The effects of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement reached late in 2011 are having a strong effect on the usually torrid pace of trades as the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline passed with a few but not many major moves. The major deals, multi-team swaps, and season-altering events were at a premium. The trading period started slowly, crested gently, and subsided. Many observers are now wondering if the August 31st deadline, with waiver-wire passage required, will produce more significant activity.
Speculation centers on the existence of the second Wild Card spot, and how that has changed teams’ thinking. Fewer teams are now ready to “throw in the towel” when a hot streak and vault them back into contention for the post-season. Things may shake out in the next two weeks however, as it looks increasingly like both National League Wild Cards will emerge from the Central Division, while in the American League at least one will emerge from the East Division while the Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians, and Texas Rangers are scrapping for the second spot. I don’t see much hope for any other teams in either league, although perhaps the New York Yankees or Kansas City Royals could mount a challenge. It’s tough to tell your fans, “We’re finished this season, folks.”
While the on-field action is hot and heavy, lawyers, investigators and adjudicators are similarly heavily involved behind closed doors as the Biogenesis Affair plays out. Already we have seen the Milwaukee Brewers’ super-star Ryan Braun meekly accept his 50-game suspension. The New York Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez, of course is the Big Fish in this cesspool of cheating, and almost hourly we are hearing about negotiations between Major League Baseball and Rodriguez’ representatives, with the Major League Baseball Players’ Association also an interested party. Some form of “lifetime ban” has been discussed, perhaps not formally but pushing A-Rod into contemplating a “comeback” at the age of 40.
Rodriguez of course is owed north of $100 million by the Bronx Bombers, who would dearly, dearly love to have that obligation off the books. They have few allies in that regard, however, as Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter has said he fears that if the Yankees get off the hook, their spending will return to unbridled excess and choice free agents-to-be like his catcher Matt Weiters would be easy pickings. Let’s say conservatively that twenty-nine other teams hope A-Rod gets his money, not to mention the MLBPA, which will strongly back his claim, suspension, “ban” or what-not.