Homers in Yankee Stadium: at least the fans like them

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As many folks — myself included — lament the homerriffic qualities of new Yankee Stadium, Steve Politi of the Star-Ledger reminds us that, for a lot of folks, homers = fun:

The pitchers can whine all they want, but the fans were tickled when
that Cabrera fly ball cleared the wall. They came to have a good time,
and at a baseball game, nothing generates more fun than the long ball.
Which is what makes the outrage about the new Yankee Stadium so hard to
understand. Yes, the ballpark is yielding dingers at a record pace.
Yes, some of them are cheaper than a thrift-store suit.

But what, exactly, are people so worried about? Ruining the sanctity of the record book? Little late for that, no?

Baseball is the only sport where anyone worries about too much
offense. The NHL practically rewrote its rulebook for more goals. The
NFL would let its quarterbacks throw from behind a moat if it meant
more touchdown passes. And there is a reason millions of Americans hate
soccer. Thursday afternoon, it was hard to find too many critics of the
homer-friendly park.

He offers lots of quotes from fans who have quite obviously been having
a good time at the new joint, easy homers or not. And hey, you can’t
blame them. The point of this game is to entertain, and people are
certainly entertained. Indeed, the only negative sentiment in this
article comes from Rangers’ reliever C.J. Wilson, who called Melky
Cabrera’s homer yesterday “a deep fly ball to short left field.” He
thought it was a popup but “then I was like, ‘Oh crap, I forgot where
we are.'”

Fans’ happiness or not, it is sentiments like Wilson’s that will
really going to decide if a having a homer-friendly park in the Bronx
is a good idea. Right now the Yankees are set for the next several
years with Sabathia, Burnett, Hughes, Wang, and Chamberlain in the
rotation (I’m assuming Pettitte is gone after this year). But at some
point, the Yankees are going to want to bring in the next CC Sabathia.
Maybe it will be a 29 year-old David Price or a 27 or 28 year-old
Stephen Strasburg. If, by that time, the Stadium is still playing like
a bandbox, I can’t help but think that it won’t be as easy to attract
those sorts of guys. Sure, the Yankees have money, but they’re already
overpaying guys to deal with the hassle and pressure of playing in New
York. How much more will they have to overpay if an inflated ERA is
part of the deal as well?

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]