At the break, Yankees have MLB's best record

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At the break, Yankees have MLB's best record

From Comcast SportsNet
BOSTON (AP) -- Barely a month ago, the New York Yankees were just six games over .500. Now they head into the All-Star break with the best record in baseball and the biggest lead in any division. To manager Joe Girardi, that's quite an accomplishment. "I'm proud of these guys because not only have we had injuries, we've had situations where things haven't gone our way," he said after New York's 7-3 win over the Boston Red Sox on Sunday night. "We struggled with some pitching early on and we struggled with runners in scoring position but the one thing that this group has found a way to do is to win games," he said. The Yankees have done that in five of their last six games and are 21-8 since going 31-25 through June 7. They've succeeded despite injuries to pitchers CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera and outfielder Brett Gardner. "In the beginning of the season we struggled," said Andruw Jones, who hit his fourth homer in three games, a two-run shot in the seventh inning. "Everybody (was) kind of saying we're old, we're not getting the job done. ... We kept battling and kept playing till we got in a groove." Ivan Nova (10-3) is back in his groove after striking out 10 in six innings while allowing two runs and six hits. He won for the first time in four starts after winning his previous five outings. The Yankees took three of four at Fenway Park and boosted their record to 52-33 and their AL East lead to seven games over Baltimore. The Red Sox (43-43) also have been beset by injuries with Carl Crawford sidelined all season so far, Jacoby Ellsbury missing most of the season and Dustin Pedroia and pitchers Clay Buchholz and Andrew Bailey on the disabled list. They dropped their sixth game in the last seven and fell into a last-place tie in the division with the Toronto Blue Jays, 9 1-2 games off the pace. Only three AL teams -- Minnesota, Kansas City and Seattle -- are below .500 at the break. Jon Lester (5-6), who won at least 15 games in each of the last four seasons, left with one out in the fifth after giving up five runs and nine hits. Until Sunday, the lefty had rebounded from early-season troubles and posted a 3.86 ERA in 13 starts. "I just have to go and relax and not think about my first half," Lester said. The Yankees scored in the first inning in all four games in the series, taking a 2-0 lead in the finale. "It's tough to be behind, that's for sure," Boston manager Bobby Valentine said. The first three batters all hit safely on Sunday -- singles by Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson and an RBI double by Mark Teixeira. Granderson scored when Nick Swisher grounded into a forceout. The Red Sox got an unearned run in the bottom of the inning when Jeter dropped a routine popup by Cody Ross with two outs. The shortstop's misplay scored Pedro Ciriaco, who had singled and stolen second. New York made it 3-1 in the second on a double by Jayson Nix, a passed ball by Jarrod Saltalamacchia and a sacrifice fly by Chris Stewart. Boston came back again with a run in the third on Ciriaco's single and David Ortiz's double. The Yankees drove Lester from the game in the fifth, scoring twice for a 5-2 lead. Teixeira started the rally with a single and scored on a triple by Alex Rodriguez. Jones then singled in Rodriguez. Nova would have gotten out of a first-inning jam had Jeter held on to the soft popup near second base. The righty even pumped his fist and started walking off the mound but stopped as the ball bounced out of Jeter's glove. Then Nova struck out the side in the second before escaping trouble in the third when the Red Sox scored a run and loaded the bases with one out. But Saltalamacchia struck out for the fifth time in seven at-bats and Ryan Sweeney grounded out. Nova fanned three of his last four batters and at least one in each of his six innings. "I'm getting aggressive, trying to get ahead on the count early and then trying to put them away," he said. Jones' homer was his 11th of the season and the Yankees' 134th, most in the majors. They're on a pace for a club-record 255. The 1997 Seattle Mariners hold the major league record with 264. NOTES: Girardi said Jeter had a problem with his shoulder but won't need tests and plans to go to the All-Star game. .. Robinson Cano extended his hitting streak to 15 games with a double in the ninth, tying Jeter for the longest on the Yankees this year. ... Ortiz's double was his 373rd with the Red Sox, tying Jim Rice for sixth in club history. ... Nova had lost his last road start, ending a streak of 16 starts without a loss away from home. ... Jeter scored his 1,816th run in the first, tying Boston's Carl Yastrzemski for 16th on the all-time list. ... Red Sox 1B Adrian Gonzalez left the game in the third because of illness. He struck out in his only at-bat, ending his career-best hitting streak at 18 games. ... The Red Sox will honor Jason Varitek before their night game July 21 against the Toronto Blue Jays. The catcher retired in February after 15 seasons with the team. ... Ceremonial first pitches were thrown by Ted Williams' daughter Claudia (to Rice) and Babe Ruth's granddaughter Linda Ruth Tosetti (to Ortiz).

A's president: No revenue sharing puts stronger focus on new ballpark

A's president: No revenue sharing puts stronger focus on new ballpark

New A’s president Dave Kaval said Friday in a press conference that the team would do everything in its power to make up for the loss of revenue-sharing money from Major League Baseball, but he did not address how the team’s payroll would be impacted for the time being.

Baseball’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement eliminates the hefty annual check the A’s have received from the more prosperous clubs, reportedly around $35 million last year. That money will be incrementally reduced, with the A’s receiving 25 percent less each of the next four years until it’s phased out completely.

Kaval said the loss of that money simply underscores the importance of the A’s identifying a new ballpark site in Oakland so they can build a stadium to open up new streams of cash. Kaval said he’s walked all of the sites the team is considering around the city, but he didn’t offer a timetable for when a site would be chosen or when construction might begin.

In the meantime, the A’s president stressed repeatedly in a media conference call Friday that all of the revenue the team does generate going forward will be invested back either into the on-field product or the fan experience at The Coliseum.

“I think the key thing is being smart about deploying resources,” Kaval said. “There’s no silver bullet. You have to address a variety of aspects with folks’ interaction with the club.”

He added that could include everything from broadcasting to “the hot dog you eat to players you watch.”

Until a new ballpark becomes reality, the challenge is how the A’s can generate the revenue they’re losing from MLB while still playing in the antiquated Oakland Coliseum, which hardly entices fans to come out and has become the butt of national jokes for numerous plumbing issues.

Kaval mentioned boosting ticket sales and improving sponsorship deals at The Coliseum as two potential revenue streams, though he adamantly declared the A’s won’t be raising ticket prices.

As for how payroll will be affected, if at all, Kaval only said that he’s dedicated “to providing all the tools needed for Billy Beane and David Forst and our baseball operations staff.”

Last season the A’s had an Opening Day payroll of $86.8 million, according to the Cot’s Baseball Contracts website. There’s speculation that that total will shrink due to the loss in revenue sharing.

It’s undeniable that the A’s financial future is tied to finally getting a new ballpark. They’re considering rebuilding on the current Coliseum site, which is complicated until the Raiders’ situation gets resolved, but are also considering locations at Howard Terminal and near Laney College.

Kaval, also president of the San Jose Earthquakes, was instrumental in getting a soccer stadium built for that team. Without talking specific sites, he said he’s spent lots of time driving around and walking all the locations the A’s are considering.

“It’s been exciting to visit the locations, walk them, squint and kind of envision where the stadium would be and the views. And how it could transform the different communities (around) the site.”

He maintains his belief that a “ballpark village” type environment is critical so that fans have motivation to visit the area even when games aren’t being played. Kaval has also said he thinks such a development is possible at The Coliseum.

He was asked if there was a renewed sense of urgency to the ballpark search given the elimination of revenue sharing.

“I think building a ballpark is something you do one time in your life. It’s a generational thing. I think it’s something we want to be very thoughtful about and make the right decision.”

What the new labor agreement means for Giants

What the new labor agreement means for Giants

SAN FRANCISCO — Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association sent out a long press release on Friday afternoon highlighting the changes in the new labor agreement. The release included a chart that had references to surtaxes and first-time payors and CBT thresholds, and for Larry Baer, Brian Sabean, Bobby Evans and the rest of the front office, that was probably the most important part. 

Without getting an actual look at the organization’s books, it’s hard to know exactly how the new tax rules will impact what the Giants might or might not do over the next five years. We can take an educated guess, though, and mine is that it probably won’t be a big deal. The Giants are already a tax-paying team and they’ll likely stay that way, but they have never been all that far above the threshold. They’re not the Dodgers, who went $100 million over the line at one point. 

The Competitive Balance Tax Threshold for 2017 is $197 million and by 2019 it jumps to $206 million. It’ll be $210 million in the fifth and final year of this new labor agreement. That seems somewhat in line with the rate at which the Giants’ payroll has increased, and the assumption is that they’ll stay on that trajectory going forward, possibly dipping under the tax one year to avoid second-time or third-time taxes. This shouldn't change the way they operate. 

We’ll spend plenty of time talking about the tax if payroll continues to rise, but for now, let’s focus on some of the more interesting parts of the new agreement. For instance, this line: 

Home-field advantage in the World Series will be awarded to the Club with the higher winning percentage in the Championship Season, rather than based on the outcome of the All-Star Game.

That’s huge, and it’s a change that will be more apparent to fans than a tax threshold. Under the new rule, the Cubs would have hosted Game 7, not the Indians. Here are some other highlights from the labor agreement, and how they might affect the Giants … 

--- Beginning in 2018, the regular season will be expanded to provide four additional off-days for players. 

This will help every team (and the beat writers), but the Giants will benefit more than most. They are not the Cubs, with a lineup full of 23-year-olds. It’s an aging core with a brutal travel schedule (because they're on the West Coast), and guys who play through a lot of minor injuries will surely appreciate the extra time. Because Bruce Bochy doesn't alter the rotation during off days, this adds extra rest for the veteran starters. This might buy Buster Posey an extra start or two a year, too. 

--- Additional restrictions on start times of games on getaway days so that players will arrive in their next city at an earlier time.

Again, a small but important boost for the Giants and other West Coast teams. Bochy has been very public about his issues with the schedule, and the Giants often get home at three or four in the morning and then play a game that night. This guarantees a little more time to rest at home, and it might finally force the Dodgers to play a weekday day game or two. The Giants haven’t appreciated the fact that they host games at 1 p.m. on getaway days and then end up sitting in Los Angeles traffic at midnight a few days later. 

--- The 15-day disabled list will be replaced with a 10-day disabled list.

Time to again become familiar with IT Band Syndrome!  Teams are going to game this, and Bochy certainly will. He has long said that he’d like to put every reliever on the DL during the season to freshen up the arm, but it was just too big a hit when it was 15 days. I could see multiple relievers a year spending 10 days away because of a minor ailment. This also should kill the long-running “Player X goes day-to-day for eight days and then ends up on the DL anyway” routine that drives fans crazy. 

--- Following election of players by fans, the Commissioner’s Office will select seven players from the National League (4 pitchers) and five players from the American League (4 pitchers) to participate in the All-Star Game. Such selections will replace the selections awarded to the managers of the American and National League teams in the prior agreement.

Maybe they’ll now realize that Crawford is an All-Star? 

--- The Home Run Derby format will remain the same, but player prize money will be increased throughout the term.

This is disappointing simply because there’s nothing in the wording here that says “MADISON BUMGARNER WILL BE IN THE HOME RUN DERBY.” (I still believe that he’ll find his way into the Derby eventually.)

--- Agreement on a list of best practices for Clubs in maintaining clubhouses, including standards for meals, amenities, assistance for player families, etc.

I wonder if players argued for this purely because of Wrigley Field. The Cubs chill in a spacious renovated clubhouse that looks like a spaceship. Visiting teams dress in a musty room that’s the size of a studio in The Mission, and they have to walk out to the center field bleachers to find the cage. It’s a small thing, but every advantage matters. 

--- Revenue Sharing: The number of market disqualified Clubs will be reduced from 15 to 13, with Oakland phased-out over four years beginning in 2017.

I don’t know how this will actually play out, but it can’t hurt the Giants, the other team in this market. 

--- Pension benefits for classes of retired players will be increased.

This sounds like it’ll help plenty of former Giants, so that’s cool. 

--- The Major League minimum salary will increase from $507,500 in 2016 to: $535,000 in 2017; $545,000 in 2018; $555,000 in 2019; and be subject to a cost-of-living adjustment in 2020 and 2021.

What a life. That's basically a free car for Ty Blach. 

--- The parties agreed on an international play plan in which Clubs will stage games or tours in Mexico, Asia, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and London over the next five years in order to grow the game.

So … are we going to Punta Cana or what? 

There are no details about how exactly this plan will play out, but if it’s an aggressive one, I’d assume they’ll want some big-name teams and players in these games. The Giants certainly would be one of the bigger draws. 

--- Players will receive additional compensation for participating in Club and League-sanctioned events, in amounts ranging from $15,000 to $100,000 per player depending on the location and schedule.

What a life. 

--- International Amateur Talent Acquisition: This is a long section, but the gist of it is that signing pools will now come in between $4.75 million and $5.75 million. 

The Giants have never gone particularly crazy on the international market, so this should help them simply because it cuts down on teams that do (including two, the Dodgers and Padres, in the division). In theory, they should now have a much better chance at the big-time international prospects who previously shot out of their preferred price range. 

--- Use of tobacco products on the field will be banned in all ballparks where it is prohibited by local law or ordinance. Any player who makes his Major League debut in 2017 or later will be prohibited from using smokeless tobacco on the field in every ballpark.

This is already the case at AT&T Park, but it’s not enforced. Most players have at least started to hide any use publicly, and I’d imagine that’s all MLB really wants. 

--- The Commissioner’s Office will implement an Anti-Hazing and Anti-Bullying Policy as a supplement to the Workplace Code of Conduct. 

The end of rookie dress-up day? The end of the Dora the Explorer backpacks being carried out to the bullpen? If true, the Giants might already be ahead of the curve. They didn’t publicize their dress-up day last September (in part because they were playing terrible baseball) and the backpack is camo. 

--- Various improvements to the allowances that players receive, including moving allowances. 

Congrats to Mark Melancon.