Yesterday’s news about Tony La Russa fixing baseball was apparently part of something far more grand:
Managers Tony La Russa Jim Leyland, Joe Torre and Mike Scioscia have been selected for a
committee that could recommend expanded instant replay and playoff
format changes. The group was selected by commissioner Bud Selig and also will examine scheduling, umpiring and pace of game. No players or umpires are included.
Everyone knows that one famous quote about how to really screw up it takes a committee, but I think that accusing committees of mere incompetence is to go too easy on them. Committees are typically put together for one simple reason, and that’s to make people think you’re doing something when you’d rather do absolutely nothing all. Or, put more succinctly, “A committee is a cul-de-sac down which ideas are lured and then quietly strangled.”
As for the substance, it’s probably worth noting that I was present for La Russa’s, Leyland’s and Scioscia’s press availabilities at the Winter Meetings last week, and each of them was asked about replay during their sessions. They each said something about the human element being important and how they were worried about the pace of the game and all of that. Indeed, their answers were really, really similar.
In hindsight, one wonders if they had already been selected for the committee beforehand and had been coached to adhere to those (admittedly common) talking points with the idea of that being the ultimate conclusion of the committee: “Hey, we’d love replay, by we don’t think it’s workable beyond the home run calls.” As for the other issues: I don’t know why it takes a committee to deal with scheduling and pace-of-game issues. There are tweaks to these things every offseason, and no one needs a conclave for that.
But then again, Bud Selig is a big fan of using self-selected committees and task forces to (a) make findings that he’ll later tout as gospel as he tries to achieve his own ends; and (b) give him political cover on tough issues. He did it with economics. He did it with steroids. He’s doing it with Oakland. Now he’s doing it with rules, scheduling and pace-of-game issues. I’m guessing it’s because he wants to either do something truly radical or absolutely nothing at all.
In any event, they should put a conference room table on Selig’s Hall of Fame plaque.
The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.
Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.
Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.
Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.
The Nationals announced on Saturday afternoon that the club acquired closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates in exchange for reliever Felipe Rivero and minor league pitcher Taylor Hearn.
Melancon, 31, put together another solid season for the Pirates, leaving the club with 30 saves, a 1.51 ERA, and a 38/9 K/BB ratio in 41 2/3 innings. He led the majors last season with 51 saves and has a 1.80 ERA since joining the Pirates in 2013. Melancon is earning $9.65 million this season and can become eligible for free agency after the season.
With Melancon out of the picture, the Pirates intend to have Tony Watson take over the closer’s role.
Rivero, 25, has handled the seventh and eighth innings for the Nationals this season, compiling a 4.53 ERA and a 53/15 K/BB ratio in 49 2/3 innings. He’s just shy of one year of service time, so the Pirates will have control of him for a long time.
Hearn, 21, was rated the Nationals’ 27th-best prospect by MLB Pipeline. He was originally drafted by the Pirates in the 22nd round of the 2012 draft but he didn’t sign and ended up going back to college. The Nationals took him in the fifth round of last year’s draft. This season, between rookie ball and Single-A Hagerstown, Hearn put up a 2.79 ERA and a 39/13 K/BB ratio in 29 innings. He’s a long way away from the majors, so he’s essentially a lottery ticket for the Pirates.
The Nationals needed an upgrade at closer as Jonathan Papelbon has struggled this season. The right-hander has allowed runs in each of his last three appearances, ballooning his ERA up to 4.41 with a 30/13 K/BB ratio in 32 2/3 innings. It will be interesting to see how Papelbon, who has never made a habit of letting his feelings go unspoken, handles a demotion to the eighth inning.