April 29, 2016


The baseless story on Jake Arrieta's rise to ace status was taken off the sports pages today by the announcement of another 80 game PED suspension.

The Marlins Dee Gordon was suspended by MLB for using banned substances. Gordon, who had a career year in 2014 with the Dodgers, signed a big money deal with the Marlins, a 5 year $50 million extension. Gordon failed a drug test for use of banned substances exogenous testosterone and clostebol.

ESPN's Buster Olney remarked that Gordon’s suspension serves only as further proof that the potential reward for using PEDs far outweighs the risks. The Marlins did not know if Gordon was using PEDs during his All Star seasons with the Dodgers. But the team will still owe Gordon roughly $48 million  despite the suspension. And that is the crux of the problem: even after a suspension, the team owes the balance of the player contract.  Olney recalls that early in his career, Gordon struggled to simply to stay in the Major Leagues after being relegated to the bench and changing positions. Players in similar situations can certainly look to Gordon’s situation and see the temptation of using banned substances in order to get to their goal of being a major league player.

MLB thought it had swept the drug abuse issue under the rug with stricter minor league testing programs and more through major league tests. Ken Rosenthal remarks that many players continue to voice their concern that every player gets their reputation hit by every new suspension. With a new collective bargaining agreement on the horizon, the players' union may have concede greater player punishments or concessions in order to stem the tide of bad public relations.  Some players have suggested a two-year ban, though Rosenthal himself wonders if at a certain point the MLBPA will change its steadfast position to  allow some or all of a player’s long-term contract to be voided by PED usage. Player agents' will strongly lobby against such a move. It could lead to more adversarial arbitration if  a player 's contract was to be voided for a failed drug test, but the player claims to have never taken a banned substance. The Ryan Braun denials and abuse of the test taker shed a horrible light on everyone involved in the drug testing program. MLB does not want to have a constant turnstyle of PED arbitration cases.

But the temptation to cheat is great because the major league salary levels continue to increase.In 2015, the average major league salary was $3,386,212. In 2016, the minimum major league salary was $511,000. So, even bench players seeking the major league minimum make more than the average fan in the stands still have an incentive to cheat.


Jake Arrieta has transformed his career since the Cubs traded starter Scott Feldman, a rental player, to the Orioles, for their former prospect.

Arrieta not only got better - - - he has become the best in baseball. Two no-hitters in 11 starts is proof of a totally different pitcher than the one the Orioles decided was not in their future.

But now, the public whispers suspicions that Arrieta could not have gotten this good, this quick, without some artificial help. Baseball was in denial for most of the steroid era. It recaptured fans with the McGwire-Sosa juiced home run race. Light hitting utility infielders were suddenly hitting 25 home runs. Player contracts skyrocketed in value under new cable television deals. There was plenty of incentive for all sides to look the other way when the topic of PEDs came up in the game.

Arrieta denies he takes any banned substance.

He  responded to a USA Today story that highlighted suspicions PEDs helped his transformation from an inconsistent, uncertain pitcher with the Orioles into an absolutely dominant force on the mound.

“I know there has been situations where somebody took something maybe unknowingly,” Arrieta said. “Due process was taken and they found out maybe it wasn’t what they thought it was. But if it’s a blatant attempt to cheat the system with a serious steroid, then I think maybe (a zero-tolerance policy would work).

“If you’re going to put your career in jeopardy, then you’re willing to take that chance. There’s food and supplements that you can take legally that will better your body and help you stay healthy and perform throughout the course of the season.

“Shortcuts are something that’s always been around in all sports. But as a union, we’re trying to do everything we can to weed those guys out of this game,”  he said.
With the collective bargaining agreement set to expire after this season, labor negotiations between MLB and the players’ union have already begun. Arrieta isn’t sure if the answer is adding to the list of banned substances.

“The list is ridiculously long,” Arrieta said. “I eat plants and I eat lean protein and that’s my gig. That’s what I do. I watch what I eat and I train properly. That’s no secret. My mom’s 6-1 and my dad’s 6-4, so I’m going to be big. I do Pilates – and I strength-train with heavy weights occasionally – and this is the result.”

The biggest change in Arrieta's pitching was that he came to Chicago and asked his coaches if he could go back to his original pitching mechanics. Those mechanics of throwing across his body usually causes extreme torque on a pitcher's shoulder and elbow. That motion has ruined the careers of many pitchers, including Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, whose former straight line motion scouts called the perfect release and throw. But under the pressure and work load of a major league starter, the arm starts to weaken and drop across the chest. Arrieta's unconventional delivery is what makes hitting against him very difficult. The ball to a right handed hitter appears to be coming directly at him - - - then breaks over the plate. That moment freezes a hitter, which messes up the hitter's timing, and makes Arrieta a dominating pitcher.

Arrieta's work out routine is famous. He stretches constantly which keeps his muscles and ligaments loose (just as lanky pitchers from past eras could pitch complete games without pitch counts). He keeps himself in shape. He has the mental toughness to be a professional at his craft. He takes at least 10 tests a year. There is no report that he has failed any one.

But the rumors will always surround baseball. Fans had been lied to for a long time to be cynical about the purity of the game.

April 27, 2016


MLB is floating the idea that the league should expand teams. It is currently dealing with an odd 30 team, 2 league set-up. The idea is to add at least two teams to balance out the leagues.

However, that may not be a great idea. It dilutes the talent pool. It weakens the overall product.

But for owners, the division of $2 billion or so as entry fees is incentive enough to open the club to new members.

The potential new franchise cities include Montreal, which had the Expos but could not support the team; Mexico City, because all sports commissioners want their brands to be international; Vancouver, because it is foreign but too close to Seattle's market; Las Vegas, which wants any pro team but still has the gambling stigma; Austin Texas, because it is hip; Charlotte, but that may not be politically correct; Nashville, because it is central; or New Orleans, because it is NOLA.

If the MLB wants to even things out, it could always contract two teams. As it stands, the high revenue, big market clubs are subsidizing the small market teams. If a team cannot draw enough local support to survive on its own (like Tampa Bay or San Diego), then fold those teams into the remaining 28. The player's union would object since it would be losing 80 pro contracts.

But MLB has to start to realize that new public stadium financing is an impossible sell. Municipalities are bankrupt. Sports economists have been saying for decades that city financed sports facilities are dead money deals and do nothing for local economic development. Long term bond debt cripple city budgets and negatively impact other critical areas such as school funding.

The are no known billionaires crazy enough to buy a new franchise and build a new stadium with their own money. The political climate in the US is anti-government, anti-crony capitalism, anti-establishment. Public financing for private sports franchises is the last thing voters want to happen with their tax dollars.

Also in the head wind is the fact that the billion dollar cable team network deals have evaporated. The Yankees network is a dinosaur. The Dodgers network is a financial disaster for Time-Warner. Cable operators are balking at paying premium sports fees. And viewers are abandoning the cable box for streaming services which do not pay content providers as well as old network programming deals. Baseball may be at its peak revenue, but the trend is a steep drop-off.

Baseball owners are first and foremost businessmen. If they can see the massive changes that will come to the sport, there is no reason to rush into an expansion franchise. Just wait until the baseball economy tanks and pick up an existing weak franchise on the cheap.

April 22, 2016


Jake Arrieta is better than just pretty damn good.

Arrieta has thrown 24 consecutive quality starts in the regular season.
He's 20-1 in those games, with an 0.84 ERA, 0.50 WHIP and 173 strikeouts against just 33 walks.

What changed since Baltimore traded the disappointing prospect to the Cubs for Scott Feldman?

First, Arrieta said last year that when he came to the Cubs, he asked the coaching staff if he could revert to his old pitching style. This meant that he would be throwing across his body. Throwing across your chest is a serious "no no" for pitching coaches because normally it puts additional strain on the shoulder and elbow. Pitchers are taught to throw the ball downhill and not across.

But Arrieta grew up throwing the ball in the unconventional manner. The Cubs relented to have Arrieta find his own comfort zone.

Second, Arrieta went on a mediation/yoga/stretching/work out madness routine. He developed a core strength and flexibility. This goes hand in hand with making his unusual mechanics work.

Third, Arrieta's release point is very hard for batters to pick up. He stands on the right side of the rubber. Since he is throwing across his body, his shoulder makes a fuller turn away from the batter. As he comes through, the batter sees the ball release behind them (to a right handed hitter) then whip across the plate at 96 mph to the lower, outside corner of the zone. That split second "is the ball going to hit me" moment for batters is enough for Arrieta to control the count.

Fourth, Arrieta has a zen presence on the mound. Nothing seems to phase him. If he does not get a strike call, he does not growl or yell at the home plate umpire; he takes the ball and throws a better pitch. Some pitchers lose their cool on the mound (especially when they are struggling). If you maintain a professional demeanor on the mound, the home plate umpire will respect the pitcher more and give him the border calls.

So Arrieta has developed into a pitching monster. He is strong, reliable, consistent as the sun rising in the morning, and mentally tough. The Cubs know they will not have a long losing streak because Arrieta is in the rotation. He is the perfect compliment to Jon Lester's mound grumpiness or John Lackey's pitching anger.

April 20, 2016


The early season has had its share of good, bad and ugly moments.

The good: the Cubs pitching staff leads the NL in ERA and WHIP. Quality starts have not taxed the bullpen. The Cubs are the first team this year to 11 wins. The Cubs have the largest lead, 4 games, in any division after 14 games. The Cubs 11-3 start is the best since 1970.

More good: it appears the Cubs have overcome any mental block on playing the rival Cardinals. Last night's victory was the 5th in a row over the Redbirds. As such, the Cubs now know that they can beat any of the teams in their division.

The bad: the Cubs core continue to struggle at the plate. Players like Heyward, Rizzo and Zobrist have had oh-for-20 stretches. But the only saving grace has been patience st the plate and getting walks. They have had solid starting pitching to win close, low scoring games.

More bad: Jorge Soler crashed into the left field wall to give slow footed Cardinal catcher Molina a triple. Even the Cubs announcers had to admit that the ball "could" have been caught. The Cubs defense has been spotty at times. If not for pitcher Jason Hammel's two-run single, the Soler defensive lapse would have cost the Cubs the game.

The ugly: Kyle Schwarber's knee and leg injury was so severe that he had the Dallas Cowboys team physician do his reconstructive surgery. It is rare for a baseball player to have a "football" type injury. The Cubs statement on the surgery said the team was "hopeful" that Schwarber would be back in 2017 for spring training. But that is not a guarantee. As beat reporters indicate, the under-reported aspect of Schwarber's injury was the severe high ankle sprain. Schwarber could not get his shoe on because of the massive swelling. The surgery had to be delayed until all the swelling went down.

More ugly: there is no guarantee that Schwarber can come back to his pre-injury levels. Ligament tears can be painful and debilitating. They can even permanently change your lifestyle. 
The cruciate ligaments -- ACL and PCL -- cannot be repaired. Once they are completely torn or stretched beyond their limits, that's it. The only option is a reconstruction. In this procedure, tendons are taken from other parts of your leg or a cadaver to replace the torn ligament. Reconstructive surgery may not give complete stability to the knee. It is usually a long recovery process which may have some patients not being able to return to their pre-injury activities. 

During the long season ahead, the Cubs may miss Schwarber's bat more than expected if the middle of the order has prolonged hitting slumps.

April 18, 2016


The Cubs lost their first series of the year to the Colorado Rockies.

In the rubber game, Jon Lester pitched well enough to win but the staff gave up two home runs to Nolan Arenado to seal the defeat.

In the game, Lester made the worst throw to first base in major league history: fielding a bunt on the first base side, he grounded to Anthony Rizzo who had to stretch in foul territory to scoop it up.

And that was emblematic of the series issues: defense.

In one game, the Cubs committed four errors (in reality it was more like six.) In Lester's game, Trevor Story took the longest lead off first base I have ever seen - - - his entire body was beyond the grass cut out. Still, Lester did not throw to first or even step off the mound. It was an easy stolen base.

Meanwhile, Colorado has a stellar Gold Glove infield of Arenado at third, Story at short and DJ LeMathieu at second. They all were solid to great in the field during the series. Even outfielder Carlos Gonzalez tried to deke out runners from advancing when he was catching fly balls.

The bane of the Cubs this season could be team defense. This may be more true when Maddon plays players out of position such as Bryant in the outfield. The old saying is "pitching and defense wins games," and when the Cubs offense snoozed on Sunday, it was hard to put any pressure on the Rox defense.

The Cubs Total Zone Total Runs Above Average for team fielding is already +13 in just 12 games. One could argue that the Cubs defense is giving their opponent a full run per game because of their defensive weaknesses.

April 15, 2016


The Cubs have rocketed to an 8-1 start. The team is scoring approximately 7 runs per game. Cub hitters have the patience of Jobe; opposing starters have thrown an average 88 pitches in 4 2/3 innings of work. The Cubs lead the league in walks.

Baseball is a stats driven sport.

But, as I have posted in the past, one worm in the ear hole is announcers, broadcasters or fans joyfully saying the today the Cubs are "7 games above .500."

Technically, that it is an untrue statement. But in the context of baseball slang, 7 games above .500 means "7 more victories than losses."

The Cubs have played 9 games. If they had evenly split their contests (thus having a fifty percent winning percentage), the team would be 4.5-4.5. That is the .500 mark: 4.5 victories. The Cubs are at 8 victories. So, the Cubs are actually only 3.5 games above the .500 mark.

But that does not have the same impact of having 7 more wins than losses.

Another way to look at it is that the Cubs are "on pace" to win 144 games. Eight wins divided by 9 games multiplied by 162 game season equals 144 games. Or for the blackboard inclined:

                                 8                        x
                              ____        =       _____
                                 9                      162
Solve for x.

The 1906 Cubs won 116 games (a .763 winning percentage) with a shorter regular season. To compare with the current team, the 1906 Cubs would have won 124 games in a 162-game season. So, the Cubs are on pace to shatter the major league record for victories in a season. No one really believes the Cubs will win 144 games this season.

But if the Cubs finish as they started by being 7 games over .500, then the final record would be have 88 victories which would be a disappointing 9 less victories than the 2015 campaign. That is a 9.3 percent decline in performance year over year. So as impressive the Cubs start has been this season, it is still not as well as the 2015 team's finish of being 16 games over .500.

April 12, 2016


Did you see the pregame nonsense?

The day before the home opener, Ricketts was whining about the need to close off Clark and
Addison streets for "security reasons."  He enlisted a local Congressman to shill about the
need for closure since large crowds are "soft targets" for terrorists. It was a specious argument.

Ricketts has wanted to shut down all traffic around the ballpark so he can create a Fenway fan experience. In reality, a closed off street is another free use of public space for the Cubs to sell its products to fans. In order to get his way, he floats a solution before unleashing a problem on the city.

In a calculated move which put fans in more danger, Ricketts puts the new metal detectors
outside the main gates so the fans are pushed toward from the Clark and Addison intersection. So 40,000 fans have to compress like sardines between the new checkpoint and curb in order to get into the plaza before the main gate.

ABC-Channel 7 Chicago news image

It was the perfect storm for a Who concert line crush or a bus clipping a fan standing on the curb. The police used saw horses and real horses to slow down traffic and jaywalkers. If the Cubs wanted to create a chaotic scene in order to arm twist their entire domain over the streets, then the above image was on point.

Ricketts has run rough shod over the city and neighbors on what he wants for his venue.
He truly believes that every single dollar that comes into Wrigleyville during a Cub game day
is his. So he just goes ahead and pushes his agenda without approval or consequence.

The Cubs created a crushing fan safety situation by putting the metal detectors next to the intersection
instead of just outside the gate. The idea of creating a long line was to make sure that people came to the ball park earlier in order to get inside the park - - - to spend money inside the Wrigley confines.
Long lines at extended check point will mean people will want to get inside Wrigley quicker so more outside the bar sales of  food, beer and merchandise will go into the Ricketts coffers instead in the neighborhood bars and restaurants.

Mayor Emanuel was quick to say that closing two major city streets so the Cubs can control
beyond the limits of their property lines and into the streets (again) was "a swing and a miss."

If the metal detectors are not relocated back to a sensible level, the danger of pedestrian and vehicle encounters will increase since the next phase of development is an entire commercial block with a hotel, taxi traffic, restaurants and health club patrons funneling through Clark and Addison.

Fans coming to the park were upset that the McDonald's had closed on the block across from the main gate. This was a landmark for people to meet prior to going into Wrigley. Families brought their kids to the restaurant because the food was cheaper than inside Wrigley. But now, for the time being, it forces fans into Wrigley to have lunch or dinner. 

Ricketts will continue to say all of the ball park construction is to enhance the ball park experience for fans. But make no mistake about it, every move made by ownership is to improve the family's revenue streams and profit margins.

April 8, 2016


It was a predictable outcome. It was one of those slow developing disaster films . . . you know something bad is going to happen soon.

When Kyle Schwarber was placed in LF it was done to keep highly paid Miguel Montero behind the plate. It was to get Schwarber's power into the lineup on a regular basis. Joe Maddon is not afraid of playing players out of their natural positions. Schwarber was drafted as a catcher. He wants to be a pro catcher. He is working hard to catch major league pitchers. His deficiencies have been magnified because of early scouting reports. But he is a team player, so he goes to LF to learn a new position literally on the fly.

Dexter Fowler is a minus- CF defender. He does not have a strong arm and he does not cover very much ground in the gaps. But he is a switch hitting lead off man with some pop. He can get on base and score a lot of runs. Fowler's re-signing with the Cubs helped balance out the top of the lineup. 

In order to get more pop in the lineup, the Cubs have to play lesser defenders in the field.

Last night in Arizona, this philosophy crashed with reality.

Cubs broadcaster Pat Hughes was deeply concerned when an ambulance cart drove  Schwarber off Chase Field on Thursday night after he collided with Fowler after giving chase to a long fly ball in the gap (which turned into an inside-the-park HR). Schwarber laid face down on the ground until the trainers reached him. It looked very serious.

After the game, Schwarber, on crutches, talked to the media. “The ball was literally in no man’s land. We both thought that (the other guy) wasn’t going to get the ball. So you only call it if you know you can get it. We both went at it, and I stuck my glove up. I was pretty close. But then he dove for it, too.

“We were playing hard. I have no regrets about playing hard and getting hurt,” he said.

Initial reports indicate that Schwarber has tightness in his knee and ankle. Trainers were looking at the knee and testing for a strained ACL. X-rays showed no broken bones. An MRI is scheduled for today. The real concern is any knee damage. If so, then that puts Schwarber out of his scheduled catching rotation and lessens his overall playing time. But it appears that Schwarber could be sidelined for at least two weeks.

The injury clouds  a 14-6 Cubs comeback win over the Diamondbacks. New starter John Lackey gave up 6 runs in the first 3 innings, but hung around for the win because of Anthony Rizzo's huge night, 3 for 4 with 6 RBIs.

For every player's down time, it is an opportunity for another player. When Schwarber left the game, Maddon inserted Kris Bryant in LF and moved in Tommy La Stella at third base. It seemed that the lesson was lost on Maddon in the moment as he moved Bryant out of his natural position to play LF instead of inserting hot hitting Matt Szczur or platoon Jorge Soler.  La Stella was hitless in three plate appearances.

There is no word when Javy Baez is set to return from his dumb head first slide into first base thunb injury. I suspect he will be activated if Schwarber heads to the DL. 

Maddon likes moveable pieces on his roster so he can zig and zag his lineups to get match ups he finds favorable. In one respect, it keeps the entire team in the mindset to be ready to play every day. But in another, it upsets a normal player's habit and routine of playing one position and batting consistently in the same place in the lineup. But moving a catcher to play LF in a park with a very large outfield seems to be counterproductive.

It was the worst possible news: Schwarber tore both his ACL and LCL with a severe high ankle sprain. He is out for the season. There is no time table for his return. He will have to have reconstructive surgery and a long rehab period. There is no guarantee that he will be ready for spring training in 2017. 

The injury was described as a "severe football-type" injury. How a badly damaged knee affects a major league catcher is something new for Schwarber and the Cubs. If Schwarber cannot return to being a catcher, that cuts in half his value to the Cubs (or any potential trade partner who would look at a catcher with 30 HR potential a major asset.)


The Los Angeles Dodgers open the season with the largest MLB payroll:  $253 million. Only one other team has a payroll more than $200 million. 

From the data collected by Spotrac, the Dodgers are the Kings of Dead Money. The Dodgers do not have $253 million worth of talent taking the field on Opening Day. Of the Dodgers' $253 million in 2016 salaries, only $140 million (55%) is committed to players on the active, 25-man Opening Day roster. The other 45% of payroll, $113 million, is for players on the disabled list, key players in the minors, or former players now playing on other teams. The $113 million is more than the entire payroll for 14 teams, according news reports.

The biggest chunk is for players on the disabled list, inlcuding outfielder Andre Ethier ($18.0 million salary), pitcher Brett Anderson ($15.8 million), Brandon McCarthy ($12.5 million), and second baseman Howie Kendrick ($10.0 million). The Dodgers are also paying $23.7 million for players on other teams, including all $8.0 million of the 2016 salary for first baseman Michael Morse, who was traded to the Pirates last season with the Dodgers agreeing to pay most of his remaining salary.

The Dodgers are in the position to be spendthrifts because of its billion dollar TV rights deal with Time-Warner to create new Dodger Network. The Dodgers are still getting paid, but TW is getting burned since it has been unable to sell the channel to other cable and satellite TV providers. 

The blueprint follows the big money teams of the Yankees and Red Sox, who could afford to bury their mistakes by buying or trading for expensive talent. However, outspending your opponents does not necessarily mean that you can buy a championship. The KC Royals are a prime example of that principle.

April 5, 2016


In an oddity of scheduling, both the White Sox and Cubs started the 2016 season on the West Coast. Both clubs had night games scheduled at the same time, 9:05 p.m. local.

The Cubs had generated the national hype in spring training; World Series or Bust.

The White Sox had generated the national scorn with the Adam LaRoche sudden retirement.

Both Chicago teams have something to prove this year. The White Sox were supposed to be great (on paper) last year. This off-season, the team added 3/4 of a new infield and a new veteran presence in the locker room.

The Cubs have to prove that last year's 97 wins from the Maddon Magic Bus was no illusion. The Cubs also added veteran players to the core group.

The Cubs rocked the Angels 9-0 with Jake Arrieta in excellent form. Two holdovers drove in the majority of runs: Montero and Sczcur.

The White Sox also won, 4-3 over the A's (who lost their starting pitcher to pre-game food poisoning) behind a solid outing by starter Chris Sale and the bullpen. Newcomer Jimmy Rollins had an RBI.

All Chicago baseball fans could breathe this morning a sigh of relief. The teams' best pitchers gave the clubs victories.

One line up quirk from each opener:

The Cubs batted Ben Zobrist third. This was done to get three high OBP hitters (Fowler, Heyward and Zobrist) ahead of the big bats of Rizzo, Bryant and Schwarber. That seemed to work last night.

The White Sox put defensively challenged Adam Eaton in RF while putting last year's fielder, Avi Garcia, at DH. Garcia was not the best outfield defender, but Eaton had terrible stats last season. Austin Jackson started in CF and batted 9th.

April 4, 2016


One word: Schwarber.

Of all the Cubs who may improve or flounder in their sophomore season, Kyle Schwarber is the one player that fills the entire spectrum of fan ecstasy to doubt. He is the key to the Cubs season.

He has the compact swing to make contact on any count and on any pitch. However, he only hit .246 last season. He is projected to have 294 AB,  16 HR, 47 RBI which is similar to his 2015 numbers. That may be fine for a bench player, but not a starter.

Schwarber appears to be Jason Hammel's personal catcher, by default. The Cubs are going to give Schwarber the opportunity to play the position he wants to play, catcher. So Schwarber will get 30 games behind the plate, or 40 AB.

Schwarber appears to be set for a platoon in LF with Jorge Soler. An even split would be 66 games or 264 AB.

Schwarber will DH in AL games so that may be another dozen or 48 AB.

That gets him up to 352 AB, or 19.7 % more AB than projected at Baseball Reference.

But it also shows that Schwarber, at best, will start in 98 games this season. Is that enough to get him into a steady rhythm and habit where he can maintain his batting concentration for a full season like he did in the minors?

And what happens when he gets into his first slump? Will Joe Maddon continue to play him, or with all the other options he has, does Maddon go with the "hot" hand.  And in close games when defense is a premium, will Maddon defer to better defenders such as Ross, Montero or Szczur?

We hope that Schwarber has a break out year like Kris Bryant did in 2015 (.275 BA, 26 HR, 99 RBI).

The public knows the Cubs can be good, very good because they surprised the world last year. Most of the young Cubs still have not hit their professional ceiling (such as Addison Russell, who writers believe will have the break-out season). The Cubs have a lot of moving parts, and sometimes just one gear can gum up the entire machine.

Schwarber will still be the fan favorite because his hustle and his monster HRs. But there is going to be added pressure this year because the Cubs have made it clear that the catcher of the future is not Schwarber but Wilson Contreras, who will start in AAA Iowa.

April 2, 2016


The season has not started by millions of baseball fans will be shut out.

NY Post reports the continuing saga of sports teams and cable operators over team license fees.

Cable operators are winning.

The head butt over broadcast rights fees continues at the start of the season by big carriage standoffs for regional sports networks in New York and Los Angeles.

The LA Times reports that Time Warner Cable sweetened its deal for SportsNet LA, the exclusive TV home of the Dodgers, but no deal has been come to pass.

The cable provider, which already cut the channel’s price by 30 percent for one year, offered pay-TV providers a new six-year deal to carry the regional sports net.

The first year would be at the lower $3.50-a-month introductory price with the rate ticking up in subsequent years, according to the LA Times, citing a source close to the talks.

So far, AT&T’s DirecTV and other pay-TV operators in Southern California have not responded to the latest offer, which means some 3 million homes in Southern California will miss out on Dodgers games for a third straight season.

The billion dollar Dodger cable network deal was based upon full coverage of the LA area. That has not happened, and it makes future megachannel deals unlikely for teams, including the Cubs.

The same situation is playing out in the New York area. YES, which airs Yankees games, has been blacked out on Comcast since November amid a carriage dispute with the network’s majority owner, 21st Century Fox.

The blackout affects about 900,000 Comcast subscribers who live in New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

Under its old contract, Comcast was guaranteed the lowest price because of a so-called “most favored nation” clause. It wants to continue that even though it lost its title as the biggest pay-TV provider to the combined AT&T- DirecTV.