No need to go to the clipboard today to find something to rant about; plenty of stuff went down overnight that commands comment. At the top of that list must be the apparent decision by the folks who run the Boston Red Sox to bag the 2020 season. In a trade announced yesterday:
- The Red Sox give up Mookie Betts and David Price – and send an undisclosed but supposedly “significant” amount of cash away with Price to pay a portion of his salary for the next several years.
- The Red Sox get, in return, Alex Verdugo, and Brusdar Graterol.
Mookie Betts is only 27 years old; he was the AL MVP in 2018; he is a 4-time All-Star and has won 4 Gold Gloves. Let’s just say that Alex Verdugo’s career to date does not quite reach those heights.
David Price is 34 years old; there is wear and tear on his tires. The upcoming season will be his 13th in MLB; back in 2012 – ancient history, I know – Price won the AL Cy Young award. Graterol is much younger than Price – and far less accomplished.
The apparent motive here is that the Red Sox want to get under the “luxury tax threshold” for roster salary in 2020 which is set at $208M. It is not unusual for “small market teams” to have player decisions forced upon them by economics but the Red Sox are one of the “revenue monsters” in MLB. I am sure the Red Sox will assert that this is a move to “get younger” and will point to Graterol in his 20’s as opposed to Price at age 34. The more they say that; the more convinced I will become that this was a “money decision”.
Oh, by the way, pitchers and catchers will be reporting in about two weeks and the Red Sox don’t have a manager as of this morning. Now that the Front Office in Boston has rid itself of sufficient payroll to get under the luxury tax line, maybe they will find a moment to hire someone who can show up every day and pretend that the Re Sox are serious contenders in 2020. The Red Sox won’t finish last in the AL East simply because the Orioles are in that division and will be fielding a AAA roster for most of 2020, but the Red Sox will not be threatening the Yankees this year.
This was a 3-way swap; but the key beneficiary here would be the LA Dodgers who acquire both Betts and Price in exchange for Kent Maeda (to the Twins) and Verdugo (to the Red Sox). The Dodgers have to be the prohibitive favorites to win the NL West for the 8th straight year. They will have 3 former MVPs on the roster including last year’s NL MVP and Mookie Betts who own the AL MVP two seasons ago. [The third former MVP is Clayton Kershaw from 2014.] The only serious threat that the Dodgers face is their habit of coming up short in the playoffs or the World Series.
The next big thing that happened yesterday was the New Your Knickerbockers firing team president, Steve Mills. Let me paint a landscape of his time in NY here:
- Mills has been part of the Knicks organization since 2013.
- In that time, the Knicks have had 6 different coaches. Also, the Knicks hired – and subsequently fired – Phil Jackson leaving the team presidency open for Mills to occupy.
- Mills and his cohort GM Scott Perry made the Kristaps Porzingis trade saying it was motivated by their uncertainty that Porzingis would be a star player after his rehab from a serious injury. That may be true, but what they got in return was bupkes.
- Mills and Perry also hatched the “strategy” of tanking for a shot at Zion Williamson along with having a ton of cap space that would attract Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in free agency last summer. None of that happened…
Mills already played the “fire the coach card” earlier this year sending David Fizdale home. Nonetheless, the Knicks record so far is 15-36 and they are no threat to make the playoffs starting in a couple of months. Knicks’ fans ought to be accustomed to that situation by now:
- The Knicks have missed the playoffs for the last 6 years.
- Since 2001/02, the Knicks have been in the playoffs only 4 times and have lost in the first round 3 of those 4 times.
The franchise is a mess simply because the combination of “stability” and “competency” does not reside in the decision-makers. Fans in New York chant “Sell The Team” which clearly infuriates owner James Dolan – – but seems only to get him to double down on his refusal to do just that. However, it is Dolan who made the decision to hire Phil Jackson in the first place and then to fire him and replace him with Steve Mills who had never held a “basketball position” prior to becoming team president. Mills entire career had been as a “business-side guy”.
The Knicks are a hot mess – – and yet I think there would be plenty of competent execs who would want to take the job. The Knicks are hugely valuable so the team president could command a fat contract; more importantly, if the new guy on the block could convince the owner to lower his profile just a tad and then put a team on the floor that made the playoffs sometime in the next two years, that new guy on the block would rise to god-like status among the Garden faithful. It would be worth the risk for a basketball guy; after all, failing as an exec for the Knicks with James Dolan at the top of the pyramid is not exactly seen as an indictment of one’s career.
The third big thing that went down yesterday is the retirement of Mark Dantonio from the position of head football coach at Michigan State. He has been with the Spartans for 13 years in that job and he is now the winningest coach in history at the school. Dantonio is 63 and he said that his retirement was motivated by the fact that he never got time off to just “come up for air”.
Clouding the issue here is the fact that Dantonio is the target of a lawsuit filed by a former school employee alleging that the employee’s contract was breeched when the school was investigating sexual misconduct claims against four former football players. Dantonio said the suit had “zero” to do with his retirement decision but the timing is problematic here. Moreover, he leaves the job just as “signing day” arrives which cannot be a plus for whatever recruiting class Michigan State attracts in 2020.
Finally, to put a punctuation mark on the NFL playoffs this year, consider this item from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times:
“Comedian Argus Hamilton, via Twitter, on the 49ers jumping to a 27-0 halftime lead over the Packers in the NFC Championship Game: ‘If Aaron Rodgers were covered by Allstate instead of State Farm, he would be protected from mayhem like this.’”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………