Ideal Streaming, Velocity and the Pitch Clock, the Lack of Moves, and Other Cubs Bullets

Huge news in the entertainment world overnight, as Bob Iger is returning to Disney as the CEO, supplanting Robert Chapek, whose few years at the helm have been met with mixed reviews. As a consumer of many things Disney, I’ll be curious to see the impact, but as a writer of sports content, I’ll be curious to see what happens in the ever-evolving sports streaming landscape. Disney, which owns ABC and ESPN (and owns what was formerly known as BAMTech, the streaming arm invented by MLB), is uniquely powerful in the sporting world and could help shape the future of how we watch.

  • SPEAKING of which, no huge update from Commissioner Rob Manfred on the future of MLB streaming (recall, Sinclair is likely trying to unload its Bally RSNs, which have the rights for half of MLB’s teams, and MLB is interested in trying to create a nationwide streaming platform with no blackouts), but he did reiterate to The Athletic that a centralized location is still the ideal:
  • “Ideally, we will get to a situation where there is a destination, either baseball-specific, or more than one sport, where people can go to know they’re going to be able to get games,” Manfred said. “That’s what I mean, when I say deliver to your fans, on a digital basis, the ability to watch games where they want to watch them, when they watch to watch them.”

  • Your eye should catch that “either baseball-specific, or more than one sport” part. That’s what I’ve been speculating on for about a year now: if MLB were to acquire the Bally RSNs, it could partner with the NBA and NHL to offer a streaming product that includes games for ALL those sports, for the teams that it’s got the rights. If you’re a fan of multiple teams in different sports that happen to be on the service, this is your dream scenario. If you’re a fan of just one team that’s on the service, it might wind up like the days of paying for the cable bundle just so you can have one particular channel.
  • If you missed it, the Cubs – who co-own Marquee with Sinclair – are unlikely to be impacted by anything that happens with Bally/Sinclair, as Marquee is a separate entity, and the Cubs’ plans for in-market streaming are to develop their own direct-to-consumer app.
  • Manfred also suggested to The Athletic that, while there may be some additional rule changes for the 2024 season, you shouldn’t expect them to be so significant as the ones coming in 2023 (shift limits, pick-off limits, bigger bases, and pitch clock). “I will say this,” Manfred said, “I am aware — cognizant may be the best word — that we’re doing a lot next year. And sometimes you need to make sure you see how — it’s a lot of big changes next year. And I think they’re really important. I think they’re gonna make the game better. But we need to watch carefully how they unfold. That’s an important variable in terms of what’s next.”
  • He’s right about that. You want to make all the good changes as quickly as possible, but we’ve seen it time and time again: unexpected consequences. By making too many changes at once, or too quickly, you can introduce a lot of noise into the equation and make it very difficult to figure out what is ACTUALLY working to produce the desired results. And also, what is happening that you didn’t predict, traceable to a specific change.
  • With automated balls and strikes coming to Triple-A next year (half through a challenge system, and half through full-on robo umps), I think most will speculate that it could be the big (and only?) rule change for 2024.
  • Just another reminder of how good pitchers are right now, especially relative to how hard they throw:
  • We’ll see if there is any impact on velocity from the pitch clock (i.e., less time to recover between pitches could mean that pitchers are less able to ramp it up for each pitch), but the available data doesn’t answer the question for sure. Baseball America studied minor league velocities across the last few years as the pitch clock was introduced, and the closest we saw to a reversal of trends was average velocities staying the same from 2021 to 2022 after years of climbing (and 2022 was the first season where the pitch clock was universal). Since velocities DID climb again in MLB in that period, you could speculate that it was the clock that held things back in MiLB. But there just wasn’t enough of a pronounced change to be sure.
  • Not that the pitch clock is explicitly about reducing the explosion of velocity (and the imbalance it can create between pitchers and hitters, and the proliferation of three true outcomes). You just might hope that it’s a happy side effect.
  • It was hard to predict how much action we’d see after non-tender deadline this year, since it was moved way up, in front of Thanksgiving. Historically, it was SUPER active around baseball right after the deadline, but that was when it was December 2 (the week before the Winter Meetings). So it’s not quite apples to apples. Still, it was a surprisingly quiet weekend, and it is reminiscent of those last couple offseasons before the pandemic, where we kept talking about the curious “freeze” in free agent activity. We are now three days past the non-tender deadline, and there has been ONE free agent signing with a new team (Tyler Anderson to the Angels). Every other signing – and there have been only a handful so far – was a largely unsurprising re-signing.
  • We’ll see now if there are any players who really wanted to wrap things up before Thanksgiving – there is a very real human factor there for some guys – and whether there are teams in a position to make that happen (i.e., not waiting on some other player first, or some possible trade, or whatever).
  • I wonder what the Cubs view as the “first” moves they’ be willing to make (because remember, there isn’t exclusively ONE top priority for teams). I suspect the Cubs would sign Jose Abreu right now, because I don’t think that impacts anything else. I suspect the Cubs would sign Kodai Senga right now, for the same reason. But, for example, signing Cody Bellinger? PROBABLY, but might they be considering a Diamondbacks trade first? Signing Carlos Correa? PROBABLY, but the rest of the shortstop class is still out there, and obviously a massive financial move like that has ripples. A stray bullpen signing? Yeah, probably, though the guys they tend to target come later. Drew Smyly? Maybe, but why hasn’t it happened already if the Cubs weren’t considering the possibility of other mid-to-back starters?
  • written by

    Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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