Judge average up to .278 after pair of homers vs Orioles

Judge average up to .278 after pair of homers vs Orioles

FILE – In this Sept. 18, 2017, file photo, New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge (99) watches his first-inning, solo home run off Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Ervin Santana in a baseball game against the Twins in New York, Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. The Yankees reached Game 7 of last year’s AL Championship Series behind Baby Bombers Judge, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird and young ace Luis Severino. Then they added the mightiest slugger in the major leagues, Giancarlo Stanton, and brought in a new manager they think will lead them to World Series title No. 28. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Aaron Judge‘s spring training average is up to .278 after he homered twice in a 9-4 win over the Baltimore Orioles.

Judge was brought along slowly at the start of spring training following left shoulder surgery Nov. 20 for loose-body removal and cartilage clean up. He didn’t play in his first exhibition game until Feb. 28 and started 1 for 10.

”Just want to make sure I’m peaking opening day,” Judge said.

Judge did not play in Wednesday’s game against Minnesota. When he reported for spring training last year, he was not sure he would be on the opening-day roster.

”It seems like just yesterday, really,” Judge said. ”I can’t forget that – reminded every day. You never forget that.”

He was the unanimous AL Rookie of the Year after hitting a league-high 52 homers with 114 RBIs.

”It doesn’t carry over,” Judge said. ”I wish they carried over. I wouldn’t mind starting out with 52 homers. But that’s the thing, nobody cares about last year now. Once it’s opening day, everybody starts the same. So I’ve got to go out there and do better, put the work in and just do my job.”

Yankees rookie manager Aaron Boone likes what he sees from the 25-year old right fielder.

”I actually feel like he’s been really good now for, actually, a couple weeks,” Boone said. ”I think he’s been getting really close. I think he’s seeing the ball well. I think he’s starting to find his timing.”

Judge will be joined in the batting order by NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton, who led the major leagues with 59 homers for Miami, then was acquired by the Yankees from the payroll-paring Marlins.

”He’s not satisfied with last year, you can tell that,” Stanton said. ”He wants more and more, and to get better, which is exactly what you need after a season like that.”

Stanton says Judge will be able to handle the increased expectations.

”He’ll be fine,” Stanton said. ”He’s got a good grip on the outside noise.”

Notes: The Yankees will open gates three hours before game time, rather than two, for the April 2 home opener, for all Friday night home games and for Saturday home starts at 4:05 p.m. and 7:05 p.m., allowing fans to watch New York batting practice. For 6:35 p.m. home games in April, gates will open 90 minutes before the scheduled first pitch.

More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

MiLB president Pat O’Conner says teams would contract if minor league players had to be paid more

MiLB president Pat O’Conner says teams would contract if minor league players had to be paid more

As Craig mentioned earlier, a new law is likely to pass as part of a Republican-led spending bill that amends language in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. The result of that will make minor leaguers exempt from being owed minimum wage and overtime pay, meaning that teams can continue to pay them very little. Minor League Baseball and Major League Baseball lobbied Congress to do this, as MiLB president Pat O’Conner readily admits, as Josh Norris of Baseball America reports.

Why all this effort? In 2014, former minor leaguer Aaron Senne filed a lawsuit along with Michael Liberto and Oliver Odle, alleging that the minor leagues violated state and federal minimum wage laws. In many cases, minor leaguers earn less than $10,000 a year and only a small percentage of players can be buoyed by their signing bonuses.

O’Conner said, “When the lawsuit came out two or three years ago, we started to put a strategy together. We’ve been lobbying Congress since June of 2016. … We had 94 people in Washington in June of 2016 walking the halls, talking to the elected officials.

Here’s what that lobbying effort looks like in graph form, via Maury Brown of Forbes:

O’Conner goes on, as he usually does, making disingenuous arguments to justify paying minor leaguers unlivable wages. He said, “To me, it’s fairly simple. If Major League Baseball experiences a tremendous increase in its cost of labor, it will reduce the number of players it offers to Minor League Baseball, or it will come to Minor League Baseball and expect us to pay a portion of that increase in cost. Either one of those are catastrophic to our business model.”

O’Conner went on, “If the cost of that talent is doubled or tripled, which could happen under an FLSA basis, MLB is not going to pay that much money for the talent. They’re not going to pay. They’re going to do one of two things: They’re going to say, ‘If 160 (minor league) teams is going to cost (this much), we’re just going to cut down on the number of teams. We’re not going to pay for 160. We’ll pay for 80. We’ll pay for 100.’ Then the other 60 or 80 that are left without players, if they want to stay in business, they’re going to have to pay for their own players. … You might lose half of the (league). You don’t know. You might lose leagues. You might lose cities in leagues. Nobody knows, but the fact of the matter is one of two things is very likely to happen: MLB is either going to cut back on the number of teams it provides, or (MiLB) is going to have to start paying salaries.”

Major league teams are responsible for paying the salaries of the players on their minor league affiliates. Minor league teams are only responsible for paying their own employees, including front office personnel as well as ticket-takers, ushers, concession stand workers, and such. But we’ve done the math on this before and giving minor leaguers a livable wage is a drop in the bucket to an industry that saw over $10 billion in revenue last year. The average Major League Baseball team is valued at $1.54 billion, according to Forbes. TV deals and MLB Advanced Media have a lot to do with that.

Let’s go over the math again just so we’re all on the same page. Most teams have six affiliates; some have seven or eight. Players will go up and down through the minors, so the teams are usually dealing with 50 or so players in any given year, sometimes in excess. But generally speaking each team has a 25-man roster. Six minor league teams at 25 players each comes out to 150 players. Guaranteeing them a $30,000 salary comes out to $4.5 million in total for six teams. Obviously, the total is slightly more for teams with more affiliates, and if you want to guarantee them a higher salary. $4.5 million is the cost of a free agent reliever. Fernando Rodney, Craig Stammen, and Jared Hughes signed contracts for exactly that amount this offseason. For the cost of a free agent reliever, every team could guarantee each of its minor league players a livable wage so they could pay the bills. $30,000 in the grand scheme of things still isn’t much, but in many cases, it would represent a pay increase of four or five times what they’re getting now. Teams valued north of $1 billion can easily afford an additional $4.5 million each year.

Furthermore, Matt Winkelman of Crashburn Alley brings up a good point:

As mentioned on MiLB.com, the Tampa Yankees, Springfield Cardinals, and Gwinnett Braves are examples of teams owned by their major league parent team. Which makes O’Conner’s fear-mongering all the more disingenuous.

Major League teams wouldn’t pass on the cost to their minor league affiliates not only because they might already own their affiliates, but also because they would be reaping the benefits of paying their players more. Being able to study film at home instead of working the graveyard shift as an Uber driver would, on the whole, make their players better. Being able to afford gas would allow them to more easily shop for fresh fruit and vegetables instead of constantly walking a block to a pizza shop or McDonald’s. Healthier players are better than unhealthier players, right? Being able to afford a quality mattress, instead of sleeping on a couch, would allow players to sleep better. Better sleep means better production in every industry. Better players means a better hit rate on draft picks, which means more talent making its way to the majors that is cost-controlled for six years. As we’ve seen with the evolution of free agency, teams vastly prefer cultivating their own talent rather than paying a premium for it on the free agent market.

What this comes down to is pure, simple avarice. It’s short-sighted greed on the part of team owners and the people that work for them. Their public justification falls flat and were they capable of feeling shame, that’s what they should be feeling. Beyond their labor, minor league players are the product being marketed to fans. Without them, the owners have nothing.

Mets' Curtis Granderson trade return is opening their eyes

Mets' Curtis Granderson trade return is opening their eyes

PORT ST. LUCIE — Jacob Rhame is among the players with a vested interest in the number of relievers the Mets will carry to begin the season.

As it stands, manager Mickey Callaway has indicated he is undecided if he will carry seven or eight relievers. If the number is eight, the Mets will employ a four-man bench.

The 25-year-old Rhame, who arrived last August as the player to be named later in the trade that sent Curtis Granderson to the Dodgers, entered play with a 4.00 ERA in nine Grapefruit League appearances and has impressed team officials.

“His slider has gotten better,” pitching coach Dave Eiland said. “The last time he threw, it was a plus pitch. It was late, quick, with depth. He gets his fastball up there, 95, 96, even 97 at times, and he’s got the changeup and the slider.”

Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos, Anthony Swarzak and Jerry Blevins are locks for the bullpen, and Paul Sewald has solidified a spot. That leaves Rhame in a mix with Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Hansel Robles and perhaps Zack Wheeler for the final two or three spots in the bullpen.

“We really like [Rhame], and he is still in the mix here,” Eiland said. “I don’t want to say he’s been a surprise because anybody who is in big league camp is obviously capable of performing at the big league level, but he has opened our eyes.”

Drew Gagnon and P.J. Conlon will start against the Cardinals on Friday and Saturday, respectively. Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom normally would have pitched those games, but the Mets open Thursday against the Cardinals and don’t want their top two pitchers facing St. Louis so close to the season. Steven Matz is scheduled to pitch the Grapefruit League finale Sunday against the Marlins, suggesting he will pitch the third game of the regular season against the Cardinals. Callaway has not officially named a rotation beyond Syndergaard and deGrom in the first two games.

Callaway is intent on finding as many at-bats as possible this season for Wilmer Flores, who has experience at all four infield positions. Flores hit seven homers in 103 at-bats last season against lefties.

“[Flores] is going to play,” Callaway said. “It might be a different position every day or the same position three days in a row, but my goal is to get him starting as much as possible.

“We are going to be able to do that because guys need days off and Wilmer deserves to play and not just against lefties. He can hit a good right-handed pitcher, too, so he’s going to play.”

Source: Packers bringing in CB Williams

Source: Packers bringing in CB Williams

GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Green Bay Packers and Tramon Williams are expected to reunite after three years apart.

The Packers are bringing in the veteran cornerback, a source confirmed, although it’s unclear whether a deal has been finalized.

Former Packers receiver James Jones, now of NFL Network, reported that Williams will sign a two-year deal with the Packers.

Williams last played for the Packers in 2014, the final season of a successful eight-year run in Green Bay. He had 28 interceptions for Green Bay and and earned a Pro Bowl selection in 2010.

He then played two seasons for the Browns, one of which was during Mike Pettine’s tenure as head coach, and last year played for the Cardinals.

Pettine was hired as the Packers’ defensive coordinator in January after coach Mike McCarthy fired Dom Capers.

Williams would be the second former Pettine player to sign with the Packers. They previously signed defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, who played for Pettine when he was the Jets’ defensive coordinator.

Williams finished with two interceptions — giving him 32 for his career — and started nine of the 13 games he played for the Cardinals in 2017. He also had 41 tackles and a fumble return.

Williams was released last offseason by the Browns after starting in 22 of the 27 games in which he appeared, playing both safety and cornerback. Overall, he made 105 tackles and had two interceptions for Cleveland.

ESPN’s Josh Weinfuss contributed to this report.

Source: Patriots, OT Waddle agree to deal

Source: Patriots, OT Waddle agree to deal

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots and offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle have agreed to terms on a one-year contract, a league source confirms.

NFL Network first reported the agreement.

Waddle enters his sixth NFL season and has played in 45 regular-season games with 28 starts. He will compete for the Patriots’ left tackle spot after Nate Solder signed a four-year, $62 million deal with the New York Giants.

The 6-foot-6, 315-pound Waddle was initially claimed on waivers by the Patriots on Dec. 16, 2015. He has mostly served as a backup, lining up at both left and right tackle.

In the 2017 season, when starting right tackle Marcus Cannon was placed on season-ending injured reserve, Waddle started four regular-season games and one playoff game on the right side.

At one point last year, offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia referred to Waddle as a starting-caliber player, adding that “he’s long, he’s strong and he’s got a good skill set.”

Waddle was at the Patriots’ facility last Friday for a physical, but then continued on to Dallas for a free-agent meeting with the Cowboys. Now he’s back again.

He joins 2017 undrafted free-agent Cole Croston and six-year veteran Matt Tobin on the left-tackle depth chart. Offensive tackle Cameron Fleming, who has played in 47 regular-season games (20 starts) since being selected by the Patriots in the fourth round of the 2014 draft out of Stanford, is an unrestricted free agent.