Wednesday, March 18, 2015


I couldn't help but notice the utter hypocrisy of baseball's premiere agent Scott Boras, who openly questioned the Cubs' "commitment to winning," in a q-and-a with reporters in Arizona Tuesday.  Specifically, Boras was referring to talk within Cubs management that their top prospect (and the number one prospect in all of baseball), third-baseman Kris Bryant, may start the season with the Cubs AAA farm club in Des Moines, Iowa, even though he was the consensus Minor League Player of the Year last season, when he hit .325 with 43 homers and 110 runs-batted-in, split between AA and AAA.  Needless to say, Bryant is one of Boras's clients, and Boras was particularly peeved because he had just watched Bryant club two homers, giving him six, in 23 at bats this spring, with a .435 average.  

So why would the Cubs be quietly entertaining the thought of sending Bryant back to AAA?  The answer lies in baseball's complex service time rules.  In a nutshell, if Bryant spends the first 12 days of the upcoming season in the minors, the Cubs would be guaranteed his services at the major league level for the next six seasons, whereas if he starts the season with the Cubs, they could lose him to free agency after five.  The folly in these rules revolves around what constitutes one year of service time--it's 172 days on the major league roster.  So if the Cubs keep him down on the farm for 12 days, even if he spends the rest of the season with the Cubs, he'll fall short of the 172 days necessary to constitute one year of service time.  Cubs ownership, and general manager Theo Epstein, would love to have Bryant starting at third base on Opening Day. However, they could guarantee themselves that extra year of having Bryant under contract, by delaying his major league debut for less than two weeks.  With no guarantee that they'd be able to prevent Bryant from eventually testing the waters of the free agent market, it's perfectly understandable why they'd be willing to do that.  It makes perfect sense.  Of course, if Bryant has a sensational season with the Cubs, and the Cubs fall one game shy of making the playoffs, the inevitable outcry from Cubs fans will center on the decision to delay his Big League debut for 12 days.  And yet, if I were a die-hard Cubs fan, I'd want Bryant to spend those 12 days in the minors, to ensure that he'd be a Cub for the next six seasons, rather than five.

What is absurd is Boras's suggestion that if the Cubs send Bryant to AAA to start the season (and you can bet that they will), it proves they are not committed to winning. Rather, it merely proves that they understand the business side of this equation, and they are making the best decision for the Cubs future.  Boras, of all people, despite his suffocating hyperbole, understands the business side of this as well or better than anyone.  He's all about business.  That's his job.  Hence, he's being a complete hypocrite when he accuses the Cubs of not being committed to winning.  

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


Mark Purdy suggested in this morning’s San Jose Mercury-News that yesterday might go down as the worst day in 49ers’ history, unless today is even worse.   At least when it comes down to off-the-field news, he might be right.   Free agents Gore, Crabtree, Iupati and Skuta are gone, or presumed gone (hours before the free agent signing period begins); Patrick Willis confirmed that he’s retiring, amid an NBC report that Justin Smith will do the same; and Santa Clara police confirmed Bruce Miller was arrested last week on a domestic violence charge.

Niners’ owner Jed York and general manager Trent Baalke can’t be pleased, and it would be an understatement to say that for 49er fans, York’s popularity is at an all-time low, particularly the news conference announcing the team’s parting with head coach Jim Harbaugh, and his insistence that it was a “mutual parting,” because “that’s what it says in the press release.”  York comes across as smarmy, even to the most forgiving of Niner fans.

But York and Baalke could eliminate much of this pessimism by making smart decisions during this free-agency signing period, and during the college draft.  And the team itself could create a new sense of optimism and excitement by getting off to a good start to the 2015 season in September.  Could it happen?  Of course it could.  Darnell Dockett could effectively replace Justin Smith, if indeed Smith retires; Chris Borland effectively replaced the injured Patrick Willis last season, when the Niners statistically had the fourth best defense in the NFL; Carlos Hyde could effectively replace Frank Gore, and given his youth, may exceed what Gore would have produced at this stage of his career; and Torrey Smith could give the 49ers the deep threat they’ve long lacked, that after Anquon Boldin told CBS Sports, “it’s a done deal,” that Smith—his former teammate in Baltimore—is signing with the 49ers. 

This doesn’t address the potential replacement for left guard Mike Iupati, and a myriad of other questions.  But as much as I am turned off by Jed York public persona—and I definitely am—I know that he and the 49ers will have a chance this fall to eliminate the pessimism and cynicism surrounding the team.  Whether they succeed is a huge question that remains to be answered.