And the highest payroll in the AL Central goes to the Royals?

If there’s a surer sign that baseball has had a winter of discontent, at least for everyone outside the LA metro area, it’s that the highest payroll in the American League Central belongs to the Kansas City Royals. That’s after they inked star shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. to an 11-year extension that’s worth $288 million. Witt has opt-outs after years seven, eight, nine and 10. Should he not take any of them, the Royals have a three-year club option that would net Witt another $99 million and some change.

It is certainly going to be something of a culture shock for Royals fans to see a young star of theirs locked up, and that they can get attached to, knowing it’s likely he’ll be around a while. It’s also heartening to see a team that utterly sucked ass last year — the Royals won only 56 games — and instead of letting some unending and mythological rebuild slowly take them back to even representative baseball, hit the gas and try to accelerate things. Especially in a division where pretty much no one else is trying all that hard.

Now, if you want to be cynical — and that’s basically what we do here — don’t worry, there’s plenty of avenues for you. One, the Royals are angling for a new stadium despite playing in one of the more picturesque parks in the land that is Kauffman Stadium, even if it’s a little ways out there. If it’s public subsidies you seek from the market you’re already in, it’s a little easier when you’re fielding a team that fans actually enjoy watching instead of a collection of lost tourists the Royals had been sending out there.

In addition, splashing out for the likes of Michael Wacha, Seth Lugo, and Hunter Renfroe isn’t exactly pushing the needle more than giving it a playful nudge. Lugo and Wacha are solid enough in that they’ll take the ball . . . most of the time. Lugo was able to duck the bullets in his one year as a starter in San Diego last year, avoiding some big numbers against despite some pretty hard, consistent contact against him. Wacha also used the marine layer to his advantage, but seems destined for some wicked BABIP treachery very soon. Renfroe will run into a couple fastballs for you while hopefully not falling into a sinkhole in the field.

None of these are signings that are going to move KC from less than 60 wins to the playoffs. But they’re projected $150+ luxury tax payroll is going to rank first in the Central, which should be embarrassing for the other four teams. The Twins could use the excuse that they didn’t know what their TV money was going to be until like last week. Perhaps the Tigers could argue the same, except they’ve been in a perpetual rebuild. Let’s not even get started on the White Sox.

Still, if the Royals can run a $150 payroll, what exactly are the Pirates or Reds or really anyone else waiting around for?

Players ruled ‘employees’ in Dartmouth basketball case

What could be big news out of college sports, as the Dartmouth basketball team were ruled to be employees of the university by the NLRB and thus can form a union. This is the similar road that the Northwestern football team tried to navigate some years ago. The NU effort was reversed at the national level, which the Dartmouth players are still facing.

However, the winds have changed on this sort of thing in the past few years, and if colleges are expecting that, if push comes to shove Congress will eventually bail them out, they’ve found the government to be pretty chilly to their efforts recently. Some group of players is going to break through, and we may already be there.

From that Politico article, this is my favorite bit:

“If student-athletes become employees, it completely changes the relationship between a coach and a student-athlete,” Baylor University President Linda Livingstone, who also serves as the chair of the NCAA’s top governing board, said in an interview. “They really move from being a mentor and a coach and a teacher, to being a boss and a supervisor.”

Now picture Bobby Knight or Coach K or Nick Saban or coaches of yore, who we only see in clips of them yelling at some child, and ask just how much of a mentor and teacher they ever were.

Some people just want to watch the NCAA burn. Like me and you.

Anyone want to share the file on Deshaun Watson?

In yesterday’s entry into the file “This Ain’t It”:

Magic at MSG

Finally, here’s Nathan MacKinnon dancing through every Ranger he could find to open the scoring last night in what became 2-1 OT loss for the Avs at MSG. Too bad the Avs can’t find anyone on another line to do anything:

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