Sean Doolittle: Tanking is 'risking the integrity' of baseball

Ben Krimmel
January 26, 2019 - 2:18 pm
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Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball's second consecutive offseason of free agent market idleness is "concerning" and team's not trying to compete for a title is "risking the integrity" of the sport, Washington Nationals closer Sean Doolittle said on Grant & Danny Friday.

"It's concerning, I think, it's something that is risking the integrity of the game when you don't have teams trying to win," Doolittle told 106.7 The Fan. "We're three years out from the bargaining agreement expiring and, hopefully, we can start to have some productive discussions on how we can fix it."

"I definitely think it's something we've obviously been keeping a close eye on over the last few years," Doolittle said. "The way that there's... more teams heading into spring training that are competing for the first draft pick... the next season than there are... trying to make a run at the World Series."

While Doolittle doesn't mention a work stoppage, he is clearly frustrated with baseball's current trend of prolonged free agency. 

"When you have this many really good players still left unsigned this close to spring training, again," he said. "I mean, last year obviously that was the case, and (teams were) saying, 'Well we're waiting to spend next year on free agents, to see how next season's offseason shakes out.' And it's been actually even slower than last years was."

And, in Doolittle's mind, the long wait for many players is not due to cash-strapped ballclubs.

"As we see these new revenue streams that are being created in baseball for these clubs  – the (local) TV deals, the national TV deals, sponsorships with Disney and a lot of corporate ad money coming in  –   it's a $10 billion a year industry. And the players, as the product, we think that maybe we're being... taken for granted a little bit," Doolittle said.

Doolittle did have praise for his own team.

"If I'm trying to be objective here, the Nationals are one of the few teams in baseball that year in and year out spends money and makes moves and tries to get better every offseason," Doolittle said. 

"We've made a lot of moves to improve the club," Doolittle said. "I'm very grateful, the guys in the clubhouse are very grateful that this is a team that tries to win year in and year out."

While not wanting to sound like too much of a company man, he was right to praise his employer for spending money this offseason.

ESPN's Jeff Passan tweeted, "The Nationals spent more on one player this winter than the Blue Jays, Brewers, Cubs, Giants, Indians, Marlins, Orioles, Padres, Pirates, Reds, Rockies, Royals and Tigers combined have guaranteed free agents." 

And might there be one more mega-deal this offseason?

"Obviously, there's still hope that they re-sign 'the big guy,'" Doolittle said of Bryce Harper

However, the fact tht Harper, fellow 26-year-old star Manny Machado, and many valuable players are still unsigned highlight the point Doolittle raised.

"There's a lot of questions that still need to be answered," Doolittle said.

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Baseball wasn't the only subject Doolittle discussed on 106.7 The Fan. He began the interview promoting the Nationals Dream Foundation's $100,000 donation to the Capital Area Food Bank to help support "government workers, contractors, and social services recipients" impacted by the 35-day government shutdown. (A deal was reached to end the shutdown Friday, but many workers may not see back pay for several days.)

"This is going on right in our backyard and for the Nationals, for a major sports franchise that usually relies on support from the community... for the team to give back, it's a really cool thing to see and something I'm really proud to be involved in," Doolittle said.  

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