Who acted poorly: Glavine, or the Braves?

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As a longtime Braves fan, I was beyond angry when I heard that they had released Tom Glavine yesterday.
As a 14 year-old boy, I watched Glavine’s first start back in 1987, was
with him and the Braves through some dark, early years, rejoiced when
things unexpectedly turned around in 1991, cheered like crazy during
Game Six of the 1995 World Series, and continued to pull for him as his
career transformed from merely great to Hall of Fame worthy. Even if I
didn’t particularly enjoy his move to the Mets, I understood. Even
though I knew he wasn’t the same pitcher he used to be upon his return
to Atlanta last year, I rejoiced. Glavine doesn’t know it, but he and I
have a lot of history together, and history makes up for a lot.

So, yes, I was angry when I heard the news yesterday. Earlier this
spring I wanted Glavine to retire because it sounded like he truly
couldn’t pitch anymore, but his rehab starts sounded like they were
going well. Indeed, he pitched six scoreless innings on Tuesday night.
In light of this, and in light of all Glavine has meant to the
franchise over the past 22 years, I thought the Braves were obligated
to at least give him a chance to pitch. But they didn’t. Which was bad
enough, but it was compounded by what seemed like humiliation in light
of Glavine’s statements the evening before
that he stood ready to pitch. As it seemed motivated by money (Glavine
stood to claim $1 million for making the team) it struck me like a
particularly classless and penny wise-pound foolish way to let a future
Hall of Famer’s career end in Atlanta.

After having had a night to sleep on it, I’m still miffed over it all,
though not quite as miffed as I was yesterday. I will not dispute for a
second that the Braves are better off from a baseball perspective
having Tommy Hanson pitching than Tom Glavine. I will also fully grant
the following, offered by Braves’ GM Frank Wren:

“In low-A ball, the pitching line is not a relevant factor in whether the ‘stuff’ could get major-league hitters out”

I’m no scout and outside of the discussion of his radar readings, I’ve
heard nothing about the specific quality of his rehab starts. Maybe
he’d get shelled if he pitched for Atlanta. I don’t know.

But I do know that the only situation which could have existed to
make this something other than a callous move on the Braves’ part would
the following: Glavine is told that he’s not cutting by Braves
management and is about to be released, and then nonetheless seeks out
a reporter to make that “I’m ready” comment. In such a situation, it’s
Glavine, not the Braves forcing the issue out the way it was forced,
putting the Braves in a no-win situation. Did he do that, or did the
Braves play their cards close to the vest, encouraging him along in
rehab, allowing him to declare himself ready, and then and only then
tell him, no, you’re going to be released?

For those of us who are coming at this with some emotional baggage
as it relates to a team legend — as opposed to thinking about it in
merely analytical terms — that is the most important question.

Don Mattingly thinks pace of play can be improved by changing views on strikeouts

Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly sits in the dugout prior to a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles, Monday, April 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)
AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo
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Marlins manager Don Mattingly has one potential solution to the pace of play issue: change the way people value strikeouts, the Associated Press reports.

Strikeouts have been rising steadily since 2005. Then, a typical game averaged 6.30 strikeouts. In 2016, there were 8.03 strikeouts per game. There are many explanations for this phenomenon. For one, teams are searching specifically for young pitchers who can throw hard — like triple-digits hard. They figure they can teach them the other pertinent skills in the minors. Second, Sabermetrics has shown that a strikeout is only marginally worse than an out made on a ball put in play. Sometimes, the strikeout is preferable, especially if there’s a runner on first base with less than two outs and a weak hitter at the plate. Sabermetrics has also shown home runs to be the best and most efficient way to contribute on offense. Furthermore, younger players tend to focus more on power in order to get noticed by scouts. Unless it’s paired with other elite skills, a scout isn’t going to remember a player who hit the ball into the hole on the right side, but he will remember the kid who blasted a 450-foot homer.

Here’s what Mattingly had to say:

Analytically, a few years back nobody cared about the strikeout, so it’s OK to strike out 150, 160, 170 times, and that guy’s still valued in a big way. Well, as soon as we start causing that to be a bad value — the strikeouts — guys will put the ball in play more. So once we say strikeouts are bad and it’s going to cost you money the more you strike out, then the strikeouts will go away. Guys will start making adjustments and putting the ball in play more.

[…]

If our game values [say that] strikeouts don’t matter, they are going to keep striking out, hitting homers, trying to hit home runs and striking out.

Simply believing strikeouts are bad won’t magically change its value. However, creating social pressure regarding striking out can change it. Theoretically, anyway. Creating that social pressure is easier said than done.

There is a dichotomy here as well. Home runs are exciting. Strikeouts and walks are not. Often, though, the three go hand-in-hand-in-hand. A player actively trying to cut down on his strikeouts by putting the ball in play will also likely cut down on his strikeout and walk rates. There doesn’t seem to be an elegant solution here. Wishing for fewer strikeouts, walks, and homers doesn’t really seem to give way to a more exciting game.

Sean Doolittle: “Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans.”

ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 25:  Sean Doolittle #62 of the Oakland Athletics pitches during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on June 25, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
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In the past, we’ve commented on Athletics reliever Sean Doolittle and his girlfriend Eireann Dolan’s community service. In 2015, the pair hosted Syrian refugee families for Thanksgiving and their other charitable efforts have included LGBTQ outreach and help for veterans.

Athletes and their significant others have typically avoided stepping into political waters, but Doolittle and Dolan have shown that it’s clearly no concern to them. In the time since, the Syrian refugee issue has become even more of a hot-button issue and Doolittle recently discussed it with Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.

I think America is the best country in the world because we’ve been able to attract the best and brightest people from all over the world. We have the smartest doctors and scientists, the most creative and innovative thinkers. A travel ban like this puts that in serious jeopardy.

I’ve always thought that all boats rise with the tide. Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans. But if we include them, we can make the pie that much bigger, thus ensuring more opportunities for everyone.

Doolittle, of course, is referring to Executive Order 13769 signed by President Trump which sought to limit incoming travel to the United States from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. A temporary restraining order on the executive order was placed on February 3, a result of State of Washington v. Trump.

Doolittle spoke more about the plight refugees face:

These are people fleeing civil wars, violence and oppression that we can’t even begin to relate to. I think people think refugees just kind of decide to come over. They might not realize it takes 18-24 months while they wait in a refugee camp. They go through more than 20 background checks and meetings with immigration officers. They are being vetted.

They come here, and they want to contribute to society. They’re so grateful to be out of a war zone or whatever they were running from in their country that they get jobs, their kids go to our schools, they’re paying taxes, and in a lot of cases, they join our military.

Around this time last year, Craig wrote about Doolittle and Dolan not sticking to baseball. They’re still not, nor should they be. Hopefully, the duo’s outspokenness inspires other players and their loved ones to speak up for what’s right.

[Hat tip: Deadspin’s Hannah Keyser]