Notes + Scribbles 4
Notes + Scribbles is a recurring feature here at ryanferguson.co.uk. It is where I share assorted thoughts, flotsam, observations and tidbits in a stream of consciousness format, grouped under logical – if eclectic – subheadings. Think of it as a periodic dose of ‘things that would have been tweets’ before Elon happened. Think of it as a messy throwback to 2000s-style blogging. Think of it as a cathartic emptying of my battered notebook. Onwards, dear reader. Onwards.
Shohei Ohtani and MLB free agency
- The Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes are underway, and the baseball world is throbbing with speculation about his eventual landing spot. In truth, though, I’m a little miffed by Ohtani’s trademark vow of silence. Of course, I get it – the guy is a unicorn, and he has earned the right to decide his destiny. But all the secrecy and mysticism strikes me as a little arrogant, in all honesty. We never hear from Ohtani, and Jeff Passan reports he will ‘hold it against’ any team that leaks information about their attempts to recruit him this winter. Give us something, dude. Let us in on the magic.
- The cryptic Ohtani race once again shows how baseball misses a trick when marketing its stars and making them accessible to fans. Sure, injury concerns have dampened some of the hype surrounding Ohtani, but he still figures to land the largest contract in sports history. Quite frankly, we have never witnessed a free agency saga like this, yet following it and deciphering the sparse clues has become something of a grind. Some fans are fatigued by the anticipation, and that is very disappointing.
- To that point, I like the idea of an MLB free agency signing period, as modelled so well by the NBA. Imagine condensing free agent deals into, say, a one-week window, perhaps around the Winter Meetings. That would give fans something to really get excited about. It could even be televised, à la LeBron James and The Decision. MLB team owners will probably never allow it, of course, because the illusion of contention helps advanced ticket sales. You know what is better for advanced ticket sales, though? Landing someone like Ohtani during a defined period in December. Now that is how you fill a stadium.
St Louis Cardinals
- The Cardinals are currently being pilloried for signing old journeyman pitchers to fill out a bare rotation, but I kinda get their approach. Sure, signing Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson – both 36 – for $22 million combined seems underwhelming, but you can get pretty far with five guys who will guarantee you 175 decent innings during a season. Especially with Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado on the other side of the ball. Give John Mozeliak some time before lambasting his plan. He has built a pretty sturdy floor for 2024, and there is still time to work on the ceiling.
New York Yankees
- I quite like the Yankees’ hiring of Brad Ausmus as their new bench coach. Ausmus is very experienced, a baseball lifer actually drafted by the Yankees in 1987. By all accounts, Ausmus is an intelligent guy with terrific baseball acumen. Above all else, though, he is fiery and hungry – two things the Yankees sorely need. Ausmus still does not have a World Series ring on his resumé , and he yearns to rectify that. Thinking strategically, you would have to put Ausmus top of the list of potential Aaron Boone replacements, too. Keep an eye on that in the medium term.
- Apropos World Series rings, another reminder that first baseman Anthony Rizzo and bullpen coach Mike Harkey are the only current uniformed members of the Yankees who have one. That, to me, is mind-blowing. It is also exceedingly rare in Yankees history.
- Indeed, while fairly agreeable, the Ausmus hiring, and that of James Rowson as hitting coach, does reiterate a frustrating deficiency in the Yankees’ ethos. This team consistently refuses to embrace its own illustrious history, in terms of keeping legends and folk heroes involved. So much institutional knowledge is lost due to the insular arrogance of Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner.
I’m talking about guys like Derek Jeter, Don Mattingly, Jorge Posada, David Cone, Paul O’Neill, Willie Randolph, Nick Swisher and Tino Martinez. Heck, even guys like Carlos Beltran, Miguel Cairo, Jason Giambi and Robin Ventura. They know what it takes to play for the Yankees, and they want to be involved. Failing to retain that wisdom – even in an ambassadorial capacity – is a major oversight I can never reconcile. Only those in charge can explain the rationale.
MLB London 2024
- I was thrilled this week to land tickets for the MLB London Series 2024, which will see the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies visit these very shores. While awaiting the pre-sale link and purchasing the tickets, I was customarily twitchy. Pati, my fiancée, remarked on my nervousness, and I mansplained the evergreen wonder of MLB games taking place in the UK. As a kid, I could barely dream of such things. Even now, I can hardly comprehend the privilege. I never lose sight of how lucky we are to experience this, and I appreciate that, one day, it may be taken away, so somebody else’s dream can come true. I savour every moment of baseball in Britain, and I will never take it for granted.
- Finally, a random thought from my commute this week: for a working class lad born in Birkenhead, there are few experiences that more readily affirm one’s sudden middle class arrival than smugly producing a ticket when asked by a Merseyrail inspector. We have all been there. Never forget your roots.