Spring training has started http://www.bluejaysfanproshop.com/authentic-curtis-granderson-jersey , yet two of baseball’s biggest stars, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, are sitting at home.For those who think this is a strong indication that the national pastime is headed toward another paralyzing labor dispute, do not fret.There’s too much money at stake — on all sides — to let that happen.It’s certainly troubling that somewhere between 60 and 100 viable free agents (depending on how you count) are still without jobs as teams reported to camp this week in Florida and Arizona.Sluggers Harper and Machado, along with 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel and closer Craig Kimbrel, are the most notable players still looking for work. Not surprisingly, their absence prompted some high-profile grumbling from players who are gainfully employed, such as Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander.“System is broken,” he wrote on Twitter. “You’re telling me you couldn’t sign Bryce or Manny for 10 years and go from there?”Certainly, the next labor agreement will require some hefty tweaking and plenty of compromise to address the concerns of both players and owners. But there seems more than enough common ground — namely, all those hefty checks that everyone is cashing — to ensure there’s not another of those strikes or lockouts that once dogged the game, most notably leading to the cancellation of the 1994 World Series.If anything, the sides are likely to begin negotiations on a new deal sometime this year, even though the current arrangement isn’t set to expire until after the 2021 season. Commissioner Rob Manfred has been pushing hard for changes that are designed to speed up the game, while the players are concerned about parts of the labor agreement that they feel cut into their bargaining power.Both sides would benefit from sitting down as soon as possible at the negotiating table.“I hope and I really do believe that there is a common interest between the players’ association, the players, the owners and the commissioner’s office in changes, whether they’re midterm or otherwise, that make our entertainment product the best it could possibly be Freddy Galvis Jersey ,” Manfred said last week.Verlander and Washington Nationals star Max Scherzer complained that the game is hurt by constant merry-go-round of teams that essentially throw in the towel for several seasons, committing themselves to long-term rebuilding projects centered on younger, cheaper players.They feel that’s a big reason so many useful players are still unemployed.They also believe it’s cutting into a fan base already bleeding young followers.“If you’re constantly just going into this win-loss cycle that MLB is pushing, you create bandwagon fans and that’s not the type of fans that you want to create,” said Scherzer, a newly elected member of the Major League Baseball Players Association executive board. “You want to create fans that are following teams year in and year out. It’s up to the fans, honestly, to demand that.”But that’s not really what’s going on with Harper and Machado, who went into free agency with a pair of agents (Scott Boras and Dan Lozano, respectively) who were determined to land record deals in excess of Giancarlo Stanton’s $325 million. It’s not really surprising that teams are balking at those enormous demands, though it’s likely just a matter of time before they’re both signing huge contracts.Keuchel (who is also represented by Boras) has struggled with injuries since his Cy Young-winning season, making the teams reluctant to commit to a long-term deal. Kimbrel has run into a similar roadblock, even though he’s been one of the game’s top closers for almost a decade. Quite simply, most general managers believe they can find a closer who’s nearly as effective as Kimbrel as a fraction of his asking price.As for all those other unsigned free agents, the most likely culprit for their predicament is WAR — that shadowy bit of analytics that has become the Holy Grail to numbers-obsessed GMs now running the game.WAR, of course, stands for Wins Above Replacement — and it’s the replacement part that is guiding those charged with constructing a roster. When the formula shows a player is only worth an extra win or two over the course of the season, a GM will almost surely pick a younger, cheaper option. Or a veteran player such as Neil Walker Randal Grichuk Jersey , who made more than $17 million in 2017, will be forced to accept a cut-rate deal (as Walker has done the last two years, earning $4 million with the Yankees in 2018 and now $2 million under a one-year deal with the lowly Marlins).While all that seems like good business for the owners, they also have reasons to be concerned about the current system. Most notably, attendance dipped last season to its lowest level since 2003. One team after another has stripped away any pretense of competitiveness in order to build through the draft and player development, undoubtedly trying to mimic the formula that worked so well for Houston.The Astros endured three straight seasons with at least 106 losses in the early part of this decade, which earned them plenty of high draft picks. Once those talented youngsters began working their way into the big leagues, Houston supplemented the roster with some timely trades. It all added up to the franchise’s first World Series title in 2017.While the Astros were certainly a feel-good story, baseball can’t afford to have so many teams going down that long-term path (which, of course, might not even pay off in the end). The players’ union is right to push proposals that would impose draft penalties on teams for tanking year after year, or perhaps set up an NBA-style draft lottery.Once the serious negotiating begins, there are sure to be more harsh words from both sides. You might even hear “collusion” tossed around.Not to worry.In the end, it will all work out. AL Rookie of the Year Shohei Ohtani has been medically cleared to resume full strength training on his right arm following Tommy John surgery, although he will not be ready to hit for the Los Angeles Angels by opening day.Angels general manager Billy Eppler provided a positive update Thursday on the recovery of his two-way star, who had surgery Oct. 1.The Angels expect Ohtani to be their designated hitter at some point in 2019, but he will not be active when the Angels open the regular season in late March, Eppler says. Ohtani is not expected to pitch again until 2020.“It’s clear to us that the timing of his progression will not allow him to be active for opening day,” Eppler said. “Anything beyond that Jose Bautista Jersey , I cannot answer at this time, because it’s a multilayered progression that he has to go through. To pinpoint a time is unrealistic.”Ohtani’s latest appointment with Dr. Neal El Attrache “went really well,” according to Eppler. Ohtani was cleared to begin weight training Friday as the right-hander rebuilds strength on his right side.Ohtani had already begun lower-body conditioning, Eppler said. When his upper-body strength returns to an acceptable level, which typically occurs after a few weeks of weight training, he will be cleared to take dry swings.Ohtani will report to the Angels’ spring training camp in Tempe, Arizona, before their first workout for pitchers and catchers on Feb. 13. He will participate in camp, but only in his current rehab program.“He’ll be doing what he’s been medically cleared to do,” Eppler said.During his dynamic rookie year in the majors, Ohtani batted .285 with 22 homers and 61 RBIs in just 367 plate appearances while going 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA and 63 strikeouts over 10 pitching starts.Eppler declined to speculate on the length of Ohtani’s current conditioning stretch, or when he will return to any phase of hitting. Ohtani is attempting a unique recovery from Tommy John surgery as he tries to continue his hitting career while resting his pitching arm for the customary length of elbow ligament replacement rehabilitation.Eppler also gave an encouraging update on first baseman Albert Pujols, who hasn’t played since having surgery on his left knee in late August. The three-time NL MVP has been hitting “for a while now,” Eppler said, and has increased his weight training.“We’re very optimistic that the next stage for him is when we get out on the field and start moving around a little bit more, and then incorporating at-bats in games,” Eppler said.The 39-year-old Pujols has three years remaining on his $240 million contract. He batted .245 last season with 19 homers, putting him sixth in baseball history with 633 homers heading into this year.
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