes in when poorer team are fiscally responsible and wealthier teams won’t exceed certain thresholds even though “they have the money.”

    • #9
  10. Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler Member
    Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler
    @Muleskinner

    EJHill (View Comment):

    thelonious: Interesting to see the Dodgers cutting payroll.

    The Players Association love the big money teams, but they also want healthy teams from top to bottom.

    Is the association really that smart? 

    • #10
  11. thelonious Member
    thelonious
    @thelonious

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    EJHill (View Comment):

    thelonious: Could it be dah dah dah ……. collusion?

    “Collusion” is a Latin medical expression meaning a temporary period of mass sanity.

    Part of this is fueled by the agents through the media. A national reporter asks an agent what he thinks his client deserves and that sets the baseline of the conversation, regardless whether the numbers make sense or not. When that market doesn’t materialize nobody says, well he’s asking for unrealistic and unreasonable contract, it’s always the clubs are colluding against them.

    Based on limited experience (people I know), those on the left buy into the collusion narrative to a considerable degree. In their world, players are still “workers” and management is capable of anything. The fact that the luxury tax thresholds are actually doing what they were designed to do seems to escape those who hold this view. The collusion comes in when poorer team are fiscally responsible and wealthier teams won’t exceed certain thresholds even though “they have the money.”

    To be fair MLB owners lost a collusion lawsuit in the late 1980’s. They do have a history of doing this.

    • #11
  12. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    thelonious: To be fair MLB owners lost a collusion lawsuit in the late 1980’s. They do have a history of doing this.

    To be fair, how many of those owners are still there?

    • #12
  13. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    EJHill (View Comment):

    thelonious: To be fair MLB owners lost a collusion lawsuit in the late 1980’s. They do have a history of doing this.

    To be fair, how many of those owners are still there?

    And were there any institutional penalties for “overspending” as there are today that would provide an alternative explanation?

    My explanation is 1) there are cheap teams that aren’t really interested in going all out to win, 2) there are wealthy teams that have spent so much the luxury tax is becoming meaningful, and 3) there are middling teams who have grasped the dynamic and realized they don’t have to jump in and make an offer that they’re uncomfortable with, making it more advantageous to wait out the market.

    • #13
  14. thelonious Member
    thelonious
    @thelonious

    EJHill (View Comment):

    thelonious: To be fair MLB owners lost a collusion lawsuit in the late 1980’s. They do have a history of doing this.

    To be fair, how many of those owners are still there?

    I have no idea if collusion is going on. I would say the dynamic in baseball makes it easier for collusion. Only 5 or 6 teams can afford big time free agents like Harper or Machado meaning a small cadre of owners can easily determine the market value of free agents. Other leagues have hard or semi hard salary caps that makes it nearly impossible for owners to collude.

    • #14
  15. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    thelonious (View Comment):

    EJHill (View Comment):

    thelonious: To be fair MLB owners lost a collusion lawsuit in the late 1980’s. They do have a history of doing this.

    To be fair, how many of those owners are still there?

    I have no idea if collusion is going on. I would say the dynamic in baseball makes it easier for collusion. Only 5 or 6 teams can afford big time free agents like Harper or Machado meaning a small cadre of owners can easily determine the market value of free agents. Other leagues have hard or semi hard salary caps that makes it nearly impossible for owners to collude.

    Does the MLB players association support a hard cap?

     

    • #15
  16. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    There’s also the analytics “revolution” that has theoretically made it easier to quantify a player’s value and trend in performance.  I’m not sure that it’s collusion if most of the teams get smarter at pretty much the same time.

    • #16
  17. thelonious Member
    thelonious
    @thelonious

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    thelonious (View Comment):

    EJHill (View Comment):

    thelonious: To be fair MLB owners lost a collusion lawsuit in the late 1980’s. They do have a history of doing this.

    To be fair, how many of those owners are still there?

    I have no idea if collusion is going on. I would say the dynamic in baseball makes it easier for collusion. Only 5 or 6 teams can afford big time free agents like Harper or Machado meaning a small cadre of owners can easily determine the market value of free agents. Other leagues have hard or semi hard salary caps that makes it nearly impossible for owners to collude.

    Does the MLB players association support a hard cap?

     

    Doubt it. If that hard cap includes a minimum amount teams have to spend similar to the NBA I’d bet most would. It would benefit the average player the most.

    • #17
  18. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    …As they argue over transactions they’re only trading numbers on a spreadsheet. They know nothing of the people behind the game – who was struggling because one of their parents was dying, which kid in the minors seems to be universally loathed by his teammates, or who had nagging little injuries that kept them from performing well but it wasn’t bad enough to put them on the DL.

    Absolutely true. But it’s also gotta be said that we old guys tend to go to the other extreme. “Kid, don’t try to confuse me with numbers. No computer is going to reach down and pull out a win. Like the song says, you gotta have heart. The real greats play through the pain. In the clutch, greatness comes through. Real men call it guts”. Blah blah blah.

    How many times do we hear or read, “Now it’s up to the batters to back up their pitcher”, as if each of them had a switch in his head–“Help our pitcher/win the game” or “Ehh, we have no loyalty to him, so let’s lose”.

    • #18
  19. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    …As they argue over transactions they’re only trading numbers on a spreadsheet. They know nothing of the people behind the game – who was struggling because one of their parents was dying, which kid in the minors seems to be universally loathed by his teammates, or who had nagging little injuries that kept them from performing well but it wasn’t bad enough to put them on the DL.

    Absolutely true. But it’s also gotta be said that we old guys tend to go to the other extreme. “Kid, don’t try to confuse me with numbers. No computer is going to reach down and pull out a win. Like the song says, you gotta have heart. The real greats play through the pain. In the clutch, greatness comes through. Real men call it guts”. Blah blah blah.

    How many times do we hear or read, “Now it’s up to the batters to back up their pitcher”, as if each of them had a switch in his head–“Help our pitcher/win the game” or “Ehh, we have no loyalty to him, so let’s lose”.

    • #19
  20. Mike Rapkoch Moderator
    Mike Rapkoch
    @MikeRapkoch

    Since I don’t have anyone to talk the game with, I get my fix from MLB’s Hot Stove, which is the best off-season show in my never humble opinion. It’s laid back, funny, and insightful so it’s almost the same, except I can’r add the own worthless two cents.

    What’s bugging me the most in the “it’s a young man”s game crap. Baseball is, among many other things, a game of legends. If we reach the point that players are released at age 29 (30 is now considered old) then might just as well convert the ballparks to roller derby rinks.

    • #20
  21. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Mike Rapkoch: If we reach the point that players are released at age 29 (30 is now considered old) then might just as well convert the ballparks to roller derby rinks.

    The average length of a MLB career is 5.6 years. You need 6 years of service time to become a free agent. The average age of a MLB rookie is 24.5 years old. Now do all the math.

    If a free agent is lucky he can squeeze out some very good years between 30 and 34. 

    • #21
  22. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Gary McVey: “Ehh, we have no loyalty to him, so let’s lose”.

    Oh, so you’ve seen Mat Latos pitch then? Or John Rocker? Sometimes there’s no amount of talent that can save a guy’s career. Those two (and some others) have spurred that kind of attitude from their teammates in the past.

    • #22
  23. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    EJHill (View Comment):

    The average age of a MLB rookie is 24.5 years old.

    I wonder if this is weighted by games played, and would assume that it is not.  It seems high to me, but I would also guess that those above the number (who are raising it) were not particularly good prospects, and may not have had much impact or stuck around very long. Not so for the talented who hit the majors younger.  Mookie Betts will be a free agent at 27.  Perfect timing.

    • #23
  24. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Hoyacon: I wonder if this is weighted by games played, and would assume that it is not.

    Yes and no. A rookie is anyone spending his first full season in the majors but has fewer than 130 at-bats or 50 IP -OR- 45 days on the active roster in previous years (the 45 days does not include September call ups.)

    • #24
  25. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    So Harper and Machado are the big names still out there.  Also Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel.   I also like Marwin Gonzalez, and Nick Markakis should help somebody.    I don’t follow the Phillies real closely, but it seems they should be in on some of these guys.  They’re not poor, the team appears on the rise, and the division is winnable.

    • #25
  26. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    thelonious (View Comment):

    The biggest news is what’s not happening. Harper and Machado still not signed. Could it be dah dah dah ……. collusion?

    If George was still alive they would both be Yankees by now.

    • #26
  27. lowtech redneck Coolidge
    lowtech redneck
    @lowtech redneck

    Well, going into my specific team, I think the Braves made an outstanding decision to sign Donaldson for a single season, and regretfully had carnal relations with the proverbial pooch with regards to their inability to sign Yasmani Grandal and Michael Brantley.  I’m meh on signing Brian McCann, and am beginning to worry that Julio Teheran will not get traded to make room for young pitchers with near TOR potential (unless his velocity has suddenly recovered, in which case bird in hand and all that). I also worry that the Braves are blowing a chance to get maximum trade value from their glut of pitching prospects……while simultaneously being afraid that they’ll trade the prospects that I want to keep.  You can be sure I’ll find something to complain about, either way.

    • #27
  28. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    Ha, you’ve hit on a topic close to my heart, baseball!  In fact my disappearance from Ricochet from last March to just a few weeks ago had mostly to do with the baseball season.  There just isn’t enough time to follow my team every game, follow the baseball news, follow the discussion boards and still have time for Rico with everything else I do and follow.  I suspect comebaseball season in a few more weeks, I may not be around as often again.  

    As to your post, one of the best things about baseball is the discussion afterward.  Yes, some fans are nuts, but fan is short for fanatic.  ;)

    • #28
  29. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    thelonious (View Comment):

    The biggest news is what’s not happening. Harper and Machado still not signed. Could it be dah dah dah ……. collusion?

    No.  There has been a trend in teams not going overboard with free agents.  They rarely work out in the long haul of these contracts.

    • #29
  30. Matthew Singer Member
    Matthew Singer
    @MatthewSinger

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    …As they argue over transactions they’re only trading numbers on a spreadsheet. They know nothing of the people behind the game – who was struggling because one of their parents was dying, which kid in the minors seems to be universally loathed by his teammates, or who had nagging little injuries that kept them from performing well but it wasn’t bad enough to put them on the DL.

    Absolutely true. But it’s also gotta be said that we old guys tend to go to the other extreme. “Kid, don’t try to confuse me with numbers. No computer is going to reach down and pull out a win. Like the song says, you gotta have heart. The real greats play through the pain. In the clutch, greatness comes through. Real men call it guts”. Blah blah blah.

    How many times do we hear or read, “Now it’s up to the batters to back up their pitcher”, as if each of them had a switch in his head–“Help our pitcher/win the game” or “Ehh, we have no loyalty to him, so let’s lose”.

    We Red Sox fans call them Dirt Dogs.  

    • #30
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