Although the players are already back on the field for Spring Training, many offseason stories remain incomplete.
For example, the Players Association and the League (via the Commissioner) have been going back and forth on a number of attempted rule changes lately, and the public dialogue has become … a little less friendly.
Just yesterday, the Commissioner came out and said that the 2017 season will not feature many (if any) substantial rule changes due to a “lack of cooperation” from the players. A rare public shot across the bow.
- Union Chief Tony Clark shared a relatively strongly-worded response via Ken Rosenthal on Facebook:
- While I’ll admit that things could be worse, they are clearly not heading in the right direction …
- Take, for example, the Commissioner’s recent comments which sternly suggest that MLB will “modernize,” regardless of what the players want. At Sports Illustrated, Tom Verducci responds to the commissioners plan to make the game crisper with or without the Players Association’s involvement using one word: Hallelujah. But how does Manfred plan on creating and enforcing rules without the players blessing? Through a provision in the CBA that “allows the commissioner to unilaterally impose new rules after notifying the union a year in advance,” it seems like the league can do almost anything it wants (provided MLB gives the Players Association enough advance notification). According to Verducci, then, some rule changes (perhaps a pitch clock, limiting visits to the mound, etc.) can go into effect as soon as next year (2018). More at Sports Illustrated.
- With all of that 2018 talk aside, the previously-reported instant replay tweaks might happen sooner:
MLB and MLBPA sources also say agreement on incremental tweaks to speed, enforcement of replay. No agreement o major pace of play changes.
— Full Dissident (@hbryant42) February 22, 2017
- One of the most curious bits about the level of fundamental disagreement here is that the two sides just recently came together on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in December.
- The funny thing about that CBA, however, is that the Clark recently suggested that it’s not yet actually been finalized:
This was MLBPA chief Tony Clark today on the status of the collective-bargaining agreement: pic.twitter.com/KaXgPOZzvj
— Brian MacPherson (@brianmacp) February 21, 2017
- I’m not entirely sure what to make of this, but I’m hoping this is just one of those formalities that typically gets swept under the rug. I suppose we’ll see.
- And before we can step entirely away from MLB, four umpires have reportedly retired, including Jim Joyce (who is sadly best remembered for the blown Armando Galarraga call):
Per MLB release, these four MLB umpires have retired: Bob Davidson, John Hirschbeck, Jim Joyce and Tim Welke.
— Robert Murray (@RobertMurrayFRS) February 22, 2017
- At Baseball is Fun, I offered why you never, ever should play dodgeball with a softball pitcher. That just looks downright painful.
- Despite the many advancements and ever-increasing success rate of Tommy John surgery, players are still seeking out alternatives and other preventative measures (naturally). While many are eagerly waiting to see how Seth Maness looks this year after opting for a non-TJS treatment plan, others are trying stem cells. The Angels’ Garrett Richards, for one example, is the most recent pitcher to use orthobiologics to deal with a tear in his UCL – the injury that almost always precedes Tommy John surgery. You can read more about his story at Yahoo Sports, which includes the most fantastic quote: “Science, bro. I’m a believer now.”
- Although the Diamondbacks Front Office has gone through some rough times/iterations in recent years, things are beginning to look brighter in the near future. At FanGraphs, David Laurila writes that the former Boston, now Arizona four-some of Amiel Sawdaye (Senior VP, Assistant GM), Mike Hazen (GM), Jared Porter (Director of Professional Scouting (formerly with the Cubs too)), and Torey Lovullo (Manager) are looking to shake things up quite a bit. More specifically, Sawdaye explained that the foursome is looking to increase its use of analytics and adapt a flat hierarchy (not unlike what we’ve seen with Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer/Jason McLeod, if I understand correctly). Laurila has plenty more on their plans and expectations at FanGraphs.
- And finally, Eno Sarris has a list of Ten Bold Predictions for the Coming Season, and, well, those are always fun to read. One thing I’d like to respectfully disagree on comes out of point #5: The Red Sox will have the best record in baseball. To be clear, I don’t think that is a crazy leap to make at all, especially as a bold prediction, but I do disagree with the reasoning. According to Sarris, the Cubs may be the more obvious choice, but could witness a step back in defense. More specifically, he suggests that more Kyle Schwarber in left, more Willson Contreras behind the plate, more Jon Jay in center, and an older Ben Zobrist will conspire to weaken the Cubs defense. From where I sit, I could see Contreras being a lateral move behind the plate, more Javy Baez at second base making up for any Zobrist decline, the Almora/Jay tandem being at least as good overall as Dexter Fowler, and Schwarber may yet be just fine out in left field.
- All in all, can I see the Cubs not finishing with the best record in baseball? Of course. I’m just not sure a big defensive regression is going to be the primary reason.