Pirates’ ownership lies about spending to its own front office, too

Pirates’ ownership is throwing their own front office under the bus in public for not making the moves they aren’t being allowed to make.

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Over at Pittsburgh Baseball Now, John Perrotto writes that the Pirates’ front office was “furious” over owner Bob Nutting’s June 21 comments on there being money and opportunity to add to the team’s roster before the trade deadline. Why would something like that make a front office angry? Well, because that’s just what Nutting said to the public: in private, to the front office itself, he told them the opposite.

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Let’s check in on the White Sox

The White Sox are having the worst season in MLB, but let’s see how close they are to being historically bad.

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Good news, White Sox fans! Your team is no longer on pace to have the worst season of the modern era. When we last checked in on June 3, the White Sox were 15-45, good for a win percentage of .250, and had been outscored by 134 runs on the season. They were on pace for 122 losses if you rounded up, which was two more than the 1962 expansion Mets. In the month-plus since, though, the White Sox have just been regular bad, as far as wins and losses are concerned, instead of historically so.

They’re now 26-66, so, they put up an 11-21 record since we last looked in on them. Over 162 games, that’s a 106-loss pace. How very dull. This mini surge has the White Sox now on pace for 116 losses on the season, which would make them worse than the 2018 Orioles (115 defeats), but better than the 2003 Tigers and those aforementioned Mets.

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The NBA’s ‘second apron’ seems bad, to me

A new threshold of punishment for spending has arrived in the NBA, and it’s not great.

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It’s not that Major League Baseball’s rules regarding the luxury tax and penalties are great. Let’s just get that out of the way now. The luxury tax has effectively been a salary cap for the league, albeit a soft and unofficial one, and new restrictions like the “Cohen tax” meant to discourage the wealthiest teams from truly and continuously flexing their financial muscle already makes that much more apparent. When teams like the Yankees can lie about their available resources and you can also kind of squint and get why they’d want to lie, that’s a problem.

All of that sounds pretty good in comparison to what the NBA has going for it starting with this upcoming season, however. A “second apron” has been introduced that makes the NBA’s actual soft salary cap more like a hard one. In short, you can basically spend and spend to retain players already on your roster, within the existing rules of what max contracts look like in that capped system, but if you’re over this second apron — it’s a threshold, just like with MLB’s system — and need to acquire more players. Well. You basically can’t. Per The Ringer’s explanation:

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Notes: NL wild card, pitch clock violations, Juan Soto’s free agency

“Parity” is a polite way of saying “mediocrity,” the first-ever pitch clock violation conclusion to an MLB game occurred, and Juan Soto spoke up about his free agency.

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My latest for Baseball Prospectus went up this morning, and it’s on the current mess that is the National League wild card race. “Race” is actually giving it a little too much credit there; the sense of urgency that word implies is missing for most of these teams.

The short of it is that the division leaders are all pretty good, and the Braves, who lead the wild card race, qualify as such, too, but everyone else is mediocre to worse than that. The Rockies and Marlins are the lone NL teams that aren’t fighting for a postseason spot, which, as I get into (in a subscriber-only piece), is bad news for competitive baseball, for next month’s trade deadline, and, eventually, for the future of the regular season when the owners inevitably get their way and expand the postseason even further, because money.

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Rest in peace, Willie Mays

The baseball world says goodbye to a giant.

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There have been innumerable great baseball players in the history of the sport, in Major League Baseball and otherwise. Those you could describe as singular talents, however, makes for a much shorter list. The ones for which there has really just been the one of them, ever — even someone as incredible as Mickey Mantle has their future comparison point in Mike Trout.

Willie Mays was one such player, as we’re all being reminded of on Wednesday morning, after learning that the 93-year-old legend passed away peacefully on Tuesday. Maybe not the greatest at any one thing in history, except for being the level of great he was at as many things as he was. Consider that, as incredible as, say, Mookie Betts has been in his career thus far, as a threat at the plate and on the bases and in the field, he’s just nowhere near what Mays accomplished. Betts has a career OPS+ of 139, which is excellent, yes, but Mays finished at 155 even after his down years, of which there weren’t many. Really, just the one, at age 42 in 1973, after a career that kicked off as a 17-year-old in 1948. Mays had nine top-five MVP finishes, received MVP votes in 15 of his 23 seasons, led the league in homers as many times as he did steals — four a piece — and, oh, was a great defender, too. He lost a full year and most of another to military service in Korea, too, as the draft was still around when Mays was playing ball.

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Notes: Record stadium subsidy, John Henry speaks, gambling threats

The Rays are close to getting an admitted horrible deal for St. Petersburg, John Henry reminded people why he doesn’t give interviews anymore, and players are being threatened by gambling addicts.

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Usually the story told to cities and the public about stadium subsidies is that the new sports venue will be great for the local economy, it’ll pay for itself over time, etc. etc. So it’s kind of perversely funny that it’s already known that St. Petersburg’s nearly approved deal for a new Rays stadium will provide no revenue return to the city. City council member Richie Floyd, who is against the deal, has already said as much publicly: it didn’t even take some digging into the proposed deal from journalists to uncover that key piece of information.

What makes it even worse is that this is a $1.6 billion stadium subsidy, per Neil deMause’s calculations last month: the current record is Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium, at $750 million, which means St. Pete is more than doubling that rate. Completely absurd, but just five of their eight city councilors are needed to approve the deal, anyway, and they’ve supposedly got the numbers for the July 11 final vote.

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Notes: Public team ownership, A’s ballpark funds

A deep dive worth diving into, and my latest from BP, plus a response to a comment there.

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R.J. Anderson has done some deep dives over the years at CBS Sports, but Tuesday’s feature might be one of the deepest: he looked at the history of private team ownership in professional sports, why it’s worked, why it’s been obstructed, and why it could be a useful rejoinder to the exceptionally greedy, corporate mentality that plagues pro sports today.

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Notes: A’s request to not play in Las Vegas after move to Vegas, MLB gambling

The A’s haven’t even moved to Sacramento, never mind Las Vegas, and they’re already trying to skip playing home games in Vegas. Plus some thoughts on MLB and “mixed messaging” regarding gambling.

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According to a report from the Nevada Independent, the A’s proposal for their 30-year non-relocation agreement requests up allowing up to eight home games per year to be played at neutral sites. So, not the Las Vegas ballpark. Sure, being able to go to London and play or what have you can be a thing MLB teams do, but up to eight per year is a lot, and the A’s want to do it in order to build their brand.

To be fair, their brand is in the toilet, but hey things are more complicated than what the whims of the A’s suggest. Which is pretty normal, really.

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So how bad are the White Sox, anyway?

Guess whose 11-loss streak has them right back in “historically awful” territory?

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We’re two months into the 2024 season, and the White Sox are through 60 games. They’ve won all of 15 of those contests, because they are very bad at baseball. It’s not the players’ fault that they’re this bad, they didn’t cause themselves to be put all together into a team-like structure like so, but that’s the truth of the matter, regardless.

This isn’t a normal thing to check in on necessarily — there are always bad teams — but the White Sox have been a special kind of bad that deserves a closer look. Sixty games into the 2023 season, for instance, the A’s were off to a historically awful start, as they were 12-48 — a winning percentage of .200 — and had already been outscored by 210 runs. The White Sox, through their own first 60, are just a little bit better, but not by much. A 15-45 record, a run differential of -138, and a winning percentage of .250. It looked like they were maybe turning things around for a little bit, at least in terms of not being as embarrassing as they had been, but then whoops, they lost 11 in a row. That’s right: the White Sox were, just a couple of weeks back, merely 15-34, which was on pace for 50 wins if you round up. Now, though, they’re on pace for 41 wins, or, 122 losses (again, rounding up for both, hence the 163 games in total there).

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Notes: The Las Vegas A’s stadium is on track unless it isn’t, Yankees sustainability, MLB absorbs Negro League stats

The Las Vegas A’s remain more conceptual than anything, the Yankees utter a word that would have killed The Boss, and Negro League statistics are now MLB statistics.

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If you ask the people behind the Las Vegas A’s stadium push, everything is great! There’s no need to worry; everything is happening as it’s supposed to, we’re happy to take questions so long as they aren’t about where A’s owner John Fisher is going to get the additional financing needed to actually build the thing. If you ask people who know how these things work, though, who aren’t unregistered lobbyists, well. Neil deMause handled that at Field of Schemes already this week:

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