The end of October means that Halloween — and fall — is upon us. In the case of 2019, it also means winter is here a few weeks early.
The World Series just wrapped up with the Washington Nationals riding their starting pitchers and clutch hitting the entire postseason. From June through the end of the year, the Nationals had the league’s best record, so I guess it’s fitting that they are the champions. And to think — they were six outs away from being eliminated before 2019 Relief Pitcher of the Year Josh Hader forgot how to throw strikes and a rookie right fielder muffed a bouncing ball on a bases-loaded single, allowing three runs to score.
But let’s not dwell on that.
This World Series was about two powerhouse starting pitching staffs surrounded by some of the league’s best young hitting talent.
The Astros had Zack Grienke and Justin Verlander — bona fide staff aces — playing second and third fiddle in the rotation, because free agent-to-be Gerrit Cole put up a regular season — and postseason — worthy of a Cy Young Award.
A 2.50 ERA, .895 WHIP, 326 strikeouts, just 48 walks and three hit-by-pitches in the regular season? Wow. That’s ratios of 13.8 K/9 and 6.70 K/BB. Never mind his 185 ERA+ and whatever WAR he might have had, the dude just tossed 36.2 innings in the postseason, allowing only seven runs with 47 Ks.
To do that in a walk year, with free agency looming? Cole is about to land a contract of 5-plus years for about $30 million or more each.
Also getting paid will be Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon. Long playing in Bryce Harper’s shadows in the organization, Rendon saved his best season for his own walk year.
While MVP talk all season was focused on Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger, Rendon finished with a league-leading 44 doubles and 126 RBIs, hit .329 with a 1.01 OPS, 34 home runs and is a Gold Glove candidate in the field. The dude can rake, the dude can field, and the dude can perform when it matters the most. Controversial baserunning call in an elimination game in Game 6? Rendon launched a go-ahead home run into the seats. His team trailing in Game 7? Another home run and RBI double to turn the tide.
Rendon turned down over $200 million for an extension with Washington this season. That was a smart move, because he’ll get another $50 million on the market.
Stephen Strasburg, one of three aces the Nationals have on the mound, ended up winning the World Series MVP award, and he faces an opt-out opportunity to cash in. He’ll probably get secondary money to Cole, but also nearly $30 million or more per year.
And those guys have earned it.
But have college kids earned the right to get paid? That question has long been at the heart of what it means to be a true amateur athlete.
After years of pundits, lawsuits and upcoming legislation forcing the issue, the NCAA will allow its student-athletes to get paid, in a trust, apparently, for their likeness and sales of jerseys.
This is the bare minimum, in my opinion. Some might argue, “But they get a scholarship already!” Well, some do, but not all college athletes. And while the football and men’s basketball programs typically keep the other sports afloat —most minor sports have to split scholarships or use much of the team as walk-ons — the NCAA is still raking in billions of dollars a year. TV contracts, bowl game sponsorships, shoe and apparel deals, not to mention the millions of dollars paid to coaches who can leave at the drop of a hat — the money in college football and basketball should be shared with those who are doing the work. And that would be the athletes themselves.
I’ve long thought athletes should be offered to choose either a scholarship or cash equivalent of a scholarship to play college sports. They would then be employees of the school, and not necessarily students of a school; one-and-done basketball players only need to take eight classes in one year to be eligible, which includes rec classes and keyboarding.
Why shouldn’t a football player be allowed to borrow a blazer for a fundraiser? Or accept a meal from a booster while taking his girlfriend out to eat for Valentine’s Day? Jersey sales account for about 5% of college apparel revenue — at $100 or so a pop, why shouldn’t the most prominent players in a program whose jersey is selling get at least a minimal stipend when the school already rakes it in?
This ruling will allow students to sign autographs for money, which will help them pay for gas, food or new bedsheets. It also means we fans might finally get another NCAA football or basketball video game — cancelled after the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit in 2014. This won’t be paying a QB for Alabama $1 million a year — but even if it was, I wouldn’t care one bit. They’re adults and they are putting in more than 40 hours a week to play a sport at an elite level. Treat it like a job, and let student athletes get paid.
— Adam Krebs is a reporter for the Times and reminds you that there are 100 days until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.