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.
Rangers rookie outfielder Nomar Mazara crushed the longest home run of the season to date, according to Statcast, with a 491-foot shot to the upper deck in right field against the Angels on Wednesday afternoon. With the bases empty and no outs in the second inning, Angels lefty Hector Santiago threw a 1-1 off-speed pitch, which did not fool Mazara in the slightest.
Statcast measured it at 491 feet. Giancarlo Stanton previously had the longest home run at 475 feet off of Hector Neris on May 6. Franklin Gutierrez hit a 491-foot shot on Saturday against Reds pitcher John Lamb.
Mazara entered the afternoon hitting a terrific .317/.364/.483 with seven home runs and 18 RBI in 162 plate appearances.
The Blue Jays announced on Wednesday afternoon that the club has activated second baseman Devon Travis from the disabled list. To create roster space, ambidextrous pitcher Pat Venditte has been optioned to Triple-A Buffalo.
Travis, 25, last played on July 28 last year. He battled a shoulder injury for which he would undergo season-ending surgery. He burst onto the scene as a productive rookie, batting .304/.361/.498 with eight home runs and 35 RBI in 239 plate appearances before being sidelined.
Thus far, Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney have handled second base for the most part for the Jays. But the club has gotten a meager .585 OPS out of the position, the lowest mark in the league. The return of Travis should be quite a boon. He is batting eighth in Wednesday night’s lineup against the Yankees.
It’s probably not a big shocker that a pitcher is not a big fan of the strike zone being made smaller, but Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals and he tells the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he is not a fan of the proposed changes to the strike zone we wrote about recently, calling the proposal “a horrible, horrible idea.”
Horrible, he acknowledges, because he’s a pitcher with a vested interest so, yes, let’s give Wainwright credit for self-awareness and for disclosing his self-interest. But he thinks it’s a bad idea for another reason too: more hits will lead to more balls in the gap and thus longer games.
I get the intuitive nature of that — the longer it takes to retire a side the longer games go — but it doesn’t necessarily follow that offense and game times are related in the way Wainwright implies. There was a lot more scoring in the 1990s and early 2000s and games were actually shorter then than now. Partially because of other factors (i.e. there were not quite as many pitching changes and because guys played at a faster clip). Partially, I suspect, because there were fewer strikeouts and strikeouts take a longer time than guys grounding out or having some of those balls in the gap caught on the run by a fast outfielder.
As I said last week, I suspect that we’ll see fewer balls in the gap than Wainwright implies and, rather, a lot more walks as pitchers test umpires to see if they’re really taking away that low strike. In the short term that’ll actually make games longer, though not for the reason Wainwright thinks.
SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo hears from a source that former major leaguer Jonny Gomes has decided to retire from baseball. The 35-year-old spent the 2016 season with the Rakuten Golden Eagles in the Japan Pacific League, but he struggled at the plate, batting .169/.280/.246 in 75 plate appearances. Gomes left the Eagles by mutual consent back on May 11.
Gomes won a championship with the Red Sox in 2013 and the Royals last year. He ends a 13-year major league career having hit .242/333/.436 with 162 home runs in 4,009 trips to the plate.
Gomes was known as a clubhouse leader during his playing career, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he ends up coaching or managing in some capacity in the future.