We could start with some mumbo jumbo about how hope springs eternal, a phrase so often associated with baseball. But who, at this point, is really in the mood for anything poetic or romantic associated with the game that used to be considered our national pastime?
Let’s cut right to the chase: it sounds as if the owners and players finally, maybe — who the hell really knows? — have the framework for figuring out a financial agreement that will restart the game in the middle of July.
It all came about after commissioner Rob Manfred flew to Arizona and met Wednesday with MLBPA union leader Tony Clark. The owners have proposed a 60-game season that would give the players full prorated pay and, in return, the owners would get the 16-team playoff format that will create extra television revenue.
There’s still work to be done, but the white smoke could come before the week is over. Let’s hope so because it’s been ridiculously exhausting watching the bickering between billionaires and millionaires amid a global pandemic and nationwide civil unrest sparked by a police killing of an unarmed black man in Minneapolis.
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Ocean City High School’s Jake McKenna was ranked 434th among Baseball America’s top 500 prospects ahead of last week’s draft. A year ago, the 434th selection in the draft was pitcher Peyton Miller and the Oakland Athletics paid him a $175,000 signing bonus, according to the salary tracking website spotrac.com.
Last week, the draft was over after five rounds and 160 selections, leaving McKenna with the option of either signing as an undrafted free agent for $20,000 or honoring the scholarship commitment he made to coach Fritz Hamburg at St. Joseph’s University.
McKenna, a 6-foot-6 lefty, opted to sign with the Phillies, the team he grew up rooting for and that once employed his idol, Cole Hamels.
“I’m a huge fan,” McKenna said by phone Wednesday. “My family has season tickets and we always try to go to as many games as possible.”
McKenna, 18, was 6 years old when the Phillies won the World Series in 2008 and he said he attended Game 4 against Tampa Bay at Citizens Bank Park.
“I definitely remember them winning that last game,” he said. “We were just looking at a picture of that 2008 World Series.”
McKenna said he had narrowed his decision to about five teams, but he believed the Phillies were the best fit.
“I think that would have been the case even if they weren’t my favorite team,” he said. “I just think it’s an awesome organization that really fits me, and the fact that it’s my hometown team makes it even better.”
It also helped that the Phillies agreed to give him money for college should the baseball gig not work out.
“I’m ready to get going with my pro development,” said McKenna, who was signed by area scout Jeff Zona.
McKenna showed some promise as a junior at Ocean City by striking out 18 batters and allowing just two hits in only 8⅓ innings, but he believes he elevated to another level after the season by working at the Baseball Performance Center in Pleasantville. He also performed well in the fall at a showcase event in Jupiter, Fla.
“They helped me a ton,” McKenna said. “I wouldn’t be where I am without the guys at the performance center. They helped me gain muscle, they improved my mechanics, and they just helped so much with everything.”
McKenna said his fastball ranges between 88 and 92 mph. He also has a “12-6 curveball” that he throws in the mid to high 70s and a changeup that sits in the low 80s.
With the minor leagues shut down by the pandemic, McKenna will continue to hone his craft near his Jersey Shore home with the hope he can go to the Phillies’ training facilities in Clearwater, Fla., at some point in the fall.
The Phillies, after taking four players in the draft, announced the signing of eight undrafted players, all pitchers. Like McKenna, University of Delaware righthander Billy Sullivan was also a Phillies fan before signing as an undrafted free agent. Sullivan, a 28th-round pick by the Phillies out of St. Mark’s High School in Wilmington in 2017, was ranked as the 326th best prospect by Baseball America.
The 326th overall pick came in the 11th round a year ago and San Francisco paid a high school pitcher $800,000 to sign at that selection.
It’s unlikely that Sullivan would have received that much of a signing bonus because the Giants’ pick — pitcher Trevor McDonald — was projected to go higher and had more negotiating leverage. Sullivan likely would have received an offer of around $125,000, the suggested slot for 11th-round picks. That’s still quite a bit more than $20,000.
Sullivan, 21, had a sensational freshman season for the Blue Hens in 2017, going 7-2 with a 2.97 ERA. He struck out 95 batters in 72⅔ innings and held opponents to a .199 batting average. He pitched in just two games last season, however, before needing Tommy John surgery and he had not yet returned in 2020 when the coronavirus shut down college baseball across the country in March.
It appears as if we could have a season now, but even if we did not columnist Marcus Hayes does not think baseball would be missed that much anyway. He listed a bunch of valid reasons why, saving the best one for last.
Less than a week after guaranteeing a 2020 season, commissioner Rob Manfred backtracked on his promise as negotiations with the players union deteriorated. The players — most notably Cincinnati pitcher Trevor Bauer — thought he was bluffing.
Sometimes it seems as if we have almost forgotten about the coronavirus, but Scott Lauber points out why baseball should remain deeply concerned about the pandemic as it also attempts to end the financial feud between the owners and players.
Lauber explains why Phillies first-year scouting director Brian Barber feels as though the team might have benefited from the shortened high school and college seasons forced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Barber did not think first-round pick Mick Abel or third-round pick Casey Martin would fall as far as they did in the draft.
With the exception of Barber during the draft, the Phillies’ baseball operations personnel has been silent during the often heated negotiations between the owners and players. That wasn’t the case for Phillies manager Joe Girardi 25 years ago when he was an outspoken player rep for the Colorado Rockies during the longest strike in baseball history.
As the owners and players make another attempt to negotiate a financial deal that would return baseball to the field on July 19, it might help them to remember the history of how fans reacted after the 1994-95 strike. My column reminds them that things got ugly in ballparks across the country and attendance took a major downturn.
Today: The late Darren Daulton became the first Phillies designated hitter to hit a home run in the Phillies’ 4-2 interleague loss at Fenway Park on this date in 1997.
June 19: On this date in 1927, Jack Scott started and completed both ends of a Phillies doubleheader in Cincinnati. He won the opener 3-1 and lost the second game 3-0, allowing a total of three earned runs on 15 hits. He walked one and struck out one in 17 innings.
June 20: Pete Rose became the fifth player in major-league history to play in 3,000 games on this date in 1982, joining Ty Cobb, Stan Musial, Hank Aaron and Carl Yastrzemski. Rickey Henderson, Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken Jr. have since joined the 3,000-game club.
It appears as if the playoffs will expand to eight teams in each league over at least the next two seasons if the owners and players finally come to an agreement on financial terms. The Phillies have not made the playoffs since 2011 despite the fact that the postseason format expanded from four to five teams in 2012. Had an eight-team format been in place in 2012, the Phillies, at 81-81, would have been tied for the final National League playoff spot with the Arizona Diamonbacks. They would not, however, have qualified for an eight-team playoff in any of the last seven seasons, which accentuates just how bad the state of baseball has been in Philadelphia.
Send questions by email or on Twitter @brookob.
Question: Is there any television ratings info out there on the KBO? I’ve been watching and the game is good, just wondering if anyone else is watching. Thanks in advance.
Earle I., via email