Monday's Three Astros Things

Talking about George Springer's extension, TV blackouts and Pravda...

Some things to talk about while we wish the best for Tony D...

1) George Springer would have taken $40 milion

In a report broken this morning by OutsidePitchMLB's Shawn Ferris, we learn that George Springer would have taken $40 million over those seven years the Astros offered him back in September. From the story:

According to a source close to Springer, the talented outfielder would have signed a long-term extension with the Astros had they offered him a seven year/$40 million contract.

The Astros reportedly offered him a seven year/$23 million deal last September, which Springer rejected.

This just won't go away. After seemingly burning out last week, the Springer saga continues. Who's leaking this information? It's not Springer himself. It's not the Astros. It's his agency. According to MLB Trade Rumors, Springer is represented by The Legacy Agency, which represents a handful of baseball players, including James Loney, Cesar Izturis and Vernon Wells.

There are two reasons why this leaked now. The first is simply the agency is pissed that the Astros sent Springer down and is trying to win even more public support for their client. They could figure that if enough sentiment flows to Springer's side, the Astros could be forced to call him up sooner than they want.

If that's the case, they clearly do not know this front office well enough.

The other possibility is that this is another negotiating tactic. Maybe the sides are close and this is a way for the agency to try and jump-start a deal. If the Astros can close that gap significantly, say to $32 million, maybe Springer takes the deal.

Ideally, the two sides negotiate for a few weeks before Springer is called up and the extension announced in late April. Say the April 24th series against Oakland is his debut series, with the Astros making that Thursday, Friday or Saturday game his debut to bump attendance.

It could happen, but it's unlikely. The most probable scenario is this is a PR tactic, but not one meant to force the Astros hand. This is probably the agency's way of controlling Springer's image, letting it be known that he wants to stay in Houston, but for a disagreement on his compensation.

2) Crane wants games blackout-free

The season is inching closer and closer to beginning with no TV deals in place for CSN Houston. That means the Astros will once again be out of sight for 60 percent of Houston. Jim Crane and the rest of the Astros brass vowed to change that one way or another this season. Turns out, they might do that, but not in the way we anticipated. From Evan Drellich's piece:

Crane indicated having games available blackout free through the web wasn't impossible, but it seems the TV package is more likely.

"It hasn't been ruled out, but the bigger possibility is to try to get the games on that (the TV package)," he said. "They've got all the games, but you can't see the ones in your area. Is there a way to lift that and figure out some way to charge something for that. That's another option."

"(MLB.com) is willing to do what we think is best. We have to see where it shakes out on the rest of the stuff."

Why is this important? Think about this. What's the biggest threat to the TV industry right now? Internet streaming. More and more people are "cutting the cord" and getting rid of cable all together in favor of streaming services like Hulu Plus, Netflix and Amazon Prime.

What are the Astros trying to wring money out of? A cable TV channel. If they offer their games on MLB.TV free from blackout, they're not encouraging people to watch on TV. They're encouraging people to do the exact thing that might steal away the money they're hoping to make.

Of course, it's also shortsighted, as people's viewing habits are just changing, for better or worse. But, you can understand why the team is leaning more towards offering blackout-free games on Extra Innings rather than through MLB.TV.

3) MLB.com, Pravda and the beat reporter

At the end of last week, the Dodgers PR Director ruffled some sports media feathers by suggesting not only that MLB.com reporters are influenced by the clubs they cover, but that teams have nothing to gain by not controlling the flow of information themselves.

From the HBT piece on it:

Jareck said this about how the team prefers to get its news out: best to publish on its own website, Dodgers.com, because then "we can spin it any way we want. You can tell the (in-house) writer, ‘Here do this' and they'll do it"

I've understandably got lots and lots of thoughts about this topic. On the one hand, what does this do to everyone's argument that MLB.com members should have Hall of Fame votes? If they can be influenced on stories, would their votes be influenced? Oh, right, Deadspin bought a vote, so ethics may not be a HOF must these days.

The part that stuck out to me, though, is this passage by Calcaterra at the end of the piece:

Teams (and governments and businesses) are increasingly in-housing this stuff and, as such, those who aren't in-house should focus on non-commodity news and reporting. Don't tell us what the news nugget is, tell us what it means, why it's significant or why it's misleading. Don't tell us what the player said after the game, tell us what makes the player tick and what he says when he's not in some guarded environment like a press conference. Let the P.R. savvy teams control what they can control and stake your voice and reputation on the things they cannot.

I couldn't agree more with this. The role of sports coverage is changing, shifting from the nuts and bolts and into analysis. It's not a hard-and-fast rule. Obviously, fans still need people to break stories about contracts, trades and the like. But, the days of just reporting a guy had 10 strikeouts or five perfect innings of work are over. It's not enough to just say that a guy learned a new pitch. Tell us more.

Evan Drellich has been doing an excellent job of this in his short time on the beat. His story here on Mike Foltynewicz from last week wasn't long, but did such a good job of providing the analysis in addition to the facts. It got at the why and the how instead of just the who and the what.

Look, when they let me in the clubhouse for press conferences and there's reporter scrums around a player for a sound bite, you're not learning anything "new." To get there, you have to dig deeper. Maybe that means doing more analysis. Maybe that means talking about pitching mechanics. Maybe that means bringing in advanced metrics. But, the point shouldn't be to think the job is over at just reporting the facts.

Did you notice Brian McTaggart wasn't mentioned on Calcaterra's list? As solid a job as he does, as plugged into this team as he is, he lacks depth. That's not a problem, it just makes his content more disposable.

When a writer can bridge the gap between the egghead-y stuff we do here with the on-the-ground reporting of a beat writer, special, can't-miss content results. I'm looking forward to the day when more of that happens on the Astros beat.

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