Lincecum calls himself 'weak link,' but Giants won't skip him

812190.jpg

Lincecum calls himself 'weak link,' but Giants won't skip him

PITTSBURGH There was just one question to ask after thePittsburgh Pirates blew the Giants and Tim Lincecum to smithereens in a 13-2loss at PNC Park on Sunday.

And it wasnt to inquire which palm tree theyll wobble underneath for theAll-Star break.

Its this: Will Lincecum really and truly get the baseballon Saturday, with just one extra day of rest? Or will the Giants look at his6.42 ERA the absolute worst among qualified major league starting pitchers and reconsider?

No, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. No chance. Wellthrow him back out there.

So there you go.

The Giants remain near the front of the pack in the NL West.Can they really afford to throw Lincecum to the wolves?

You might ask the question another way: If Lincecum cannotturn it around, will it matter?

He has to regroup and we need him, Bochy said. Hell bedetermined to turn this around.

After another 3 13-inning, six-run meltdown in humid but bearable conditions, Lincecum is 3-10 the Giants first double-digit loser at the break since Barry Zito in 2008.

Lincecums 6.42 ERA is the highest of every blessed one of the 101 major leaguestarters who qualify for the ERA title. Remember the sheer panic that followedZito during his worst times? He never had an ERA as high as Lincecumsheading into the break. (Youll find many more brutal, revealing numbers in the Instant Replayfile.)

Lincecums quiet, almost lip-trembling postmortem containedthe phrases, terrible and rock bottom and weak link.

All accurate descriptions. But what about answers? How does Lincecum begin toprocess this?

I think the only way I can look at is you never want tosay, Hey, Ive hit rock bottom or anything like that, but things are going asbad as they are right now, and youve got to go out there like youve gotnothing left to lose, Lincecum said. Go out and leave it on the field andwhatever happens, happens.

Its happened, all right. It began happening three battersinto his start against the first-place Pirates, when he couldnt throw strikeswith his fastball. He tried to backdoor a curveball to Neil Walker. Double. Hetried to throw a changeup to Andrew McCutchen. Home run.

Fastball location hasnt been there the last couple gamesso Im going to my secondary pitches and guys are sitting on those, Lincecumsaid. They made the adjustment. Ive just got to make the adjustment back.

They adjusted in another sense. They no longer look at histhin frame and long hair and the No.55 and see an ace. They see vulnerability.

The fear has pooled atop the mound, not in the batters box.

Bochy said Lincecum just needed to forget the first half.Lincecum wasnt in complete agreement.

I have to remember it and use it to know what I dont wantto go through again, said the introspective right-hander, who has used hispostgame media sessions more and more as a kind of therapy. Its been terribleand its a terrible feeling youre letting your team down. Thats the hardestthing.

But it seems everybody else is doing their job and wereplaying good ball. To be the weaker link it wears on you.

The Giants maintain faith in Lincecum, mostly because theyfeel they have no choice. Of course, use a day off after the Houston series toskip his turn. They could give him up to 13 days between starts, instead ofjust five.

Does Lincecum see their decision as a show of faith?

Yeah, I mean, obviously they have faith in me and they toldme that from the first meeting I had with them, he said. So thats not thequestion.

Its whether or not I go out there and trust my stuff andexecute it. That other stuff is off the field or before the game or after thegame. When you get out there between those lines you arent thinking about thatbecause one through five, were pretty good as a starting staff goes.

"I dont want to be that weak link, like everyone thinkstheyre going to run into a bump or a stump. Im working my ass off to be whereI need to be and thats really all I can do.

That the Giants are sticking Lincecum right back on themound Saturday indicates something else: that they arent hiding an injury.

It would be convenient, almost, if Lincecum had a sore elbowor a bad back or an aching shoulder or even a hangnail. But he said nothing iswrong. And he said he doesnt needto overhaul his mechanics.

I feel like its more of a fine-tune, he said. I mean,Ive always gone back to if Im hurt or something is wrong or I feel liketheres something painful in my body or theres inflammation there, thats aninclination that Im using bad mechanics.

So I feel its small things here and there that I just needto tinker with or find consistency with to find that fastball location, findthat secondary location. So thats pretty much it.

He isnt feeling any pain or inflammation?

No, thats one of the confusing things, he said. Im notgoing through any injuries or health issues or anything like that.

Its confusing to Lincecum, to his legions of fans, toBochy, to the front office and to all of the baseball establishment. Sometimesthere are no answers. Sometimes there is just fear pooling in the wrong places.

Lincecum will go to Seattle for the All-Star break his firsttime not representing the Giants at the Midsummer Classic since his rookie yearin 2007. He said he sees the second half as a chance for a fresh start.

But in the meantime, he will not take a mental break fromthe craft and the game he once dominated with poetic, balletic grace.

No, Im going to pick up a ball and keep my mind surroundedwith baseball, he said. I have to think about what Ive gone through in orderto remedy this.

--
I'm catching a flight home (too bad no All-Star Game in KC for me ... I was looking forward to an in-depth interview with Arthur Bryant), so no time for an Extra Baggs file after the game. Look for my midseason coverage later in the week, and I'll catch up with you again in Atlanta. Please make sure to follow my CSN colleagues during the Houston series. As always, thanks for reading.

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.

MLB, MLBPA announce new CBA details: No more 15-day disabled list

MLB, MLBPA announce new CBA details: No more 15-day disabled list

Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) today jointly issued details of the tentative new five-year labor agreement that will allow play to continue uninterrupted through the 2021 season.  The parties agreed to the terms of the pact, which is subject to ratification by both sides, on Wednesday, November 30th, prior to the December 1st expiration of the collective bargaining agreement. 

The five-year agreement will match the previous two labor contracts as the longest in baseball history.  By the end of the new contract, Baseball will have gone 26 years without a strike or a lockout, which continues the sport’s longest period of labor peace since the inception of the collective bargaining relationship.  Baseball’s active streak without a work stoppage also marks the longest of its kind among the major North American professional sports.

Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. said: “I am pleased that we completed an agreement prior to the deadline that will keep the focus on the field during this exciting time for the game.  There are great opportunities ahead to continue our growth and build upon the popularity that resonated throughout the Postseason and one of the most memorable World Series ever.  This agreement aims to further improve the game’s healthy foundation and to promote competitive balance for all fans.”

Tony Clark, Executive Director of the MLBPA, said: “Every negotiation has its own challenges. The complexities of this agreement differ greatly from those in the past if for no other reason than how the industry has grown.  With that said, a fair and equitable deal is always the result you are working toward, and, once again, I believe we achieved that goal. I would like to thank our Players for their involvement, input and leadership throughout. Their desire to protect our history and defend and advance the rights and interests of their peers is something I am truly grateful for.”

Commissioner Manfred also said: “I thank Tony Clark, his colleagues and many Major League Players for their work throughout the collective bargaining process.  We appreciate their shared goals for the betterment of the sport.  I am grateful for the efforts of our Labor Policy Committee, led by Ron Fowler, as well as Dan Halem and our entire Labor Relations Department.”

Clark also said: “I would also like to recognize Commissioner Rob Manfred, Dan Halem, MLB and the Labor Policy Committee for their hard work over the last year plus, and for staying committed to the process.  In coming to an agreement, this deal allows both sides to focus on the future growth and development of the sport. There is a lot of work to be done and we look forward to doing it.”

I. TERM
A.       Five-year contract.
B.       Termination Date: December 1, 2021.

II.         SCHEDULING, POSTSEASON PLAY, AND DISABLED LIST
A.       Beginning in 2018, the regular season will be expanded to provide four additional off-days for players.  Players will continue to be credited with a full year of service for accruing 172 service days over 187 days, rather than 183.
B.       Additional restrictions on start times of games on getaway days so that players will arrive in their next city at an earlier time.
C.       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.
D.       The 15-day disabled list will be replaced with a 10-day disabled list. 

III.      ALL-STAR GAME
A.       All players on the Active Roster of the winning team shall share equally in a $640,000 bonus.
B.       The roster for the All Star Game shall be 32 players, with 20 position players and 12 pitchers.
C.       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.
D.       The Home Run Derby format will remain the same, but player prize money will be increased throughout the term. 

IV.       CLUBHOUSE
A.       Clubs will assume more responsibility for providing food and amenities to players in the home and visiting clubhouses.
B.       Agreement on a list of best practices for Clubs in maintaining clubhouses, including standards for meals, amenities, assistance for player families, etc. 
C.       All Clubs will establish a Player/Management Advisory Council that will work with a full-time chef and registered dietician to improve clubhouse nutrition.
D.       All Clubs must provide access, on a voluntary basis, to a sports psychologist. 
E.       MLB and the MLBPA will jointly retain a dietician to provide recommendations to players and Clubs on nutrition and dietary supplements. 

V.        REVENUE SHARING
A.       The total net transfer value under the Revenue Sharing Plan, as a percentage of industry revenue, will remain the same, but the formula by which individual Club’s revenue sharing treatment is determined has been revised.
B.       The number of market disqualified Clubs will be reduced from 15 to 13, with Oakland phased-out over four years beginning in 2017.

VI.       COMPETITIVE BALANCE TAX (“CBT”)
A.       The Competitive Balance Tax Thresholds will be $195 million in 2017, $197 million in 2018, $206 million in 2019, $208 million in 2020, and $210 million in 2021.
B.       The base Competitive Balance Tax rates will be 20% for first-time CBT Payors, 30% for second-time CBT Payors, and 50% for third- or more time Payors.
C.       Additional surtaxes will be applied per the schedule below:

                                                                                                          1st-Time Payor    2nd-Time Payor    3rd-Time+ Payor
Surtax on Payroll Between $20M and $40M Above Threshold            12%                          12%                        12%
Surtax on Payroll in Excess of $40M Above Threshold                       42.5%                        45%                        45%

D.       Beginning in 2018, Clubs with a payroll $40 million or more above the Tax Threshold shall have their highest selection in the next Rule 4 Draft moved back 10 places, except that the top six selections will be protected and those Clubs will have their 2nd highest selection moved back 10 places.  
E.       Changes to the CBT will fully take effect in 2018, and will be phased in for 2017. 

VII.     PLAYER WELFARE AND PENSION BENEFITS
A.       Current players will continue to receive the maximum allowable pension benefit under IRS rules. 
B.       Clubs annual contribution for pension and medical benefits will increase to approximately $200 million per year. 
C.       Pension benefits for classes of retired players will be increased. 
D.       Disability benefits for players will be improved.
E.       Payments to retired players who were not vested in the Pension Plan will be continued during the term of the Agreement.
F.       Players’ medical and dental benefits will be improved in a variety of areas.
G.       Players will be guaranteed a minimum contribution to their individual retirement accounts based on service accrued. 

VIII.   DRAFT PICK COMPENSATION
A.       Clubs may not tender a Qualifying Offer to a player who has previously received a Qualifying Offer. 
B.       The time period during which a player can accept a Qualifying Offer will be extended from 7 to 10 days. 
C.       Clubs signing a Free Agent subject to compensation will no longer forfeit a first round selection, but will be subject to the following:
1.       A non-market disqualified Revenue Sharing Payee Club shall forfeit its third highest remaining selection in the next Rule 4 Draft.
2.       A CBT Payor shall forfeit its second-highest and fifth-highest remaining selections in the next Rule 4 Draft and shall have its International Signing Bonus Pool (described below) reduced by $1,000,000 in the next full Signing Period.
3.       All other Clubs shall forfeit their second-highest remaining selection in the next Rule 4 Draft and shall have their International Signing Bonus Pool reduced by $500,000 in the next full Signing Bonus Period.  
4.       All forfeited International Signing Bonus Pool monies will be distributed equally among all other Clubs.  Competitive Balance Selections will be exempt from forfeiture. 
D.       A Former Club of a Free Agent subject to draft pick compensation will receive the following:
1.       A non-market disqualified Revenue Sharing Payee Club shall receive a selection immediately following the first round of the draft if the player signs a contract with a total guarantee of $50 million or more.
2.       A CBT Payor Club shall receive a draft selection immediately following the fourth round of the next Rule 4 Draft. 
3.       All other Former Clubs shall receive a selection immediately following the Competitive Balance Round B of the next Rule 4 Draft (which follows the second round). 

IX.       MINIMUM SALARIES
A.       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. 
B.       The Minor League minimum salary will increase from $82,700 in 2016 to: $86,500 in 2017; $88,000 in 2018; $89,500 in 2019; and be subject to a cost-of-living adjustment in 2020 and 2021.  

X.        INTERNATIONAL PLAY AND DOMESTIC SPECIAL EVENTS
A.       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.
B.       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. 
C.       The parties agreed to allow the Commissioner to schedule regular season games at sites other than Major or Minor League stadiums in the United States and Canada, and players will receive additional compensation for participating in those events.

XI.       INTERNATIONAL AMATEUR TALENT ACQUISITION
A.       Each Club will be allocated a Signing Bonus Pool as follows:
1.       Clubs that receive a Competitive Balance Pick in Round A of the Rule 4 Draft will receive a Signing Bonus Pool of $5.25 million.  
2.       Clubs that receive a Competitive Balance Pick in Round B of the Rule 4 Draft will receive a Signing Bonus Pool of $5.75 million.
3.       All other Clubs will receive a Signing Bonus Pool of $4.75 million.
4.       Clubs may not exceed their Signing Bonus Pools. 
5.       Pools will grow with industry revenue. 
6.       Clubs may acquire via trade up to 75% of their Signing Bonus Pools in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 signing periods, and 60% of their Signing Bonus Pools in subsequent signing periods.
7.       Signing bonuses of $10,000 or less will not count toward a Club’s Signing Bonus Pool. 
8.       Signing restrictions incurred during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 signing periods will carry over into the new agreement.
9.       The Commissioner may impose strict penalties on any Club that attempts to circumvent the system. 
10.     Foreign Professionals will continue to be exempt from the Pools. Foreign Professionals will be defined as players who are at least 25 years of age and who have played as a professional in a foreign league recognized by the Commissioner’s Office for a minimum of six seasons. 

XII.     FIRST-YEAR PLAYER DRAFT (RULE 4 DRAFT)
A.       Signing bonus values associated with first round selections were adjusted to reduce the spread between slots.
B.       Competitive Balance Selections will be continue to be awarded to Clubs in bottom-10 markets or bottom-10 in local revenue based on a combination of winning percentage and local revenue.  The lottery format was eliminated in favor of a system in which the eligible Clubs will receive selections after the first round or after the second round in alternating years. 
C.       Procedure for Clubs to obtain MRIs from players on a voluntary basis prior to the draft.
D.       Improvements to the College Scholarship Plan, particularly for players living outside of the U.S.   

XIII.   JOINT DRUG PREVENTION AND TREATMENT PROGRAM
A.       Number of in-season random urine tests will increase from 3,200 to 4,800.
B.       Number of off-season random urine tests will increase from 350 to 1,550 in order to ensure that all 40-man roster players will be subject to at least one random off-season test. 
C.       The number of in-season random blood tests will be increased from 260 to 500 and the number of off-season random blood tests will be increased from 140 to 400. 
D.       The penalties and prohibitions for Stimulant violations will be increased to 50 games for a second time violation; 100 games for a third time violation, and up to a permanent suspension for a fourth time violation.
E.       Any player who violates the drug program will no longer receive Major League Service during his suspension, unless his suspension is reduced by 20 or more games under the mitigation provision of the Program.
F.       The Arbitration Panel will be provided more discretion to reduce penalties based on mitigating circumstances.  

XIV.    SMOKELESS TOBACCO
A.       Use of tobacco products on the field will be banned in all ballparks where it is prohibited by local law or ordinance.  
B.       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. 

XV.      DOMESTIC VIOLENCE POLICY, ANTI-BULLYING, ANTI-HAZING, TRANSLATORS
A.       Procedural changes to strengthen the Domestic Violence Policy and to expedite investigations conducted by the Commissioner’s Office.  
B.       The Commissioner’s Office will implement an Anti-Hazing and Anti-Bullying Policy as a supplement to the Workplace Code of Conduct.  
C.       The parties agreed to require Clubs to retain a bilingual media relations professional throughout the term of the new agreement, and provide additional English Language learning opportunities, for Spanish-speaking players.

XVI.    MAJOR LEAGUE RULES/ALLOWANCES
A.       The time period in which a Club may designate a player for assignment has been shortened from 10 days to 7 days.
B.       Clubs will be prohibited from recalling a player from option prior to the expiration of 10 days if the player’s Minor League season has concluded. 
C.       Clubs will no longer have to place players on optional assignment waivers prior to optioning them to the Minor Leagues. 
D.            Various improvements to the allowances that players receive, including moving allowances.

MLB, MLBPA media services