OBSERVATIONS: Is there enough cash for free agents?

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave waiting to see if Penn State is as bad as it showed at Indiana or if Indiana is much better than we all believed. A guess. Ohio State beats Penn State by more than the 13 Las Vegas predicts.

—And now it begins.

The St. Louis Cardinals turned down a $12.5 million option on second baseman Kolten Wong. And the Cleveland Indians said no on a $10 million option on relief pitcher Brad Hand, giving him an outright release.

The handwriting is clearly scribbled on the clubhouse walls. Financially strapped teams are shedding salaries like a snake sheds its skin.

Because MLB teams lost so much money due to lost revenue from no fans, no concession sales, diminished team gear sales — commissioner Rob Manfred says $8.5 billion — they are looking to cut costs any way they can.

Players with club options are in trouble. They’ll be let go, further flooding a free agent market. And those free agents are going to find a lukewarm market.

What does that mean for the Cincinnati Reds? It means that they will still owe Nick Castellanos $43 million over the next year years. Castellanos has an opt-out clause in his contract. He can take free agency right now.

He won’t. He would be daffy to do it because his 2020 season did not make any team salivate over the chance to sign him. He’ll be staying.

And while pitcher Trevor Bauer is one of the three top free agents, he isn’t likely to cash in as big as he might in a normal year. But he’ll still draw interest from the deep-pocketed big market teams. And he’ll still be too expensive for the Reds.

They have presented him the one-year $18.8 million qualifying offer. He will decline it, but at least the Reds will get a No. 1 draft pick from the team that signs him.

It will be a bear market for the more than 175 free agents, free agents that include Bauer, Freddy Galvis and Anthony DeSclafani for the Reds.

—QUOTE: From former New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner: “I am dead set against free agency. It can ruin baseball.” (That, though, didn’t stop Steinbrenner from signing free agents as if he was collecting baseball cards.)

—The NHL’s Arizona Coyotes drafted 18-year-old Sylvania, Ohio native Mitchell Miller in the fourth round.

Then it was revealed that Miller was a junior high bully. He admitted bullying a development challenged black classmate with racial slurs. And he forced the student to eat candy out of a urinal.

The Coyotes decided not to sign Miller. And good for the Coyotes. Hockey likes tough guys, even bullies on the ice. But bullying via a urinal is reprehensible.

—QUOTE: From Sports Illustrated writer Steve Rushin: “By the age of 18, the average American has witnessed 200,000 acts of violence on television, most of them occurring during Game One of the NHL playoff series.”

—Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash continues to be buried under disparaging adjectives from coast-to-coast, rightfully so, for removing pitcher Blake Snell when he was doing a remarkable imitation of Sandy Koufax.

Meanwhile, little has been said about a key decision made by Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts.

He went against convention, against analytics. He didn’t go to his closer, Kenley Jansen, in the ninth inning. He brought Julio Urias into the game with two outs in the seventh inning.

Urias struck out All-World Randy Arozarena. He sent Urias back for the eighth and he went 1-2-3 with a 2-1 lead. It was time for the closer in the ninth, right? That’s what all managers do.

Not Roberts. He sent Urias back out for the ninth and it was another 1-2-3. And the World Series trophy landed in Los Angeles.

Let’s hope every other MLB manager took note. Let your eyes help with decisions. Look up once in a while from the computer printouts and spreadsheets.

—Covid-19 is benching Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence this week against Boston College. Lawrence’s stand-in is 6-foot-5, 250-pound freshman D.J. Uiagalelei, who already leads the Atlantic Coast Conference in vowels.

This only means Clemson will be Boston College, 31-10, instead of 41-10.

And how do you pronounce his name, other than ‘Big Fella?’ It is Ooie-anga-la-LAY.

Whatever happened to quarterbacks named Bart Starr, Jim Kelly, Jeff George and Bill Wade. You not only could pronounce their names, you could spell them.

D.J. led St. Johns Bosco to the 2019 California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division 1 championship game. His team trailed powerhouse Mater Dei, 25-9, but brought them back to a 39-34 victory.

Uiagalelei passed for 444 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions, outperforming Alabama’s No. 1 recruit, Bryce Young. Young passed for 405 yards and five touchdowns, but was intercepted three times and lost a fumble.

—So Tony LaRussa is back managing the Chicago White Sox, 35 years after he last managed the Sox.

The 76-year-old La Russa, who also managed the Oakland A’s and the St. Louis Whiny-Birds, joins Luke Appling, Yogi Berra, Frankie Frisch, Rogers Hornsby, Bob Lemon, Paul Molitor, Tony Perez, Frank Robinson, Ryne Sandberg, Red Schoendienst and Ted Williams as men who became managers after being elected to Hall of Fame.

LaRussa is old-school, but it is doubtful he’ll bring back the clam-digger shorts the 1975 White Sox wore.

And now all of you who hated the Whiny-Bird when he managed there can now hate the White Sox.

QUOTE: From Tony LaRussa, a long time ago: “The toughest thing for me as a young manager is that a lot of my players saw me play. They know how bad I was.” (Now that you’re 76, Tony, your players won’t even remember you as a manager, good or bad.)

—And speaking of managers, the Detroit Tigers hired former Houston Trash Can Thumpers manager A.J. Hinch. Who said cheaters never win? Well, at least he probably won’t win in Detroit, even if the Tigers find new trash cans in the dugout.

—I’m so old that when I played baseball as a kid we actually had to win the championship to get a trophy.

—Obnoxious Commercials VII: Geico scores again with the woman telling the motorcyclist who is singing Wild Thing: “You know what I think? I think you owe us $48.50, Wild Thing.” And you owe us a good commercial, Wild Thing.

2 thoughts on “OBSERVATIONS: Is there enough cash for free agents?”

  1. Such a great article Hal. You had me laughing and crying at the same time! you sure have a way with words , Ive enjoyed every word! Michelle ( Kroger) told me to tell you hello and to say hi to your lovely wife Nadine!
    Take care your favorite Cardinal fan! From Hawaii Michelle and Joe say Aloha!

    1. Thanks so much, Joe. That means a lot to me. I so envy you and Michelle living in paradise. It’s a dream for me, but I’m stuck here in Englewood. Say hi to Michelle, my all-time favorite Kroger employee. Ciao.

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