Chat with Jayson Stark
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, ESPN.com senior MLB writer Jayson Stark will drop in to chat some baseball.
Jayson Stark has been a senior baseball writer for ESPN.com since 2000. His regular contributions include the newsy Rumblings and Grumblings column and his tilted look inside baseball's numbers and quirks, the Useless Information Department.
Send your questions now and join Stark Friday at 1 p.m. ET!
Jayson Stark (1:05 PM)
Hey, I'm here. Sorry I'm a few minutes late. Was on the phone. Before we get started, the new Rumblings & Grumblings is posted on the site. http://es.pn/kFLXcQ Buster Olney and I debate realignment's pros
Ryan (Sequim, WA)
I'm excited about the swirling rumors regarding season long interleague play and possible expansion. Would this do away with the DH? (I believe it is time) and is Portland, OR in any possible contention for a team? I recall they were often mentioned when the Expos were looking to relocate.
Jayson Stark (1:07 PM)
Well, if realignment happens -- and believe me, that's no sure thing -- there would be no choice but to have interleague from Opening Day through the final weekend. And if that's the way they're going to go, I agree with you. It's time to have both leagues play by the same rules. But I don't sense that's the way they'd go. Crazy to have teams playing both the World Series and the final weekend of the season under different rules.
Jayson Stark (1:08 PM)
And is Portland, Ore., a candidate for a team? If the A's are forced to move, I guess it's possible. But at the moment, I don't get the impression the people at MLB are real big on any potential new market.
Kt (Visalia Ca)
Any chance the Atlanta Braves goes out and gets a bat??? Always the same story with great pitching but no hitting.
Jayson Stark (1:09 PM)
Mentioned this in Rumblings today. They're definitely looking. They'd prefer a righthanded bat, along the lines of Hunter Pence (dubious) or Josh Willingham. But at this point, they'd have interest in just about any kind of bat.
Rick Auer (Baltimore MD)
How about 3 divs, 3 div winners, 3 wild cards in each league? Top two teams get a bye. (I am a stat prof at Loyola Univ and have done research on the relative strengths of the wild card team and the worst div winner. Oon that basis, i love my idea. But of course, I would!)
Jayson Stark (1:11 PM)
Nobody is ready to rush into 12 playoff teams. It's a big enough leap for this sport to go from eight to 10. They'd worry that the third wild-card team would be way too mediocre to justify it. If you want to make an argument that that's a better idea than what's being talked about, I'd be interested.
Mike (San Diego)
Any chance the Braves deal one of their arms to the Padres for Ryan Ludwick? The Padres have too many outfielders right now and everyone always talks about the arms Atlanta has.
Jayson Stark (1:12 PM)
Ryan Ludwick is as sure a bet to get traded as any bat in baseball. I've heard talk he's also on the Braves' list, but haven't confirmed it.
There is one solution to all the inequities of interleague play: Expansion. Two additional teams -- eight divisions -- allow all teams to play the same opponents as their division rivals. Plus it could eliminate the necessity to add -- or even have -- the wild card. I understand the arguments (not enough support, watered-down pitching), but would the benefits counter those?
Jayson Stark (1:13 PM)
There's no doubt that just from the standpoint of pure mathematics, 32 teams works better than 30. But where would baseball expand to? Vegas? San Antonio? Mexico? Portland? Charlotte? Third team in the NYC area? As I mentioned, I just don't get the sense that anyone is real big on any of those markets.
Regarding getting rid of DH, the reservations about eliminating it seem valid, only if it is expected to happen next year or so. If they make the decision now, that would apply in 2015 or so, it would give teams time to get their DH contracts off their books, start getting their DH's time in the field, and for guys like Papi, he can sign a 2-3 year deal and leave when the DH does.
Jayson Stark (1:14 PM)
You're exactly right, Mike. If they decided to dump it, it would be grandfathered for, let's say, the length of Prince Fielder's contract this winter. In other words, it'll take a long time! But that's the concept.
hey jayson, enjoyed the realignment banter with buster in your R&G column. how about turn back the clock to 1993 Two 8 team divisions. I like division play, and playing more games against your division than the other division. Then shorten the regular season (to 154?) so the WS is played before Thanksgivinga?¦
Jayson Stark (1:16 PM)
Thanks, Chris. I'm in favor of shortening the season. But how would they get to two eight-team divisions? Expansion isn't happening. So everything I hear says the division structure would say the same even if there's realignment. We'd just have all six divisions the same size -- finally.
I don't mind going to year-round interleague play, and I really like the idea of making universal rules regarding the DH. But please... DON'T get rid of divisions. I like the idea of playing for a division title. Please tell me they're not going to get rid of divisions in realignment.
Jayson Stark (1:18 PM)
As I mentioned, that's not going to happen. I have a note to that effect in Rumblings today. Nobody seems to like the idea of going from six races, plus the wild-card scramble, to one race for the fifth seed. It sounds a lot better to say, "We finished first," than, "We clinched the No. 3 seed." Just doesn't make much sense to blow that structure up.
Cardinals Fans (St. Louis)
Whatever happens in regards to realignment, don't get rid of our 6 games a year with the Royals! It's an important rivalry! Or at least wait until Hosmer and Moustakas develop...
Jayson Stark (1:19 PM)
Careful what you wish for! Sounds as if the rivalry series are going to remain part of the schedule, but it's possible they'll go from six per year to three per year. And there might come a time not so far down the road when Cardinals fans will be grateful for that!
Hey Jayson: two questions: first: your buddy Buster reported the Phillies are doing due diligence on high priced, veteran OF bats. Exactly who might even fit that category and be available? Second: solution to the DH issue, get rid of the DH, expand rosters to 27 and add all sorts of strategy to the game. Even if 26th and 27th guys make way less than DHs, I have to assume the player's association would be okay eliminating 14 jobs to create 60.
Jayson Stark (1:22 PM)
I'm all for expanding rosters. And I'm all for getting rid of the DH, especially if we have year-round interleague play. So great minds think alike on that front. On the Phillies trade front, they're kicking the tires on guys like Pence, Willingham, Ludwick and others. But they'd want the team trading them to take all the money. That'll be a tough sell, but not impossible.
Where does Hunter Pence finish this season? Is there an argument for keeping him in Hou?
Jayson Stark (1:22 PM)
I think they ARE keeping him. He's the face of that franchise. I don't get any vibes that they want to trade him unless they get overwhelmed. So the answer to your question is: Lovely Minute Maid Park.
Jayson Simmons (Pittsburgh,PA)
Are the Pittsburgh Pirates really this good...they are 35-33 and are 2 games over .500 should we consider them playoff contenders right now?
Jayson Stark (1:25 PM)
They're not as talented as the teams they're chasing. But shouldn't we just ship Clint Hurdle the Manager of the Year trophy right now? I don't see them winning the division. I don't even see them finishing .500. But progress is a beautiful thing. And you're finally seeing real progress. Bout time! By the way, check out my Rumblings note today on how many players played for the Pirates in between winning records this late in the year. Unbelievable.
Hey Jayson, love the work. How about 2 7-team divisions in the AL and 2 8-team divisions in the NL? Then nobody has to switch leagues, divisions stay, there's no need to expand playoffs (because the difference between 1 in 7 and 1 in 8 is small), and rivalries remain intact. Thoughts?
Jayson Stark (1:26 PM)
Thanks, Ross. But let's start with this question: Who's volunteering to move into the AL East? Nobody, right? Very tough to make that alignment work nowadays, when teams are so concerned about rivalries and TV ratings. And those ratings are dependent on playing as many games as possible in prime time.
Jayson, do you agree with everyone posting that getting rid of the DH is a good solution? I think the opposite. Add it to both leagues. It's one of the reasons the AL is superior to the NL. No more pitching around the 8th hitter in the lineup to face cupcakes.
Jayson Stark (1:27 PM)
You're making that argument to the wrong guy, Brandon. I'd vote for dumping it. The best part of baseball is its cerebral side, and it's just a more interesting sport from that standpoint with no DH. Sorry, buddy!
So if the Astos get moved to the American League - they would go the way of the AL West? How does that help the issues with the AL/NL East being tough divisons for the teams not named the Red Sox, Yankees, Phillies or Braves?
Jayson Stark (1:29 PM)
If this happens, I'm going to make a prediction: The Astros WILL wind up moving. They're the only team that makes sense. And Buster and I explore that in our Rumblings debate. How does it help the other teams? Because it means the Orioles, Rays and Blue Jays could play exactly the same schedules as the other teams in their division, AND there would be a second wild-card spot, so they could build their team to win 89 games instead of 95, and still have a prayer of making the playoffs.
I have a simpler solution to fixing the Wild Card situation. Why not have the Wild Card team play all their playoff games on the road? Or, perhaps give them just one home game during the LDS and then just 2 home games during the LCS and WS. Wouldn't that give teams an incentive to finish 1st and not just accept the Wild Card? That way, you wouldn't HAVE to add a 2nd wild card team per league.
Jayson Stark (1:31 PM)
I'm all for giving the wild card a much harder route to the World Series, via this or any other proposal people find acceptable. But there's more going on here than just giving teams incentives to finish first. Giving AL teams not named the Yankees and Red Sox a chance to make the playoffs is also a huge factor in expanding the postseason.
Marc (Malden, MA)
Is MLB set on keeping all but 1 team in the same league? Why not a division of BOS-NYY-NYM-PHI-BAL? All teams that can spend a lot of money.
Jayson Stark (1:32 PM)
That would be a wild division. But baseball loves its traditions. And league identity is one of those traditions it wants to preserve. So there's no way they'd blow up the two leagues as we've come to know and love them.
Mason ((New York))
What about a flex schedule like the NFL has where division winners play division winners the following year?
Jayson Stark (1:34 PM)
I actually ran that idea out there a few weeks ago in Rumblings. The idea was to rank teams by record in each league. Then when interleague play rolled around, No. 1 would play No. 1, 2 would play against 2 and all the way down the line. Fun idea. Won't ever happen. But fun idea.
Will MLB ever evaluate this super two rule that holds prosects down for a long time?
Jayson Stark (1:35 PM)
Being kicked around right now at the bargaining table. Stay tuned.
Jayson- What do you think of an idea where six teams from each league (no divisions) make the posteason. Teams 5 and 6 play a one game playoff, and the winner plays team 4 in a one game playoff the next day. The winner of the 4/5/6 donnybrook gets the league champion in the first round. That makes finishing first a big advantage, and likewise makes finishing third, fourth, and sixth worth something substantial.
Jayson Stark (1:35 PM)
Fun idea, but there's no interest right now in going to six playoff teams per league. Nevertheless, I'd watch!
Marc (Malden, MA)
Will MLB ever put in a real rookie wage scale? The current slotting system doesn't work.
Jayson Stark (1:36 PM)
Also being kicked around at the bargaining table as we speak. But don't bet the beach house on it.
Will MLB ever allow draft picks to be traded like all other sports do to help out the small market teams?
Jayson Stark (1:36 PM)
I think there's a good chance of that happening in the next labor deal, actually. Good idea.
Craig Dynamo (Baltimore)
Could they increase the luxury tax so that it could be a true deterrent to teams having payrolls in excess of 150 mil? Only 2 teams paid a luxury tax last year, the Yankees paid aprrox. 17 mil, the Red Sox paid approx 1.7 mil. That is a mosquito bite to them.
Jayson Stark (1:38 PM)
Yet another conversation that's going on right now at a bargaining table near you. You know what's odd? In the last labor deal, they actually raised the luxury-tax threshold, and nobody said a word. Always found that strange. Don't think that'll happen this time.
Why not have a min max salary cap like football and all these problems go away? Make the marlins have to spend at least $40m and make the Yanks only be able to spend $100m. Competitive balance comes back and the sport is better for it.
Jayson Stark (1:40 PM)
There is never going to be a hard cap or a hard floor in baseball, so you can forget that. Here's the proposal I've made, that people actually seem to like: You have a tax on teams that go over a payroll threshold, right? So why not impose a tax on teams that go under a minimum threshold repeatedly? I understand there are times clubs need to get young and totally rebuild. But there's no excuse for teams that have $40-million payrolls three, five, eight years in a row. Those teams should have to pay a tax if they want to go that route. Like it?
Matt (Springfield, MO)
On a less important issue, but one that always bugs me, is there any chance of All Star outfielders being chosen by actual position, rather than the 2 or 3 centerfielders that start every year?
Jayson Stark (1:40 PM)
I'd love to see that, Matt. It makes total sense. So of course, it will never happen!
Jayson with the All star game being so important why is it necessary for each team to provide one All Star given that it is no longer a show but a meaningful game for the competitive teams?
Jayson Stark (1:42 PM)
I'm tired of that rule. I'd love to see it go. Or if you want to invite an all-star from every team, I guess that's fine. But then make it clear to the managers, please, that they won't get hit by lightning if some of those guys don't play.
I take issue with referring to "season long interleague play." I think it's misleading. From a macro standpoint, yes, an interleague series would always be taking place. But from individual team standpoints, it's just a matter of spreading out the 18 or so interleague games throughout the season rather than playing them in one big chunk as it is today. If the interleague games are limited to roughly the same number as today, I also don't see why the DH needs to be eliminated or adopted MLB wide.
Jayson Stark (1:44 PM)
On one level, you make a great point, Nick. But I want you to envision it this way: The White Sox go into the final weekend of the season a game out of the final playoff spot, but they have to go to Wrigley to play the Cubs. So Adam Dunn can't play. You want to imagine what might come out of Ozzie's mouth if that happened? We'd have to bleep the entire monologue -- all three hours of it.
Pat McCabe (Rochester, NY)
Everyone keeps saying that if realignment happens, interleague play has to continue all season long. Why? Can't you move the astros to the AL West, have every team play their division rivals 12 times, that's 48 games, play the remaining 10 teams in your league 10 times each, thats 100, then play 14 games against the other league on a rotating schedule?
Jayson Stark (1:45 PM)
It's simple, Pat. You'd have an odd number of teams in each league (15 apiece). So you'd have no choice but to have interleague play every day of the season.
Robert (El Paso, Texas)
I totally disagree with you that the Astros are the only logical choice to move to the AL. That would cause both Texas teams to share the same division. To make the state with 2 of the 10 largest TV markets in the country lose diversity of programming (FSN Southwest carries both Rangers and Astros games) makes absolutely no sense. Why not move the Diamondbacks or the Rockies and then shift the Astros to the NL West? Could an owner veto the shift to another division as well?
Jayson Stark (1:48 PM)
I understand where you're coming from. But I'm just looking at this as a realist. Baseball isn't allowed to move a team from its current division -- even to another division, let alone another league -- unless the owner signs off on it. And my bet is that no current owner would agree to move anywhere. So the reason the Astros would be The Team is that baseball has leverage over Jim Crane because he's not an existing owner -- and because no other team would have to change divisions if the Astros move. It's just sheer practicality. That's all.
I'm not so sure sitting Adam Dunn would be such a bad thing for the White Sox these days, but yeah, that's a good point in that it's a sticking point. I'd like to see MLB take a tough line and tell teams that if they want their DH's in the lineup then put them in the field. Oh, and Robert makes a great point about the Astros.
Jayson Stark (1:50 PM)
There are ways to work around this, I guess. Baseball could take the stance that it's a bigger problem for an AL team to play its final series at an NL park than vice-versa, so it could make sure those September interleague series were all in AL parks, right? Then, because it's September, NL teams could call up their best hitting prospects to fill that DH hole. So I guess there's a solution. But remember, this wouldn't just be going on in the final weekend. You'd have something like 18 teams playing interleague games through the month of September. So it's still a big issue to do this if you have a sport with two different sets of rules.
Robert (El Paso, Texas)
To clarify, Astros programming is NL based and Rangers programming is AL based. If you moved Houston to the AL West, 25 million potential Texas viewers would be stuck watching the Angels, Mariners and A's on TWO channels.
Jayson Stark (1:51 PM)
I feel your pain. Just laying out the realities of their current situation. The politics of this don't line up in their favor right now.
I'm a little surprised by your statement that there is no interest by MLB to look into new markets. Why not? MLB seems to be doing fairly well even in tough economic times.
Jayson Stark (1:53 PM)
They've looked into new markets. The Marlins, for instance, looked into a number of them a few years ago when their stadium mess reached the tipping point. But I just get the sense there isn't one potential new market where either the demographics or the geography appeal to them enough to expand.
All-Star for real has to go. How can you have a pitcher from the Pirates facing a batter from the Marineers in the 9th inning with this deciding if the Yanks or Red Sox or Phillies get home field?
Jayson Stark (1:54 PM)
Here's the real problem: If you want the All Star Game to "count," then lay down the law to the managers that they don't have to empty their benches, that the real stars should be out there at crunch time. Some of these guys never got that memo.
Jacoby (New Mexico)
Which bottom feeder team has the best chance of turning it around and being competive in the next few years ( Pitt, Seattle, KC etc)
Jayson Stark (1:55 PM)
I'd vote Royals. So much difference-making young talent coming, that it separates them from any other team on your list -- in the short term.
Robert (El Paso, Texas)
Speaking of new markets, is there any sense of when the terrible situation with the A's stadium issue and desired move to San Jose be addressed? It's just terrible that the Giants are playing hardball with an area that the A's GAVE AWAY to them back in the 1980s and that Bud Selig has shown little support after forming that exploratory committee a couple of years ago.
Jayson Stark (1:57 PM)
You're right. That has to get solved. When in doubt, Bud loves to form committees. But this one is moving slower than Bengie Molina. What Bud needs to do is broker a deal similar to what happened in Baltimore/Washington, when Peter Angelos dropped his objection to the Nationals moving in when he was given enough perks to make it worth his while.
I understand the toughness of the AL east, but this reallignment seems to ba all about that. The AL east won't dominate forver. 4 4-5 years ago it was only 2 good teams, now its three in the early 90's the yanks were BAD. Especially with all the long term contracts and aging stars, they won't continue to dominate forever. And as the rays have proven, building a smart team can help winning just as much as an expensive team
Jayson Stark (1:59 PM)
That's not all this is about. Buster explains the basic concept very well in our Rumblings debate: It's not fair to have two leagues of different sizes and to have divisions of different sizes, but have the same number of playoff teams. So now it's much easier for an AL West team to make it in a four-team division than it is for an NL Central team to make it in a six-team division. That, and schedule inequity, is what's driving this whole debate.
Why not move the D-backs or Rockies?
Jayson Stark (2:00 PM)
If you move an NL West team to the AL West, then some other team has to volunteer to move to the NL West to balance out the divisions. And every one of those owners has veto power over being asked/forced to move. So again, from a standpoint of pure practicality, the fewer teams you move, the easier it is to make it work.
Jayson Stark (2:01 PM)
Wow. This hour flew by. So it's that time again. I only have time for one more.
If every team is playing the same amount of interleague games, then it's tough luck that the White Sox are a game back in the last game of the season and can't use a DH. They should've played better the rest of the year.
Jayson Stark (2:03 PM)
Oh, that's the argument Ozzie would hear back, all right -- as soon as he's finished complaining about it for three consecutive, bleep-filled hours. But you're right. As long as every team is playing the same schedule, it's theoretically fair to do it that way. But you think that would stop people from grumbling about it? Not a chance. And there's a chance we might get some ESPN programming out of it, too. Just a chance.
Jayson Stark (2:03 PM)
I have to run, gang. But thanks for making this the most interesting chat I've done all year. Great ideas out there! Seeya next week in Chat Land.