Well, an old-new group, as Houston businessman Jim Crane had previously been mulling an offer before dropping out a month ago. Now he’s back, reports MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan. That makes three in the bidding: Crane, Pittsburgh sports lawyer Chuck Greenberg and Beverly Hills insurance man, former agent, and alleged inventor of free agency, Dennis Gilbert.
It’s been reported that Nolan Ryan will bail as team President if Gilbert buys, and that he’ll stay if Greenberg buys, because Ryan is attached to Greenberg’s bid. No word on what happens with Crane.
Ultimately, however, that won’t be a factor in the bidding, of course. As Sullivan reports “economics will drive this deal.” More specifically, cash, as the seller — Hicks Sports Group — is in desperate need of it, and will likely accept the bid from whoever is able to get it done as quickly as possible.
A decision on which group gets an exclusive negotiating window with Hicks is supposed to come on Tuesday. Of course, the Cubs were supposed to be sold in a fairly quick time frame too and that took three years.
“Work fast and throw strikes” has long been the top conventional wisdom for those preaching pitching success. The “work fast” part of that has increasingly gone by the wayside, however, as pitchers take more and more time to throw pitches in an effort to max out their effort and, thus, their velocity with each pitch.
Now, as Ben Lindbergh of The Ringer reports, the “throw strikes” part of it is going out of style too:
Pitchers are throwing fewer pitches inside the strike zone than ever previously recorded . . . A decade ago, more than half of all pitches ended up in the strike zone. Today, that rate has fallen below 47 percent.
There are a couple of reasons for this. Most notable among them, Lindbergh says, being pitchers’ increasing reliance on curves, sliders and splitters as primary pitches, with said pitches not being in the zone by design. Lindbergh doesn’t mention it, but I’d guess that an increased emphasis on catchers’ framing plays a role too, with teams increasingly selecting for catchers who can turn balls that are actually out of the zone into strikes. If you have one of those beasts, why bother throwing something directly over the plate?
There is an unintended downside to all of this: a lack of action. As Lindbergh notes — and as you’ve not doubt noticed while watching games — there are more walks and strikeouts, there is more weak contact from guys chasing bad pitches and, as a result, games and at bats are going longer.
As always, such insights are interesting. As is so often the case these days, however, such insights serve as an unpleasant reminder of why the on-field product is so unsatisfying in so many ways in recent years.