A few random thoughts and other miscellaneous items from across the league and my own social media "feeds," waiting for that elusive first sign of spring. (Okay, it's not so elusive over here, where apparently plants are starting to bloom ridiculously early because of the abnormally warm weather. Sorry, polar-vortex-afflicted OTMers!)
- The Dodgers have clearly decided that they want to make the Yankees' transgressions with the luxury tax seem like harmless flirtations. Seriously, what insanity led them to offer Clayton Kershaw what amounts to a 5-year, $150 million contract? This is total, total financial recklessness. The kind that can only be pulled off by a franchise that doesn't care about either the luxury tax or the revenue-sharing refund. Now, normally I'd just say, "ha! ha!" in my best Nelson Muntz impersonation, but this time it does make the Red Sox' plans a bit tougher than they otherwise would have been? Why? Because of a certain pending free-agent-to-be named Jon Lester. His asking price may have just gone up—potentially by several million dollars per year.
- Of course, there are quite a few differences between Lester and Kershaw. For one: four years. Kershaw will turn 26 days before the 2014 season starts, while Lester turned 30 two weeks ago. This will likely be Lester's last chance at a huge contract extension, while Kershaw has an opt-out clause that will allow him to sign another contract extension after his age-30 season. Lester has also been inconsistent over the course of the last few seasons, a period which has seen Kershaw do nothing but excel. (It also helps that he has been pitching in the NL and gets to, you know, face other pitchers every three innings or so.) WAR seems to love Kershaw just as much as earned run average clearly does, but it's hard to see how Lester won't get close to $20 million per year after this epic blunder by the Dodgers.
- Speaking of epic blunders, the Philadelphia Phillies are doing their best to follow the Yankees in an even more ridiculous manner: who in their front office said "Hey, I know how we can improve as a team! Let's just sign every old guy we can find!"? Have you taken a look at their roster? Next year, as many as five of their likely starters will be on the wrong side of 34. And that doesn't even count the fact that they just re-signed Bobby Abreu. No, that's not a typo. Abreu, who will turn forty before the season starts. Abreu, who did not play a single inning in 2013, and who was barely competent to field in 2011. That guy. Even on a minor league deal, that's just too much.
- Unfortunately, the lunacy does not seem to be limited to general managers. I posted in response to someone else's feed that rooting for either the Yankees or the Rays is utterly impossible for me. (It would be a lot easier to root for Cthulhu than either of those teams. He's more likable to boot.) The response was to declare that only hatred of the Yankees is immutable. Worse still, there was a comment that he couldn't say "anybody but the Rays" with a straight face or even a simulacrum thereof. This cannot be heralded as any sort of good omen. All of our hard work warning the world of the blight that is the Rays, and fellow Sox fans dismiss it out of hand as if it were a not-so-funny joke. When will we learn that this is no laughing matter, and that eternal vigilance and fortitude is necessary to combat this ever-lurking menace, waiting for the right moment to hatch its deadly plots? Sometimes, it seems that all a blogger today can do is warn. . . .
- On the other hand, a few good things have come up this winter. Scott Boras has not been completely successful getting his clients oversized contracts that serve only his desire for big, fat commissions. Just mostly.
- More importantly, some sanity has been restored to the game, with an expansion of the instant replay rules.
- At the same time, as someone pointed out in the comments, MLB carved out a whale of an exemption in the replay rules, more or less declaring that phantom tags for force outs at second are A-OK! No, seriously, they won't be reviewable under the new system. I guess someone figured they had to give a chance for Derek Jeter to earn another Gold Glove award before he retires, and heaven forbid that he actually have to tag someone to record an out.
- And last, but not least, 21 days until pitchers and catchers. Are you ready for baseball yet?