If it had been anyone other than the Cardinals, seeing the Braves go full Barves* Wednesday afternoon would have been quite the enjoyable experience. No sooner had the game started than it was over, with the Cards dropping a 10-spot in the 1st inning and sending Mike Foltynewicz to the showers after facing just eight batters.
In all, the Cards scored 13 runs over the first three innings — all without a single homer — and hit cruise control the rest of the way. For some strange reason, St. Louis starter Jack Flaherty remained in the game to throw 104 pitches over six innings and even batted for himself in the top of the 6th. That decision wasn’t just inexplicable, it broke the 12th Commandment: Thou Shildt not bat thy ace pitcher when up by a baker’s dozen late in the game.
For those are unfamiliar with the 11th, I’ll direct you to consult the Notorious B.I.G.
Anyway, the historic beatdown came amid a flurry of criticism over Braves fans’ chop chant, which is frequently accompanied by foam tomahawks. Cardinals reliever Ryan Helsley, a member of Cherokee Nation, condemned the practice during an interview with Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, calling it “a misrepresentation of the Cherokee people or Native Americans in general.”
In a statement released prior to the game, the Braves said that they would not be handing out tomahawks and would “take several efforts to reduce the ‘Tomahawk Chop’ during our in-game presentation.” Those efforts included not playing the Chop music or showing Chop-related graphics…when Helsley was in the game.
The #Braves have discontinued the practice of handing out foam tomahawks after the comments made by #STLCards pitcher Ryan Helsley, a Cherokee Nation member. Here is their statement: pic.twitter.com/NjioUNxsS0
— Mark Saxon (@markasaxon) October 9, 2019
The conversation about the propriety of a chant, something many fans are willing to go to great lengths of intellectual dishonesty to defend, is at least done for this year even if it’s not over. It’s probably better for the Barves that this happened at home, since almost no amount of gratuity would have been enough to make up for hotel housekeeping taking care of that epic bed-soiling.
Cubs’ arbitration and budget estimates
MLB Trade Rumors dropped its annual list of arbitration estimates, listing seven Cubs players at a total of $48.3 million for 2020. If close to accurate, that’s an increase of $22 million from this past season and will play a role in pushing the Cubs into the competitive balance tax penalty for the second straight year.
Based on some quick math, tendering all of those players while also picking up options on Anthony Rizzo, José Quintana, and Kendall Graveman would have the Cubs at almost $210 million in total payroll. The CBT penalties kick in at $208 million this coming seasons, with another tier at $228 million and the highest at $248 million. And since the Cubs went over in 2019, they’re going to face stiffer penalties if they do so again in 2020.
Teams that exceed the CBT threshold are subject to a 20% penalty on overages, but that jumps to 30% for two-time offenders and 50% for going over three or more years in a row. Then there’s a 12% surtax for teams that exceed the threshold by $20-40 million. Going more than $40 million over results in a 42.5% penalty, which jumps to 45% for going that high again.
The Cubs are at an estimated $240 million for 2019, an overage of $34 million for the season. So that’s something like an $11 million tax penalty if my math is right, though I’m admittedly working this out while watching the Nats-Dodgers game. Carrying a similar overage this coming season would mean parting with an extra $14.3 million or so in taxes, and going over by that much in 2021 would cost something like $21 million.
I know next to nothing about rich people, but I do know this: They hate paying taxes. At the same time, Tom Ricketts has a TV network to launch and a whole lot of businesses to pack with people. You can say the Cubs are a big enough draw to pack Wrigley no matter what, but this isn’t 1984 and people have too many options.
Given the struggle Sinclair already has on their hands when it comes to pitching Marquee Sports Network to providers, the Cubs can ill afford to botch this thing. Or maybe the feel they can ill afford to carry a top-three payroll. There’s no way they can reset the CBT penalties by getting under $208 million, since doing so would mean gutting the team. And I think we can be relatively certain that they won’t be exceed the threshold by more than $40 million.
That leaves the Cubs with something in the neighborhood of $38 million if they bring everyone back and something closer to $45 million if they part with Addison Russell and Albert Almora Jr. That’s a pretty decent chunk. The biggest question when it comes to the winter, then, is whether or not Tom Ricketts will sign off on that.
There have been conflicting reports of both the volume and timing of Marquee’s impact on revenue, but both Theo Epstein and Crane Kenney have said they expect the 2020 payroll to be similar to this year’s. When you’re only talking an extra $3-5 million in penalties compared to the resultant boost in TV, gate, and Wrigleyville entertainment revenues, it should be a net positive.
And if there’s another thing I know about rich people, it’s that they’re cool with spending money to make money. From my keyboard to God’s inbox, right?
Notes from Around MLB
- Cardinals manager Mike Shildt was dropping crazy f-bombs as he celebrated the big series win. I would normally embed the tweet to make it more readily available, but the language is even saltier than I’m comfortable sharing here. A redacted version is quoted below, or you can click here for the full tweet, but suffice to say he sounded like a guy who was trying to curse because he thought that’s what he was supposed to be doing.
- Clayton Kershaw had a chance to rewrite a little of the narrative that he’s a bad playoff pitcher, and it looked for a moment that he was going to do just that. He struck out Adam Eaton to end the top of the 7th inning and walked off the mound triumphantly with the Dodgers up 3-1 on the Nats. Three pitches later, the game was tied and Kershaw had been lifted. He gave up consecutive homers on two pitches to Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto, the first of which actually came on a good pitch.
- Kershaw has never allowed homers on consecutive pitches in the regular season, but he’s now done so twice in the playoffs (last night and 10/6/17 to Ketel Marte and Jeff Mathis of Arizona). That comes per Jeff Passan, who presumably spent the evening trying to keep his suit from being soiled by booze.
- There have been plenty of valid complaints about Maddon’s bullpen management over the years, but Dave Roberts was on some effed-up isht in that series against the Nats. He basically ran through this rotation last night, only throwing Kenley Jansen after Howie Kendrick’s game-winning grand slam. The closer appeared only twice in the series, with the other outing coming when the Dodgers were up six runs. What?
- For all their talent and talk of being a juggernaut, the Dodgers haven’t won a World Series in 31 years. They’ve won the division seven years in a row and headed into the playoffs as the prohibitive favorite in the NL, yet failed to address their bullpen issues and paid the price as a result. The Cubs, on the other hand, are being criticized for trading a 19-year-old and winning the World Series that same year.
- Joe Girardi met with the Cubs for eight hours yesterday, according to Gordon Wittenmyer. Girardi didn’t have time for reporters because he had to fly to Houston for tonight’s Astros-Rays game.
- Wittenmyer reported that David Ross will interview today, which was expected.
- Also of note is that nine-time All-Star Carlos Beltrán is apparently on the Cubs’ list of managerial candidates, though no interview has been set up. In fact, it’s unclear whether the Cubs have even reached out to the Yankees for permission to talk with their current front office assistant.
- How will the Cubs upgrade second base next season? The answer may already be in-house.
- Kendall Graveman’s unique option should be a no-brainer even as the Cubs seek to be frugal.
They Said It
- “What I loved about this series is we played the game hard, we played the game right. They started some [bleep]. We finished the [bleep]. And that’s how we roll. No one [bleeps] with us ever. Now, I don’t give a [bleep] who we play. We’re gonna [bleep] them up. We’re gonna take it right to them the whole [bleeping] way. We’re gonna kick their [bleeping] [bleep].” Mike Shildt
- “I was happy” — Joe Girardi on marathon interview
- “Everything people say is true right now about the postseason. I understand that.” — Clayton Kershaw
Thursday Walk Up Song
All Night Long by Lionel Richie — It would be better if this was All Day Long, but you get the point.
*Yes, Facebook friends, the title was intentional.