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#pounditFriday, December 3, 2021

Baseball

Carlos Correa had some surprising criticism for Derek Jeter

Carlos Correa

Carlos Correa is not exactly building bridges with New York Yankees fans amid his free agency.

Correa conducted an interview with former MLB player Carlos Baerga. Correa talked about winning his first Gold Glove last week.

During the interview, Correa and Baerga were talking analytics and some of the new metrics used to evaluate defensive players, such as runs saved. Correa said that legendary Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, who won five Gold Gloves, did not deserve any of them if players during that era were judged by today’s defensive stats.

(Note: the interview is conducted in Spanish)

These comments might not sit very well with Yankees fans, who are likely supportive and protective of their former shortstop. However, Jeter’s defensive abilities were long called into question, and Correa is not alone in thinking Jeter was an overrated defender.

Correa meanwhile is a free agent, and the Yankees are believed to be one of the shortstop’s biggest suitors.

Will these comments harm Correa’s chances of signing with the Yankees? They might not sit well with Yankees fans, but that might not matter to Brian Cashman.

H/T Barstool Sports

Photo: Aug 4, 2020; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Mets hire failed Angels GM Billy Eppler

Billy Eppler at a press conference

The New York Mets had difficulty finding a new general manager, but they have finally made a hire.

The Mets are hiring former Los Angeles Angels GM Billy Eppler.

Eppler was hired by the Angels after the 2015 season was fired after the 2020 season. The Angels never won more than 80 games in a season during his five seasons as the team’s GM.

Eppler came to the Angels from the Yankees, where he was an assistant to Brian Cashman, and now he will be returning to New York.

During his time as Angels GM, Eppler oversaw the successful recruitment and signing of Shohei Ohtani. He also signed Mike Trout to a massive contract extension.

However, Eppler failed to sign, acquire or develop any pitchers of note. Pitching remained the Angels’ biggest weakness during Eppler’s tenure — an issue that was comically addressed by the new general manager in the Angels’ most recent draft.

Not only did Eppler fail to improve the team’s weak pitching, but he also seemed to do a poor job of prioritizing the team’s needs. For instance, the Angels kept signing/investing in expensive position players like Justin Upton and Anthony Rendon, all while the pitching remained weak.

Some of the Angels’ failings during Eppler’s tenure could be attributed to Angels owner Arte Moreno, who is known to meddle. It’s unclear to what extent Eppler acted based on Moreno’s desires and what were his own decisions. But the bottom line is the team did not do well during his five seasons.

Why would the Mets hire him based on all this? The Mets went through an extensive list of candidates and got turned down by numerous targets before eventually making their way to Eppler, who sought another chance to run a team. He will have his work cut out for him with the Mets, but at least he is getting another chance as a GM.

Photo: Mar 24, 2019; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels general manager Billy Eppler at a press conference to announce a 12 year contract extension for center fielder Mike Trout (not pictured) at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Yankees met with free agent Freddie Freeman

Freddie Freeman in his Braves uniform

Freddie Freeman is one of the most intriguing free agents this offseason. The lifelong Atlanta Braves first baseman wants to return to the only team he has played for. But he is keeping all options open.

Freeman met with the New York Yankees, Jon Heyman reported on Monday. Though Freeman is the name that stands out, Heyman says the Yankees met with representatives for all the top left-handed hitting first basemen.

The Yankees acquired Anthony Rizzo at the trade deadline from the Cubs and could make an effort to retain him. Rizzo reportedly is eager to return to the Yankees if they want him.

The Yankees could also pursue a trade for Matt Olson, whom the Oakland A’s could be willing to deal.

Freeman may be the most desirable player of the bunch. The 32-year-old has made the All-Star team the last four seasons and was NL MVP during the shortened 2020 season. Freeman will not come cheaply though.

Photo: Jun 15, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman (5) hits a RBI single against the Boston Red Sox in the third inning at Truist Park. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Rodriguez helped cause Timberwolves to get fined by NBA

Alex Rodriguez with sunglasses on

Alex Rodriguez’s tenure as part-owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves is not off to the best start, at least in the eyes of the league.

The NBA announced on Monday that the Timberwolves had been fined $250,000 for violating league rules concerning practices/team activities outside the team’s home market.

The fine stems from workouts that apparently took place at A-Rod’s home in Miami in early September.

Teams are only allowed to arrange or pay for team activities and practices inside their home market.

Rodriguez and his business partner, Marc Lore, became the owners of the Timberwolves in May. Rodriguez has denied reports suggesting he intended to move the team.

For now, he and Lore should probably read up on the rules concerning what owners are and are not allowed to do.

Photo: Feb 2, 2020; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Alex Rodriguez on the sidelines before Super Bowl LIV between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Ex-MLB player Julio Lugo dies — dead at 45

Julio Lugo fields a throw

Former MLB shortstop Julio Lugo has died.

Lugo’s family informed ESPN’s Enrique Rojas on Monday that Lugo died of what was believed to be a heart attack. He was 45.

Lugo played 12 MLB seasons for seven different teams. The career .269 hitter won a World Series with the Boston Red Sox in 2007. He last played for the Atlanta Braves in 2011.

Dodgers eyeing another former Cy Young candidate?

Sonny Gray in the dugout

After coming up short in this year’s playoffs, the Los Angeles Dodgers could be going back to their fundamentals: acquiring another big name.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports reported this week that the Dodgers are interested in former Cy Young candidate Sonny Gray, having engaged in trade talks with the Cincinnati Reds. Fellow Reds starter Luis Castillo was also included in those discussions, Nightengale adds.

The 32-year-old Gray twice finished in the top seven of Cy Young voting in 2015 and 2019. He went 7-9 last season with a 4.19 ERA and 155 strikeouts in 26 starts. Castillo, himself an All-Star in 2019, is an interesting name as well. But he struggled in 2021 and has mostly been a one-season wonder.

The Dodgers are facing rotation uncertainty with Max Scherzer and club icon Clayton Kershaw hitting free agency. Gray and Castillo each have two seasons left on their respective contracts, and the Dodgers still have not fully depleted their farm system for use in a potential trade. Of course though, the last time that the Dodgers landed a Reds pitcher did not work out too well.

Photo: Jun 24, 2018; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Sonny Gray (55) smiles in the dugout at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Adam Wainwright dominates carnival dunk tank game in funny video

Adam Wainwright stands in front of a carnival game

Adam Wainwright took advantage of the system at a fair he attended, and nobody really seemed to know what was going on.

Wainwright shared a video on Twitter Saturday night of himself at a fair. The St. Louis Cardinals pitcher elected to play the carnival dunk tank game. In that game, contestants pay money and receive balls in exchange. The object is to throw the ball and hit a small target that controls whether a heckler gets dunked into a tank.

Considering how Wainwright has pinpoint control against MLB hitters, throwing a ball to the target was easy peasy for him. The heckler was talking trash to Wainwright and never saw it coming.

Come on, now.

Waino’s a three-time MLB All-Star and has finished top-3 in NL Cy Young voting four times during his career. Did you really think he would have difficulty with the dunk tank??

That’s almost unfair, but the carnival barker deserved it!

Freddie Freeman reportedly turned down big money contract from Braves

Freddie Freeman

Freddie Freeman has donned only a single uniform throughout his Major League Baseball career. And if the Atlanta Braves have their way, it’s the only uniform he’ll ever wear. But the path to that end may not come without come some hiccups.

Freeman is currently a free agent and seeking a deal in the range of six years and $200 million. That’s a hefty price tag for the 32-year-old first baseman, and one Atlanta has not yet agreed to.

Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY reports that Atlanta offered Freeman a five-year, $135 million contract, but he turned it down.

Free agent Freddie Freeman was on the mind of every team seeking a first baseman, with Freeman rejecting Atlanta’s five-year, $135 million offer, and seeking closer to a six-year, $200 million deal.

Don’t freak out just yet, Braves fans. Expectations remain that Freeman and the Braves will eventually come to some sort of agreement on a long-term deal. They just need to navigate that one-year, $65 million difference — and what’s that between some friends?

In 2021, Freeman, a five-time All-Star and 2020 NL MVP, batted .300/.393/.503 with 31 HR and 83 RBI. He went on to hit two home runs during the World Series, helping lead Atlanta to their first title since 1995.

Photo: EricEnfermero/Wikimedia via CC BY-SA 4.0

Yankees GM addresses 1 big hurdle in signing Carlos Correa

Carlos Correa

Carlos Correa is one of the top free agents on the market this winter. As is usually the case with big free agents, the New York Yankees have been linked to Correa. They seem to have legitimate interest in the shortstop, too.

There’s just one complication: Correa would be leaving the Houston Astros, a team the Yankees have developed a rivalry with in recent seasons.

Much of the issues between the teams stem from ALCS clashes in 2017 and 2019. The issues were exacerbated by the reveal that the Astros employed a sign-stealing scheme on the way to the 2017 World Series. That drew the ire of numerous Yankees players, and Yankee fans let the Astros have it in Houston’s first trip to New York this season.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman responded to that topic on Friday. Cashman was asked whether a potential negative reaction from players or fans would impact whether or not he would pursue a player like Correa.

“I’m here just to kind of assess all available players in the marketplace and then get as much information as I can for free agents and potential trade people,” Cashman said, via Erik Boland of Newsday. “So things like (potential fan/player anger) is not part of that process. To me, just making sure I understand what’s available, the price point of acquisition, and then communicate all of that back to ownership, as well as my baseball ops team, so we can . . . then gravitate to what’s realistic or not.

“The bottom line is, is he a great player? The answer to that is yes,” Cashman added of Correa. “He’s a free agent. So my job is to assess him as well as the others that are available and then act accordingly.”

In other words, Cashman says the potential fan reaction isn’t his problem. Why? Correa would win New York fans over if he performs. However, the Yankees should consider how Correa would impact the team’s clubhouse.

Correa certainly seems open to joining the Yankees, or at the very least he’s enjoying the rumor mill. Plus, if this old quote from ownership is any indication, the Yankees’ decision-makers are probably over it as well.

Photo: Aug 4, 2020; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

MLB makes radical proposal to replace salary arbitration

Rob Manfred

Labor negotiations are heating up in Major League Baseball with the threat of a work stoppage looming. It appears that the league is throwing out some radical proposals to address some concerns among players.

There is an eagerness among players to see significant changes to the free agency system, relating to both salary arbitration and how long players must play to hit free agency. MLB, aware of this, offered up a new proposal on Thursday with an interesting twist.

According to Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, MLB’s proposal would make players eligible for free agency at age 29 1/2. More notable is the fact that MLB proposed replacing salary arbitration with a precalculated salary based in part on the wins above replacement stat, or WAR.

MLB proposed using statistics site Fangraphs’ calculation of WAR. Doing so could help some skilled defensive players and pitchers with high strikeout tallies, but could hurt relievers and other pitchers who rely more on weak contact.

Regardless, the proposal is likely to fail. One MLB agent said “Albert Pujols has a better chance of leading the majors in stolen bases” than the players being amenable to the offer. The biggest problem is free agency, which would be pushed back for many players on the basis of an age threshold.

The distance between the two sides is another clear sign of how much work has to be done to avoid a work stoppage. MLB does not seem eager to significantly overhaul the sport’s economics, while many players feel those economics do not work for them. The current CBA expires on Dec. 1, and no deal appears close.