This week was an especially slow one for our players in the AFL. It does mark the halfway point for the League in which Phoenix, the team of our affiliates, has the best record at 10-6. In case you were wondering, the playoffs comprise entirely of a single game between the winners of the two divisions. Rumor has it that the winner gets a pizza party at CiCi's after the game. It is also rumored that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game will be on free-play for the evening.
On Friday the AFL hosted the inaugural "Rising Stars Showcase", which is a sort of All-Star game. Call me crazy, but I think a season that is five weeks long probably doesn't need an All-Star game. Anyway, Travis Buck and Landon Powell combined to go 0-for-4 with a couple strikeouts, but Marcus McBeth threw a perfect ninth with two strikeouts to record the save and lock up the 3-1 win.
Shortstop Gregorio Petit has shown up in Venezuela playing for Caracas, the team which many A's farmhands have historically played for (and the team for which both Marco Scutaro and Javier Herrera are listed on, but have yet to play). In two weeks (26 at-bats) Petit has gone 10-for-26 with a couple home runs and six RBI. His best tool is his defense, but he has flashed a bit of power. He hit eight home runs and 40 extra-base hits for Stockton in 519 at-bats this past full season. His most glaring weakness is his plate discipline. He drew just 38 free passes in 2006 and none so far in Venezuela.
With the end of the World Series came the first free agent declarations. Of course we expect to see Zito walk, which will certainly result in a first-round pick and a first round sandwich pick. The newest labor deal, signed on Tuesday, barely made the news, but it may have some consequences for the way Beane works his magic. The Type-C free agent compensation will be eliminated in 2007 and the number of type-A free agents will be reduced by 33%. In addition, Type-B free agents no longer take a draft pick from the acquiring team, but instead result in a second-round sandwich pick. In short, this means potentially fewer picks and less compensation for walking free agents. For example Jay Payton may be a type-C free agent this year, resulting in a second-round sandwich pick, but next year we would receive no compensation.
Not the end of the world as we know it, but had it been in place in 2002, we likely wouldn't have had nearly as many first-round selections. Whether it is good or bad for baseball I am unsure, but it certainly helps teams like the Yankees and hurts teams like Oakland.
Other provisions of the new agreement were the increase of the minimum salary from the current $327,000 to $380,000 in 2007 (and smaller increases from 2008-2011) and the increase of the luxury tax threshold to $148 million in 2007 and an increase of between $7-8 million until 2011 when the agreement expires. Eliminated was the current provision which states that if a team does not sign their former players who became free agents by December 7th, they lose rights to the player until May 1st. Some arbitration deadlines were also extended in the agreement.
What fun is baseball without the minute, pointless details?