Archive for March, 2013

Game On: Blue Jays’ “Mission ’13” Set to Launch

Mission Control is set to count down from 10.  No more waiting, no more speculating, and no more talk about a clubs’ quality ‘on paper’.  The much-anticipated 2013 season is underway with Texas and AL-newbie Houston squaring off in what might become a great rivalry sometime in the future.  There’s legitimate interest in the game: it’s baseball; HOU is playing its first game as a part of the AL after 51 title-less years in the NL; and TEX has its work cut out to stay at or near the top of the AL West.  Other than that…meh.

Jays’ fans have their own reasons to salivate about the ’13 season, some of which we’ve covered over the last few months.  It’s been a long haul for Jays’ fans since the teams’ last playoff appearance.  That and the apparent decline of some of their AL East rivals, notably the Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, have led some to believe that this is one of those rare times when the door’s been thrown open; the Jays only need to walk through it.  An offseason of trades, free agent signings, and spring training prep have them poised to do just that.

Their opening day batting order projects as follows:

  1. SS Jose Reyes
  2. LF Melky Cabrera
  3. RF Jose Bautista
  4. 1B Edwin Encarnacion
  5. DH Adam Lind
  6. C JP Arencibia
  7. CF Colby Rasmus
  8. 2B Emilio Bonifacio
  9. 3B Maicer Izturis

Four of those players are new to the team, as is the starting pitcher, RA Dickey, who will be opposed by Justin Masterson and the Cleveland Indians.

The Blue Jays’ 25 man roster consists of the following:

Pitchers (13): Mark Buehrle; Josh Johnson; Brandon Morrow; RA Dickey; JA Happ; Brett Cecil; Casey Janssen; Steve Delabar; Jeremy Jeffress; Aaron Loup; Darren Oliver; Esmil Rogers; and Sergio Santos;

Position Players (12): JP Arencibia; Henry Blanco; Mark DeRosa; Adam Lind; Maicer Izturis; Jose Reyes; Jose Bautista; Emilio Bonifacio; Melky Cabrera; Rajai Davis; Colby Rasmus; and Edwin Encarnacion.

You will likely notice several things about the roster.  First, it’s very different from last season.  There are 13 roster players that have joined the Blue Jays since last July, making them ‘new’ additions.

Second, there’s no Ricky Romero.  He’s been sent to Dunedin (A) to work on pitching issues.  The spot in the rotation that he would have occupied (#5) was won by JA Happ in Spring Training.

Third, there’s no Brett Lawrie.  He’s starting the season on the 15-day DL.  I expect this to be a usual occurrence for Brett, given the way he plays the game and his apparent fragility.

The injuries and demotions highlight something already: they’re deep, talented, and experienced.  It’s a roster built to win now, as well as for the next couple of seasons.  No one’s going to give it to them, though: the Jays’ final 15 games of the season (9 @ Rogers; 6 on the road) are against AL East teams, and the final three are against Tampa.

After the intensely-frustrating, injury-riddled debacle of 2012, Farrell-gate, and 20 years of mediocrity or worse in Toronto, 7:07 pm EST on April 2, 2013 can’t come fast enough for me.  We should have a good idea what kind of team this will be since, by the end of April, they will have played AL East opponents 13 times (and 32 times by the end of May).  “Ground control to Major Tom: commencing countdown, engines on…”  Bring it!

Wes Kepstro


A Word About Salaries in Major League Baseball

Mike Trout is a good baseball player. Mike Trout is the reigning Rookie of the Year. Mike Trout finished second in the AL MVP vote in 2012. Mike Trout is 20 years old and has accumulated one year and 70 days worth of MLB service time. Mike Trout will make $510,000 this season to play baseball. And his agent, Craig Landis, thinks it’s “unfair” (his word, not mine), and that Arte Moreno short-changed the Angels’ wunderkind. Maybe Arte did; maybe Arte didn’t.

In tough economic times, as we’ve endured for several years, there isn’t much sympathy for Mike Trout: $510,000 is a lot of bananas, more bananas than I make. But that’s apples and oranges, isn’t it? No, comparing Mike Trout to Henry Blanco is apples and oranges. When we compare Mike Trout’s situation to our own situation, it’s like comparing apples to moon rocks or Bigfoot sightings. The two ideas are so far apart that it’s meaningless to compare them. The only similarity is the subject itself: pay rate. When you and I can generate revenue at that level, then our collective noses can get out of joint.

Is Mike Trout underpaid? Comparisons to other sports are difficult because of different economic structures, as well as different Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA). Comparisons within baseball but across generations is difficult due to inflation. That rules out the obvious Fred Lynn comparison. So what about the last, say, 5 years or so? Dave Cameron at Fangraphs did some helpful work there, so I’ll borrow his idea:

  • Giancarlo Stanton made $480,000 last year and will make $537,000 in ’13;
  • Clayton Kershaw made $440,000 in his 2nd year and $500,000 in his 3rd year;
  • Jason Heyward made $496,000 in his 2nd year and $565,000 for his 3rd year.

All in all, I’d say that Mike Trout will be compensated ‘fairly’ within the MLB salary structure when you factor in age, experience, and the CBA.

Pro sports specifically (and the entertainment industry in general) have always had pay scales that are out of synch with us ‘regular Joes’. When the infamous eight Chicago White Sox players agreed to throw the Series because Charlie Comiskey was the cheapest owner around, Shoeless Joe made $8,000 and Eddie Cicotte made $10,000. Someone working in a medical or health services occupation, which I’m sure we’ll agree is important, could look forward to making about $752 per year. A tradesman would make $1.08 per hour. And this was in the boom period after World War I.

In 1930, Babe Ruth was well-established as the best player the game had ever seen and his salary reflected his greatness. Colonel Jacob Ruppert, notoriously stingy, paid Ruth $70,000 to catch and hit, and to ‘be’ Babe Ruth. The average income in America in 1930 during the Great Depression was $1388/year and a pound of butter cost 46 cents. If the only work you could find was in the next county, a bicycle cost $32.

A handful of years later, the Babe’s salary rose to $80,000. Once, a reporter demanded to know how Babe Ruth could justify making more than the President of the United States of America, arguably the most powerful person on the planet. Quoth the Babe, “I had a better year”. Apples and moon rocks. If he stays healthy and shows that 2012 was no fluke, Mike Trout will be paid handsomely by Major League Baseball standards which, of course, will be astronomical by our standards.

Wes Kepstro

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