Every-Thing Sports

How to fix MLB's "broken" system

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My affinity for the game of baseball goes back to the late '80s. Most of my fondest sports memories and obsessions trace themselves back to that time. I was the kid who wanted to know everything about anything I was interested in, and sports was at the forefront of my inquisitive beginnings.

I remember the Bash Brothers in Oakland, Orel Hershiser's '88 season, and the Reds ending the A's dynasty (as well as Rob Dibble and Chris Sabo's speeches at their celebration). My favorite team back then were those Braves' teams of the '90s. We moved to Atlanta the summer of '91 in the midst of them going worst to first and beginning their run.

As I grew older, I began to look into the business side of things in sports. Contracts, their structure, salary caps, team revenue streams, etc. Whatever I could read about or research, I found fascinating. Keep in mind, this was just before and during the internet boom. I didn't have quality internet access until I was a freshman in college.

One thing that has stood out to me is the fact that baseball players have the highest average salaries of all major pro sports in this country. They play a 162-game schedule, plus playoffs, over a seven month period. Playing almost everyday is tough, but it isn't as physically demanding as football, or as fast-paced as basketball.

Over the last few offseasons, baseball has seen a switch in philosophy. No longer are teams backing up the Brinks truck and giving free agents a blank check. Top stars like J.T. Martinez, Jake Arrieta, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado have all found themselves without the deals they were expecting heading into spring training. Part of the reason is that baseball is no longer as popular, therefore no longer as profitable, as it was years ago when guys like Alex Rodriguez could get multiple $200 million-dollar plus contracts.

Another reason is the obviously more team-favorable system when it comes to players under team control. I have a proposal to help fix baseball's broken system:

Players are placed under team control for at least six years on an active 25-man roster. Teams will often hold players down in the minors, or stashed on the 40-man roster, until they feel they're ready to start their six year clock in the big leagues. Prime example locally is George Springer. He won't be a true free agent until he's 31. I propose teams sign their drafted rookies to similar deals like the NBA and NFL have. A simple four or five year deal, with team options for the fifth or sixth year seems logical. However, if the player is still in the minors or not, the team would have to resign him to a new deal. This eliminates the team from stashing the player and holding off his 25-man roster clock. This also rewards the player for working hard and getting to the big leagues sooner rather than later.

Teams will benefit under this system if they're able to sign a player to a long term extension before or after his rookie deal is up, but before he prices himself out of their budget. Smaller market teams would have a better chance to retain their players, rather than losing them upon hitting free agency. An example of this is when the Rays signed Evan Longoria to a six-year deal a few years before he was set to be a free agent instead of going to arbitration. Many were shocked he took the deal, but he bet on himself and the team bet on him living up to an early deal.

This was a mere conversation starter about a sport I feel that could be on the verge of losing its place in our sporting pantheon. Baseball is a game that needs more help that it's willing to admit. Soccer is itching to take baseball's place. It's growing like weeds and prone to take over if baseball doesn't weed and feed it's lawn.

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It wasn't inevitable, but an Astros-Yankees American League Championship Series was the most likely pairing and most anticipated matchup in the AL playoffs. We get the payoff starting Saturday night. More on it a couple of paragraphs down. But first…

Credit to the Rays for pushing the Astros the distance in the Division Series. Ultimately, more credit to the Astros for their championship caliber response with their previously mostly dormant offense exploding for four runs in the bottom of the first of Thursday night's decisive game five. That was more than enough for Gerrit Cole who was overpowering and brilliant in both his starts in the series.

There have been postseason series pitching performances that go down as greater than Cole's but only in best of seven series. For one pitcher to so dominate a best of five? The top challenger that comes to mind there victimized the Astros. In a 1998 NLDS Kevin Brown throttled them twice. In game one Brown threw eight innings of two hit 16 strikeout shutout ball, then on three days rest he pitched into the seventh inning giving up just one run. The Padres won both games 2-1. Brown gets bonus points for snuffing an Astros' 1998 offense which was tremendous, vastly superior to the Rays' offense Cole destroyed. On the other hand, Brown didn't start a game with his team facing elimination.

The clear on paper edge for the Astros over the Yankees is in starting pitching. The Rays pushing them five means neither Cole nor Justin Verlander goes in the series opener Saturday night. Zack Greinke was a disaster in his start at St. Petersburg. While it's not redemption he pitches for in game one the Astros could really use him to pitch at least decently. The Yankees are going to score runs. Their lineup is spectacularly deep, power laden top to bottom even more so than the Astros' lineup, and patient. Pitch counts in Cole's and Verlander's starts loom important. The Yankees rate the clear edge out of the bullpen, it's better and deeper.

If it is to be a seven game series, Greinke going in game one works out fine for the Astros. It's highly unlikely the Astros again use a starting pitcher on three days rest, so Greinke sets up for games one and five, Verlander for games two and six, and if the Astros have another winner takes all game coming, Gerrit Cole would start it again, at Minute Maid Park again, after he goes in game three at Yankee Stadium.

Two years ago in the ALCS between these two the home team won all seven games. That is unlikely to happen again, but a reprise of Astros in seven seems a quite viable guess/prediction. From the 1920s forward, the Yankees have gone no decade without reaching at least one World Series. The Astros can snap that near 100 years run over the next week and a half.

With the Dodgers out in the National League some will talk of Astros-Yankees as the de facto World Series. That of course is stupid. Whoever wins the NLCS between the Nationals and Cardinals will obviously be capable of winning, but the AL Champ will be the rightful favorite.

Texans can make a statement

After five games we really have no idea what to make of the 3-2 Texans. A phenomenal offensive showing against the Falcons last Sunday came just one week after a pitiful offensive showing against the Panthers the week before. The Falcons stink. The components of Texans' offense are really promising. A healthy Will Fuller not dropping balls makes him more dangerous to defenses than DeAndre Hopkins. The offensive line will probably continue its ups and downs, but starting rookie first and second round picks means the up percentage should grow as the season goes along. Overpaying in draft picks for Laremy Tunsil is problematic down the road, but he is a vast upgrade anchoring Deshaun Watson's blind side.

Excellence requires consistency. We should have a better grasp of what the 2019 Texans might be after these next two Sundays as they play at Kansas City and Indianapolis. This past Sunday night the Colts largely shutdown the Chiefs' usually sensational offense and did so with a banged up defense. Patrick Mahomes was gimpy and mortal looking. Splitting these two games would be fine, if you had your pick the Colts game should be the choice since it's a division game. If somehow the Texans win both to be 5-2, they become the lead horse in the race in the race for the second AFC first round playoff bye. Losing both is more likely than winning both.

Buzzer beaters

1. Who knows how the game will go but Texas +11 is the side to play vs. OU. 2. Lock of the weekend: Daryl Morey goes this weekend Tweet-less. 3. Greatest single series pitching performances since 1980: Bronze-Mike Scott 1986 NLCS Silver-Madison Bumgarner 2014 World Series Gold-Randy Johnson 2001 World Series

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