With at least seventeen months to go before what will likely be the biggest free agent signing in professional sports history, there are already reports of just how much money Bryce Harper will command.
The prevailing thought for some time has been that Harper will be the first $400 million major league baseball playe. However, recently one insider has deemed that figure “light”. Some reports have suggested a mammoth, almost unthinkable, $600 million deal.
The impressive numbers being thrown around in the media are ridiculous to even think about, the more pressing issue is who is going to sign Bryce? Baseball is as healthy as it has ever been financially, and more clubs are capable of handling nine figure deals, but this will be different.
Very few clubs can afford to sign Harper and still manage to build a team around him as well. Giving one player $35 or $40 million means your payroll has to bottom out around $150 million. At least.
The Cubs just won the World Series with the top-paid player occupying fourteen percent of their payroll—but arguably their most important players combined to earn less than half what it could take to sign Harper. They are lucky that many of their players—including MVP Kris Bryant—are in pre-arbitration process.
Imagine if they had to pay Bryant and the others market-rate or “fair” contracts”? Their payroll would skyrocket, and even the might Cubs would have difficulty meeting it.
Before even getting into the nitty-gritty, two-thirds of MLB clubs can be scratched off the list of possibilities. The Rays would love Harper in their lineup, but Tampa Bay is never going to be able to sign him. Neither are several over lower-revenue clubs.
In reality less than a dozen can even bid. And that number shrinks further when looking at each club—the finances, construction of the team, and needs—individually.
For instance, could the Yankees afford Harper? Absolutely. Many have assumed all along that Harper ends up in pinstripes one day, but does it make sense for them? They already got burned on Alex Rodriguez’s deal (and Jason Giambi to a lesser extent), and they don’t need Harper.
He won’t help sell tickets, and with the talent they have—and have coming—Harper doesn’t make them substantially better. He would be a luxury for the Yankees, and with the Boss gone, such luxuries aren’t the Yankees way anymore. They don’t even other team’s shiny new toys the way they used to.
The Dodgers aren’t exactly a lightweight, but they operate more efficiently now than they did when Guggenheim first took over. They can and will flex their financial might at times, but would rather build internally to keep costs down. That doesn’t jive with signing the largest free-agent contract ever.
Harper could up in LA—it’s easier to envision than New York—but the odds aren’t looking good.
So Who is Left to Sign Harper?
For one reason or another several other big-market clubs—the Cubs, Angels, Mets, Nationals, Tigers—can be eliminated from consideration.
That leaves Harper with a smaller than expected market of about four clubs—the Red Sox, Phillies, Giants, and potentially Texas Rangers.
Boston loves sticking it to the Yankees, but they have a ton of young talent, and aren’t always willing to play at the top of the market. They did sign David Price for $200M+, but also once balked at paying Rodriguez, who was arguably a better player at a more demanding position than Harper is.
The Rangers could swoop in and surprise everyone. They’ve made big splashes before, have a lucrative TV contract, a new stadium coming, and a fan base that’s been to the brink. But can they afford this one?
Keeping Yu Darvish will be expensive, and whatever they have left over should be spent filling in the rotation around him.
That leaves the Giants and Phillies as the main bidders for Harper’s services.
The Giants haven’t a true impact bat in their lineup since Barry Bonds retired, and they are not afraid to spend big. However, they’ve also won three World Championships in the post-Bonds era, and have shown a knack for developing championship quality players seemingly out of thin air.
And the Giants aren’t in desperate need of a superstar to bring fans back.
The Phillies are.
After back-to-back World Series appearances they looked like a team on the precipice of a dynasty, only to crash and burn shortly thereafter. They haven’t sniffed a winning season in years, and are desperate for a rejuvenation.
With some of baseball’s highest revenues expect the Phillies to make a major bid for Harper, eventually landing the superstar for what will be the largest professional sports contract ever signed…
$475M/12 years is my guess.
Flyers Remove Statue of Kate Smith
The Philadelphia Flyers have joined the New York Yankees in the removal of ties to singer Kate Smith, whose famous rendition of “God Bless America” was played at both Flyers and Yankees games.
Earlier this week, the Yankees decided to suspend the use of Smith’s rendition, which was played during the seventh-inning stretch, while they investigated allegations of racism against the later singer.
According to a report from the New York Daily News, there are conflicting claims about Smith’s 1939 song “That’s Why Darkies Were Born” which
originated in the 1931 Broadway revue “George White’s Scandals” and was considered satire but includes racist language, including the line;
“Someone had to pick the cotton. … That’s why darkies were born.”
The song was recorded by Smith and Paul Robeson, who was black.
The Flyers put out the following statement on Sunday (h/t ESPN):
“The Flyers have enjoyed a long and popular relationship with ‘God Bless America,’ as performed by the late Kate Smith, a woman who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor for her patriotic contributions to our nation.
“But in recent days, we learned that several of the songs Kate Smith performed in the 1930s include lyrics and sentiments that are incompatible with the values of our organization, and evoke painful and unacceptable themes.”
Smith, who was popular during the WWII era, recorded the offensive jingle, “Pickaninny Heaven,” which she directed at “colored children” who should fantasize about an amazing place with “great big watermelons,” among various other treats.
Smith also endorsed the “Mammy Doll” back in 1939 which was based on a racist caricature of a black woman similar to Aunt Jemima.
“The Yankees have been made aware of a recording that had been previously unknown to us and decided to immediately and carefully review this new information,” a club spokesman said. “The Yankees take social, racial and cultural insensitivities very seriously. And while no final conclusions have been made, we are erring on the side of sensitivity.”
The odds aren’t good that Smith’s songs will return to their prominent places during sporting events such as they were with the Yankees and the Flyers.
There is a lot of cleaning up to do when it comes to racism in sports, and weeding out songs attached to artists with questionable, and controversial, backgrounds such as Smith’s, is important in pushing forward towards the future.
Yankees, Red Sox Negotiating London 2-Game Series
The New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox are closing in on an agreement to play a two-game series in London in June 2019, according to Bloomberg’s Janet Perkins and Scott Soshnick.
Reportedly the games will be held at London Stadium, which played host to several events at the 2012 Summer Olympics, if a deal is made official.
The stadium can hold up to 65,000 fans for sporting events and if a deal is made official it will continue MLB’s trend of playing regular season games in other countries such as Japan, Mexico, Australia and Puerto Rico over the years.
The Yankees and Red Sox are easily among the top MLB franchises in terms of global recognition and their storied rivalry and rosters of elite players will be an easy draw for the series as MLB looks to penetrate the European market.
It could also present quite the online betting opportunity for both US and European betting sites, especially as the series kicks off. When it does, this LVbet bonus code could come in handy, especially if it will be the first time you try your hand at something like this.
“We would love to participate in a series in London against the Yankees but this is a decision that MLB and the MLBPA will make,” Red Sox CEO Sam Kennedy said.
Bloomberg reported the games would be played at London Stadium, which was the main facility for the 2012 summer Olympics. MLB has not played any games in Europe before, however, the Red Sox have played overseas in the past, including to Japan before the 2008 season.
“It’s a shorter trip than to California, right?” Yankees Manager Aaron Boone, who has never been to London, commented. “Let’s get the royal family out there. Maybe the queen can make an appearance.”
“It’s following the leader — the N.F.L.,” said Allen Adamson, a branding expert and an adjunct professor at N.Y.U. “It’s good for the Yankees, it’s good for Boston, and an attempt to inject some topspin into the sport, but I don’t think it mitigates the need to revitalize baseball in the United States.”
Adamson added: “It would be more interesting to play in Havana.”
The Yankees are in a business partnership with Manchester City F.C, so they are very familiar with the European sports landscape and the audience, and fans, that attend events across the pond.
MLB is trying to follow in the NFL’s footsteps, as both are chasing the NBA who have spearheaded the efforts to globalize their game.
Alex Rodriguez Joins ESPN Sunday Night Baseball
Alex Rodriguez is bringing his talents to ESPN.
Rodriguez will join ESPN to work on Sunday Night Baseball telecasts joining the broadcast team of Jessica Mendoza, Buster Olney and newly added play-by-play man Matt Vasgersian.
Rodriguez joined Fox Sports a full-time MLB analyst in March 2017 and will continue to work for FOX during the postseason
Disney, ESPN’s parent company, has agreed to acquire part of 21st Century Fox which includes regional sports networks.
“I’m looking forward to this new chapter in my broadcasting career,” Rodriguez said in an official statement. “It’s an exciting time in baseball and now I get that front row seat to tell that story every Sunday night on ESPN as well as calling my fourth post season on Fox where I started this journey.”
Rodriguez will also appear in, as well as serve as executive producer of several ESPN specials.
“I am incredibly excited to work with both Alex and Matt,” Mendoza said in the statement. “Matt has been a friend for a long time and someone whose work I’ve long admired. Alex’s achievements as a player speak for themselves, and I’ve been greatly impressed by the passion and dedication he has put into his broadcasting career. We’re going to have a lot of fun.”
Vasgersian is only the third voice of Sunday Night Baseball, which is entering it’s 29th season, and will succeed Jon Miller.
“Jon and Dan [Shulman] set the bar super high for Sunday Night Baseball play-by-play, so it’s a real thrill for someone who still remembers his first minor league bus trip in 1991 to have a chair like this one,” Vasgersian said in the statement. “I know firsthand how passionate both Alex and Jessica are about baseball, and I can’t wait to get started with them.”
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