Baseball Will Soon Be Here!
Plenty of topics to discuss, but as my eyes, ears and brain scoured the news, one particular story stood out: Spring Training is 70 days away! (good news for those of us who absolutely despise the cold... like me).
December is the month for MLB's GM meetings and free agents signings, as baseball gears up for the 2019 season. 'Hot stove' reports have run rampant for the past week, as fans await the next astronomical contract signing. Plenty of low-key names have moved onto other teams and a few trades have been executed, but the the baseball world awaits the signings of this off-season's biggest names: Bryce Harper and Manny Machado; both are expected to add several more zeroes to their bank accounts.
From the sound of things, the Philadelphia Phillies are the favorites to land Harper or Machado (the Chicago White Sox have reportedly thrown their name into the mix as well - anyone but the Yankees - please!). I don't expect either player to sign with these team (I suspect some out-of-the-blue club will quietly enter the Harper/Machado sweepstakes or the almighty Yankees will magically sign them BOTH at the eleventh hour!), but as the "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase once told us - 'everyone has a price!' Two things are for certain; both players will be saying hello to nice contracts and higher expectations.
In the perfect world, I'd like any team in pursuit of the two stars to play some serious 'hard ball' (pardon the pun). Don't simply wine and dine them or hand over a blank check for the sake of headlines and ego coddling (we've got to get out of the business of sucking up to athletes who put on their pants the same way many of us do. They're still human beings). Make them sweat. Let them know that under no circumstance will a 3, 4, 500 million dollar deal be placed on the table! I don't care if the owner is a ba-zillionaire making money hand over fist. Set the precedence. No ONE player is bigger than the game, and there isn't a player on the free agent market worth that amount of money (maybe 1 or 2 players in sports are).
Admittedly, I am a big Bryce Harper fan. He's an exceptional player, though to some, hasn't fully lived up to the hype. Despite putting up a respectable stat line through his 7 years with the Washington Nationals, where he was awarded NL MVP in 2015, his tenure in D.C. wasn't very memorable if you'd ask a select group of fans and media types. Harper battled everything from injuries, to constantly answering questions about his lack of hustle and leadership. In the end, he'd eventually lose out as an all-around favorite to baseball's darling - the widely popular and talented - Mike Trout of the Anaheim Angels.
I understand the market has drastically changed since the days of childhood heroes Ken Griffrey Jr, Jose Canseco, and Tony Gwynn (players who never sniffed contracts in the 100 million dollar range), but any team looking to attach the number 300 million to Harper's name (based on these concerns) should be under the watchful eye of commissioner Rob Manfred. Either that, or baseball should seriously consider implementing a salary cap. However, if last off-season was any indication of the future of baseball's free agency process, I expect those outrageous salaries of yesteryear to have seen better days.
P.S.: Any player b*tchin' and moaning over a 150 million dollar contract offer instead of 300 million, send him to me. I'll show them what 'hard times' are like.
As for Machado, he revealed an ugly side to the baseball world during the 2018 NLCS, intentionally kicking the leg of Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar (as he crossed the bag). This, coming a year after being involved in another incident where Machado attempted a "dirty slide" injuring Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. Baseball prides itself on being the sport of good 'ol boys and class acts. The last thing baseball purists want is for "America's Pastime" to intermix with the perceived thuggery of athletes from other sports (although historically, thuggery has long existed on the diamond - hello Ty Cobb and a sh*tload of others). Antics aside, I can honestly say I've never been a fan of Machado's vibe.
He's certainly one of the better players of today and you'd be a fool to hold him in contempt for two questionable acts in an overall impressive 7-year career. But one has to wonder about his character. This absolutely matters; off the field and ON. Machado is loaded with talent and extremely confident. No argument here. But I find he teeters on the side of cocky; someone who probably believes in his own hype. Those are my instant vibes anytime I watch him on the field. If I'm a team looking to invest in his type of player long-term, based on the aforementioned, I'd err on the side of caution.
Both players have paid their dues and should be rewarded for their past performance. Besides, I'm sure there isn't a better feeling than having a handful of teams covet and shower you with hopes, promises, perks, and unimaginable salary offers. Personally, I'd love to see clubs like the San Diego Padres, Toronto Blue Jays, or Arizona D'Backs enter the bidding war. I understand it's a pipe dream and probably wouldn't make much baseball/financial sense, but can you imagine adding a west coast guy like Harper (born in Las Vegas) to a town like San Diego? The move would do wonders; giving their fan base some hope. That franchise has been irrelevant far too long - they deserve SOME type of love (I'm not a Padres fan, but when is enough, enough?!).
I've got your back, San Diego! Hopefully, you're able to make a splash. Things are sure to heat up in the coming days; I'll be watching intently.
FYI: I won't lie to you, my fantasy baseball senses are tingling *rubbing hands*