Baseball’s winter of cost-savings discontent begins as cheapskate Cards cut Wong

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Kolten Wong is sliding into another city next season.

Kolten Wong is sliding into another city next season.
Image: (Getty Images)

It used to be the hot stove, and fans used to get excited about it right after the last out of the World Series. A ray of hope, provided by the wishful thinking that it could be your team ending the season on a podium with Rob Manfred as he gets booed next year. But in a preview of what’s to come around the league this offseason, the Cardinals non-tendered Kolten Wong and made him a free agent.

This isn’t some bum the Cardinals are cutting adrift. At the very worst, Wong is a superb defensive second baseman whose offense finally followed in the last couple years. In 2019, he was nearly a 4.0 fWAR player, and this year was well on pace to match that. $12.5M, which is what Wong was due to make, for an above-average second baseman with at least average offense is pretty much a bargain.

And yet it was too much for the Cardinals, who are making no bones about having to come down to the hardly onerous $160M payroll they had last year. Like everyone else, the lack of fans is what they’re blaming. It’s at this point that it should be pointed out that the Cardinals signed a TV deal with Fox Sports Midwest in 2018 that guarantees them $1B over 15 years, with a 30 percent equity stake in the network. That’s $66M, at least, per season. Kick in the national TV money, and you get the idea.

Wong will hardly be the only recognizable name who is simply cut loose by a team, as owners find just one or two seasons of non-insane profits as digestible as ipecac. And most if not all of these players are going to have to sign one-year deals for cheaper than you’d imagine because it’s all that will be on offer. Fun stuff. Sadly, Cardinals fans won’t raise a fuss about it unless Wong changes his name to “Eckstein.”

In slightly funnier baseball news, it’s apparently still 1984 on the South Side of Chicago. The buzz is that the White Sox have woken Tony La Russa up from a nap in his recliner, told him he can’t wear his slippers outside, and are going to throw a uniform on him to become manager of one of the most exciting young teams in baseball.

There’s still no guarantee. The tweet that set Sox fans on fire comes from a local sports anchor — they apparently still exist — named Dan Roan, who clearly is hedging his bets.

White Sox TV analyst Steve Stone poured more gasoline on this comedic fire, and in his own way:

It’s certainly a curious decision, should it come to pass, because of how notoriously prickly and traditional the 78-year-old La Russa is. Why yes, he is a year older than Joe Biden, thank you for noticing. So how La Russa relates to Tim Anderson, 27, and Eloy Jimenez, 23, and the rest of a very swaggy squad should make a great basis for an excellent documentary/immersive theater experience some day. Also, Anderson is a committed activist around Chicago, and universally beloved, which lines up with La Russa’s anti-protest leanings awkwardly, to be polite.

Owner Jerry Reinsdorf has never gotten over letting Hawk Harrelson, a country-fried rube if there ever was one, firing La Russa when he was GM in the mid-80s. Apparently, righting this wrong can take 30 years. Maybe Reinsdorf and La Russa can fight over who falls asleep on that recliner now.

It is somewhat sobering watching other developed nations handle the pandemic like adults while we’re all here trying to convince mouth-breathers that all they have to do is wear a mask. While fans were allowed in Texas for the World Series in a country that will approach half-a-million deaths before too long, where the NFL is making noise about letting thousands of fans into the Super Bowl, and all the other sobering tales, the leading European nation on handling the virus, Germany, is booting fans back out of Bundesliga games.

Some teams were allowed to have up to 20 percent capacity, depending on their plans and what the rates were in that particular region. Bayern Munich couldn’t, but Borussia Dortmund could. But with a second wave rising, Germany has decided to end it altogether.

Germany saw just under 15,000 new cases yesterday, in a country of 83 million. Compare that with the U.S. seeing five times as many cases for a country with a population that’s only three-and-a-half times as big. And yet you won’t hear of a national kibosh on spectators in the stands for the NFL.

Tuesday isn’t so far away now, folks. 

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