Though broadcast entertainment politics usually fall far outside of the MLBTR purview, the current conversations surrounding ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” program could have minor implications for a few front offices around baseball. As explained by Andrew Marchand of the New York Post, two analysts involved with that ESPN broadcast team–namely, Jessica Mendoza and David Ross–faced some conflict of interest issues this season due to their ties to MLB front offices (link). Mendoza, who is an adviser to Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen, and Ross, who works with the Cubs, were barred from entering the Dodgers clubhouse during media availability before games in 2019. It is unclear if other clubs also denied the two clubhouse access.
ESPN is currently considering changes to its Sunday night booth, per Marchand. Though Alex Rodriguez is expected back, Mendoza and play-by-play announcer Matt Vasgersian are projected to have around a “70%” of returning to the weekly national broadcast for 2020. Whether or not Mendoza’s ties to the Mets are the cause of her current up-in-the-air status with the network is not clear, but it will be worth monitoring if she and Ross will be able to return to the program in a similar toe-the-line situation next year–or if the two will be forced to choose between their on-air or front office gigs.
More items of note from around baseball…
- Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun took a statistically inclined look at the 2019 season of Orioles Rule V pick Richie Martin (link). As you might expect for a Rule V pick, Martin’s full-season slash line was pretty unsightly at .208/.260/.322, but Meoli points to a few positives in his month-over-month progress. In particular, Martin cut his strikeout rate by nearly 14% from the first to the second half; the infielder also showed less of a reliance on pulling the ball following the All-Star break. Hitting coach Don Long and assistant hitting coach Howie Clark took pains to simplify Martin’s swing over the course of the year, which will, hopefully, lead to Martin finally capturing the potential that Oakland saw in him when it selected him 20th overall in the 2015 amateur draft.
- Bradley Zimmer of the Indians was politely asked by management to pursue at-bats in winter ball this offseason, but, after grinding through a five-and-a-half month rehab process tied to shoulder surgery, the outfielder wasn’t exactly thrilled at the idea. While the club was concerned that Zimmer, 26, had missed about a season-and-a-half due to various injuries, Zimmer felt an offseason spent at home would serve him better in preparation for 2020. This organization-player dialectic is profiled in a piece from Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com, who concludes that Zimmer will open next season in the minors in search of those lost at-bats (link). It’s an interesting look at the ways in which clubs and players often have to work together to manage and alter expectations due to injury, with the management of mental health and personal/family considerations also playing a factor. Then again, is it possible Zimmer is simply banking on forcing his way into the Cleveland lineup with a hot spring? Though it seems a lifetime ago that Zimmer burst onto the scene with a 1.6 fWAR output in just 332 plate appearances back in 2017, it stands to reason that a strong showing in March might spur the club to shuffle him into the deck above in-house options like Greg Allen or Jake Bauers.