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Coping With The No-Baseball Blues, Installment 3

The silly season of baseball free agency is upon us. Mark my words there will be a bevy of big free agent signings coming out of the winter meetings in Nashville starting on December 7. It must happen because programming at the MLBTV network is counting on it.

Just like in late July at the non-waiver trade deadline there must be trades to satisfy the needs of the network programming. Whether the trades and free agent signing are wise moves is another story. And woe be the team that makes moves for the sake of making moves.

The Detroit Tigers got a early jump on the signings by nabbing former Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann for a reported $110 million over 5 years. The figure if accurate - and who really knows? - is in the ballpark of the $23 million a year that Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw has been making in recent years.

His teammate Zack Greinke, who arguably had a better 2015 than Kershaw, has become a free agent so he can capitalize on it. I don't begrudge free agency to players but I do not like the incessant 24/7 coverage with the money rubbed into our faces.

Zimmermann is the first pitcher to have had Tommy John surgery to earn a contract of over $100 million. At least that is what many sports news agencies are breathlessly reporting.

At 29 Zimmermann may still be pitching well five years hence. He certainly is a tough competitor.

I thought the yanking of Zimmermann by former Nats manager Matt Williams with two out in the 9th inning of a playoff game in 2014 was a great blunder. Zimmermann was pitching a shutout and reliever Drew Storen couldn’t finish it and the Nats lost that game in the 18th inning. (In hindsight, the 2015 Nats never recovered from Williams’ poor decision.)

However, the big question with long-term contracts is how long the fierce competitive desire will remain with such job and financial security.

Immortal horse racing jockey Eddie Arcaro once phrased the warning beautifully:
“It’s hard to get up early in the morning when you are wearing silk pajamas.”

The Orioles are facing head-on a similar question with powerful first baseman Chris Davis. Through agent Scott Boras, Davis reportedly wants a contract starting at least 5 years and maybe over $25 million per year.

Count on MLB network to be covering this saga minute by minute before, during and if necessary after the Nashville winter meetings. Of course, the "winter" meetings don't really happen during winter but that is one of baseball's harmless quirks.

The throwing of money at mediocre players is not harmless but Let The Buyer Beware remains a basic premise that good organizations must always keep in mind. Since there are not that many good organizations, expect a lot of wasteful spending in the days ahead.

Meanwhile to cope with the no-baseball-on-the-field blues, I continue to follow my two college/grad school alma maters’ basketball teams, the Columbia Lions and the Wisconsin Badgers.

Both are struggling, Wisconsin not surprisingly because of heavy losses from last year’s Final Two team. Columbia, alas, is finding the curse of expectations a heavier burden than expected. They lost two one-point games over the weekend and have slumped to 3-4 for the season.

Big Ten and Ivy League play do not start until January so no need to press panic button. Or so I remind myself constantly.

That’s all this time. Always remember: “Take it easy but take it!”
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