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WeekEnd HaloLinks: Play Ball!

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First ST game this weekend, opening with the Giants.

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Red Sox v Angels Game 2 Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images

This is it, kids. The offseason ends today. Tomorrow, in Tempe, the Angels will be back on the field playing live baseball. We all survived, and have earned our just rewards.

Welcome back, baseball. That means guys up to bat, guys on the mound, guys in the infield making plays, guys in the outfield making plays that the guys in the infield failed to make. It’s strikeouts and groundouts and home runs and more strikeouts and, eventually, Albert Pujols grounding into a double play. It’s near-comic misadventures that start in the 7th inning when the scrubs take over. It’s huge rallies by those scrubs busting ass to make an impression, and making the game exciting again when there are only 350 fans left in Diablo Stadium. It’s familiar voices on the radio and familiar faces on TV. It’s one guy having a mysteriously brilliant ST that will get a few of us excited for his regular season, even though that rarely pans out. It’s that weird feeling that happens every February when you hear some famous name that used to be on SportsCenter highlights, and you wake up to the reality that he is now wearing Angels red. It’s kids rolling down the hill on the outfield grass and the smells of beer and mustard on the concourse as you try to navigate through the hordes standing in the shade to prevent sunburn. It’s the noise of 5000 people inside the stadium focused on Mike Trout warming up in the on-deck circle, while out back on the distant fields there is a quiet murmur among coaches and pitching prospects working on their craft almost as an afterthought. It’s some guy getting hurt and off to the “IL” until May, because that happens. It’s a thousand interviews with Skipper Brad as we all try to figure out a Halo existence without Sosh. It’s a thousand interviewers following Shohei Ohtani everywhere he goes, and Ippei still needing a new haircut. It’s foul balls. It’s autograph hounds. It’s the distraction of a pitch clock that we will soon learn to ignore. It’s new curiosities in the merchandising stands. It’s America drying out. It’s red clay and green grass and brilliantly white new baseballs bounding into fresh leather gloves. Everything is still so much the same, yet everything is quite new and different at the same time.

Welcome back, baseball. We ain’t World Series contenders yet. But strange things happen. We still have the potential to do lots of damage and we won’t be officially counted out until sometime after August. And it all starts now.

Welcome back, baseball. None of us knows how many more of these Spring Training ambrosias will bless us with baseball enjoyment, but I’ll be damned if each and every one doesn’t get to feel just like the first and damned if we don’t treasure it as if it will be the last.

Welcome back, baseball. The stadiums and uniforms and concession stands belong to the owners. And the talent all belongs to the players. But the magic belongs to the fans. And the magic has returned.

Go forth, and have a page load of Magical-HaloLinks:


A Little Bit Of Angels News

If you have to play your first ST game so soon after your guys even show up in camp, you don’t want any of the guys you are going to depend on blowing out their arms by working before they are ready. Somebody, then, has to step in and take that kind of risk. Somebody you are not actually counting on. Ladies, and gentlemen, that person would be Dillon Peters.............

I would surmise that Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill are excited to be with the Angels, because this winter we have seen that there is a huge alternate outcome that is a lot less fun. If you told me that as a pitcher I had a choice between no job at all, a Minor League deal with an invite to the Marlins camp in the Grapefruit League, or running around in a uniform with a permanent number on my locker that is next to that of The Mike Trout and The Shohei Ohtani and The Andrelton Simmons, yeah, I would be excited to be in Tempe, too!...........

Nick Tropeano news. Because we are still the Angels and still have to prove we are anything different than the legion of broken pitchers..........

Andrelton Simmons want to impress the chicks..........

Your 2019 Halos: Over/Under of 82.5 wins. 10-1 odds against winning the AL West. 20-1 to win the AL pennant. 40-1 to win the WS. I’d take the over, but I would stop there. 10-1 to win the AL West is not a large enough payout to act that crazy with my money. 10-1 to come in second place? That’s close enough to steal my money..........


Everywhere In Baseball

You already saw that Rob Manfred was in the LAA ST facilities the other day. Right behind him came MLBPA head Tony Clark, to launch his Spring Tour 2019 and review the State Of The Disunion. “We can’t go on strike because we have a contract.” Classic..............

Aubrey Huff is back in the news, still miffed that his Jocks versus Nerds high school days did not pan out later in life. He got to be a Jock. But his entire sport of baseball has become owned by the Nerds. It started off silly enough, and the diverted quickly into Huff going off on Keith Law, things just spiraled out of comprehension. Huff just kept tripping over his own twitter thumbs until he got to the point where he demonstrated that he doesn’t even really know the history of his own sport, claiming pitchers back in the days of Ted Williams and Babe Ruth couldn’t match the velocity of pitchers in today’s game. . Just to remind, Bob Feller (1936-1956) and Walter Johnson (1907-1927) sure as hell threw harder than most of today’s pitchers...........Stay tuned. Huff has opened himself up to a reddit AMA this coming Sunday..........

Is there a Grand Unifying Theory of MLB that all the Front Office staffs discovered and mastered at the same time? Reading this, which includes comments on the concept from several execs, the answer is supposed to be “no”. But I can’t help but take away from the reading that there is a GUT that drives 95%, and then there is a “MISC” column where decision-makers lump in all things such as park characteristics, player personality, etc. Admitting to the existence of that last 5% does not dissuade from the importance and magnitude of the first 95%..........

If Rob Manfred really wants to do something about the length of games, he needs to solve foul balls. Maybe a rule change or something..........

Why wait for the lawyers to finish up lawyering when there are merchandise items to be selling???...........

This battle cry of the Cubs against PECOTA, giving them a chip on their shoulder and a reason to compete hard, is not going to end the way they wish. I harp on this all the time each Spring, but the margin of error on that stuff would just as well support the Cubs winning the NL Central. So if they do, it does not prove PECOTA ‘wrong’ and it’s not going to stop projections...........

One needs no other reason for why the current CBA rules regarding the youngest/newest of MLB players is so frakked up than this one, previewing the Toronto Blue Jays: “As soon as his service time is properly manipulated, we’ll see the debut of the top prospect in the country: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Though he hasn’t yet taken a major league at bat, the 20-year-old Guerrero’s PECOTA projections estimate that he’ll be the Blue Jays best player by nearly a full win. That’s even considering that Brandon Drury will be getting the starts at third while the Blue Jays ensure another year of team control.”..........

You go get ‘em, Marie Marcum! You don’t have to put up with insults from anybody. Not even MLB-sponsored arcade games which try and insult you by insinuating that yours is a less meaningful sport..........

Rest In Peace, Peter Tork..........


Hot Stove

Let’s do some Harper time. We haven’t done that in at least one whole day. Fist of all, we know that Harper has had a lot of offers.....Supposedly, a lot of those offers have been in that $300M range, and Harper has turned them all down (or maybe I should write Boras/Harper? Borper?).....The Phillies are rumored to be the most aggressive but there is a chance that Harper doesn’t even want to play there. If he does sign there, and that rumor ends up being proven true, the fans there are gonna love him.....But then we have a clarifying point. The Nationals have no intention of matching those $300M offers. Remember how the Nats started everything off with a $300M offer before the season ended? And Harper declined? So the Nats offered $300M but won’t offer $300M now? Not so fast, cowpoke. A lot of that $200M was deferred money. In today’s money, that Nats deal was really worth closer to $240M. Of course Boras would see right through that. And maybe that is true with more of these current “$300M offers”? We will probably never know the truth.........

Is there a Grand Unifying Theory of MLB that all the Front Office staffs discovered and mastered at the same time? Reading this, which includes comments on the concept from several execs, the answer is supposed to be “no”. But I can’t help but take away from the reading that there is a GUT that drives 95%, and then there is a “MISC” column where decision-makers lump in all things such as park characteristics, player personality, etc. Admitting to the existence of that last 5% does not dissuade from the importance and magnitude of the first 95%..........

One data point I submit as evidence that all the qualitative stuff is marginalized, would be this report on the job market for pro baseball scouts..........

More on Free Agency. These summaries of the current conditions slamming Free Agency are all over the Internet. By now, you or I could write half a dozen of these for the general public. But this particular one has two quotes that trigger me into Thursday night thinking. The first comes from Rob Manfred: “Markets change. We’ve had a lot of change in the game. People think about players differently. They analyze players differently. They negotiate differently.” And this second one comes from Sandy Alderson, now back wit Oakland: “All veteran players of a certain age are being affected by this analysis, which is not just widespread but fairly consistent across most clubs. The math is the math.” The brunt of that messaging concerns The Algorithm. That Grand Unifying Theory I labeled above. My first reaction was to Manfred’s quote, noting to myself that it was Scott Boras who created the wait-until-February problem in the first place. But then I had another thought. Maybe the GUT is so strong, and so well quantified, that the tax threshold is not such a “soft cap” after all? This year that threshold is $206M. But looking at projected payrolls, only 4 of the 30 teams are even in that neighborhood. (Yeah, I know, Spotrac again.) Assume that there are 3 or 4 teams obviously tanking, that still means that more than 20 teams are assembling rosters with lower payroll targets which have no realistic shot at reaching the current threshold. And yet, those limits are being put into place, anyway. I would bet that they could raise the threshold to $250M, and that might move the needs for only 1 or 2 teams. Which means that it ain’t the threshold that is the ‘soft cap’, it’s the GUT..........

Trevor Plouffe grabs some of that Phillies stupid money before Bryce Harper takes it all...............

Ryan Howard has signed, and is no longer one of the “more than 100 Free Agents still without a contract”. His new team is ESPN..........


The Duffle Bag

Every dog just wants nothing more than to be a good dog. Even Spring Training dogs..............There are two kinds of outfielders. Those that can....and those that cannot..........Tim Kurkjian getting confused with Peter Gammons. I get that all the time...........With Paul Goldschmidt now over in STL, Jake Lamb has to take over the DBacks’ 1B position. As Jake’s mom knows, he now needs to work on his conversational skills..........

Happy National Margarita Day, everybody!